The walls around my desk are covered with post-it notes: scraps of shiny, sparkly ideas that line my office like a magpie’s nest. One note bears the handwriting of my fishing partner, Ruth. It says:
It’s a useful way to examine many angles (and the many truths) of one thing: a job, a relationship, a goal, a problem, an unplugged phone. Here is the truth about my messy office.
The Apparent Truth (How does it look from the outside?) — Disaster. Thousands of small pieces scattered in loose piles. On one side of the room, a preponderance of books, paper, magazines, computer, words. On the other side, art. Oogly bits of disconnected stuff that I can’t bear to throw away. Twenty-six yards of ivory ribbon. An old peanut butter jar full of sea glass. Four unfinished wooden boxes. Rubber stamps, colored pencils, chalk, paints. Piles of colorful paper scraps. A shoebox of found images. Thirty-six tumbled marble tiles. A bag of yarn. Ten feet of cork.
The Real Truth (What it is it really like for me, on the inside?) — Comfortable and comforting chaos. I like being able to see everything at once. The rest of my house is spare and uncluttered; everything in cupboards and drawers and closets, put away for the sake of serenity. But in here, everything is out for the sake of creativity. Strange juxtapositions abound. A Peruvian quilt next to a ticking clock. A black and white checkered napkin holding 30 round, colorful marbles. Pictures of Kokopelli tucked into an angels calendar.
The Spirit Truth (If this were serving a spiritual purpose in your life, what would it be?) — A form of worship. I’m not a traditionally religious person, which is code for “I don’t know what the heck I believe but I’m trying to figure it out.” But the one thing I do believe, deeply and without question, is based on one verse in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” To me, being created in the image of God means we (unlike the animals) have been given the unique gift of creativity, and we’re obligated to use it wisely and well. Squashing my creative spirit is wrong, even sinful, because it dismisses the most important gift God has given me. Conversely, using my creative spirit is almost a form of worship.
At the risk of getting all woo-woo, my messy office is like church for me. Here is where I create. Writing for me is a lot like prayer – an effort to understand, forgive, be grateful, grow. I need it the way I need air and food and water.
The Shadow Truth (What is the dark side, the thing you don’t want to admit you’re getting from this?) — Guilty pleasure. Everything I do in my office – writing, doing art, working on genealogy, staring out the window – feels like playing. I can breathe deeply in here. Every minute in my messy room is an immense indulgence, and it feels like guilty pleasure. Why do I feel guilty? I don’t know, and I wish I didn’t. But it’s hard to admit how happy I am when I’m all by myself playing in the middle of my creative mess.
The Fairy-Tale Truth (If this were in a fairy tale, known or unknown, what would it be?) —The Secret Garden, the story of a girl who is lonely and adrift until she discovers a hidden, untended flower garden. By tending and restoring the garden, she also tends and restores her heart. Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as lonely and adrift. But I don’t know any fulltime parent who doesn’t feel isolated and at times consumed by the world of home and children. This messy room is my secret untended garden. It’s where I remind myself that I still exist, where I can create beauty or just sit among the weeds and look at the sky.
The Unsaid Truth (What remains to be said?) — I want more, more, more. I don’t spend nearly enough time in here, and when I am in here I feel guilty, as if it’s stolen time. I need predictable time, to know when I can shut the door and for how long. I also need to give myself the gift of permission – to play, to be messy, to just be. I have the power to give these things to myself. Why don’t I do it?
And now … your turn. What is your truth?
Our last musical adventure began with a shriek, followed by a haunting melody. But just to mix things up, MomBrain’s music fest last night began with the music and ended with much screaming. This is because I had to relearn the lesson that every beginning musician knows: Thou Shalt Not Chew Gum While Playing.
It began with the garlic – four cloves of it, in the lovely pasta and feta cheese dish I made for dinner. In my rusty musical retirement, I’d forgotten that it probably wasn’t a good idea to eat garlic immediately before singing with other human beings. No time to brush! I popped a stick of gum and ran off to rehearsal.
You need to know that MomBrain is blind before her time. Reading sheet music requires reading glasses. But I cannot see the conductor without peering over the tops of the glasses or removing them entirely. Listening to the conductor’s lengthy directions, I took off my glasses and hung them from my mouth. But then, with no warning, she launched eighteen third-graders into “The Crawdad Song” and I couldn’t see the music. I pulled my glasses from my mouth only to see a long string of chewing gum stretching from the earpiece. I tried to pull the gum off, but now a sticky triangle of gum connected my left hand to my glasses to my mouth. Crapcrapcrap. If we hadn’t been in a church I would have said the F word, third-graders be damned. Four measures of piano silence went by before I jammed the glasses onto my face and willed my sticky fingers to fly, mama, fly over that keyboard!
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
I’ll meet you down by the crawdad hole
End of song. End of all hope. Off come the glasses, and now there’s a wad of gum behind my right ear that is still connected to my glasses. Holy crap, there goes the conductor again launching into “Accentuate the Positive” and I know I’m doomed so I jam the glasses back on and finish the rehearsal wondering if peanut butter really does take gum out of hair, wondering if anyone saw me stretching gum around like silly string, wondering if the conductor will make me write sentences for setting a bad example. I will not chew gum in rehearsal. I will not chew gum in rehearsal. I will not chew gum in rehearsal.
Observant readers will notice that I have removed the NaNoWriMo link to The Amazing Adventures of Sister Sky. This is because I have grown too fond of Sister Sky and her mother, Candy Valentine, to subject them to an all-out sprint to 50,000 words by the end of this month. Oh, I could do it. Sister Sky could memorize the Old Testament. Candy Valentine could fondly remember an epic poem about Vikings crossing the north Atlantic. Heck, Sister Sky could just fall asleep and have a vivid dream about her life as a newspaperwoman, with a link to Odious Woman’s 48,000 word opus. “Then she woke up, and it was all a dream. The End.”
I do intend to continue. Sister Sky is in a deep hole right now and needs digging out. And I will keep it online, so bookmark it if you care to follow along on my shitty first draft. You will be rewarded with guns, dead bodies, an intricate puzzle, and a real Web site where you can find your own Valley-girl horoscope.
Is any one else angry that John Kerry’s campaign has $15 million left from the Democratic primaries? Why didn’t they spend it? They should have been $10 overdrawn the morning after the election.
Those who have known MomBrain since dinosaurs roamed the earth know that she plays the piano. I studied classical piano for many years, and finally quit when I realized I wasn’t willing to work hard enough to make up for my lack of talent. Imagine it. Four hours a day all alone in a little room insulated with acoustic tiles. My back hurt all the time. My forearms ached. My hands and fingers were ice cold from playing so much. And I was beginning to hate something I had loved since I could remember. So, faced with a lifetime of playing Twinkle, Twinkle to a bunch of third graders, I did the sensible thing and bolted.
Now, more than twenty years later, I have stunning proof that we cannot escape our fate. A week from Monday, MomBrain will be performing The Crawdad Song with a third-grade chorus. Their usual pianist is AWOL, and somehow – despite Oprah’s best advice to Just Say No – I agreed to fill in. Now, I know The Crawdad Song isn’t exactly Rachmaninoff. But it still requires learning, and practice, and a black skirt. And there’s the whole shoe problem, namely that I don’t have any. Skirts require heels, but piano pedals require flats. It’s an issue.
And now, rereading this, I realize that as a writer I often spend more than four hours a day alone in a little room. My back still hurts all the time. My arms ache, and my hands get cold from typing so much. But this time I don’t hate what I’m doing. I run to my little room every chance I get. I hunger for it. I guess that makes all the difference.
Here at MomBrain HQ we have kicked off the Season of Light with something less than holiday cheer. In fact, we launched the festivities with a Major Meltdown, in which MomBrain suddenly and deeply realized she was hosting three families for Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas party in mid-December, and the Parental Units for two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s.
The Big Guy hid all the sharp objects in the house while I doubled my meds and tried to stop hyperventilating. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I immediately resolved to simplify, prioritize, and wash many towels.
Resolution #1: Cater. Those of you with fond memories of Thanksgiving dinner have probably never cooked it. The planning, the shopping, the cooking, the cooking, the cooking, the dishes, the dishes, the dishes. What is Thanksgiving without tradition? EASIER. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners will be catered, plus whatever other people want to cook. And I’ll have pizza delivered for the party in mid-December. I feel better already.
Resolution #2: Buy a fake Christmas tree. For over twenty years I have insisted on a real Christmas tree. The choosing, the schlepping, the sawing, the watering, the vacuuming, the dead tree on the side of the road … what is Christmas without tradition? SIMPLER. I’ll store it in my basement and buy the smell in a can.
Resolution #3: Shop 100% online. God invented the Internet for a reason, and that is to make Christmas shopping faster and easier. Who am I to ignore manna from heaven?
If you have other ideas about simplifying the holidays, leave your comments here!
The Little Guy is all about cars and trucks, firefighters and superheroes. He’s 100% boy. And yet. His favorite bedtime books are Forest Princess Barbie and Island Treasure Barbie. He wears pink swim goggles and pink boots, both of his own choosing. And left to his own shopping instincts, he always ends up in the girls clothes where all the bright colors are. And who can blame him? Even baby boys are stuck with brown, tan, and navy clothes, with an occasional red stripe. I’m not asking for flowers and kitty cats. But why can’t boys wear yellow and purple? Pictures of animals (dinosaurs don’t count)? Something, anything, besides jeans, sweatpants, and t-shirts? And how about an interesting haircut?
Perhaps it’s time for the metrosexual influence to trend downward. Um, or not. I’m kinda scaring myself here. But really, why can’t boys have fun with clothes, too?
When I was young, back when the primordial ooze was still warm, someone told me that a good Democrat has a heart but no brain, and a good Republican has a brain but no heart. And I’ve been thinking lately that somewhere along the line the roles have changed. These days Democrats vote with their brains and Republicans vote with their hearts.
This is like a very bad sequel to The Wizard of Oz. Imagine the Scarecrow with his freshly minted diploma and brand new brain, synapses bursting like fireworks as he spouts Einstein’s theory of relativity. Meanwhile the Tin Man weeps real and copious tears as he holds his red ticking heart against his cold, metal chest. Actually, you don’t have to imagine – just remember, because this is where Wiz I ended.
On to Wiz the Sequel. The Scarecrow, having filled his empty head and learned a thing or two, suddenly realizes he is heartless. He thinks hard about it, analyzes the situation and realizes he doesn’t care. This is not the time for irrational decisions. So he votes for John Kerry. Meanwhile, the Tin Man, heartbeat echoing in his metal chest, suddenly realizes he is brainless. But he doesn’t care. Who needs a brain when life is so beautiful (ahuh ahuh ahuh)? So he votes for Bush.
This of course begs the question: Who the heck is the cowardly lion? I have to say Ralph Nader. He’s heartless and brainless, but the man has spine, you’ve gotta give him that.
In an insightful piece of lit crit, my father has told me that Sister Sky needs to get down to brass keys. So she has. Today’s installment features guns, helicopters, and one brass key.
Someone lob me another softball so I can take a crack at it.
MomBrain must be on speed. What else could addle her brain enough to sign up for NaNoWriMo? What else could induce her to publicly embarrass herself by blogging her daily efforts? You may not laugh, and you may not cry, but you will definitely shake your head.
Check in every day or so to read The Amazing Adventures of Sister Sky. See stupendous feats of death defying courage! 50,000 words in 30 days! Can she do it? Hold on to your hats and watch those fingers fly! (Well, something will be flying anyway.)