Monday, June 24, 2013

Temper Tantrums

There is nothing more frustrating, embarrassing – and yes – amusing about witnessing the core meltdown of a toddler, especially if the toddler in question belongs to you. However, as disheartening and emotionally trying as a toddler tantrum can be, sometimes they’re not the only ones who need to release stress by some good old-fashioned kicking and screaming. Even moms succumb to their baser instincts and just let fly whatever frustrations, stresses, or general craziness are upsetting their apple cart.

 As moms we hold ourselves up to incredible standards to be the perfect motherly specimen (the UberMom). We see the images of SuperMom on television, in movies, and in commercials; we strive to live up to the images of June Cleaver, Heidi Klum, and Martha Stewart all rolled into one. We push ourselves to be successful, attractive, fashion forward, creative, and the mom who makes sack lunches, heads up the PTA, creates fun and interesting art projects to fill the rainy days, and lays lavish home-cooked meals on the table every night of the week. No wonder the veneer begins to crack every now and again. We’ve packed so many must haves into our personality that we are bursting at the seams.

I am completely guilty of buying into the SuperMom image. I have accumulated numerous infractions, violations, and downright felonies of that SuperMom code of conduct. And yes – that includes temper tantrums. I have lost my inner SuperMom more times than I wish to admit. When surrounded with toilets overflowing with an entire roll of toilet paper, dry-erase crayon pictures decorating the carpet (courtesy of my daughter), all of my clothes & shoes cascading out of my closet and dresser, the dog marking the furniture, the kids screaming bloody murder at each other over who gets to rip the pages out of books or shred the resident holiday decorations and my sweet little boy pulling handfuls of flour and sugar out of the canisters so he can make it “snow”, I have been pushed so far to the edge that my inner self is screaming at me (over my yelling) to just throw myself on the nearest available surface and kick and scream and pound my fists, then get up and start flinging things around the room with all my might, until I feel better. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a mom sized tantrum. Kids have nothing on mom when she’s about to blow.

The good thing about being an adult (and the bad) is that you have the presence of mind to suppress the all-out rage and destruction part. Dammit. The thing that I have learned through the numerous encounters with my inner toddler is that that frustration and craving for a good old-fashioned kick & scream is completely healthy and normal. We need that release in one way or another.

My way is to write about it. That is, if the kids leave me alone long enough to fire up my laptop, let alone type actual words. However, when time and toddlers are not so obliging, a quick trip upstairs to my bedroom where I quickly lock the door and throw myself face first on to the bed to let out one, good, throat rattling scream, usually suffices until a little quiet time is actually attainable. When all else fails, a little wine can become mom’s best friend. Don’t look at me that way, you know it’s true.

So for those of you moms (or dads) aspiring to SuperMom (or SuperDad) status, failure is not only an option, it’s practically a job requirement. No one is perfect, and trying to be the perfect parent only adds to the pressure of simply trying to be a good parent. So give yourself a break and accept that you’ll never be perfect, and that your kids actually don’t want perfect. They just want you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Real Imaginary Writer

Writing, to me, has always been about the art of creation, the imagination, and sheer enjoyment of putting an idea or story down on paper and giving it life. It has been a tangible way for me to have ultimate control in a life that seems very out of control. I make a million small decisions in the stories that I write that completely dictate the outcome of the characters I create. Do I let them live, or kill them off? Do they fall in love, or fall short? Do they succeed, or do they fail? But writing has ever only been an enjoyable hobby. I have implacably refused to become a professional writer. I always believed that writing for a living would take the joy out of the art. However, I should, by now, know better than to use words like never or always.

No matter how emphatic my high minded beliefs were, they would ultimately give way to the practicality of convenience and the necessity of ingenuity. As Plato wrote, "necessity is the mother of invention."  Now necessity has driven me to put the tools that I was given to good and practical use. Being in the great city of New York, where opportunity abounds and stiff competition follows hard on its heels, has given me the rough awakening and, consequently, the determination I needed to simply close my eyes and jump straight into a writing career. With something of a diverse job history, writing has been my only constant. Thus, the Real Imaginary Writer was born.

I chose the moniker Real Imaginary Writer, because writing has always been a hobby and a joy, so writing as a profession doesn't seem like a real job. I only half jokingly call it my real fake job. Where else can I get up in the morning, walk downstairs to my kitchen and make my tea, then go to work in my pajamas, where I make stuff up and write stories about whatever I want? No wonder this doesn't feel like a job for a grown-up. Even though I feel like I don't have a real job, at the same time I sincerely hope that that feeling never changes.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Favorite Time of Day

Nighttime is my favorite time of day. Even though I am tired from the strains of the day, I seem to come alive at night. My brain is filled with places and people and stories that are scrambling to get out. They whirl around my head like a brightly light ballroom swirling with gaily clad figures, spinning and twisting to the time of the music. I guess that’s what makes me the serial insomniac that I have been for many years now. I have more creativity spinning around my brain during those few hours of attempts at sleep, than I do in the whole of the preceding day. Sometimes the only cure for that is putting pen to paper (so to speak) and getting the ideas out of my head for good. I always seem to be more at peace when I write.

This, in itself, is an amazing concept, because I seem to avoid writing more often than I give in to it. I write to get my mind off the swirling of ideas, not, necessarily, to give voice to them. I have so many ideas for books and stories stuffed in the attic of my mind, that I barely have room for it all. Rather than purge the superfluous ideas, I hoard them. Like a pirate hiding pilfered treasure, I store mine up for the seemingly inevitable day that I will need them. I don’t use it, or spend it, I simply save it like a scholarly Silas Marner.

I’m afraid. I believe it is as simple as that. I am afraid that nothing I commit to paper will ever be as stunningly imaginative as it was in my head. I fear throwing effort after foolishness, in indulging in the fantasy that my book will be complete, published, and revered. I am loath to spend large quantities of time on a project that may never extend farther than my desktop printer. Yet, I am at peace when I write. Therein lies my predicament.

Just Do It Already

I’ve been writing a book for nearly ten years now and there always seems to be something that prevents me from finishing it. I am not your typical writer. I can’t just write for a specified length of time without making any corrections. I make the corrections as they come up. I think that tends to seriously slow my process. I also think the other, much stronger aspect of my writing paralysis is the fear of success. I never wanted writing to become my job. I loved it too much to have it change from a pure expression of myself into something forced and unworthy. I didn’t want the pressure of producing something to eclipse the work itself.

Instead I dreamed of my book in print, of being an author full time, and of having a study/library where I would sit behind my large mahogany writers desk, surrounded by walls of books, facing a window overlooking a tranquil view of the ocean and produce my next masterpiece. A nice dream, but hardly realistic…and a complete waste of time. Nevertheless, I continued to daydream my life away and wish my book into successful existence, paralyzed by procrastination and not really producing anything that forwarded this lofty ambition. Oh sure, I dabbled. Writing a paragraph here, an outline there, but nothing that really made much of a difference. More to the point, it was just the opposite of that. My playacting at being a writer made me revise and rewrite sections of completed work in an, as yet, unfinished story. My story was barely started and already I was rewriting its history. I know now that I would be much better served to complete an imperfect story, than to continue to pick at parts better left alone.
So now I begin afresh, with a new outlook on my writing adventure. I have found that writing is just like physical exercise, it needs to be performed regularly to have any effect. Even if I don’t work on my book every day, at least the act of writing on a regular basis, on any subject, will put me on the path to becoming a much more effective and consistent writer. This blog is a good way for me to exercise and express without the pressure of production. Writing is a gift and a calling, if you don’t use the tools and inspiration you are given, they abandon you and leave only regret in their wake. For anyone who has ever wanted to write, but been too afraid to put proverbial pen to paper, just do it. What have you got to lose? Learn from my mistakes and don’t waste another day wishing your imagination into physical creation. It doesn’t matter whether you are good or not, what matters is the doing. Find a way to express yourself for you and no one else. Just close your eyes, grit your teeth, and write.

I write to be Myself

I never really thought of myself as an interesting person. Sure, I think interesting thoughts and like interesting things, but I'm not a person with a particularly dynamic life. I've lived most of my life in the same small town in Western Washington, never been out of the country (except for Mexico on a church trip when I was 15) and have only visited about 7 states, most of which don't even cross east of the Rockies. But here I am, a recent resident of New York with no job, no friends, and little to do except impatiently wait for my life to change.

I always loved writing. It was a way for me to get out all the things I wanted to say, but didn’t really know how to convey in so many spoken words. More often than not, I would find myself tongue tied and stammering, whenever I tried to speak my mind, or else, much worse, I would try desperately to talk myself out of a corner I had only moments ago talked myself into. However, writing allows me to be witty, charming or cutting without the added pressure of performance anxiety.  So here I am, a recent New York transplant who has nothing better to do besides writing down anything and everything that comes to mind.

I was born in Washington, lived there, went to college there, met my husband and got married there, and had my kids there. My entire family lives in Washington, as well as all of my husband’s family. So, leaving all of that heritage, memories, and support system behind was not really a choice; it was more like an anti-choice. My husband’s career path steered us ruthlessly toward New York. There, was the only place that his career could go, if not, it would just become stagnant and evanescent. There was no choice. Either I go, or I damn his dreams. That is not a choice, it is an undeniable force that mercilessly and unceremoniously dumps you onto a path, already moving forward. Your only choice is to stand up and meet the horizon head up and head on, or lie down and let the road drag you perpetually onward.

I’m not going to lie, there was, for a time, dark hours in which I was willing to lie there as the path I was on, dragged me along. With two small children and two rapidly growing Labrador puppies, plopped down in a two bedroom corporate apartment, with unfamiliar and starkly impersonal rented furniture, in strange city in which I knew no one, I was more than willing to be swallowed up by a sense of desertion, fear, and of being completely overwhelmed. I let it take me for a while; I succumbed to the bittersweet embrace of wallowing in my own self-pity and bemoaning my present fate. For a time it was soothing and comfortable to feel ill-used and at odds with the world. Then it began to grow heavy and gnawing, like the cloying scent of the air freshener that clings to its surrounding around the garbage chute in our building. It was time to shed the dark veil of mourning I had donned in lamentation of my current circumstances. I had to find an outlet for all the hours of non-conversation and idleness I had stored up. I had to find a purpose. Writing became my purpose. I now write just to express myself in complete sentences that are not hobbled by the limited vocabulary mothers use when conversing with small children all day. I write to fill my empty hours with something productive and of my own creation. I write to find purpose and conviction and freedom within myself. I write to be myself.