‘Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.” —- Virginia Woolf
Wednesday of last week: I wake early, make coffee, and settle in on the couch in our sunny front room to meditate for a few minutes, go over the day’s schedule, and squeeze in a bit of writing before the house wakes up at 7:00.
It’s easy to get distracted by the morning sounds of garbage trucks and leaf blowers in our neighborhood, but I’m learning to say, “this too” when aversion bubbles up. It works ok.
Then I hear my husband come in and pour his coffee.
That’s kinda bitchy of me.
I say a quick amen, on the off chance there’s anybody out there, take a breath, and open my laptop. I have an idea and want to get it out before it loses that shimmer of urgency. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but I’ve been going through such a dry spell that any idea is reason to fall down and kiss the ground.
So I get right to it. Tappity-tap-tap-tap go the keys.
Enter, Chris, who settles across the room from me and smiles. “Morning, baby.”
I want to hurl my laptop at him.
I feel a self-righteous anger way waaaayy out of proportion to the situation. Clearly, we must divorce.
“Were you writing?” He asks.
“Yes,” I answer, already softening because he thought to ask. Being asked feels like being seen, and that feels like love to me.
“Oh, sorry. I’ll go in the other room,” he says, in a way that tells me he is completely fine with it.
“No, that’s ok, you don’t have to go,” I call after him, guilty.
What a bitch I am. He just wanted to say good morning, and moments alone together don’t happen all that often. Looking down at the screen, I’ve lost hold of the thread and wonder why it even matters. Let’s be honest, this thing I take so seriously is really just a hobby, bringing in no money, taking focus and energy away from the people I love.
I’m reminded of a quote from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.”
Apologize later and let it pass, I think.
I’ve just started typing when I hear my youngest son’s door open. His hair is sticking up every which way as he shuffles in and, still warm from sleep, sits next to me. His head rests in my lap and I shift my computer to the arm of the couch.
“Good morning. You’re up early,” I say.
It’s impossible to be mad. He is twelve, and every one of these minutes is precious. I want to keep writing, but I also want to be in this moment with my boy, who won’t be a boy much longer.
I can do both, I decide. Tappity-tap…tap…
It kind of works.
In a way.
But then he’s up and in the kitchen. (Insert Foley effects for: getting the bowl, the spoon, pouring the cereal, the milk, stubbing toe, dropping the spoon, etc.) My lap is empty. The day has begun.
We need more doors, I think.
That is when, as if on cue, our dog Jackson gallops in and makes a flying leap onto my couch next to me. I nudge him away and he settles next to me to lick the cushions until time for his walk. I make a mental note that he is cute but a little gross, and to wash the slipcovers. Trying to find my train of thought again, I hear Jackson on my left, making a noise.
My brow is furrowed. I type.
The sound persists but so do I until, finally, I turn and find the most lavish display of dog barf I have ever seen. It is everywhere.
Thus ends the time allotted for writing that day.
Reader, if you think I sound like a privileged housewife, whining about how she gets no respect, well, I’m sure there’s some truth to that. But the need for solitude is basic and profound.
I notice how my fourteen year old has taken up the habit of staying up well past the time the rest of us have gone to sleep. He uses the time to watch old t.v. episodes of Mission Impossible, draw, create, and raid the pantry for snacks. For those few hours, this is his place. I understand how great that feels, and I am happy he’s found that pocket of time for solitude. It’s important.
But the fact is, both of my sons have a room with a door. We have a knock first policy, so they maintain privacy. My husband has an office and, while I know he’d prefer to spend less time there, it does provide solitude when needed.
It has a door.
Several weeks ago, I created this setup in my closet. I wanted to finish a piece I was working on and it actually did the trick. But it also made me want to sob into my pillow. Still, I’m trying to figure out if I can make this a working space. It will require getting rid of most of my clothes, which may be a decent trade, at this point.
Am I privileged? Yes. Obviously.
I have a home and a support system for which I am always wholeheartedly grateful. But the struggle is real for women, especially mothers, who want to want to be creative in the way that requires solitude. We are socialized to believe that it is wrong to ask for it.
“There’s a season for everything,” friends have told me. Roughly translated this means: “You can’t have that now, maybe later.”
Maybe. Unless something or someone else requires your time. And there will always be something else.
Last night I had a dream. Actually, it wasn’t really a dream, exactly. I heard a voice. Creepy, I know.
“Maggie!” was all it said, but it sounded angry and was scary enough that my eyes flew open the second I heard it. It wasn’t my husband, who laughed this morning when I told him about it.
The voice meant business. It was pissed.
My babies were all asleep. The house wasn’t on fire. So what could be so urgent that needed my attention?
I’m really curious– do you have creative projects that require time and space alone? Have you carved out a corner, a niche, or have you found a door you can close? Maybe you haven’t but you want it so badly that you are screaming on the inside, ashamed of what that must look or sound like on the outside.
Well, I see you.
No shame here, my friends. No shame here.