My metronome for blogging has always been the conversations I have on the front porch with my dearest friends–swinging rhythmically back and forth between our inner and outer lives. One minute we’re splashing around in the shallows, exchanging recipes, telling funny stories about our kids, inquiring about a shade of lipstick. The next we’re diving on the same breath into the depths of relationships, creativity, spirituality, identity.
It’s occurred to me that my end of the conversation here has lately tipped more toward the details of outer life. So I’m taking a brief interlude from the family vacation slideshow to go deep, and catch you up with what’s been going on with me beneath the surface of life.
Writing. Last year this time, the idea for my first novel had finally came into focus, and I was sure I would have first chapters in my agent’s hands by midsummer. Then I choked. My inner dialogue for most of the past twelve months has been an endless loop of the birth scene in Gone With the Wind. Part of me has been hysterically screaming that I don’t know NOTHING about writing novels, while the other is beating her up mercilessly.
This delightful internal atmosphere has been amplified by external pressures, both real and perceived, that have to do with my own and others expectations, as well as financial realities. Without a contract in hand, it’s been difficult to prioritize my writing. It’s surprising–after the publication of Dandelions, I thought I would never struggle with issues around creative legitimacy or authority ever again. I’ve made a sideline of writing and speaking about overcoming those very insecurities. But here I’ve been grappling with them like a beginner. Which, when it comes to fiction, I absolutely am.
Accepting my beginners status has been key to getting back on track. I have a great story to tell, but I really don’t know nothing about writing novels. So I’ve become a student of them, reading all the classics I should have in college, as well as contemporary commercial and literary fiction, absorbing as much as I can about bringing imaginary people to life.
I’ll have chapters to show for it soon, but it’s been a consuming crisis of confidence.
Even more consuming than Book Writing 2.0, is Parenting 2.0: the teen years. My firstborn is in the thick of adolescence, and so far, it is mostly wonderful. But it is game on for us as parents again, after coasting through the middle years on cruise control. Having a child turn into a teenager is a lot like having an infant turn into a toddler. Suddenly, they are busy. Holy crap, you think, as you notice fingers going for a socket. We should have baby proofed months ago.
It’s intense, and demanding, but so rewarding to see him in this burst of new growth. There’s a lot I want to share about it, but I’m still figuring out how to do that without turning my kid into the poster boy for mom’s parenting PSA. Transitioning to chronicling life with teens is something a lot of my blogging peers seem to be grappling with right now, and I’m glad. We should be grappling if we’re conscientious.
I recently wrote a list of things I want him to know about sex, the gist being, “Sex is Awesome and You Should Wait.” (Patrick was concerned I might be overselling the awesome part a bit. I suggested he write a complementary list entitled “Sex is Terrifying and You Could Die,” and then we’d be sure to have it all covered. ) Of course, it occurred to me I could publish the list as a resource for other parents struggling to articulate the same issues. Then I realized it was probably mortifying enough to hear a list like that read aloud by your Mom, without her posting it on her blog.
Maybe he’ll give me permission to rework it into something he’d be comfortable with me sharing in public. Or maybe it just needs to stay between us. We’ll see.
Marriage. As I quoted a wise friend in my book, “Staying married means re-negotiating everything, forever.” I don’t normally discuss relationship issues that are still in process, but I feel so solid in my commitment to our marriage, it feels okay to divulge that we have opened a new round of negotiations, mostly to do with balance. When our kids were small, our responsibilities fell along very traditional lines, and they have not caught up to all of the changes in our household as we’ve moved into the middle years. The division of domestic and professional labor is fraught enough without both parties having such nebulous hours and irregular wages as ours, so I’m really proud that we’ve been mostly able to open this can of worms without it getting too wriggly.
“We’re like black belt married people,” I proclaimed to a friend the other day, after we’d been able to have a remarkably calm conversation about some potentially hot issues. HI-YAH.
And though it still feels a long way off, we’re also starting to peer around the corner of our child-rearing years, and compare what we see for ourselves there. I think we may have some very different attitudes and ideas about aging. It’s probably not time to open that can yet, but it’s moved from the cellar to the pantry shelf. By the time we get to that one, we’ll be ninja marrieds.
So that’s what’s really been going on with me. Now, what’s really been going on with you?