Judging the Cat

Orange tabby cat sleepingI’ve been watching the cat lately with a little pissiness. Judgment. It annoys me that he stays so apparently healthy and slender and happy, even when he loafs around so much, rarely doing anything but lick fur (urgh, ginger furballs going down), sleep or eat with one spaz attack between 5 and 7 p.m.

I mean, I’m so freaking busy and look at that indolent scrag! I have small people whining, demanding snacks and scrapping it out over who gets to choose the next play of events with the LOL dolls.

I have a husband who looks nonplussed at my nonexistent delight when he wanders in at 7 p.m. after his long day of work lunches and adult problem-solving that he’s paid decent money to do and gets praised lavishly for. He doesn’t understand why I have nothing nice to say. I don’t have it in me to explain the incomplete paragraph of writing, the clenching in my chest at even the thought of sitting down to write because I have left it so long that my brain thinks I am no longer a writer.

It’s flu season, so there’s the afterthought swipe of Clorox over the toilet seat as I leave and then my displaced anxiety that impels pulling a new wipe for the sinks and handles. My heavy writing heart knows the words are in there but instead takes the kids out of school for shots. That leads to a further hour of mothering and treats, voice memoing story ideas as I drive twenty miles to pick up other peoples’ laundry (OPL), while mine is half on the sofa, half on the ground and is stepped around by every other family member.

I will wash, dry, fold, and return OPL to do my part for our family coffers since nothing else I do has any apparent and immediate monetary value, while I ‘write my book’—A pursuit which, I’m warned by everyone who’s had a flutter in the publishing world, won’t earn me any damned money. But I can’t stop thinking about the words, and I can’t find time to write because I’m too busy keeping other creatures alive.

Like the toffee-striped bunch of cat bones lying in front of me. Look at him, paws stretching a little in his sleep, fifty more white hairs coating my olive suede couch from this action alone. Sloth incarnate. And I’m really annoyed. You know, as much as you can be with a feline moocher.

This life ain’t for sissies, I tell the cat, and I’m leaving for a convent, probably by 2 p.m. He can wrangle another goddamned rat for dinner. Or go hunt that lizard he lost in the office yesterday. The same lizard that freaked me the hell out doing press ups in the doorway when I went to find the stapler. Hell, I’ll just leave the guinea pig cage open. Dinner for all.

Somehow, I get through school pick up with stomach acid pumping, the tightness still in my chest, the disappointment of another day not spent writing. I manage a couple of lines in the school parking lot, and while ignoring my kid’s imperfect cartwheels at gymnastics. “Mummy! You missed my round-off again.”

Dinner is a pastiche of TJ’s frozen delights. Kids are coerced, threatened, screamed at and deposited in bed, and finally, I plop down in front of the computer to write. (Subtract the moments I sit for furtive FB feed glimpses that suck writing time through the giant straw that leads to some other ‘verse.)

Now I’m too tired to write, but I do read, a blog: Being Busy is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively. I then plop on the couch and lay a hand on his fur. He’s completely out. I mean not even aware I laid a hand on him, except for a flick of an ear. And it hits me: I’m jealous. I have no control over my day, or the amount of creativity I think I want to be part of it.

Why? Cos I can’t get off devices or the busy-busy thang. And I’m being hard on myself, and no one else is going to facilitate this or write for me, not that I want anyone on my words. No one can write like me. That’s not an ‘I’m better than everyone else’ thing, that’s a recognition that this voice only comes from fuck knows where in me. And I have a job to do, goddamnit.

Writing time is not ‘me time’ like getting a pedi. It has me by the jugular. I sleep, shower, eat and drive with story ideas floating through my prefrontal cortex; I didn’t go to the Women’s March because I took a writing course. Which means I’d better bloody make it count. My pen and paper are my foam-core board protest signs. I have work to do.

I can keep making excuses and get fucked off at the cat. Or I can wake up to this life I have carved out to write, and write about the blue-eyed girl graven with her tattoos who I haven’t seen in fifteen years, who won’t leave my brain. And about my stroke victim of a father who is beyond reach in the way I want to communicate, in fact, he always was, and the line-up of men who undid me, and I them, and the endless creative ‘tappability’ of this scene we call earth.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/3080966/

Bring the Lover to the Bedroom

An old-fashioned typewriter sitting on a deskA Buddhist teacher once said, “If you want to make wild passionate love, bring the lover to bed.”

Sounds obvious. But is it? This teacher was pointing out that each of us is comprised of many different sub-personalities and in learning to be compassionate and kind to ourselves, we must allow each of them their time to shine. There can be a tendency for one aspect of the personality to dominate—to demand all our time. When that happens, our life gets out of balance.

Take me, for instance. I have many sub-personalities: nurturing mother, playful little girl, competent program manager, passionate lover, storytelling cook, feisty writer, awareness practitioner . . . I’ve learned it’s important for me to schedule time for each of these aspects of myself because if I don’t, life feels stressful and out of whack.

If the nurturing mother demands too much attention, the passionate lover dries up, leaving life less than juicy. Meanwhile, if too much time is devoted to program managing while home and family still demand attention, the nurturing mother begins to feel overburdened and resentful. And, if the writer never gets a voice and the awareness practitioner never sits in silence, I forget to step back and pay attention to life. I forget to notice the beauty of any particular moment and instead get swept away in the “busyness” of life.

As I become more familiar with the aspects of myself that legitimately require time and attention (note: NOT the voices of self-hate and self-criticism, mind you), I begin to appreciate the importance of scheduling time to work, time to nurture, time to be juicy, time to stop and pay attention, or as I like to think of It now, time to “Listen, Play, Write.” I begin to see this approach as a commitment to my whole self—to supporting each of my sub-personalities.

That being said, it still requires focus. If I have made a date to make love with my husband, then I better be darned sure the passionate lover shows up! I need to intentionally let the “to do” items of program managing and the worries of the nurturing mother recede to the background before climbing into bed. I need to bring the juicy playful lover to the fore. And, coincidentally, when I do it brings plenty of fodder to my writing table later.

I say all this because it is a particularly important reminder for us writers—we must schedule time to write. Our other sub-personalities will be vying for attention: devoted spouse, soccer parent, competent office worker, and we must give them time, too. But, during the writer’s time, give them all a break and bring the writer to the writing table. You’ll be glad you did.

Try this:

The next time you sit down to write, check in with yourself. Did the writer show up? Or, is the “corporate executive” still planning tomorrow’s meeting—the parent still worrying about the child’s homework? If so, then stop. Take a breath. Let everything else go. Turn your attention back to the page and set the writer free.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/159602/the-writers-collection