We are pausing for a celebration today: This is my 500th blog post. So I guess if you’re still reading, and some of you are, thank you! And look at you! You have nothing better going on in your life?! Really? Are you just shirking responsibility to be here? I mean, I don’t mind if you are, I do it ALL the time. Just this weekend I had about 19 chapters to read, so I went to the pool and to Target. Cause when I have a lot to do I find other shit to do instead.
Five hundred posts!
Now listen, they haven’t all been good. Matter of fact, I’d say the fast majority of them are me just complaining about one thing or another. But that’s the beauty of having your own blog, you can say whatever you want!
I’ve been writing every day this year, this horrific, bitch of a year. And it’s been great. Something I never thought I’d be able to pull off. Unfortunately it hasn’t really upped my craft, but, and this is a big BUT, it has kept me regular. Like when you take probiotics.
I’m veering off again.
I love y’all, those of you who have been around awhile and our new friends. You make this community fun, my days have some kind of meaning, and hey, who else would I want to talk about probiotics and regularity with?! No one else.
I have favorite words. I keep a list of them in my mind. Words that I’m eager to see out in the real world. Then when I come across one, I am overjoyed. I’m sort of like a birder who is traipsing across the American Southwest and comes across their first elf owl. They stand in awe of the world’s smallest owl, burrowed deep in a woodpecker’s saguaro hole. The birder might snap a picture, they might just look from a safe distance, their necks craned, their binoculars on high. That’s how I feel when I read someone else’s work, and one of my words pops up. Magic.
Yesterday I was thumbing through the newest Pushcart, an assignment for school, and I decided on an essay to read. Three paragraphs in was the word, tintinnabulation. Sweet Jesus, I could hear the tinkling when I saw the word! There it was, in all its glory! I wanted to snap a picture. I wanted to run downstairs and show Jerimiah. Then it hit me. I was forced to face my own nerdy ways. I’m a mess, a nerdy mess. So instead I read the paragraph over and over again until the ringing stopped.
“‘What is truth?’ said Pontius Pilate, who probably wrote elegant essays in his spare time. I would be more willing to attach myself to the word ‘honesty’. We may not ever be in possession of the truth, but at least as nonfiction writers we can try to be as honest as our courage permits. Honest to the world of facts outside ourselves, honest in reporting what we actually felt and did, and finally, honest about our own confusions and doubts.”
That’s a line from Phillip Lopate’s To Show and To Tell, a craft book on creative nonfiction and obviously a line in my commonplace book. This struggle for truth I’m on. This constant trying to get it right, to the best of my memory, well, it’s a slippery slope. A hard time. And more and more I’m wondering about being the most honest version of myself. Regardless of how others want to claim my truth, their truth, the truth. Whatever the truth is.
But am I courageous enough? That’s the real question. Here I am twiddling my thumbs, asking for others to give me permission, but for what? To speak my own honesty? To give myself permission to go there, wherever there is?
I think I’ve been seeking permission for too long. I think we probably all have, in our own small ways. I think it’s time to be done with that. Be courageous in your honesty. Courageous in your doubts and confusion. Let them have their truth.
I wrote something this week. Something real. With substance. Girth. A real piece of non-fiction. It was an assignment for school, but that doesn’t matter. I feel like I broke some kind of barrier. Pushed past a boundary line I didn’t even know I’d set for myself, but had me penned anyway.
It’s sort of like coming up to the surface after jumping off the boat into 100 feet of water and expecting to get lost in the deep. Taking that first breathe of air into your lungs. You didn’t think you’d make it but you did.
Maybe I’m putting too much on the 450 words I wrote, probably I am, but it doesn’t matter. I wrote something. Something that has nothing to do with Covid, or middle school, or mental health. Something new. Fresh. Out of my head, onto the paper. Whew. It’s been awhile.
Christ, it is! It’s Friday! What a week. I went from nothing, nothing, nothing, to ahhhhhhh. Things are certainly heating up over here, while we are still just sitting at home. Jerimiah is doing fine. Listen, for some reason everyone keeps asking about my husband. Like they think I killed him, or he ran away, or something. He’s here. Still working from home. But he isn’t causing me any trouble. In fact, he’s the least of my worries and he’s taken to planning dinner and keeping the laundry done, so… I’m not sure how Jackson and I would have managed the week without him. So yeah, he’s alive, he’s fine, he’s pushing along and keeping us afloat too. In case you were wondering. Okay you know what, here, here’s a proof of life.
That’s him, yesterday, holding the newest copy of my crossword book, or rather a People Magazine that I got for free for four weeks then forgot to cancel and now I’m addicted to doing the crosswords in the back.
Okay, so it’s Friday. And I’m looking forward to getting some writing done today. The real stuff. I’ve been assigned my first exercise and it’s a piece of non-fiction flash and I’m already on draft three, but I should be on draft eight by now. It’s okay though, one day at a time…
Jackson jumped head first into sixth grade and well, here’s this:
(Throws hands up!) We are alive! Coherent (for the most part) and doing okay. Hope you’re doing the same.
The first semester of my MFA program starts on Thursday. I spent yesterday combing through syllabus after syllabus, trying to figure out why the hell I am even doing this, and not one syllabus gave me an answer. What good are they if they can’t answer the mystery of my current life’s question? Bleh. I did start to get organized, and I did freak out and sorta scream-cry into my fan like Tommy Boy when he’s doing the Darth Vader thing. It sorta came out like, “LUUUUUUUUKE, why are you doing this to me?!” Turns out the Force couldn’t give me an answer either.
Most of this week’s work is standard, run-of-the-mill, first week stuff. Introductions, why are you here, what do you plan to get out of this program, on a scale of 1-10 how much do you LOVE Eudora Welty? That sorta thing. But I did stumble upon one project that a professor wants me to do that sort of peaked my curiosity. It’s for my creative non-fiction forms class. She wants us to keep a commonplace book. A what now? That’s what I said. A commonplace book. A commonplace book is just a notebook, or a moleskin, or a word doc, or a stack of notecards where you write down ideas, quotes, conversations, etc that delight you, amaze you, amuse you, etc, etc. With me now? I was all, Ohhhh, yeah I have like eight of those! I didn’t know they had a name.
I routinely use the “Notes” app on my phone. Or I take a picture of a page of the book I am reading, or a fold the corner down. Sometimes I think, hmm, I should get a recorder for this shit. Sometimes I just text Jerimiah. I will be all, “…my mother’s refrigerator in Chiang Mai, Thailand…” and he will be all, “Huh?” And I’ll be all, “It’s for me to remember later.” So yeah, I’m versed at this, but keep it all in one place? That might be the hard part.
So I started thinking, where is somewhere I could keep this Commonplace book? Should I do notecards, should I do digital? Turns out yes, because I have to turn in my Commonplace Book at the end of the semester and it has to be at least five pages, single-spaced. Well, shit.
So I decided since I come here every day, why don’t I just make a commonplace book on this here blog. So I did. It was easy. So now you have access to my crazy random thoughts–as if you didn’t before–and I feel more organized. Look at that, us working together.
This MFA program I am starting in oh, 19 days, has me nervous, true. My inbox is full with submissions for our lit review, my email is blowing up with announcements, financial aid is like, Hellerrrrr, welcome back thanks for paying us, but you need to do this and this and this... Ahhh, it’s a lot. I forgot how demanding grad school was and I’ve literally only been out for two years. Okay, enough complaining, truth be told I have very little to complain about these days so I’m working on doing less of it. I’m actually here to say I am a wee, little bit excited about the program, and here is why.
First of all, the program is through Mississippi University for Women and no, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s an old name that stuck around. And by the way, is anyone watching “P(ussy) Valley” on STARZ right now? If so, you know what I think of when I hear “M-I-Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Humpback, Humpback, I”! 🙂 All good things, all good things. Anyway, this program is fairly new and mostly virtual. There are a few times a year where we will meet in person, two separate residencies on campus, or at AWP, then when you defend your thesis and graduate. They are doing everything through Zoom right now, though, so I am getting a great look at what the process is like and it has helped calm my nerves. I mean, I am still fighting imposter syndrome, but it’s nice to be included in all these festivities, albeit virtually.
They include everyone on all the progress of the current class, and they share small victories (and big ones) with each other through social media, email, and on Canvas. It’s pretty cool. I am seeing faces and recognizing names already and it is making me feel better. It looks like they have their shit together for being such a new program, which is what I read about them when I did my research, but it’s nice to know it is true. They are very inclusive and they want everyone to get to know each other. I like that, since one of the reasons I decided on an MFA was to meet like-minded people whom I could connect with in this broader thing we call life. Whew. I’m hopeful.
Anyway, no complaining here, just a bit of nervous excitement. I’m not sure if the fall residency will be in person or not yet, but I’m betting not. I certainly hope we will be free to travel by next spring because the AWP is scheduled for none other than, Kansas City! Haha! Yea. No, it’ll be good. Now, I guess go forth and find something to be hopeful about today!
You are wise. You are kind. You are compassionate.
My mother-in-law makes cards. Yes, cards. Like paper cards that you send people. Like the kinda of cards that are legit $8 at the grocery store and you’re like why the hell am I spending $8 on a card to tell someone happy birthday when I could just call them and say it? My husband strongly dislikes store-bought cards. He doesn’t get why people send them, spend so much money on them, etc. He does like homemade cards, however, and it is important to note that for him a homemade card can be a piece of white printer paper folded in half and written on. No class, this man. I like all kinds of cards, but I prefer homemade cards. However, as it sits, I have three store-bought cards decorating my desk at this very moment because of how awesome they are and who sent them to me! Because in reality the card doesn’t so much matter, as what is written on the inside. My husband and I both agree on that part. Look here:
Tell me who doesn’t want to be sent a card that says, “You are a fierce lady-dragon who breathes fire upon trolls, haters, and mansplainers”?! Who doesn’t want that card?! Okay, whew, take some breathes, Lady-Dragon.
So my MIL has a crafting room wherein she sets up shop and makes wonderful, beautiful cards. She has like the dream crafting room, y’all. Like if you have ever thought, hmm, I need a crafting room, it is what you envisioned. Shelves lined with paper, and fabric, every kind of scissor you could need, and several work stations, not to mention a full-size fridge and a television. It’s legit. Anyway, she sits in there and crafts cards. She comes up with ideas and just makes them. They are pretty cool and many of them are quite unique. She also teaches card-making classes via Facebook Live to little old ladies who want to learn the art of card-making. For real, not making any of this up.
So when quarantine started, and we began sending out letters and cards to friends and family on the reg, my MIL signed me up for this card-making kit that is shipped to my house once a month. That way I would always have fresh cards to make. It is very simple, it all comes in one box with instructions, and I can sit down for an hour and end up with 12 cards. It’s a pretty cool deal.
Here’s what it looks like:
Below is a card I made last month with my first “summer” pack. I went rogue on this one, made one that wasn’t in the instructions. I didn’t follow instructions? What? Imagine that. It’s the only one I have left because I sent the rest of them out, they were super cute!
Anyway, this isn’t like an advertisement or anything. I’m not getting paid to write this, in fact my MIL has paid for my subscription, so it’s all free to me, I just wanted to share a thing I do that brings me quiet joy. I like it because I don’t have to be creative. Sometimes I do not feel creative, but I want to be creative, you know? So I can pull out the card box and follow the instructions and voila! I have a stack of cards. Then I can write to my friends and family and they are cute and unique and the whole process was quick and easy.
Jackson also likes to make the cards. He likes to take a lot of liberties with the ones he makes, and he HATES to actually write them to anyone, so it’s usually a battle. But we get it done. I also have postcards for him to send out since they take less time and energy and he can get back to playing Minecraft. (Eye roll).
So if you have received A LOT of cards from me recently, you know why now! I have become dependent on them over the last few months and as soon as I make them I want to send them out. Which led me to the nursing homes that are looking for penpals for their people. What? You haven’t heard of this?! Well then, read this article, then check out Victorian Senior Care on Instagram! You won’t regret it.
Now go forth and do something that makes you happy today, y’all! I will be making cards from my new box.
This month’s box came with some tea light bags. I realized that you could stick any color paper inside though, and send them in the envelopes to whomever you want. You can write on the inside paper, then when they open it they have a tea light bag too. Cute! I was so excited when I figured that out. I’m so fucking basic. SMH. Beware, some of y’all getting these in the mail…
I have a playlist on my computer titled “Write, Bitch!” and its sole purpose is to motivate me to write. Seriously. I’m aggressive toward myself, obviously. I rely a lot on self-shame. Anywho, what’s on your playlist, Missy? Well I’m glad you asked there’s really a little of everything. Some Ani DiFranco, Good Old War, Mumford and Sons… You know what, why I don’t just make a list, y’all know I love a good list. I’ll share some of the songs on my very long playlist that is supposed to shame me into writing and maybe some of the songs (contrary to what you might think, I don’t only listen to Adele and Snoop Dogg) will help you too. Fingers crossed!
Now go forth and listen to some good tunes today, even if they aren’t mine!
Write, Bitch! Playlist
White Blank Page by Mumford and Sons
Amazing Eyes by Good Old War
32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco
Lost Boy by Ruth B.
Take Me to Church by Hozier
California Stars by Billy Bragg and Wilco
Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event featuring Calder Quartet
Holes by Passenger
Flowered Dresses by Slaid Cleaves
Down to the River to Pray by Alison Krauss
Flowers in Your Hair by The Lumineers
Alabama by across Canadian Ragweed
Texas and Tennessee by Lucero
When the Stars Go by Blue Ryan Adams
Talladega by Eric Church
Blues in the Night by Katie Melua
Same in Any Language by I Nine
Grapevine Fires by Death Cab for Cutie
The Dark is Rising by Mercury Rev
Africa by Weezer
Anyone Else But You by The Moldy Peaches
Standard Lines by Dashboard Confessional
Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson
Mexican Moon by Concrete Blonde
Twin Falls by Built to Spill
River Lea by Adele
I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers
Who We Are by Ward Thomas
Blowing Smoke by Kacey Musgraves
Same Drugs by Chance the Rapper
Take it All Back 2.0 by Judah & the Lion
Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert
I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.
I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.
We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.
Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.
Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.
This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!
Yous guys, this MFA program I’m headed into in the fall got me buggin’. Like, I’m NERVOUS. One, I don’t like most people. Two, I am definitely afraid of new people. Three, I’m just learning how to take myself seriously as a writer. Four, Imposter Syndrome. This isn’t my first rodeo. Five, I gotta stop making lists. That’s why I’m in the mess I’m in today, I made a list. I made a mental list of all the ways I could fuck up grad school and the list is exhaustive. I won’t share it now, cause most of it is bogus and you’d be like, really, Missy? And then I’d have to defend how crazy and dumb I am, and I’m not good at defending myself, which meeeeeans (making full circle motions with my hands) when I have to defend a BOOK LENGTH work at the end of this program I will die. Literally. Then the ghost of Missy will have to finish the program, and honestly, I don’t trust that bitch. She shady.
So why did I even do this? Why did I even apply for an MFA program? That’s a great question you guys, and one I don’t have an answer for. I’m hoping to write my way to answer, meanwhile I’ll just sit here and wonder about all the ways I am meant to watch my life ignite, sizzle, and burst into flames.
If you’ll remember last month I got mad at Jerimiah for not telling me that he secretly wanted a home office and I maybe overreacted and immediately bought him a giant office suite and moved my shit into an extra bedroom upstairs? Yes? Remember I shared pictures of his office, which was my old office, but was totally made for him. Okay, anyway, it has taken a month, but my new-to-me office is finally done and I have the pictures to prove it. Now before I show them to you, just know that this was an extra bedroom upstairs that basically acted as a storage room/closet, it was stupid and it needed a purpose. Also know that I haven’t written anything of substance since I have been in my new-to-me office, but I have high hopes. Okay, that is all enjoy.
So there you have it. I have tons more room on my shelves now, since I had those extra bookcases, which means MORE BOOKS! I had to get rid of so many when we downsized a couple years ago. A common question I get about the map is “WHERE DID YOU GET IT?!” I bought it off a woman on Craigslist back in Charlotte. You can buy them on the Rand McNally website, but they are hundreds of dollars. I paid $10, so check Craigslist first, then the yard sale sites, then the thrift stores! There are also some really cute ways to make hanging maps yourself from cheaper maps you can also buy on their website. Google it, I don’t have time to tell you about it because I need to go eat some Cheetos.
I’ve always been warned, since the first time I took a creative nonfiction class, that people will not remember the things you remember, the exact way you remember them. People will not have the same memories, they will not reframe times, or situations, or people the same way. Even Jerimiah and I, who have spent the last 18 years together, sometimes look at each other when we are retelling a story, an important story, like the death of our daughter, we will look at each other like, “Dude, that’s not how it happened!” And we both think we remember it the “right” way, when in reality the truth lies somewhere between us.
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days. I share a lot about my life, about my childhood. I share from vivid, vivid memories I have. Sometimes they are corroborated by my family members, sometimes my family members have no idea what I am talking about. I’ll say to my mom, for instance, remember that time our car broke down and that guy we didn’t know gave us a ride to Ruthie’s house? And she will be like, “That never happened, I would never take a ride from a stranger.” Meanwhile, I remember the way the stick shift of his truck brushed up against my leg. I remember my mom nervously fumbling the door handle. I remember we weren’t going far, and she thought we’d be safe. We were safe. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t remember, because it ended up not being a big deal. We made it to her friend’s house, who took us back to Food-4-Less with a gallon of tap water to put into her overheated 1972 Dodge. I guess the ride with a stranger turned out to be not that big of a deal. Or he wasn’t really a stranger to her, just to me? So why remember it? Why do I? Why does she not? Does it matter at all?
I’m thinking about this today for a number of reasons. One of them is that I have finally started to write a little bit, and the stories that are coming out of me are stories that are stemming from fear and anxiety. They are stories from my childhood, stories that take me back to dark times. Times when I would lie awake alone at night and hope that my mom was okay, cause she was all I had. She was it. I didn’t have a dad around. My siblings were grown and out of the house. It was just my mom and me, and if something happened to her I would be all alone. So I’d lie awake at night, even if my mom was sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I would worry about the next bad thing that was going to happen.
I’ve started writing about it, because I’ve started doing it again. Only this time it isn’t my mom that I’m worried about, it’s my son. My husband. They hopped into the car the other day to grab some take-out food and I immediately thought, there goes my whole world in that car, what if something happens? What if they are in a car accident? Maybe it won’t be bad, but if they are taken to the hospital right now, then what? My people are not here with me. I can’t be with them. What happens if they get sick? What happens if I can’t make it all better? What happens if I lose my whole world?
I’ve started thinking of all these times because my anxiety is high right now and when my anxiety is high writing helps me. And my writing comes when I spend the time thinking about my life, my childhood, my past. And up until this point in my life I’ve had these oppressive thoughts about whether what I write will upset my family, my friends, my siblings, my mom. I’ve said to more than one professor, “Oh I can’t write about that until so and so is dead…” But this week I turned a corner. I realized that I write for me. I write for others like me who can’t share their stories. I don’t write to make people upset or angry, and if they get upset or angry over my truth, or think that is the reason I am doing it, that is on them. That is probably because they do things to intentionally upset people, but I don’t. That’s not how I operate. I operate from truth. And maybe my truth isn’t in line with theirs, but that doesn’t matter. It is mine. When I write my name to a piece of creative nonfiction, it is, to the best of my recollection, true. All of it.
There’s a million quotes that I could share now to explain this, but this morning while talking with Jerimiah about my new-found courage to write about whatever the hell I want to write about, he reminded me of something I say a lot, “If you don’t want people to know you did it, don’t do it.” I’ve said this since I was 16 years old, and it pissed my family off then, and I’m sure it does now. But it’s, well, it’s the truth. For now I’ll be going about my business while I remind myself, “I’m responsible for telling the truth, not for how others respond to it…” after all, truth doesn’t come as easy to others, as it does to people like me.
I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day about my lack of writing. Not on this here blog. I write everyday here, but as you can see it’s not important stuff. It’s not my “real” writing. It’s my musings, mainly for posterity, mainly because I promised myself on January 1st of this year that I would strive to write a blog post every single day for a year just to prove to myself that I could do it. And so far I have, even on days when I feel like shit and don’t want to get out of bed, or see my own family, I still manage to write a few paragraphs on here. It’s healing in some way, just haven’t had the time to consider how or why or any other W there might be, because truly my brain is a messy fog and I can’t keep it together right now.
Anyway, I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day that I am not writing anything substantial, and that is scaring me because I start an MFA program in the fall at Mississippi University for Women (Go Owls!) and I really wanted to have some stuff, some new stuff, going into the program that I was working on and as it sits I got nothing. Nada. Zero new “things.” I was feeling pretty shitty about it. I was telling myself all sorts of lies, like I bet I’m the only writer this is happening to. I bet “real” writers have their shit together and are getting so much done. I suck. Yada, yada, yada. Then Glennon Doyle, one of my favorites, shared this:
Okay, what? I mean, I know she is busy with a virtual book tour for “Untamed” which I have yet to read so don’t spoil it for me, but it’s on my list (so many books on my list) and what not, but it made me feel immediately better to know that I am not alone. That this thing we are living through is doing things to creative people. Empathetic people. Writers. Artists. Musicians. We are all struggling right now, and it is making the art sort of struggle too.
I also know there are people who are writing, and making, and creating, and my hat is off to them. I’m amazed at the people still out there doing it, but I can’t feel bad for being immobilized anymore. I just can’t.
Last week I got another very nice rejection letter. This one came with a note that my work had made it to the final round with the editors, and they loved it, but couldn’t make it fit in with the issue they were working on. Then the editor gave me some great feedback on how to help it a bit, asked to continue to send them more pieces for consideration, and said she knew this work would be picked up by a lit mag soon. I love those kind of rejection letters. It was for a submission I made at least six months ago, so not new work, but it did light a fire under me to start editing. So I’ve been editing for a week now, hoping this is my way back into writing. Small steps, you know?
Then I saw this from Glennon and I was like THANK YOU! It was seriously the permission I needed to be okay with what is happening, or not happening, in my case. It reminded me that I am the kind of person who is always “writing.” Meaning, I think about things all the time, I slosh my way through these big things, and eventually, eventually they become something. I’ve been so scared about what writing will look like for all of us on the other side of this, that I was consumed and unable to actually do the writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working still. Thinking still. Taking this all in. And who knows, maybe one day it will all become something. Until then I’m gonna try to give myself some grace. You should give yourself some too. We all need a little grace these days. It’s time to accept that and do it.
Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.
Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.
Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.
Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.
Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”
We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.
We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.