A little freedom goes a long way

It’s spring break. What does my spring break look like, you wonder? Will I travel to Cancun and try to make out with college age peoples? Will there be moonlight skinny dipping? No. I work full time. This is grad school; my life isn’t some booze-fueled pleasure tour.

This week I get two nights back, without classes, and only half the reading to do, because I need to prep my group project. I feel like I’m playing hooky. I feel unburdened, fancy free, and kind of … lost. I’ve spent an hour and a half researching my streaming movie options on amazon and netflix, and now that I’m a bit too close to bedtime to start Mullholand Drive, I’ve decided that I shouldn’t watch a movie, I should read. I have a new kindle; I’ve loaded it with fun books; and I finally have a bit of guilt-free time on my hands. For god’s sake, I should be embracing the moment, eating bonbons while I sip fruity cocktails and curl my hair.
What did I do with my free night? I killed it researching, yes doing comparative research, on the ways I could spend my time if I had time to spend enjoying myself. Maybe the reason I’m cool on the prospect of reading has everything to do with the fact that I spend every free freaking minute I have reading. There’s a difference between required and elective reading, but my god, I don’t want to read.

Let’s recap. I’ve got free time and no attention span left. Maybe it’s time for an installment of the Daily Show.

Journeys

This weekend I went to a friend’s baby shower in NYC. As friends and parents dispensed advice on the parents to be, my favorite analogy was how traveling and parenting resemble each other: How you have to adventurous, brave and flexible and face sudden setbacks while you travel and after you procreate. (This is true of writing as well.)

Several of my friends are in the process of embarking on the parenting journey, and it’s incredibly moving to witness their transformation. They are courageous and they are vulnerable. I love these parents and children to be, they are part of my growing family. I look forward to meeting each and every one of this new cohort.
I bask in the maturity and thoughtfulness of these near parents. We’re all in the process of stretching into the new obligations and joys these children will bring.
For my part, I’m enjoying being forced to grow up, or accepting being a grown up — becoming a point of reference about how to live life for each of these children.

I’m also thinking about story telling. How raising children and telling stories are related. Because my story telling is (in part) a reflection of me, how the language and images I use reflect my knowledge about the fabric of the world, my values, my dreams, my hopes, and my sense of the possibilities and my feelings about the life experience.

There’s a reason so many stories and fairy tales are journey stories. Family relationships, new friendships, dating adventures, trips, commuting, making a home, creating a family–the journey metaphor, sometime the literal journey, are essential to the human experience.
Writing, traveling and family building–all tied together. Neat.

Conflicting feelings/Imaginary Cat Bonding

I would probably feel better about being so lazy today if I had a cat. The cat and I could nap together, in solidarity, and awake and eat together in solidarity, and engage in some light grooming, a few stretches, some prancing about, and finally, more triumphant, self-satisfied napping. This is basically a summary of my cat-less day one of my luxurious two-week vacation. I haven’t been away from work for two weeks in a year. It feels weird and full of potential.

Maybe this imaginary cat idea is a fantastic notion–if I come to terms with my cat-like irresponsibility/laziness, I will be able to enjoy my professional grade goofing off without the typical guilt. Also, as a non cat with catlike tendencies, I get to enjoy great things like reading novels. Cat-like humans really have it all.

Maybe I need to get more structures and schedule my goofing off? Make it an official part of my vacation time. What would a good ratio be? 2/3 goofing off, 1/3 productive use of time/chores/writing/visiting with friends?

I’m entitled to goofing off. I’ve earned it. So why do I feel so guilty? Perhaps it’s because my xmas presents are un-wrapped. Maybe it’s because my final xmas package has not visited the post office yet. It could be that I’m under attack–my dormant, on-hold to-do list has awoken from its slumber and is acting like a starving angry Godzilla in need of attention.

The Godzilla is roaring while I nap. My napping powers are strong, and To-do Godzilla is ambitious, but has a mute button that I’m pushing repeatedly.

Some of the guilt (of course) is writing related. I got excellent feedback from my clever writing group on Monday on my latest iteration of my fairy tale retelling of snow white, and I have a lot to do. So much to do. I’m looking forward to tackling the revision, while being full of apprehension. Nothing fills me with so much excitement and trepidation as the looming revision process. For now, my proactive focus on napping means I’m going to let my trepidation fill me up, like a battery, and then deal with it.

It’s all about the diversion processes (at which I so excel). Good luck to all of us in facing off with the holidaze and our December To-do Godzillas.
Merry merry.

Play

Every day since the semester ended I’m feeling a little bit lighter and happier. Today I woke up and realized I was totally carefree. No pending homework. No feelings of guilt or obligation. I felt like a floaty balloon. A balloon that wanted a long nap.

There’s plenty to do, but a lot of it is going to the movies, watching movies, napping, reading guilty pleasures and fibrous fiction. I get to do with my mind whatever I want. Extravagant feeling.

In a nice turnaround, today for the first time in a long time, I wrote some fiction. 1000 words. I had a longstanding plot problem and I solved it. I’m facing my usual challenge with the ending, but that’s not so bad.
I’m feeling blessedly playful.

I have plenty to tackle in the next two weeks, but my chores will be book-ended with silly fun. Even having the time and leisure to dedicate to my chores fills me with relief and gratitude.

The holidays are looking brighter than ever. Merry merry.

Reality Smackdown

It’s getting to be that time when I get antsy at not writing anything more creative than student papers–student papers, as far as I can tell, require sourcing good information and then organizing and explaining that information coherently. It’s a skill set for sure, but it doesn’t give me a buzz. Okay, it does give me a buzz, but it’s not a creative buzz, it’s a “look at how well I can follow guidelines” buzz. Reasonable Girl thrives in the academic setting, she’s so reasonable it’s amazing. But Reasonable Girl secretly craves the ultra-rare big sexy rush of creative writing.

Meanwhile, I hear some gurgling in the background, and it’s not my tummy digesting cake (at least not today)–my creative wellspring is gurgling. It’s not an angry gurgle yet, but it could be, soon! The spring is telling me I have a whole backlog of weird half lived fantasies and notions that need some kind of funneling, or my dreams are going to keep getting weirder, and I’m not even taking anti malaria drugs anymore.

I’m doing the multi-identity juggling again. The worker, student, girlfriend, wannabe author smack down is in full force, plus there’s the added pressure of the holidays: I have to be a good family member in a variety of settings as well. In the next 30 days, I’ll hang out with a 5 month old. I’ll also hang out with a 91 and 90 year old. I will be flexible; I will be kind; I will be tired.

The good news is that I only have two more school papers to go. I’ve got pretty much all the pieces I need to complete my generative, academic oeuvres. And then, one blessed month from now, I will have one blessed month to goof off. That month of will be chock full of a ridiculous lack of things to do at night. I will unveil my other superhero identity yet again, the one with the small cape, the writer person who right now has been closet-ted and ignored for a bit too long. Yay small cape. I see you hanging. You’ll be dusted off in no time.

Imagined Universes and the Christmas Letter

You know how families send around those Christmas letters detailing the year’s accomplishments and memories for the family as a whole and for its members? I got jealous. Single girls don’t send these letters. So I tried to write one (but maybe that’s already been done and it’s called Bridget Jones’ Diary) and it’s harder than it looks. I determined that in order to qualify for Christmas letter writing, I needed to have a family. So I concocted the only kind of family I could–an imaginary baby. Once I went through the process of imagining my family, it occurred to me that my life was full of imaginary things, or at least my mind was in constant dialogue running amok between my dreams, my perceptions, my past, my imagined future, my desires, and my realities. This was rich terrain. I wanted to write about identity, my identity, but I wanted to capture the influence of my multiple internal dialogues, including the very strong relationship I had with the imagined future.

Where did that realization come from? I knew about the imagined future because I had realized that the one aspect of breaking up (many times, over several decades) I found most difficult to deal with cognitively was the loss of my imagined future. It was an imagined possession that I truly missed having stolen.

So that’s where I got started. Also, I’ve had a small, but potent relationship with the idea of multiple universes, in a very self-serving way. Whenever I feel constrained by my lived life and current choice sets, I like to imagine multiple other universes where I made radically different choices at critical junctures. There’s the me that spent a year abroad with the Rotary Club, the me that went to Bryn Mawr, the me that never left New York City, the me that got an MFA, the me that married young and disastrously, the me that is a junkie, the me that is a professor. They comfort me. And they remind me of my possibilities.
So those are the seeds of the memoir. The imagined. The possible. My identity. And my history (though I am more interested in the future than in the past, as a life philosophy).

What next?

Last night I went through a major rite of passage. I sent my first full manuscript (a memoir) to a handful of friends for their loving and brutal critique. Lucky for them, it’s a short manuscript. Only 160 pages (which will be about 120 pages when typeset.) I’ve given them a month to read (and me a month to rest, or to wrestle with other projects of a non-confessional nature.)

Now I’m home, with my manuscript out in the world, wondering what to do with myself. Ta-da! Start a new blog. Yes!

For better, or worse, I have many options and many unfinished projects I could tackle. I’m almost tempted to put a vote button (if only I knew how to do such things!) down below and ask for a popular vote.

I have three options for my next project:

  1. Try to take my novella about Rapunzel and make it into a novel.
  2. Try to work on my short story collection.
  3. Try to work on my fairy tale collection.

(secret option #4, try to work on my devil story and make that into a novel.)

I’m not sure which project is calling to me at this time.

The screams that I hear loudest are those of my impending graduate coursework.  I definitely can’t get away from those responsibilities.

So I guess the big question will be, come September, will I still write?