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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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Sorrow

Sorrow is a tricky thing. Sometimes it’s there with you in the morning, like messy hair and stale breath- it’s just there. Other times it suddenly comes upon you like a sneeze or a muscle cramp. It’s a reminder that you are human, susceptible to life’s complexities and pain.

There are some periods when sorrow will linger- a chronic feeling that sometimes gets better after spending time in the sunlight; sometimes gets worse after finding an old photo or hearing an old message on the machine.

It is not a scratch that can be buffed out but rather a stain that will always discolor part of the soul.

I am the sorrowful. I am the lingering sad that hovers even on OK days. I am the sudden urge, the sudden loss of breath when pain becomes too unbearable. I have the ability to go to bed smiling and wake in such anguish, tortured by horrifying dreams.

It is as real as anything: leaves on a tree, wind on my face- sorrow is real. It is no trend or fashion. It is a very part of who I am and the side effects of that sorrow lead to the fears, the lazy, the wall between publishing and living alone with notebooks of writings and unfinished canvases stacked high.

I am the sorrowful.

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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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It’s Your Day

That’s what they always say, right? About birthdays?

I was an only child ’til I was 8, and Mom made or got awesome cakes. A giant chocolate chip cookie with Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in icing. A doll cake, where the cake was a giant hoop-skirt. With an October birthday, I got a witch cake one year. One year it was a big, cleverly-iced teddy bear. We had little money, so presents weren’t the focus, but I always got a great cake.

Later, there were all kinds of interfering circumstances. It’s not that the birth of my siblings killed my birthday or anything, but lives change, and by the time they were born, well, life had changed. Dad worked 18 hour days. Mom was working hard and also trying to be a super-mom. Money was very, very tight, thanks to an unscrupulous former boss of Dad’s and the fact of being a two-teacher-parent family. We moved around a lot, so in October I hardly had friends to invite to parties, much less having a house unpacked enough to throw parties in.

For my Sweet 16, I remember getting flowers and a cake, plus a bottle of Lady Stetson and a big package of Big Red gum. It still strikes me as very… odd… And since I wouldn’t let my Dad ride with me while I was driving (a prerequisite for getting a license in my household), 16 didn’t come with a license. There was no way it would’ve come with keys.

Just before my 17th, I remember having a knock-down-drag-out with my mom about how birthdays are about privileges now and not presents (not that they were ever about presents in our house), and she wouldn’t even let me see a rated ‘R’ movie. So she said, “OK, I’ll see how well I can trust you with that privilege.” The first movies I checked out with my boyfriend after that point included Cape Fear, my Mom lost all composure, and I lost the privilege.

At 18, I went with my boyfriend and his car, and got my own driver’s license – no parent required. But I made no use of it for several years anyway. He bought me a lovely jewelry ensemble – a ring, earrings, and necklace, each with a gold heart containing a flower of rubies. His mom said, “You’re investing a lot in her.” He said, “Well, I don’t intend to lose her, so the investment isn’t lost.” Ah, how wrong we are about love at 18.

But mostly, birthdays have been like any other day. Everybody who knows says, “happy birthday,” and usually I nag enough that I get to go out to lunch. But it’s just a bad time of year. In school, it was always right near the first big marching contest, which we hosted at my school. In college, it was right near the first mid-terms. Since I’m married to an academic, mid-terms are still relevant. I mean, it’s not like my birthdays have always been awful. Just more or less forgotten. My birthday is the 8th, Mom’s best friend’s was the 10th, so she never could remember which was which.

Last year, I was moving into my house that day, but at least Mom and Sher were here. A couple years before that, I found out I was going to have a baby, just a day before my birthday. And this year, I got a card from work – it’s nice to be thought of when I’m so far away – and I just had a fun little chat with my two best friends online. So it’s not all bad. But…

I started feeling queasy at 5:00 yesterday. By 10, I had a relatively unpleasant headache. By 1AM, the place where my head was touching the pillow hurt too much for me to keep lying down. Then I started coughing. I got up, took cough medicine, and sat down in the recliner. I fell back to sleep before even kicking out the foot-rest, so I slept bolt-upright in the chair ’til my tiny girl came tromping down the stairs (at 5:30AM) asking, “Watch Hello Kitty?”

I called in sick, with the light of the LCD on the phone hurting my eyes, and feeling guilty that people would think I was “calling in sick” instead of just calling in sick because it’s my birthday. And who gets sick on their birthday? I went to bed and slept for four hours. I got up and visited with The Philosopher for an hour and went to bed for another three hours. Then, off to a neighbor 6-year-old’s birthday party. Kids 2yrs-9yrs running, squealing, eating, playing games. Adults standing about drinking champagne. Wanting to smile, wanting to mingle, but feeling vague and not-all-there, keeping an eye on the tiny girl… so much smaller than the others… watching her eating enough cheesy poofs to make Cartman proud.

And so goes 33. I shouldn’t care so much. It’s just a day. People shouldn’t care so much about birthdays by this point anyway. And so there’s also the guilt of being sad about my birthday, when I should be grateful I made it through another year, more or less unscathed, and that I’m prosperous enough that it’s even on the radar.

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I really haven’t noticed the sunny, breezy weather today. Fall is supposed to be my favorite season, and yet I find myself longing for winter. There’s a snow globe on my desk reminding me that business trips end, usually with a hug and a silly souvenir. La Joconde (Mona Lisa) looks at me with that half smile, a secret she’s hiding for centuries. The gloss on the postcard is wearing thin now that she’s been moved to so many different places; different offices, apartments, boxes…She’s even looking at me now as I write, and she’s taunting me.

I got that postcard in Paris. It was winter then and I was in love with France. I came face to face with La Joconde that season. No one was in the room. the Louvre was empty of tourists who on any other day would shuffle through the line to get a glimpse of the small, unimpressive painting, then ushered along to see some other work of art in some other hall. Her face has been an enigma for years.

I look at her and see “almost’s”. She is almost flirtatious. She is almost sad. She is almost smiling. She is almost crying. She almost can read my mind because maybe she too has been sad for a long time and longs for a winter. I wonder if she is beautiful like I wonder if I am beautiful to anyone who has seen my face. I’m no masterpiece. I’m not framed in some famous musuem.

I have my bathroom mirror and she has the world.

The funny thing about sad is that more often then not, I have no real reason to be sad. I’m selfish I suppose. I want things I can’t have. I want to be transformed into someone I’m not. I “gimmie gimmie!” more than anything. And somehow, even as I look back on my trips to Paris, seeing Mona before me, and all the other things I have seen, done, eaten, had…

….incomplete.

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