I SUP

There’s nothing like a weekend away at Piedmont Lake to really clear the head and calm the soul.

I got the weekend away, but it wasn’t so much clearing and calming as it was chaos and calamity. I don’t know why minor accidents follow my family around everywhere, but in three days Ben spilled six drinks, Nugget broke a glass and tore a screen, Maya pooped on four different neighbors’ lawns, and Shawn popped Ben’s favorite raft with a nail.

Still, it’s good to be out there. A few hours feels like a few days when the sound of traffic and sirens and television are quelled.

Ah, the glorious silence of nature.

In addition, I finally got to play with my birthday gift: the paddle board I’ve been wanting for years but have always been too cheap to buy. We’ve enjoyed our kayaks for years, but stand-up-paddling is an entirely different kind of fun. The kind that promises both exercise and humiliation.

It’s been a chilly May. Consequently, the water temperature hovered somewhere around 75. Great if you’re a bass; not so much if you’re a swimmer. It didn’t bother Andy at all. The boy is impervious to cold. Ben, however, spent most of his weekend wet and blue-lipped, shivering yet refusing to get out of the water until I forced him into a hot shower.

Everybody got a chance to paddleboard, though.

I’m proud to say I’m the only one who didn’t fall off. And while that may have more to do with the new prescription sunglasses I was wearing, I like to think it’s just because I’ve got the balance of a Flying Wallenda.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much skill to go around.

 

Wherein the writer collapses in on herself

You know what I suck at?

Uncertainty.

That and hanging up my clean clothing. Laundry itself doesn’t bother me: it’s the part where I have to take it out of the basket where it’s been sitting, clean, for two months, and put it on a hanger. Why is that so detestable? I’d seriously rather just re-wash it and start the cycle of ignoring all over again.

I digress. That’s another thing I do that sucks. I digress all the time. And now that I have no teacher reading my words, I can digress until the cows come home and nobody will say anything. They’ll just hit the arrow button and go back to Reddit. I’m going to digress myself right out of my readers.

See what I did there? I digressed for so long because I’m uncertain. My thesis is finished, my tenure in grad school almost complete. And now I’m sitting here in recovery mode, totally clueless about what to do with myself and so mentally tapped out that I haven’t any energy to figure it out. Many people have told me to take a break from writing. In fact, a writing friend told me recently that when she completed her MFA she took a step back for the better part of a year and that it was a necessary endeavor. She assured me that the words did come back eventually, and now she’s in a pretty good groove, teaching and writing and publishing.

Enter: the control freak. If God took the “O” in OCD and formed it into a gangly pile of legs and sarcasm, He’d have me. And as the human embodiment of obsession, I cannot possibly just sit back and enjoy my time off. Oh hell no. Rather than taking a few months, or as long as I need, to reflect on the last two years of very hard work and considerable learning, I’ve decided it would be far more productive to open and close my laptop forty-five times a day, start a piece, write half of it, announce to the empty room that it’s sheepshit, hit save, and shut the computer. And then go outside and blow cicada shells off the deck, where I berate myself in the overwhelming thunder of both insect and leaf-blower.

I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of behavior they treat with SSRI’s.

Timelines haunt me. I allow them to snake their way into my writerly consciousness. So-and-so wrote blabbity-blah at age whatever. (Annie Dillard, I’m looking at you.) I hardly think I’m alone in this, and the tendency goes way past writing and bleeds into my regular life, which tells me that I’m first and foremost an obsessive and that writing chose me because I’d make it such a great little servant.

But so what if I take a few months off? What’s the worst that happens?

Well, my head tells me that if I should dare to take these months off, to let my guard down and give my body and brain a little rest, that gradually I’ll stop cracking open the laptop altogether, and I’ll stop going into my tiny blue office to write. And that in itself is a slippery slope, because I have a Christmas cactus in there and there’s nothing more pathetic than a dried out Christmas cactus lying dead on the table silently asking me if it really had to die for my lack of a literary work ethic. (The aloe plant, on the other hand, seems to have a sharp tongue, and it would loudly tell me to go fuck myself and drop dead out of spite.)

Good job; get to work.

Chatham’s MFA department awarded me “Most Innovative Thesis.” It was supposed to be “Best Creative Nonfiction Thesis,” but I told so many tall tales of raccoon and cricket that I wrote myself out of that particular category. Nevertheless, it was an honor and I was stunned to receive it. So you’d imagine that in itself would inspire me to rest upon my [very small] laurels for a few weeks, but instead it only served to remind me that I was being recognized for yesterday’s work, while today’s had not yet been finished.

Come on, brain. You can’t even budge an inch, can you? You sick little ganglion freak.

So now it’s June 1, and I’m working on settling down with the blog, and I have an essay in its most raw form, and I have ideas that are reaching for paper but not finding much success. But the children don’t start camp until next week, and somehow they’ve got this idea in their heads that their mother should do fun things with them instead of holing up with a computer and a group of foul-mouthed succulents. And next week Shawn will have a painful back procedure and Andy will have his tonsillectomy, and if the stars align properly, I’ll be driving down to Ripley for my favorite writerly event of them all: the West Virginia Writers’ Conference. The universe is making it difficult for me to focus on writing. God knows I hate taking a cue from the universe, but I may have little choice in the matter for the moment. I’m pretty sure I’m being not-so-subtly guided, but unless I receive a certified letter from Destiny advising me to put myself on hiatus, I can’t be sure.

With that, I leave to water the spider plant before it develops abandonment issues.