Doing It.

Today’s writing exercise is inspired by the chapter titled “Writing as Practice” in Writing Down the Bones.    To do this exercise yourself, set a time limit– 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever. And just write. Just write down the first thing that comes to mind and go with it. Don’t think too hard. Like Anne Lamott says, you have to have a shitty first draft to get anything good. Don’t be afraid.

Natalie Goldberg says to just write. Anne LaMott says the same thing. But “just write?” About what? What do I write about? Do I write about the long, unsettling gaps in my memory? Do I write about all the mistakes in my past that haunt me? Mistakes innocuous and not so, I am haunted either way, with equal anxiety? {I set a timer here, for ten minutes, because I forgot to do it at the beginning. Natalie Goldberg says that timed writings are a part of a writer’s practice.} Do I share my deepest, darkest thoughts that I can never bring myself to say out loud? Why can’t I say them out loud? I know why. Because I feel that no one will understand that I am not trying to undo what’s been done; it’s just a lament. It doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy. It just means that I wonder how things would be different if I made different choices back then. Not necessarily better or worse choices, just different. There is no value judgement being made. I think it is probably human nature to wonder how things could have been or would have been or should have been, isn’t it?
If I admit that sometimes I wonder, “what if I had never gotten married?” or “what if we had waited to have our first child,” does that make me a bad wife or a bad mother? I wonder, would I still be teaching? Would I have advanced in my career?
Another thing I wonder often is “why did I buy this apartment?” In a moment of frustration, I will say “why did I buy this STUPID apartment, this EFFIN apartment?” Because here I am, married with two young children, living in a 700 square foot studio that’s been impossible to sell in this down market, even at a bargain basement price.
I guess it just goes to show that you never know how your life will turn out. When I bought this apartment, I was 26. My husband and I had just started dating. I was living by myself for the first time. I had no inkling that we’d be married a year later, and that ten months after that, we’d have a baby. I was prepared to be alone for a long time. In fact, I looked forward to my solitude, to not sharing my space. Because I never had that. I like to be alone.
I can admit that now. I am the type of person that likes to be alone. It doesn’t make me lonely. It just means that sometimes the world is overstimulating and being alone is a nice refuge. I enjoy my alone time even more now, when I can get it, because all day long, someone is touching me and asking me for something and needs and wants and needs and wants. Sooooo needy. Little kids are needy. I feel like I’m stating the obvious. What wasn’t obvious to me in the beginning is how draining it can be, to be needed all the time. And I happen to think that my kids are pretty independent. I give them plenty of space. But it doesn’t matter. All kids want their mother, like it’s a need.
And that reminds me of how much I loved it when my mother would run her hands over my hair when I wasn’t feeling well, my head in her lap. Even now, at almost 33, I can remember so acutely the feeling of needing my mother then, of wanting her, of reveling in her comfort.