Monday, May 3, 2010

Carving Out Time, Defining Self

"It's a Monday night. Midnight. The house is quiet, my family asleep. The row of sober-faced brick homes leading from my house on a corner is silent now, and the people in them probably asleep. As is most of Detroit by this time, except for me. I spend the hours around midnight back here in my sun room, sipping cool drinks and looking for some light Inner Inspiration, that I might, before my eyes give out, distill a line or two of poetry from the short story “The Bird Cage” by Paulette Childress White

It is a Monday night! It is nowhere near midnight, but because I’m currently working upstairs on the shared computer in the bedroom, rather than downstairs in my own office space, the bewitching hour is already here.

Mark has an early flight in the morning, and so it wouldn’t be fair of me to leave him snoring on the couch, the remainder of his day, with “Law & Order” reruns playing in the background, the dog asleep at his feet.

I don’t have the benefit of my laptop tonight, either, and the ability to curl up on the couch, sit at the dining room table or go down to my office.

Woe and computer-impaired I am tonight. Both the laptop and the desktop will be back in their places by the weekend, after weeks and weeks of waiting to be rehashed and reloaded and revamped, one having had a blue screen of death and one just acting stupid. It was time for computer house-cleaning. Because Mark does all this for me, it has been computer house-cleaning interruptus at best due to his travel and work schedule.

So that brings me again, back to this room, the bedroom, the shared room in the house. The sleeping, TV gazing, reading room! (Oh, and the other “stuff” too, but that’s privitized.)

No one normally works in here. My working in here for the last several weeks has not been normal! I don’t belong in here in that regard.

That being said, I’m still trying to stick to writing something every day for 30 days until it becomes habit again, instead of habit to push it off to the side after the day is done, and I’m entirely done in.

In a conversation today (and I will find a copy of the story for you Jennifer!) I was reminded of the above quote.

The story “The Bird Cage” spoke loudly to me the first time I read it. I have had “sun rooms” in my life, places of solace at the end of the day, where I could sit and regroup, remember my place in the world, mark a little time, or make a few amends, all before going off or going upstairs to sleep with self or someone.

It’s a lot like that saying, “Don’t ever go to bed angry,” especially angry at your self for not making that time, even in a crowded shared room where all your work and play and writing stuff really doesn’t belong, but in order for you to belong and stay current, you still have to make a demand for that space.

You desperately need that few minutes more!
I had to make that demand tonight. It came out as, “I know, I’m sorry, you have an early flight in the morning, but I’m going to need the bedroom to myself tonight until at least 10:30.” I was going to qualify it with all kinds of things, like gee, look what a great dinner we all had, time to reconnect before you leave again, and ummm, yeah, so, I’d be downstairs if my computers were reinstalled, and no, well, no I don’t need the extra time for work, not really, I need that extra time “after work” for, well, er, um … never mind!

Except I minded, so I didn’t say all that. I didn’t qualify the need after I had quantified what it was that I needed, just a little more time. That is all.

My quantifying, my announcing that I needed “just a little more time” before I’d share the room was all that was necessary. My saying I needed 30 minutes of breathing space, thank you very much.

Unbelieveable that I would want more time in her since this entire Monday (after working all weekend) I’ve been stuck in her most of the day, except a brief errand run, a meal cooked and hurriedly eaten, and then back to work.

Unbelieveable, but believe it. I need this time. I need to split the room’s personality one more time today before it returns to “bedroom.” It’s been “office” all day, and now it’s my “writing space,” for this last 30 minutes … or 40 minutes … I mean, he is snoring, and he really does want to give me that extra ten minutes, he just doesn’t know it!

While I no longer have a house full of babies, and luck of the draw my significant other is far less high-maintenance than any man I’ve ever had a relationship with, I still have to work at times to carve out this me time, this writing time. So it may seem wicked that I’d push it that extra 10 minutes, but it’s also necessary. It is still too easy for me to to push it off and say, “Oh, shit, oh well, I didn’t get to it this morning, this afternoon, tonight, because, because …”

It would be too easy for me tonight to say, “Oh, well, what would it hurt if I didn’t …” and we just both got some sleep, but I know it would hurt all night long into the morning.

I need to remember that my craft is important, that underneath it all, this is who I am in, out, under and through every brutal day of the week. I’m me, the writing me.

It takes practice to remember that. It makes sense some nights to make it known what I need, and to quantify how much of it I need, without having to qualify it with an explaination. Tonight I needed time, and the people who ove me see what that means for me, the writing me.

The writing me is the one who visited with everyone while she cooked dinner, but raced through the dinner, so she could get back in here and close to the “me time.” And the people who love me understand that. For that I am blessed.

When I first read the Childress story, I felt like folding it up and putting it in my hip pocket as a reminder to carve out that time for myself, every day, not just every other, or just whenever, but always in all ways in order to be more true to myself.

Funny, though, I didn’t fold up the story and do that. I took it to heart but I didn’t put it in my hip pocket. Ali was 13 when I first read that story. I know this because digging the quote out of a notebook today, there is also a notation about her on that day.

I read this story four solid years ago and made myself a solid promise and then didn’t keep it.

The story, and it’s meaning to me, didn’t come up again in my mind until today in another conversation with another writer, when I thought, “Gee, she’d love this. She’d totally get this.”

And if I really had the story in my back pocket, she’d get a copy of the story a whole lot faster now, wouldn’t she?

You live, you learn, and you do better! And tonight I did well to carve out my half hour, to use it accordingly and to end things with a post-it note that says, “Find and print multiple copies of that story,” to which I intend to put one in my bra, in my purse in my hip pocket, tape one to the mirror, email one to Jennifer and give one copy to every woman, young, old or otherwise so that they remember to do the same, carve out that time, remind themselves who they really are, at all costs, on a regular (yes daily basis)!

And now the bedroom can turn back to the bedroom again, and I can have sweet I-accomplished-day-3-of 30 dreams!

Thirty days makes a habit, and this one I don’t ever want to break again.

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