Monday, October 26, 2009

Write about "what goes without saying"

What goes without saying... that could go two ways.  I suppose that the Writer's Book of Days intends me to write about our unspoken assumptions.  But perhaps in the age of the blogosphere, to reference the media's current obsessively used term, it is more pertinent to consider what goes unsaid.  The stories that we tell only partially.

How does one approach a story in which only a certain set of facts pertinent to one facet of a vast situation are shared?  And then the reaction that counters it, both from strangers interacting.  It should be fictionalized and related that way.  But it would be a tremendously complex presentation.  Oh...  Do people approach that sort of a relationship with honest goodwill, or prurient interest?  There is a story there.

Two threads right now are especially interesting: one is the discussion about SAHMs on one income, and how here especially (meaning in Southern Marin) there is a specific sense of how much is enough that seems out of sync with other parts of the country.  The other thread is a discussion of how much fathers participate in children's lives and activities, what help mothers expect and get from their partners, and how families see others who function differently.  There is a story in these threads, but how do you write it?  Hmmm...

What goes without saying is that when one woman says "My husband doesn't help or engage at all but I love him anyway even though he makes me cry every day" and then another says "How can you love that inconsiderate, uncaring, hurtful boor?" there is a gap of information between those two women.  What does the first woman's husband do to preserve her love for him?  What does the other woman's husband do differently?  What gives her the right to call the first woman's husband and feelings for him out like that?  What is she covering up in her own family that she feels the need to speak up that way?  This is meaty.

So three days in and I may have found a story.  Seems a little easy... perhaps I have some slight ability here?  And then how do I figure out how to make the time for it?  Like Nicole Cabrera, I suppose, I have to schedule it and not be available for anything else then.  There is a lot to sort out, and I'm new at these things.  Hmmm... something to think about. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Write about small scrapes and bruises

Quentin fell flat on his face this afternoon at the church lunch.  He scraped up both knees and a bit of his chin.  He fell and the witnesses all gasped and said, Oh no.  His daddy and I said cheerily, You're all right!  Good fall!  He pulled himself up and looked around.  No tears, but his bottom lip started puffing out and he walked straight over to the nearest parent to be picked up and snuggled.  He nestles right in, never crying, just getting his comfort, and maybe shaking a bit.

The thing is, we love it when he falls like that.  We feel so comforted ourselves when our youngest child nestles in after a fall.  It is almost mean, how we call out to him, Good fall! and then silently compete to be the one into whose arms he runs.  Even watching him give that love to someone else isn't so bad, if you know that you are going to get your turn sometime soon.

Our other children are not nearly so calm and so trusting.  When they fall, they cry.  They ask for cold packs and bandaids and for us to make it better.  We feel taxed by their little scrapes and bruises, rather than healed by them.  When Quentin falls even Charlotte reaches her arms open, and if she's closest then she gets that good snuggle; his comfort is not Mommy or Daddy-centric.  If Duncan falls, Charlotte might offer him a bandaid or get the cold pack, but she isn't rushing to give him his hug and he certainly isn't running to the closest person with arms stretched wide.

What does this say about Quentin, about our willingness to let him fall for the privilege of comforting him, for the lie we tell when we say we are giving him comfort rather than receiving unconditional love from him?  I do not know.  It will be interesting to see if that quality survives, and if it doesn't what kills it.  It will be interesting to see if I can even tell when his trust turns to wariness, or if we are slowly killing it by our greed for his snuggles. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

There is a place called...

Prompt from: A Writer's Book of Days

There is a place called home. Some people live there all their lives; others spend all their lives searching for it. I am one of those.

There are tricks that people like me use to pretend we've found home. We call it by the name of a person. We call it a season, a state of mind, the arrangement of a room. These are tricks.

I am not totally sure, however, that even the lucky ones who know where home is really feel at home there. (And here, three minutes in my courage begins to fail). I think there are many people who know that they are home in a town, or a particular building, and still feel at odds at it. Perhaps they are even more unlucky than those of us who feel a hole in our beings; they know where home is, and they do not feel at home there, and they spend their lives pretending they are home when they can't call it home any more than we homeless souls can.

So what is home? What is it? There is an idea that home is the place where you can rest. Someone once said that home is where they have to take you in. Neither of those is useful. I can rest here in my own house, where I can shut out the town that bothers me so much and create my own little reality. But it doesn't serve, and I'm not sure that the building itself is what interferes with my idea of home, or my own messiness (and therefore my own self that prevents me ever being at home), or the fact that I live with other people who sometimes tire me with their difference from myself. Why do I not feel home when I am at home? And do my children feel this way?

When I imagine my ideal living situation, I always leave California for the East Coast. I return to Atlanta, though even in my imaginings it is not the ideal place, the place where I would go if I could choose anywhere in the world. If I let myself dream all the way, I would go back to Falls Church, where my happiness was complete and incomplete at the same time, but which I miss as one misses a lover that didn't quite happen. I do not understand this.

My image of what the building of my home would be also varies. Sometimes it is one of the big, spacious, gracious homes of suburban Atlanta, and I really, honestly would like to live in one of those; at the same time, it sometimes is a cozy little cottage, just for me. Sometimes it is dark, and formal, and contemporary, colored autumn, and in my sweet little cottage it is whites and yellows and cheerful greens with little splashes of coral or orange or teal.

There is no doubt, in this house, which is neither spacious nor gracious nor cozy and cottage-y, that I am generally in the way of my own feeling of home. I want to be in a delightfully spare, neat house, and I inevitably leave clutter on every flat surface and then fail to tidy up effectively. I love having a cat, but I hate his mess and habits, and that makes me treat him as though I don't love him. Of course there is a cat in my imaginary cottage, but if Turbo doesn't make it the cottage will always only have an imaginary cat.

I think I am lost. I am happy to see the end of the fifteen minutes that I allotted to this exercise, but I think it may perhaps be the beginning of my getting in the way of my own happiness. I hope that is the case; I am at the end of my ability to withstand my own blockheadedness.