In the Toilet

Well, my month of blogging every day is pretty much in the toilet. I’m not beating myself up over it, I just feel a bit sheepish. But the point of this space is honesty and accountability, right? So here I am, being honest and accountable. I’ve been feeling sick the last few days, both a cold and my period hitting me with a one-two punch yesterday. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep. And I have been doing a lot of that, when I can.

I have still been writing daily, just not here. I’ve been writing with my two-week writing group, a ten minute prompted freewrite every day. There are some beautiful, brave women in this group. I read their free writes and in awe, I think: “this is your first draft?” And I feel small and insignificant but the point is just to write in spite of the inner critic, and I’ve been doing that, at least.

If I were to attempt a daily poetry practice, as I’ve been contemplating these past few weeks, I would have to make provisions for sickness and for monthly cycles. I would have to be sure to honour myself when my mind is foggy, find a way to still come to the page without much pressure on those days. Ten minute free writes are good, manageable. It’s something to think about, or maybe I should just leap and trust the net of inspiration will catch me.

We’re off to Vancouver for a two nights, to take both the boys to see specialists at the children’s hospital (for routine things that we just can’t do in the territory). I will try to make my way here over the next few days. I’m not promising anything, though.

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Daily Practice

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I spend a lot of time thinking about daily practices: how to fit them in and how they might change me. If I practiced something every day for one year, how would my experience of that thing be at the end of the year? How would it be going forward? I first experimented with a daily practice when I was learning about photography a few years ago. I made several attempts at a daily photo project. I don’t think I ever made it to 100 consecutive days. But even after those 40 or 50 days, I was a better photographer than when I’d begun.

What is important enough to me to practice every day? I think about a daily meditation practice, a daily practice of moving my body, a daily practice of writing. And they all feel important to me. Do I have to choose just one, at this point in my life? Truthfully, the only things I have done every day without fail for the last five years have to do with keeping babies alive and well. My own well-being is an afterthought. But it’s time to return myself to the foreground, time to find my way back to a daily practice, or to several daily practices. Because I’m intrigued by the idea of how I might be changed if I did something every day for a whole year. The discipline involved, the deep commitment to myself and my goals, is unfamiliar territory.

I want to prioritize a daily writing practice. Because I can practice mindfulness as I go about my regular day, and isn’t that one of the end goals of meditation? To be more mindful, more present with whatever arises? I practice that in real time. And I do move my body, though often at a toddler’s pace. The maximum weight I lift is that of my baby. But writing is a muscle that I feel I need to keep flexing if I’m ever going to go somewhere with it. I feel an urgency there, too, that I don’t necessarily feel with the other things. I know that in a few years I’ll have so much more free time (right?) but I feel like I’ve already wasted so much time in not writing. When that time magically opens up in the near future, I want to be further along, as a writer, than I am now. So I think about what a daily writing practice could look like for me. I keep trying, and then losing the thread, because life changes, schedules change, naps change, we move and move again. It’s hard to maintain such a focused routine as writing, through all that. I make excuses; it falters and dies and I begin to worry the Muse will forget where to find me.

This month, I’m going to try something a bit different. This month is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, where very eager and well prepared people try to write a draft of a novel over the course of 30 days. I am not ready for that. But coinciding with this month is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. That is something I can do. I like the idea of blogging daily as opposed to, say, writing a poem a day, because I typically write a post and hit publish with little editing. The focus is on just coming to the page and writing. I’m going to post here every day for the next month, as a way of showing up for myself and my craft. I hope it will be a way for me to jumpstart a daily practice. There are others doing this very thing this month, and I hope that community coupled with the fact that there are people (10’s of people!) who read my blog will keep me accountable.

I’m not sure what will come out of it, or who I might be at the end of the month. I’ll at least be a person who has blogged every day for 30 days, right? If I keep showing up, the words will find me.

Image via Flickr user Anonymous Account

Caught in a Lie

A few days ago, I was sitting at the bar after my shift (I’ve recently gone back to bartending) and a woman next to me said: “Hi Tara. I read your blog. I really like it.” (Hi, Aubyn!) My immediate reaction was intense discomfort and my usual social awkwardness. I felt pleased and flattered and also naked and embarrassed. I wanted to run home and delete my blog and all my social media accounts. I also wanted to run home and write a new post and Tweet it and share it on Facebook and rocket myself to blog stardom.

It’s a confusing thing.

The day after that, I had a poem go live at Uppagus. It’s a poem I wrote something like 8 months ago. As I re-read it for the first time since it was accepted back in March, I felt similar feelings to when I’d been caught, writer-in-the-wild, at the bar. Intense embarrassment. A touch of shame. I also thought the poem was horrible and overly dramatic and isn’t it fun to beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel bad? And it doesn’t help that my regular writing routine is completely shot. I have no routine.

I sat with these shitty feelings for another day or so, and then a term floated up in my mind that I’ve read about before: “impostor syndrome.” This is exactly what I was experiencing.

From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. [2]

And of course, my inner-critic is screaming “HA! You are not a high-achieving woman! You don’t even have a book published!” But if that jerk will just shut-up for a moment, I’ll go on.

I think it’s extremely common for women who are Doing Things, Important Things, Passionate Things, to try and sabotage themselves by telling themselves they are undeserving. Maybe it’s a bit of internalized misogyny: unless you’re baking bread and having babies, you are not being a proper woman. Leave the book writing, the masterpiece painting, to the men. If we feel strongly enough that we don’t deserve our successes, that we’re going to be caught as frauds, we might just back down from pursuing our dreams.

This is not to suggest that society as a whole has some deep-seated desire to keep women in the kitchen…but maybe it does. Or it did, and some people still do, and we’re all still suffering the effects of that.

When it comes to this blog, and having someone in real life tell me they read it, I immediately start questioning why I’m writing, what I’m writing…how can I pretend to be an authority on writing and mothering and how they fit together? Well, because I am doing those things, right now. I’m fumbling my way through writing and mothering, recalibrating every day. And as long as I stay true to that, and continue to share that experience, my successes and my many failures (see, gotta take a shot whenever I can) I can’t be a fraud.

The blogging, the poetry, these are my truths. Writing is my passion and I can’t not do it. And each time I have a poem published, or a blog post published, and someone sees me and the little voice inside says: “Delete it all! Give it all up! You’re a fraud!” I have to be stronger and louder and more fierce. I am not a fraud or an impostor. And if you’re a woman, or anyone creating at the margins, and you face those same feelings? I see you. And I’m here to validate you and to remind you that you are not a fraud, either. So make your art. Get it out there any way you can. We need your voice.

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Coming Out of Survival Mode

On Sunday, P came home from what was supposed to be a month away from us. I must have been out of my mind when I said “Yeah, I can handle a month with the kids. This is a good plan!” In reality, I lasted approximately 8 days before texting him this message: “I don’t know how I’ll last another 3 weeks.” Shortly after that S.O.S. he changed his flights and a month became 2 weeks.

But in those two weeks, and in the stressful, making-huge-life-decisions weeks preceding, I’d all but lost my hard-won new habits. The daily writing practice, the nightly meditation, the reduced social media time, the “I’m gonna learn to run!” resolve (in fairness to myself, I hurt my ankle)…all of that stopped. I was in crisis-survival mode. After we decided we needed to return to Dawson, to pack up and move once again across the country, away from the support system we’d built in the last 18 months, my brain had had enough. Comfort food, comfort interneting, all of the familiar escapes became large again.

And that’s okay. As my dear friend reminded me one day: “It’s not like you’re shooting heroin. Go on Facebook!” Sometimes we just need to get through it, right?

But here I am, my partner downstairs with the kids (minus one who is playing with a basket of rocks on the bed behind me). I’m not working on any poems because that’s a little much, but I’m blogging. And in the hour before dinner prep begins tonight, I’ll go out for a walk, test out my ankle and hopefully get back to my learn to run program. And maybe just before the bedtime rush, I’ll slip away to sit in quiet meditation for 10 minutes.

And I’ll try to check myself each time I feel the urge to pop in to social media. I’ll try to bring myself back into the present moment, the only thing that’s real, the only thing that matters.

Outside my window it’s beautiful: a few clouds high in the sky, the leaves swelling on the maple trees, sunlight and shadow patterning the lawns and spring gardens. This fills me up. It buoys me in the present.

Even though I’ve let the good things slide in the past month, those foundations are still there. The roots are still healthy. I just need to water them and revive the wilting leaves.

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Big Things, Little Things, All the Things

I’ve been quiet in this space for weeks, now. I’ve got a few draft posts saved, but each one I’ve sort of given up on with my hands thrown in the air. Truthfully, I’ve felt unclear on the purpose of this blog, on where I want it to go, what I want it to do. I started it because I just needed to write. But over the last year, that need has turned into a (fairly) regular poetry practice.  In fact, I think I could safely say I’m working on a chapbook length collection of poems focusing on my experience of motherhood. When I have time to write, I want to be working on that, because, let’s face it…I don’t actually have all that much time to write.  So all of that being said, I’ve decided to use this space as a place for me to announce upcoming publications and to give my readers regular life and writing updates. Ideally I’d like to get back to publishing once a week, but realistically I’m shooting for twice a month.

I’ve got two more poems forthcoming online in June and August, and I’m still sending my best work out as it’s polished. Recently I’ve decided to try submitting to some of my “dream” markets: they’re print (as opposed to online) publications, they have a wide readership, and they pay. They also have very small acceptance rates, but I’ve got nothing to lose. And in a further effort to get paid to write poems, I’ve submitted a poem to Room’s annual poetry competition. I’m working on a batch of three poems right now, and I think two of them are good enough to send out. It’s tricky, learning to critique my own work. Over the winter I met with the University of Western Ontario Writer-in-Residence several times during her office hours at the public library. It helped me to hone my inner editor: by the last time we met, she didn’t have much to suggest–in a good way. Writing continues to be the keystone to my mental health. It is so hard to drag myself to the page some days, but I keep doing it.

If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering about the “big things” promised in the title of this post. It’s truly very big. Are you sitting down? Good. Make sure you don’t have a mouthful of coffee (or wine.) Ready? Okay. We’re moving back to Dawson. I know, right? It’s pretty huge. I am at once excited and heartbroken about this. But the reality is that we have a business there. And it needs our attention, more than we can give it from here. Thankfully we’ve still got our log home (with our outhouse and our limited running water) so we’ll live there for the summer with a plan to move into town by the fall/winter. My parents have very generously offered to do some needed repairs on our home here in London, and then we’ll likely list it at the end of the summer. P is in Dawson now, and he’ll come back in the first week of June so we can all travel up together.

It all seems a bit surreal, at the moment. Two cross country moves in less than two years. It’s exhausting to think about. But we’re taking it one day at a time, and it really is the only thing that makes sense right now. I look forward to seeing my dearest friends again. I look forward to the fresh air, the mountains, and the river. Northern themes abound in my writing so I’m curious to see what sort of inspiration pops up once I’m living there again. I try not to think about how much we’ll miss our family here. It’s going to be really hard.

So there you go: all the things. What kinds of things are happening in your world these days? Have you ever moved across the country? Twice? Did you survive? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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