Friday, August 17, 2012

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” - Stephen King

Tonight was the faculty orientation for the new college where I'm teaching in Richmond.  I am so relieved...gleeful, be back in the classroom.  When I have to leave a job behind in each of our moves, I always wonder if I'll be allowed back on this carousel of career.  Steve keeps assuring me it'll get easier the more experience I have, and I'm now in my 12th year of teaching.  But it's always seemed too good to be true, to weird to think this perfect job for me will continue. 

Two nights a week doing something I love, and feel like I'm part of very real evolution in the lives of my students.  Some of them don't care.  At all.  But some of them do.  And I love feeling like I'm part of something bigger than my little nuclear life at home, no matter how significant and noble I believe family life to be.  My 6 hours of teaching does a lot for my mothering spirit.

I got to the orientation absurdly early. Partly excitement.  Partly that I misread the agenda on when it started. So I sat in the back while I waited, scribbling in my composition notebook.  

I have a new writing project.  I haven't had one for awhile.  I usually write in bits and pieces, all the time.  But this is a new thing:  A cohesive idea that keeps my brain churning at night...rummaging for pens in the glove compartment so I can get it down on paper before the thought disappears. 

Steve kept trying to convince me to write about this particular idea, but he's legally obligated to think my thoughts are awesome, because he's married to me. But then Gil peer-pressured me into it too. "Start with an article about it," he said, "and then a book." And I kept shaking my head no. This was a topic just meant to mill around in my mind, it wasn't for writing.  But his call to action stuck in my brain.  He was saying all the same things Steve kept saying.  Maybe they were right?

On the train ride home from DC, it started coming out.  On a napkin, then the back of an envelope in my purse.  Now pages and pages in my notebook.  Maybe it was time.  

I still don't want to publish it, I just want it for me. Have Steve read over my shoulder sometimes. But I'm ready to write about it.  An entire chapter spilled out in under an hour.  I love seeing the ideas sharpening on the page, like fine-tuning a microscope. For the first time, this complex maze of thoughts is making sense to me. 

The process of writing is more important to me than what happens to the words once they're down -- whether someone even reads them, or whether it becomes a functional book in the end, with paragraphs and chapters and a definable thesis statement.  But I can enjoy the journey through the topic for my own sake.  

And in the end, maybe it will never be for anyone.  Or maybe I'll just leave this project in my will for Gil, my stack of papers in a suitcase.  My pile of Evan Shipman poems to his Hemingway. 

Whatever happens, I am appreciating the almost drug-like pleasure of my brain sizzling with new ideas...with writing, with teaching, with what is coming up ahead. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012's been a long time since I wrote

Goodness, I have a lot of things to discuss!  Someday, when my children are going through the stack of papers I left behind to haunt their lives, they will assume that they did nothing in the Summer of 2012.  Never mind the 8-week road trip, 3 weeks of daily swimming lessons, archaeology and Russian camps, Andrew reading books, Simone learned how to ride a bike, soccer, trips to the zoo, museums, and the occasional grocery shopping.

I suppose it's a sign of a life well lived that you don't have time to write about the life, but really...I've spent plenty of time wasted on other silly stuff.  I could have jotted down a few words.

Without my archivist writing, how will Grown-Up-Jack know that on Monday, he peered into a museum display case holding a heavily-jeweled belt from a king in India and said matter-of-factually: "That seems excessive for something that just holds up your pants." 

These are important life moments, y'all.

Or other giant life things, like: This is the summer when I gave up caloric drinks.  Except going out for drinks with friends.  And the occasional mimosa for breakfast.  Whatever.  Anyhow, I turned 34 and realized that at some point, my metabolism might not be my friend.  So drinking hundreds of calories a day in drink seemed an odd choice.  In doing so, I realized I authentically LOVE the taste of water.  Who knew?  I did not.  Because my water was usually hidden in lemonade, Coke, or Starbucks.  You live, you learn.

My children are starting Real School this fall.  Not the mish-mash of several co-ops.  Andrew and Simone are only 2 days a week still, but my Jack will be in school Monday through Friday.  9am to 4pm.  I asked him if he'll miss us, being gone all day like that, and he said: "Will I eat there?"  I assured him he would. And then he nodded and said: "That will be fine, then!"

It's a French immersion school.  Russian in the afternoon, too, twice a week. His private teacher from Virginia Beach, the one who has taught him since he was 4, is now moving to Richmond and was HIRED BY THE SCHOOL TO TEACH RUSSIAN.  Words.cannot.describe.the.glee.  This city is magical, y'all.  Amazing things happen here -- like vegan cupcakes sold out of food-trucks.  French immersion schools that hire his Russian teacher.  I love it here.

This is also the summer when I think I found myself again.  The Sarahbeth who loves to read, write (except blogs, apparently?), go to museums, spend hours chatting with friends in a restaurant.  When my children were babies, those parts of me took away from the very real work of mothering.  So I just shut those parts down, for a few years. They needed me on a regular basis -- to keep them from killing themselves, quite honestly.  You bury your head in a book for 2 hours when you have a toddler, and bad shit happens.  You do it when your children are 8, 5, and 4, and you can assume *someone* will find you if there's blood or fire.  It feels a bit miraculous, actually.

Weekend mornings, Steve and I find ourselves lying in bed until 10am.  Little people come in and out the door every few minutes, but we don't have to physically *get up* out of bed anymore. Everyone uses the toilet, can get their own dishes out, etc.  We put food on the "breakfast shelf" of the fridge and expect the house to look half-destroyed when we wake up, but it's a worthy trade-off.

I feel like my best mothering self when I'm most connected with who I am. I went away to DC for 3 days without my family last weekend. I took the Amtrak and packed white clothes and felt very non-mommified.  My college friend ended up in DC the same weekend, completely unplanned, and I stayed out until 3am having grown-up conversations and drinking wine. When I came home to Richmond?  I have perhaps never been more re-fueled. It was supposed to be a weekend of sleeping and unabashed laziness, but then the agenda was turned upside down and I barely slept at all.  What I realized was that being my non-mom self for awhile is one of the best things I can do for my mothering. Sometimes I need sleep to re-fuel, sometimes it's good to just miss my family a bit.  And have them run up and give me giant hugs as though I've been gone longer than 2 nights. :)