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Creativity

The humble work of being human

Well sonofabitch you guys. I’ve been feeling great.

Even though there have been some familiar and unfamiliar problems, I’ve still been rocking it.

I’m embarrassed to have just written that here because this blog holds my past up like a mirror. The exuberant spring, the broken summer and now this. I can’t keep up an impressions of adult success when my writing here looks like a looping time-lapse record of ups and downs.

I’m embarrassed because I had a different idea of what it would be like to be a grown up. I didn’t expect to need to learn and re-learn and re-re-learn the same things over and over and over again.

Photo by darkday

Things like: I need to slow down. Or like: I’m worth taking care of, just like everyone else is. Or this one: I can sometimes split into two people inside of myself, one who is trying to fix a problem and the other one who is freaked out, anxious, depressed, etc. And I can actually talk directly to the fixer person, the one who is saying things like “you’re descending into mental illness from which you will never emerge.” I can actually talk to her inside my own mind or with my out loud voice if I want and say, “Hey, it’s okay. I’m just feeling kind of depressed. Maybe you’re trying to help, but it’s actually making me feel worse. So please just relax, cause I just need to feel sad and worried and afraid right now.”

See, all of those three things, I’ve been learning and learning and forgetting them for 15 years now. And every time one of them is in my face, I have this whole love affair with the idea and the practice of it. I master the art of slowing down or talking to that inner voice or whatever. And then I find myself years and years later seeing a new therapist who talks in a different way about the inner voice and it sounds all new and I try it, and it works—I actually feel those two parts of myself come together, like I’m whole again, and then I remember. I’ve done this before. I knew this before.

Hello humble work of being human. I guess this is it. Just this circling around and back again where you spiral over and over to the things you know you need, and each time it feels new but you also remember.

It’s happening to me now with boundaries. I remember knowing this once. This feeling of holding, staying planted, and knowing that it might make other people uncomfortable. The thing I remember the most from before was how shocking and energizing it was to not be horrified by other people’s discomfort. This truth has circled back: I am actually allowed to make other people uncomfortable. I’m here again, able to do magical things like saying “Yes, I do” when a person asks me, “Do you think I’m sexist?” I feel the awkwardness in the room and the surprise of my clear and quick answer, and it’s okay. Nothing explodes. No one falls down and dies. We’re still just standing here like we were before.

Maybe it’s not embarrassing at all. Maybe there’s a wisdom to the whole learning and forgetting. Like a life cycle. A wave cresting and  going under. A melon turned to compost. Maybe we all have to learn for a while and then forget so that when we remember, it goes deeper. And then when we forget again, it will still just be way down there. Waiting.

On hope lying dormant, then sprouting

It’s been a long time. I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing here, and my overall happiness factor has suffered as a result. This is a time when my overall happiness factor needs bolstering, given the doldrums of winter and staring daily into the belly of the beast of our current president. It’s hard at times like these to remember that somewhere, beneath the surface, is creativity and life and hope.

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Photo by Steven Depolo

This has been a really tricky time for me. Feeling seasonally depressed, creatively deflated, politically afraid and disoriented. Not to mention the fact that the two glorious humans I co-created are growing ever bigger and more complex by the day.

Cal has hit the peak of 3-and-a-half-ness. Oh sweet heaven above. This is a challenging age.

Lucky for me, a teacher of mine, from way back when Jo was an erratic, tantrumy 3 and 4 year old, gave a talk at our preschool. She reminded me of some stuff I knew once. Like how little kid brains are constantly trying to make sure they’re connected to our adult brains, and how when they’re feeling not connected or overwhelmed, their brains can freak out in the form of a tantrum. And during the tantrum, it’s the opposite of helpful to enforce or discuss rules, since their brains have gone all reptilian and they can’t even access the reasoning part of their brain anyway. She also reminded me of this: if a kid is headed towards a tantrum, the best long term choice for all involved is to walk straight into it with them. I know this goes against every natural human instinct in the book, especially when you’re Just So Sick of that whiny, little 3-year-old voice. But I’ve been trying that thing I used to do–the equivalent of walking straight into a hurricane–and it effing works.

I actually just read my own blog post that I wrote 2 and a half years ago as a tutorial. It’s both a shock and an embarrassment to find that not only did I have some pretty refined strategies for how to handle tantrums once, I actually wrote a step-by-step guide about it. Fast forward a couple years, and that same grounded parent and writer is at her wits end with this little person, with scarcely a clue for how to cope.

Well, thanks internet, for preserving a former version of myself who knew what she was doing. There I was, beneath the years, like a bulb sleeping under the frozen ground. Just waiting to be remembered.

An Honest Mom gives away Truck and Bunny, emotionally-intelligent picture book

I wrote a picture book, y’all, and I want to give it to you.

I wrote it in a deep, dark night of insomnia, thereby kicking insomnia’s ass. I wrote it because I was weary of 7 years of changing pronouns in the picture books I read to my little boys. If you happen to be a female sheep, caterpillar, dump truck or farmer, let me give you some advice. Don’t waste your time auditioning for a children’s picture book. You’ve got a snowballs chance in hell of getting a call back.

I wrote this book because I was totally over reading children’s books that suck to read out loud.

Behold! Truck and Bunny!

Truck and Bunny picture book

It’s an emotionally intelligent, multi-perspective story that doesn’t suck to read to your kids.

I wrote it with the brain of a pre-schooler and the over-tired parent in mind.

Truck and Bunny inside pages

You can check out an online preview here.

So now’s the part when I give the book to you. If you subscribe to the blog, I’ll send you an email with a printable link to the book at the cheapest online printer I could find (they print and mail the book for 10 bucks).  And if you’re already a subscriber, THANK YOU one million times. Just leave me a comment on this post, and I’ll email the link to you.

Once you get Truck and Bunny into the grubby, little mitts of your beloved 2-4 year olds, let me know what they think. Perhaps I can feature their review in an upcoming edition.

Praise for Truck and Bunny book

My inner voice is the worst

Yesterday marks the beginning of the 2016/17 family routine. Hallelujah. We made it through the ever-changing matrix of summer. The here-there-everywhere pickups and dropoffs and scrambling for childcare.

Behold. The summer matrix.
Behold. The summer matrix. Photo by Gamaliel E. M.

This was our first go at a public school summer. This next one, we vow, will be different. We’ve got some sweet plans afoot–coordinating with friends and neighbors on childcare, so we can approximate that shining jewel, the timeless summer of our youth which was held together by so many moms who stayed home. We’ll see how that all goes. I’m hopeful, as I often am about things that are 9 months down the line.

As for now, I’m just waiting for the soothing balm of routine to sink in. That way that you can start to anticipate pockets of time. That way you can have an idea for something to write or plant or make and know, without a doubt, that there is a time coming soon when you can have at it.

Oh, how I love you, soothing routine balm.
Oh, how I love you, soothing routine balm. Photo by Steven Depolo

This summer and all of its twists and turns has laid waste to my creativity. So much so that yesterday, when I finally tasted that first uninterrupted time for myself, I mostly avoided writing even though I’ve been dreaming of it for weeks. I shopped online, scheduled my semi-annual haircut, looked for a desk on craigslist so that I can have a small corner of my own in the bedroom. I did all of these things while the option to write was looming. And just like some cliché romance, when I could finally have the object of my longing, I got all sweaty palmed and nervous, and looked the other way.

Too much anticipation perhaps?

A back-log of ideas, rendering my creative mind sluggish?

Possible.

Hypercritical internal voice, with a lack of empathy for the demands of raising small children over a chaotic summer?

Bullseye.

My Inner Voice is A Total Jerk
Here’s what my inner voice looks like. She’s got a good haircut and carries a purse. Also, she’s a total jerk. Photo by Tom Edgington

If any other woman on earth told my story to me, I would douse her with buckets of compassion and kindness.

Of course you spent that time doing small, frivolous, self-care type things because you’ve had no time for that. Of course the writing feels intimidating now because you’re out of practice. Of course. But never fear. You can’t escape your own creativity. Just keep showing up when you have some time and listen. And in the meantime, go get your effing hair cut and prepare to receive some packages in the mail from that sweet online shopping binge.

If only my inner voice thought I was someone else. Then I would bask in soft comforts, drink tea and take naps. Instead, I walk away from the first break I’ve had in weeks feeling anxious and humiliated.

WTF self?!?

In much the same manner that I script my kids into emotional intelligence on a daily basis, I will now script my nasty little inner voice.

Hey there, Self. I know you’re used to being a total asshole to me, but I’d like you to try something different. Something like this:
It’s more than okay that you’re not bursting with creativity right now. There are seasons for everything because nothing, I repeat, nothing bears fruit all the time. Fallow periods are for tending the soil. So tend away. Inspiration knows what she’s doing. Just tend the soil. And keep listening. You’re doing just fine. Really. Here’s a hug. And a snack. And some slippers.