How I Spent the Kids’ Summer Vacation

by Rachael on September 6, 2016

Through the first week of August, the kids went to camp while at home or the public library I struggled to focus on my work. In my free time, instead of reading books, I scrolled through my Twitter feed, seeking some kind of inspiration and (foolishly) reassurance about the future of our country. This tweet sums up my state of mind at the time.

The struggle on the page is the struggle with myself, and the struggle with myself is over what I want to do with my writing. I keep forgetting the true nature of this struggle. I tend to think that the struggle is to answer the question of what I want to do with my writing, but in truth I figured out the answer to that question long ago. I keep running away from the answer because doing what is required demands not just that I make time to do the work, but that I be vulnerable. Do I really want to put myself out there?

Lately I’ve been thinking about Adam Sandler’s character in Punch-Drunk Love, particularly the bright blue suit he wears throughout the movie. Although he might think he’s found the most suitable outfit to wear (a blue suit!), the color of the suit is all wrong (“the blue that your mother used to spread on the other half of the peanut butter sandwich,” writes critic Stuart Klawans). He’s clueless, and everyone can see his mistake.

What obvious but invisible-to-me mistakes am I making? I’m certain that I’m making many, in everyday life as well as in my writing. As a writer, I have an option that’s not available to me in everyday life: I could hide. I could write only for myself or give up writing altogether. But I’m tired of keeping so much of myself to myself. It’s actually painful. And so I take up the other option: to fumble onward, accepting that I will make mistakes.

Ossipee Lake August 2016

In the second week of August, we went to the lake. During vacation, my anxiety subsided, and in the weeks since it hasn’t returned, even though I’ve had plenty to worry about — keeping up with freelance gigs while the kids are at home! I don’t expect the calm to last, but who knows. The kids’ return to school this week will be a relief, but with the school year also begins a busier, darker time. Perhaps a few new pens and notebooks (which I need anyway) will remind me that it’s a time of promise as well.

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Unraveling

by Rachael on April 21, 2016

the mess at my deskI dream of the perfect container, or holding space, for my idiosyncratic, freelancing poet’s life. This container would comprise a spacious, orderly home and predictable routine, and (I imagine) it would grant me a more placid soul.

The dream makes sense, given the chaos in which everyday life typically plays out in our home. I neither sleep nor write as much as I need, my desk is a mess, and most days I just barely get the kids to school on time. And the kids! Who, after a day of obedience at school, tear into each other the moment they come through the door.

What doesn’t make sense about my dream, though, is that I imagine that one day, after a lot of hard work, it will actually come true. When I wrote in September that “everything in me could unravel” in exploring the meaning of housekeeping, it was this fantasy that I wanted unraveled, that if I only I could work just a bit harder or smarter, I could find a way to contain our chaos completely.

In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, “I don’t know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you’re never going to get everything together.” I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I’ve always remembered it.

— Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

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Three Views of Housekeeping

March 24, 2016

1. When one keeps house, what is kept is a boundary between society and nature. Inside is civilization and order; outside is wilderness and chaos. Thus when I say that I want my family and I to take better care of our home, is it because I want to disavow the parts of myself that […]

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To Keep Me from Forgetting

March 22, 2016

Though I love the sunlit evenings of spring and summer, the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time is always more exhausting than I think it ought to be. This year the change wore me out, and on Sunday I greeted spring with a head cold. As I often do when I’m feeling overwhelmed, last week I […]

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Four

February 23, 2016

His birthday was yesterday, and he’s already asking when he will be five. Five years old! I can hardly imagine that one day my littler boy will be so old.

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The Right Dosage

February 12, 2016

“A short story collection works best for me when I read a story a day until it’s done,” writes Sarah at Edge of Evening, and so I have been doing, or trying to, with Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno. I started reading it two weeks ago and will read the last story (of […]

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My #FridayReads: Bright Dead Things

January 29, 2016

This year the gap between the end of L’s school day and the end of the Gnome’s is long, so most days L has about an hour to run around the playground. Sometimes I bring work to do, and sometimes I space out, but usually I have some time to read. Lately I’ve been reading […]

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Signal or Noise?

January 28, 2016

Although I did enjoy the coziness of staying indoors on Saturday as snow buried the city in its temporary beauty, I’m otherwise cranky about this past weekend’s storm. Trying to get a three-year-old over the barely passable piles of soot-and-trash-encrusted snow that accumulate at the corners of every block exhaust me, and I’m enraged at […]

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And Then Comes January

January 7, 2016

The return to ordinary time used to disappoint me, but every year now I love the beginning of the year more. January may be colder and less glittery than December, but it brings more light (already noticeable in the evenings) and relief from the bustle of the holiday season. Even with work deadlines pending, I […]

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O, Christmas Tree!

December 24, 2015

My favorite addition to the home! May you enjoy a blessed holiday, however you celebrate it (or don’t) . . .

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