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Archive for the ‘Growing up’ Category

It is a waste alright. I, too, have been begged to keep writing.

There is an analogy that Steven Covey likes to use. No, I don’t typically quote Steven Covey, but this is particularly apropos. You have a vase, three big rocks, and a bunch of pebbles. If you put all the pebbles in, and then add the rocks, they won’t all fit. If you add the rocks first, and then pour the pebbles in around them, everything just fits. The big rocks are supposed to be your highest priorities, while the pebbles are all the “little junk” that tends to take up your time.

My husband just described an op-ed piece he’d read, in which the writer used the analogy of an oxygen mask. You put on your own first, and then your child’s. It makes sense, right? If you pass out while putting a mask on your kid, you aren’t around to put on your own.

I used to believe this line of reasoning – so much so that I went around lecturing other working women about them. “How can you be a good mom if you’re sick?” etc. etc.

Now, in this and in so many other things, I am eating my own words. There are so many things I didn’t understand… and still don’t. My job is to advise people all day long, and yet I think back on all the advice I’ve given in my personal life and realize that it was all arrogance borne of inexperience.

I do have three big rocks and a bunch of pebbles. The big rocks? My husband, my daughter, my job. No room for four big rocks, or more. What I have done to ensure that I fit in the vase, along with my friends, is to shave little bits off of the three big rocks, make a pebble for myself and one for all of my friends put together, and stick these two pebbles into tiny gaps. What does it mean? Every second I spend reading, or writing, or soaking in the bath, or doing yoga, or daydreaming, or chatting with friends… is stolen time. I have about six months worth of blog posts rattling around in my head right now. I’ve jotted down names of concepts on a few sheets of paper (even that was stolen – I wrote it all down during a meeting at work – shhh…), but I know that most of them will be empty words to me by the time I get to them. There’s a whole book in my head – one I’d enjoy reading, I might add – dormant. And, of course, the vast majority of my little pebble of time is spent making up for lost time sleeping, which is oh-so-productive for all of the things I actually want to do. Because, not only do I have a ton of creative endeavors I want to pursue, I have a chronic stupid pain disorder that sucks the life out of me and makes me dull and foggy in the head.

I don’t begrudge them this time, exactly. But it catches up with you, you know? All those ideas start shoving around looking for room, like all the souls in John Malcovich’s head, and you can’t think. The time I’ve carved out for friends helps; a little frivolity that keeps me plugged into the rest of the world.

I’ve talked to other working moms about this. Not only is this normal, it’s expected. No working moms are anything but tired. We do our best not to come across as resentful, but our every complaint on our own behalf is met with either, “well, you asked for it,” or “just quit your job like a real mom would, then!” or “what did you expect?” or “how selfish can you be?” or “ooh, but isn’t it worth it?” It is, you know, worth it. That doesn’t make me any less tired, or make me have any less longing for a few creative hours now and again.

And last, but not least…. blogging is met with the oddest sorts of animosity. There are those in the workplace, upon hearing that I have or participate in a blog, who have said, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of time?” With a wry, disdainful look, I might add. Yet I told the same person, months ago of course, that I tried to write something on most days, and she said, “Oh, you have a journal? How wonderful!” Give. me. a. break.

Others understand that a blog is a public journal, but they think the term “Journal” means an academic publication. Therefore, a blog post must be grammatically correct, spelled entirely perfectly, and contribute something unique to human knowledge. It’s my own personal musings. I’m just honoring you with the trust to let you read them. I’m not a) fishing for somebody to send me a consolation note, b) trying to contribute something unique to human knowledge, or c) (yes I got this directly once) wallowing. What I am doing is telling you (with stolen moments that often deprive me of editing-time) the way I see it, right now, today. I don’t want you to worry. I just want you to think, “Gosh, yeah, I’ve felt like that” or “Wow, I’ve never thought about it that way.” Or any other number of thing one might think when presented with something to which they really relate, or really don’t.

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People have been asking…no begging…no nagging me to update my blogs. 3women was created for the sole purpose of developing a creative blog, and well, when one of the authors doesn’t feel very creative, the blog suffers.

It’s like having a palette of greys, whites, and blacks when all you want are rich reds, bright yellows, and sultry blues. And then, finding the will to paint, the will to sit down and paint, write, create is near excruciating. It’s embarrassing as talented as I suppose I am and as educated and privileged as I am that I sit here with severe writer’s block, slowly slipping into the worst kinds of sorrows, anxieties and fears.

Look at the world around us. Take a good look. Wars. Famon. Poverty. Hate. Murder suicides over unpaid bills. Uncertain economy. Dow Jones. Rent is due. Massive layoffs. Obesity. Early retirements. Angry emails. Lethargic bodies lying on couches watching the world go by. Lack there of’s.Career changes. Cold weather.

Nothing’s really that funny or worth writing about. Revisiting my past with creativity seems ridiculous when I can barely find reason to live in this moment. I know I’m a bit dreary and negative, but aren’t we all lately?

I promise to write more. I hope my two other women will too. Let’s just get this shit out, even if no one reads it.

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Lost Time

This past month has been lost time. Time spent reading the Twilight series, hanging on Alan’s couch, restless sleep, drinking beer and most of all revaluating the “big picture”. Who am I and what am I doing here kind of shit.

The 9-5 wasn’t working for me anyway. I’d scratch my head at the obvious questions they’d ask me and wonder how they got where they are today. I saw myself 5 years down the road, unhappy, vapid, worrying about fax machines and conference calls instead of how to finish the chapter in my novel or what kind of wine would go best with my dinner party in a new home. There’s nothing more heartbreaking then leading a life I’d never really want to live.

So, I’m back on the hunt, searching for who I really am and lucky to have some companions helping me along the way. The silence on my end is embarrassing – I should be writing more but instead I have been busy with errands, laundry, applications and figuring out how this whole “career” thing is supposed to work. I miss my mom and my dad. I’m drinking beer instead of tea before bed some nights. My jeans are hating me again and I don’t blame them.

Hopefully Decemeber will pan out to be a better month than November or even October for that matter. Sometimes I wish I were a 1950’s housewife who secretly wrote a great novel in her husband’s home office while he was busy at work. The kids would be playing or watching the TV in the next room, the laundry tumbling in the machines, and I with frenzied hand would write as much as I could before it was time to drop the kids off at dance class or to a playdate.

But I live in 2008 nearing 2009 and I don’t have a husband or kids or laundry that tumbles in the background. I have a one bedroom apartment, laundry on the floor and a strange habit of saying I’m a writer when I barely do these days.

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The Rescuers

When I was small, I had an LP of the old Disney movie, The Rescuers. Now, this wasn’t just any LP. This was the ENTIRE MOVIE, start to finish. Of course there was the music, but every line and every sound-effect was captured as well. I can’t be sure, but I doubt I’d had more than one opportunity to see The Rescuers before I got that LP. I’d sit and listen, over and over, like our parents listened to Little Orphan Annie on their radios.

I was drawn to The Rescuers as a child… still am, I suppose. This dear, sweet orphaned girl – considered by herself and those who would hurt her to be “homely.” She thought nobody wanted her. Now, to be clear, Penny was far worse off than I. I lived in a house full of grown-ups, all of whom loved me. But still, I feared that I was homely – unwanted – never good enough – longing for rescue. My entire life has been one effort after another to gain approval… sometimes, from people I care about, and sometimes, from anybody who’ll give it.

Now, my tiny girl has fallen in love with The Rescuers. She’s too young, I think, to understand the reasons for Penny’s sadness, but she does grasp that there are some very mean things happening to Penny. She shows real concern for Penny, and for Cody in The Rescuers Down Under too. But I think she watches them for the adventure. She begs, “Watch Mice?” and then is glued to the screen, giving her own tiny-girl commentary. “Penny sad… Sweet kitty… pretty bird… Whee!!!! Airplane Birdy!… Awww, Penny cwying…” and so on.

I’d forgotten that old LP. But the other day, the mice were doing that rescuing thing they do, and I suddenly saw myself sitting in our old attic “apartment”, listening and trying to picture what was going on. I remembered crying when Penny cried to the tune of “Someone’s Waiting For You” – and I found myself crying yet again. It’s so strange how large our childhoods still loom. I realized quite recently that I tend to couch my analogies for friendship in terms of rescue.

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Hallucination

“When I was a child, I had a fever. My hands felt just like two balloons. Now I’ve got that feeling once again. I can’t explain. You would not understand. This is not how I am.” — Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”

One of my earliest memories is of hallucinations.
At a very young age, no older than five, I sat at the piano and cried. I wanted to play, but I had this smeary sense of time and space. I knew the tempo of the piece, but no matter how hard I struggled I could not hear it right in my head. It came out either frantically rushed or morbidly slow, and I couldn’t reconcile the two and start to play.

And my hands… my hands felt enormous. Not structurally large – the bones were the right size – but almost spherically fat. If I closed my eyes, I could feel my hands puffing up until each tiny finger became too wide for the piano keys. My parents had friends over, and they’d asked me to play something for them. I was proud but frightened (a stage fright I never overcame), not wanting to disappoint my parents by making a mistake, and therefore not wanting to attempt. But I was determined to perform for them. And my hands started to swell as time became erratic.

I remember my father growing frustrated with my apparently willful opposition, but I simply could not play. I’d been nervous about playing, but now I was downright terrified by what was happening to me. I couldn’t explain; I knew they would not understand. As I cried, my mother came in and closed the door. I tried to tell her that there was something actually wrong; I wasn’t making it up, but nothing was coming out right, and I gave up. My mother just sat and looked at me in utter confusion. Then, as always, she didn’t want to give in to a tantrum, but she didn’t want to be unreasonable and mis-judge actual trouble as a tantrum.

I don’t remember what happened, or what she did. But I do remember that this sensation happened again and again throughout my childhood. Some of the occasions I remember all occurred during times of high stress or frantic activity. I was once jumping on a trampoline, and my body entirely changed shape and stayed suspended in air as I came down much too slowly. Other occasions occurred while doing something very deliberate or quiet. I frequently felt my hands and feet start growing puffy and heavy while I was trying to go to sleep.

As I grew older, these sensations dissipated. I still have them once in a very long while, but not like before. During my teen years and through college, the hallucinations became more visual and auditory. I sensed motion out of the corner of my eye, or saw halos around objects. I could hear a pattern in any white noise – music, voices, both. One morning, I distinctly heard my mother’s voice, coming from outside my head, saying, “Get. up. right. now.” Talk about startled. I genuinely expected to open my eyes and see her standing there.

But synesthesia is the weirdest. Late one night, there was a fire – a big fire – across the street from my apartment. I’d dozed off while studying. As I lay there, I was awoken by a horrifying smell. Think of every rotten, molding, excremental smell you’ve ever encountered. This was worse. I said, “What’s that horrible smell?” My husband, who was still awake, said there was no smell, but the sirens were getting pretty loud. I dozily said, “‘mergency…” and then was fully awake. The smell persisted. Until I was outside and actually seeing the fire trucks, the noise was being clearly perceived through my nose.

Only as an adult did I discover that all of these sensations can be versions of the migraine “aura“, or neurological phenomena leading to sensory mis-perceptions, usually preceding or coincident with a migraine. And that the “puffy hands” phenomenon is more commonly associated with childhood migraines. What an odd thing – to be relieved that I have migraines. “Ohhh… I really wasn’t making it up… I really wasn’t crazy… I was just sick!”

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Blond Experiment

Today, I am getting my hair done. I will not be dying it blond or red or jet black or even hot pink, all previous colors of my youth. Rather, I will keep my hair in its natural state, a slight dark brown with a couple of caramel splashes.

My mother used to let me dye my hair as a form of expression. Instead of sneaking off and branding myself with a tattoo or piercing some obscure part of my body, I could dye my hair as long as I knew what I was getting into, and as long as I didn’t get in trouble with the principal at my private high school.

Throughout school, from kindegarten to my senior year, I was forced to conform to a silly dress code. Plaid dresses with white blouses in the winter time with stockings that had pre approved thread counts and “loafers”. I shuddered at that word, thinking that my shoes would look more like Frankenstien’s since my feet were unusually large for a girl my age. In the summer, I was to wear a blue and white pin stripe dress, white blouse, and I think I was allowed to wear those shiny, silver LA Gear sneakers that were so popular in the early 90’s. The boys nicknamed them my Star Trek shoes. I would then begin to cry.

It wasn’t until the summer going into my 7thgrade year that I started to push the envelope. I would find create ways to tie that bold, red sweater they made us wear in the winter with our bold red plaid outfit. I painted my nails dark blue. I smeared tiny sparkles on my eyelids on days when I was happy, and on days when I was feeling moody, I’d chip and peel my nail polish. Now, I’m not saying that I started the ‘Emo’ movement, but I was a trendsetter in that little Los Angeles private school.

Then one summer, while swimming with a girlfriend who adored my sense of style and my need for rebellion, sprayed something in my hair that would forever change my life. Sun-in. We spent all day out in the sun, spraying, swimming, giggling about boys, and spraying some more. By the time my mother picked me up, my hair looked like it belonged on the head and body of a cheap cabaret singer in some smokey joint. It was terrible.

From then on, my hair was “treated” by hairdressers, streaked with platinum blond highlights, dyed dark red to emulate my favorite TV show actress, Claire Danes, dipped through hot pink temporary color fo No Doubt concerts, and right before moving away to college, by to its natural state, nearly the same color it is now, dark brown. I still found ways to express myself through my hair in college. After every semester, I would either cut 7 inches off it or dye it a different color, a sort of cathartic thing a woman does after losing a great love in her life. (Oh trust me, I changed my hair after breakups as well).

My boyfriend loves my hair the way that it is, and general consesus of my friend in Austin can’t even imagine a super blond Meredith. To them, I am the dark and long haired woman, wtih poetic pieces of hair that sometimes hang in my eyes, but don’t think that I’m an emo-kid in any way.

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