I had a cleaning fit just now, in more ways than one.
It started actually by making dinner for me and the girls–for tomorrow. Tonight, they are at their Dad’s. But last week, for the first time in recent memory, I planned out meals for the nights they’d be here (which implies something about my dinner-making habits when they’re not), and I have to say, it was nice. It was nice to know what we were going to eat. It was nice to have the ingredients to cook the things we were going to eat. It was nice to eat the things. It was nice to have leftovers Sunday night. It was nice that Pearl even ate the leftovers after saying she wasn’t hungry. So this week, I decided to try it again. But since on Wednesdays, I get home from work just in time to pick V up for her bat mitzvah lesson and then we don’t get home again until around 6:30, I decided to make tomorrow’s dinner tonight. By “make dinner,” I mean this, which is about as June Cleaver as I get these days. But it’s something. Something edible.
And then I washed all the dishes and ate cold leftover kale standing up and then a couple of fingerfuls of chocolate-chip cookie dough that Pearl stashed in the fridge last week. Don’t worry. (Were you worried? If you’re my mom reading this, you might have been worried.) I will eat something else later. Right now, Mani is making her rice and boiling chicken breast. We take turns in the kitchen because of Mani’s health stuff.
While I was eating the kale and cookie dough, I clicked on a link someone from a couple of my writing groups shared on Facebook. It took me to Renegade Mothering. I read it. And then I clicked around on her website and read some more. And some more. At first, here’s what happened: I was blown away by her voice. And I was intimidated. It was crazy how quickly it happened, like the comparing neurons had been sitting around in their party clothes complaining that there was nothing to do, and then all of a sudden–disco balls and John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever in there. Picture the minions from Despicable Me. That’s how many of them there were.
There’s an open tab on my computer with the TED talk Monica Lewinsky gave, “The Price of Shame.” I have seen it going around the internets. I haven’t watched it yet. But the title alone takes me in so many directions. I am not proud of the fact that my initial response to this incredible–I mean, really, really awesome, real, funny, brilliant, smart, raunchy, tender–writing activated this nightclub that might as well be called Ego. I don’t even go to nightclubs. WTF? But that happened, and I wasn’t ok with it. Not at all. It didn’t feel good.
It didn’t feel anything like I felt this morning on my commute to work–if you can call three miles a commute. Driving to work today, I got stuck behind a school bus. But I didn’t feel stuck. I felt happy. I liked watching the little groups of kids and parents standing on corners as it slowed to a stop. I liked slowing down behind it and having no choice but to sit there while parents kissed the younger ones goodbye and the older ones ran ahead because parents are embarrassing.
This happened a few times between town and the elementary school that’s about halfway between my house and my office. After the bus turned left, I turned on the song I like to listen to on my drive to work. I only have one CD in the car, so the choices are that, flipping the radio looking for a good song, and silence, which is usually when I talk out loud to my angel posse. Today, I chose the CD, skipped to track 5, and turned up the volume. I can’t even tell you the name of this song or the artist, because the disk was a gift from a friend and none of the songs are labeled. But the first line of it says: “There is no need to worry. Things will work out when the time is meant to come.” It has a slightly techno sound, and I love the singer’s voice, and it has become a soundtrack for me of that three-mile drive. So I was listening and singing along and feeling teary, in that lucky-lucky-lucky-I-must-have-done-something-right-in-a-past-life-or-this-one kind of way, so grateful just to be alive. And then traffic–if you can call it traffic–slowed again. Because of this:
There was a tree up ahead. IN THE SKY. It looked like it was levitating. Mani gave me that word because I couldn’t quite think of how to describe it. (Thanks, Mani. For being my wife and my word person. I know you are reading this because I asked you to, because I ask you to read everything I write before I share a word of it with anyone else, and you always do, and what’s more is that you seem to enjoy this, and I cannot even begin to tell you how this thrills me.) Anyway, the tree. The tree looked like it was floating in the air. There were a few cars ahead of mine, and we all sat there with no choice, just as I had a mile or so back behind the bus. It felt magical to me. Now that’s not something you see everyday is the phrase that immediately came to mind.
And then I was at work. And I had a day. Eight hours minus a short walk at lunchtime in the office, doing the things I do at work. At 4:30, I left the building and the sun had warmed up considerably. The air was cold but with just enough of a hint of warm (warm being 36 degrees) that it felt like a spring afternoon. It felt so good to be outside. I drove home. I greeted Mani and did dishes and ate kale and cookie dough and had an ego nightclub party.
And then I called in the bouncers. Which looked like going into the bedroom and saying, “You have to read this.” And so Mani read a couple of things on Renegade Mothering. And then a couple more things. And pretty soon, we were both laughing out loud and wishing Janelle Hanchett lived down the street because we would definitely be friends. I watched as the comparing–which I should clarify is code for insecurity–that had put on its dancing shoes earlier in the kitchen transformed into something else I can only call psychedness, which is better than any drug ever. Psychedness is what it feels like to be on-fire inspired by someone else’s writing. Writing that calls out “bullshit masquerading as authenticity.” Writing that pulls no punches, makes you pee your pants, makes you nod and say oh, thank you thank you thank you for writing like this:
In other words, Swami dude, you’re just as captured in the ego structure as I am. You’re convincing yourself you’re “deep” and “spiritual” because you’ve learned a bunch of scriptures and chant and live in an ashram and shit, but real teachers aren’t pretentious, and they don’t spout deep thoughts all the time. They’re on the ground, right here with me and you and all the other Groupon humans, and when they talk you know they’re speaking truth because it is you in the deepest part of you, not just some fancy idea that sounds good but has no practical application.
We feel more human in the presence of these teachers. Not less. :: Renegade Mothering
Mani read and read. I had a fit of clothes purging while she read. I pulled sweaters and sweatshirts from hangers and threw them into a heap on the floor. Opened each dresser drawer crammed with so many things I never wear and don’t even like, clothes I’ve had for years and years, most of them from thrift stores or consignment shops in the first place, and held up things for her to pause from reading long enough to say “No” before she continued reading and I added to my growing little donation mountain. At the end of each post she read to me out loud, she’d read to herself for a few seconds before saying, “Oh, wait! We have to read this one! This one’s even better than the last one!”
And then I got out my typewriter, which for some reason has been folded up in its case, and placed it back on the little folding table next to my now-much-emptier dresser. I got out the broom and swept the floors. I got out some cleaning spray and scrubbed the sticky spots on the kitchen floor from God-knows-what, and then I cleaned the toilet and started a load of laundry. Intimidation, insecurity–pffffft. That is some bullshit. I felt on-fire inspired by reading (listening to, actually, which is sometimes even better) this incredible writer. And I remembered that I love writing. And I remembered that I want to write and read things that are true by people who are real. And by people who are real, I mean: People. Who are writing. I love the way poet David Tomas Martinez says this: “I indict myself in so many poems. I think that to a certain extent, you have to be unafraid to make a fool of yourself.”
I might be making a fool of myself here, with this very long post that might or might not “come together,” might or might not be pretty, and is certainly not crafted. But goddamn it feels good to write. To be inspired. To feel awed by another writer and suddenly realize I am so lucky because I clicked on a post and found another amazing teacher, and I know this because I feel more human after reading her writing. I feel more, not less, like myself.
Just then, I heard a little “ping” on Facebook. It was a message:
I just have to thank you! I used yesterday’s prompt today. It is easily the first thing I’ve written in over 20 years. that wasn’t a grocery list or a teachers note. I am ridiculously pleased with myself!
The End. The Middle. Best yet: The Beginning.
And now, I am going to eat something.