What is up with the near tears thing? Sheesh.
Multiple times in the past week. And I am reminded of my cycles, and of blog posts here over how many years now — almost nine? I’ve written about this. I’ve stepped into and out away from it. I’ve gone through it, over, under, and past. I’ve been gentle with myself and hard on myself and everything between.
I’ve blamed Mercury and perimenopause. Enough so that Aviva has started saying, “MAMA. Really????”
Last night, Pearlie and I went to CVS for the second time in two hours, because I’d forgotten my new insurance card the first time and needed it to pick up a prescription. A prescription for my anti-depressant, I will add — something I’ve been taking more of the time than not since I was 22.
While I waited on line and she ran around the store, I picked up a magazine with Julia Roberts on the cover. I flipped to page 248 to the feature story and read a little of the interview with her. She talked about her famous smile, and said something that struck me: That she is has the natural chemistry for joy. I’m paraphrasing, which I doubt she’ll mind.
Natural chemistry for joy.
Pearl likes chemistry. Last year before Chanukah, a chemistry set was high up on her wishlist, right next to the cold hard cash that kid covets and saves like a savvy investor. There was one day, when I still worked at Hampshire College, when the girls came to campus with me. It must have been in May, since some students were ringing the bell that signals the completion of what is essentially an intensive senior project.
“Can I ring the bell?” Pearl asked. I asked her if she’d finished her Div III. She replied yes. I asked her what it was about.
“Chemistry,” she told me, nothing if not matter-of-fact. “Chemistry and the heart.”
“The physical heart or the emotional heart?” I asked.
“Emotional,” she said.
The chemistry of the heart. A heart wired for joy. A chemical make-up that predisposes a person to optimism, like the meme I saw today showing just two hands reaching up from underwater, all thumbs-up. Or, a chemical make-up that predisposes a person to addiction. Or to anxiety. Or to depression.
And then there is a person who is predisposed in all of these directions, sometimes even at the same time. I think I might be such a person. Julia Roberts, maybe not, though we all know how much can live behind a smile that bright.
This morning, I wasn’t sure where to start. I was excited to share this week’s Member Spotlight on the Inky Path blog, as well as our first Master Class, Writing the Womb with Isabel Abbott. I had to make some edits to my essay that’s going to be published on the Full Grown People website next week. To read and comment on the incredible writing in my current Mini Memoir groups. To follow up with various people about various things. To make my card for the Inner Alchemy Circle I’m so honored to be a guide for this round. To schedule prompts for an ongoing group of writers that keeps re-upping every five or six weeks, so attached have we grown to each other’s unfolding stories–including two novels. To look at fonts for my website makeover.
I also was committed to eating food. And getting dressed. These may sound silly, but when you work at home and are self-employed, sometimes it helps to write these things, too, on your list.
In other words: Tons to do. Great stuff. And a lot of it.
Mani suggested I write down the specific things down, the actual things I needed to tend to today, number them in order of priority, then just start. One thing at a time, rather than jumping around throughout the day. And you know what? It worked. It really helped me keep moving along. And by the time I picked V up at the bus at 3:30, I was on #12 out of 15. Not bad, if you don’t count the fact that I forgot she gets out an hour earlier on Fridays and she had to call me to ask where I was.
So why, after eating tortellini with Aviva (Pearl was at a friend’s house), why after a perfectly productive day, why after the dishes were washed (ok, this was probably the fourth time I’d faced a sink full of dishes today, but that’s true most days), did I feel that overwhelming impulse to cry — not to mention the desire to smoke a clove that I’ve been wrestling for a week or so now? Argh.
I didn’t do either — cry or light up. I reread the lovely note I received from a writing friend who came to one of my summer retreats, and took a picture of the unexpected gifts she sent us. I enjoyed the bubbly background music of Mani talking on the phone with her oldest daughter, Hope. I ooohed and aaahed at the sweet photo montage Aviva made of herself, including a few of my all-time favorite baby pictures.
My baby turns thirteen tomorrow and I think she herself can’t quite believe it. Somehow, though, I can.
What I did do is this: I sat down. To write. Not with a timer, and not with a prompt. Not to mine for decades-old memories, but to do what I’ve been doing here, in this space, on this blog, for almost nine years: Practice. And by practice I mean pay attention–to myself. Take the time to completely let the to-do list go and just drop a lure and see what catches.
It’s a good practice for me, this dropping in. A kind of emotional check-up.
And if the chemistry of joy is x’s and chemistry of sadness is o’s, it’s fairly safe to say that in the game these two play in my heart, I’m no Julia Roberts. Mine take turns winning.