Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The worry divide

I am not an overprotective parent. I believe in dirt and scrapes and bruises. I don't carry that antibacterial gel with me. I don't even carry Band-Aids. I let my kids climb alarmingly high at the playground. I let them wrestle and eat things that have fallen on the ground (and stayed there for more than 5 seconds). But I do have limits.

Yesterday the Mister and I walked to daycare together to pick up the kids. Since I used to have a commute, this has always been the Mister's provenance. He picks them up and walks them home. Which had always seemed like a good thing.
Until he says this: "I let them get out here and climb the fence." At that moment we are standing in front of a shuttered auto mechanic shop surrounded by a rusty chain-link fence topped with three rows of rusty barbed wire. Oliver jumps out of the stroller and scales the thing like a monkey until his perfect butter-like chin is resting over a rusty three-pronged barb. All that stands between him and an accident too awful even to imagine are his teensy little arms with their teensy little quivering biceps. Reader, I am horrified.

I've written before about my own accident-prone childhood, but what I may not have mentioned is that one of my worst injuries, the one that put me in an ambulance at age five, was from slipping while climbing a chain link fence and ripping open the tender inside of my elbow on the nasty, pointed top.
When I express my horror, the Mister does a little shrug like I'm just working myself into some sort of hysterical mom-frenzy, like I am completely off my chicken for thinking that the combination of sharp rusty fence and distracted toddler could possibly come to a bad end.
It's the same shrug I got when I freaked out after the Mister tried to take Oliver (who can't swim) kayaking on Tomales Bay without a life jacket. It's the shrug that says, "I'll humor you now, you raw bundle of unchecked worry, but as soon as you turn your back, me and the kids are going to ride our dirt bikes up the coast to go abalone diving with a bunch of guys I met at a halfway house."
Reader, I am worried.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Creative Habit

I look exactly like Anne Sexton only not so leggy and without the cigarette.

This is my "week to write," meaning the kids are in daycare full time and I can leave scabby breakfast dishes on the table all day without repercussion (we artistes get a lot of leeway).
Like everyone else, I'm working on a novel. This is daunting in so many ways, but especially because I am already a proven literary failure. Years ago—maybe six now—I completed a novel. It was ok. It had its moments, but it wasn't going to take the literary world by storm, or inspire any movements, or get translated into Urdu. But, I had a fancy agent who sent it to fancy publishers and one very fancy and famous editor in New York liked my book and wanted to meet me.
I walked through the streets of Greenwich Village in a gritty windstorm to her office and then spent the entire meeting acting like a monosyllabic mouth-breather and trying to free tiny grains of sand from between my teeth. I think I said "That's cool" a lot. In parting she said, "Well, Samantha, I'm not going to publish your book, but I did like it quite a bit and I want to see whatever else you write."
It only went downhill from there. Rejection after rejection after rejection. Until there was no one left to reject me. And, here I am, living proof that your dreams do not necessarily come true. Or at least they don't come true in time for you to be a young literary phenom.
But, bootstraps and all that. Six years, two anthologies, and a set of twins later, I think I may have mustered the courage to have another go. Fifty-four pages down, 250 more to go. Too bad the fancy editor is no longer in the biz. I'm sure she's been waiting with bated breath.

Last night I started perusing Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, a book that has been on my nightstand as long as my last novel has been in a box in my garage. I believe in taking one's creative endeavors seriously and I thought she might have something righteous and helpful to offer. And she does. She's very tough and no nonsense. She says things like, "I hope you've been to the ballet and seen a dance company in action on stage. If you haven't, shame on you; that's like admitting you've never read a novel or strolled through a museum or heard a Beethoven symphony live. If you give me that much, we can work together." Luckily, I meet her standards and we can work together.
Except for page 26, where she is talking about distractions and how to get them out of the way. She writes, "I try to cut it all off. I want to place myself in a bubble of monomaniacal absorption where I am fully invested in the task at hand. As a result, I find I am often subtracting things from my life rather than adding them."
Ok, I get that. But what's weird is how resistant my three-year-old twins are to being ignored. Try as I might to achieve a state of monomaniacal absorption, there are still the lunches to pack, the breakfast to make, the socks to put on, and the dance moves to witness.
And here's my question for you: Motherhood and creative pursuits, how do you do it? Is it possible (without the full time cadre of nannies, I mean).

Sylvia Plath is NOT my model but I do sympathize
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