I am not a patient woman. This makes many things about choosing to be a writer difficult for the likes of me. For one thing, the second I hit “submit” I want an answer. “Did you like it?” “Do you want it?” “Am I good enough?” Lately, personal validation has come largely in the form of email. I check my email obsessively lately. To the point where I’m pretty sure its a problem that I should seek care for. I’ve got a new full over at Swoon, and I’m dying to hear their thoughts. (Even if their thoughts are, “no thanks.”) Because then I’ll KNOW. And then I’ll be free to skip on to the next potential opportunity. But if their thoughts are “yes,” that’d be great, too. But then I’ll have to wait for terms. And signatures. And lawyers. And edits. And so many other things that are so exciting and wonderful. But that don’t happen instantly.
I have what feels like millions of other stories out in other places. I’ve been putting myself out there. So there’s always the potential for a nice ego boosting email to arrive. There’s a greater potential for a soul-shattering rejection to arrive. But I can’t think about that. I live in hope.
Because patience is so difficult to master, I have begun taking joy in the things that do happen quickly enough to suit me. Take a look at this:
It’s an Amaryllis. I let it lay dormant in a paper bag out in my garden shed for three months or so through the fall. And then I re-potted it in time for it to bloom at Christmas. And it didn’t. I watched it every single stupid day and it just sat there, it’s green tips taunting me, but definitely not growing. Finally, about to give up on it altogether of almost two months of resolute NOT growing, I moved the pot. I thought it liked being in the window. But it seems that being more interior has made it happy. And since it began growing four days ago, it has grown at least a half inch a day. I kid you not. I can practically WATCH it reaching up. It’s fantastic. Perfect for us instant gratification types (if you don’t count all that waiting while it was dormant or once I’d re-potted it and it wouldn’t grow… don’t count that.) PS. That’s my fish plate. I just re-found it when I was digging through the closet where I store all the things that no one may ever touch because it might get broken.
I wish I was more like these guys.
Look at the simple joy they get from being given a mint. All they want in life in this moment? One mint. (The little one would like to eat many, many more mints. He did that recently when I didn’t know about it, eating all 37 mints in the box and then projectile vomiting pink foam all over the back of my car about three hours later. There is a moral – too much of a good thing is not a good thing.)
I am trying to let myself learn from these small people who I’m lucky enough to spend so much time with. They live for the moment completely. Their excitement and disappointments are so immediate and raw. They are good humans. I want to be more like them.
So I keep waiting.
I have known this for a long time, but am always surprised to discover it anew: when I have the free time that I constantly long for, it does not result in me getting a crapload of work done as I always imagine it will. The one exception to this was Christmas break this year, when I took a week off while my kids were still in school, and got most of my first draft finished. In a week. Working pretty much constantly.
However, I have a weekend… or at least a whole day… and I don’t find myself wanting to sit and work. I have multiple projects going on. A draft to revise (ugh…deep sigh), another novel just barely taking shape, and an entirely new project that I’m eager to begin. I also have some freelance work that I’ve accepted for an old client (which will probably end up getting done since it isn’t only me who will be disappointed if it doesn’t).
But I will probably spend my long free day on frivolous pursuits, just as I whiled away last evening. I watched three episodes of Top Chef: Season 9, and We Bought a Zoo (which totally made me cry, and want to visit the real zoo…) Today I have big plans to go see The Hunger Games — like in an actual movie theater. I never get to do that! (Although to be honest, I want to see it a lot less since learning that Woody Harrelson is in it. I have met him, and am not a fan). At least I can sort of construe that vaguely as research. But really, it’s pure pleasure. Maybe I’ll drag my laptop out and do some work at Panera first… I love that place… But I usually go there because my own home is noisy/filthy/oppressive, and none of that is the case today. Hmmm. And then, it turns out to be a beautiful day, so some part of me just wants to create some kind of excuse to be outside.
I doubt I’m alone in this — do you find that when you have the most time, you get the least done? I wrote a first draft of my last novel in about 3 months, while working 60% for a defense contractor, maintaining a marriage and a house (this is arguable, but we’re not going to consult the man about it), and raising two tiny boys (also arguable, but unless you want to discuss uses of the word “poopbutt” there’s no point asking them what they think about my success). But having a whole day free? Nothing will get done. I’m 85% certain.
So… lately I have found myself doing quite a lot of truth stretching and inventing in the act of parenting. I’m wondering … how much leeway do other parents allow themselves in this realm? Let me offer a couple examples.
My oldest little guy starts spring soccer this week. There are four teams each time, one of which is the red team. My guy LOVES the color red. He will choose it anytime he is offered a choice, and I literally have to force him to wear a shirt in another color when all of his (many) red shirts are dirty (often). ANYWAY, I received notice that we’ll be on the white team this season. Not the red team. (You don’t get to pick). I thought for two days about how to spin this ahead of time to avoid the meltdown on the first day of practice. Since practice is tonight, I had to do something today. So, this morning, when he was fully awake and happily munching pancakes (no, I don’t cook on weekdays, we freeze them from the weekends), I told him that I had gotten a call from the soccer coach. (This is a lie). The coach told me, I said, that the coolest team this season would be the white team, and he asked if I thought he’d want to play for that team. (Also a lie). I made it sound like he was specially invited to be a member of the coolest team there was (being cool has become kind of important as we near 5, unfortunately). He asked if he could be on the red team instead. I told him, sure, but that I thought he’d want to be on the coolest team and that the coach would probably be sad. (He’s beginning to be empathetic to the feelings of others). He considered, and quietly said, “okay, Mom. I guess the white team will be okay.” So the moral here is that while he isn’t super excited, he will be prepared to find out this evening that he’s not getting a red shirt, and he’ll have reason to believe that it’s actually BETTER to be on the white team. Is this lie ok?
Or how about this one — I told the kids that the Easter Bunny had dropped by and been quite disappointed to learn that these little boys were having a tough time staying in their beds at night. He told me, I said, that I should call him right away if they got out of bed between now and Easter, because he would not be able to drop by to hide eggs and fill their baskets if they weren’t being good little guys at bedtime. Last night I pretended to (loudly) have a phone conversation with E. Bunny right outside their door, talking about how I thought they were messing around, out of bed, making lots of noise and asking what I should do. He had me go in and tell them that they could have one more chance. They were quiet the rest of the evening. Okay lie or bad lie? (you are wondering if I’m really willing to cancel Easter, aren’t you? I am wondering that, too.)
So how far is too far? Is okay to be less than completely honest with a four and two year old to avoid excess trauma / drama?