In chronological order.
Rope - Musings on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and its thoughts on privilege and white supremacy (oh yeah). Begun Friday morning, discontinued upon the news that the coming snowstorm would be Bad and a trip to the supermarket would be Necessary.
(Plus, the electric kettle fizzled out, and how else would I make my coffee the next morning unless I went to the hardware store and replaced it?)
Bring the snowy chaos; my coat is warm enough - In which I expound on the reasons I can actually look forward to snow days and the disruptions that a Boston winter brings, because I am no longer a struggling academic who feels as if EVERY MINUTE MUST BE SPENT WORKING. And also because my kid is now old enough to watch movies and make hot chocolate with me. Begun Sunday morning, while my daughter watched the beginning of Frozen. Discontinued roughly 15 minutes later, when she got scared and needed someone to cuddle with her for the rest of the movie. Not-resumed because thereafter, to Ros, every minute not spent watching Frozen was a bitter, bitter disappointment. Also, shoveling snow and scraping ice.
I finally watched Frozen and I have THOUGHTS - One of my more self-explanatory titles. Begun Monday morning, while my daughter watched Frozen once again, this time in her dad’s lap. Discontinued shortly thereafter when my downstairs neighbor called to tell me that it was raining in the basement. Not-resumed when the rest of the day was spent calling plumbers and watching my neighbor saw into the drywall behind our washing machine.
If you want to know my thoughts on Frozen, don’t worry; I’ll get around to them at some point. I am still mulling the whole thing over.
I love this blog. I really do. I love that so many people are receiving my newsletter in their e-mail, and I love the responses I get. I love the feeling of being so full of ideas that I can’t wait to have time to sit down and write. I love that the intrinsic motivation is what really gets me to the keyboard, more than the extrinsic motivation. Of course, I write for you all, but I also write because I truly want to. I tried three different times this weekend to write just because I wanted to.
The other thing that I love, though, is the ability to put down what I am working on when I am needed elsewhere, with no remorse or second thoughts.
I remember one day about a year ago, when the streets were covered with snow and ice like they are right now. It was a Sunday in January, and it was probably somewhere south of twenty degrees outside. I remember standing on the corner of Beacon Street and Park Street, in Somerville, in my ankle-length down coat, trying to will myself to walk to my office and sit down in my chair and work on revising my book manuscript, again. I was still wiping away tears from the huge scene that had unfolded as I departed. My daughter was two, and still in the stage of life where my leaving the room she was in for whatever length of time was cause for extreme distress. That morning, I had been unable to simply walk out the door and let my husband deal with her wailing; my guilt had sucked me into the drama and I had only made it worse by trying to fix it. I needed to feel like I wasn’t a horrible mother for leaving my child at home, and at the same time I needed to feel like I wasn’t a horrible academic for having lost so many work hours earlier that week due to winter’s usual shenanigans.
That was a time when every disruption to the normal routine meant lost time to work. Every time day care was closed due to weather, every time someone got sick, every time the unexpected happened, my default response was panic. Few of my well-meaning friends and family members understood why I dreaded snow days while they looked forward to hunkering down with hot cocoa or whatever: “won’t your office be closed? won’t classes be cancelled? it’ll be fine!” In a word, sure, maybe! But it wasn’t the class time I was worried about: rather, it was the fact that every single hour that my daughter was at day care was allocated to something, and losing even two of those hours in a given week, let alone an entire day, would mean not making the progress on a given project (writing, course planning, other CV-boosting endeavors I had taken on) that I had planned to make. There was no getting those work hours back.
The only thing to do was to make peace with that fact and roll with the punches from January to March (who am I kidding, April), and boy did I try. I meditated daily, I tried to prioritize running and other avenues of self-care, but ultimately nothing ever mitigated the viciousness of the winter panic spiral. The dread that would settle in my chest as soon as that little Winter Storm Warning icon appeared in my weather app, the increasing urgency with which I’d refresh Dave Epstein’s Twitter feed for predictions, and my inability, in the middle of the night, to stop wondering whether Cambridge and Somerville schools would close, prompting day care to close. I knew that while I was at home with a two-year-old, the childless academics competing with me for jobs were working. They were in the library, they were preparing for job interviews, they were coming up with new ideas for conference papers and articles, and I was halfheartedly making play-dough. I wanted to feel “present” during those moments when my daughter needed me, but instead I just felt like I should be somewhere else, all the time."
A year later, I feel true compassion for that version of me standing on the street corner, both wishing I were inside comforting my child and wishing that I felt no compunction about walking to the office. I was starting to see how unsustainable this life had become for me, and I was on my way to actually doing something about it. Now, I get to no longer feel beholden to the rest of the world quite as much, while Ros is young enough to need want me around. My writing and my readers are there when my family’s and my house’s and my job’s needs are being met, and I always greet them with warmth and longing as opposed to guilt. My incessant thoughts about the movie Frozen, about the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, about Alfred Hitchcock and about 5K pace and about what to do with your kid in Paris - those thoughts are patiently waiting for me to have time to pick them up again and see if there’s a way I can put them down. Winter can rage and I’ll have time to shovel and scrape and make hot chocolate. The cold never bothered me, anyway.
(One thing I’ll say for Frozen is that I have been patiently waiting to lay down that line ever since Sunday morning).