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Category: work

Summer’s Light

Perhaps it is the middle of June, but out  here on the island, the weather has finally just reminded us of what summer feels like.  We’ve shed our jackets and dug out our shorts to swelter in the heat.  I finally covered our porch in potted plants that I think might actually survive the night temperatures now.  At last, the weather matches the long hours of sunlight that have been making bedtimes with Baba more than a little insane.

“It’s NOT bedtime, Mama,” she says every single night.  “Look, it’s still daytime.”

“Alexa,” I ask our Internet overlord, “what time is it?”

“It’s seven o’clock,” Alexa says, backing me up with her calm and robotic voice, as though hours and minutes are a thing that Baba actually cares about.

“ALEXA!” Baba shouts.  “IS IT DAYTIME?”

I feel this is a good time to mention that nothing in the baby books prepared me for parenting a three year old.

 

 

And yet, I’ve caught the itch too – it’s impossible to do all the sensible things that you know that you should when the world is glorious and filled with light.  And it sure it hard to go to bed after spending far too many hours convincing your toddler that she really does need to lay down and go to sleep right now or…

OR…

ORRRRR….

There is no or.  Although absolutely every neighbor and every book confirms that this is a sign of my inept parenting, the three year old is in charge, as it apparently illegal to actually staple her to her bed.  Between bedtimes and potty training, my life has been consumed by her needs.  By the time she finally gives in and accepts unpleasant states like lying down and closing your eyes, it is generally about half an hour before my normal bedtime, which is just not enough time to settle down and relax.  And so I stay up far later than is wise, night after night after night.

I know they warned me, but this motherhood trip sure is intense in the first few years.

 

 

I was walking home from the train station the other night, enjoying the glory of the sun still out and about, when I suddenly thought about how I am now only a decade younger than my mom was when she died.  She was absurdly young, but women in my family have a tendency towards overachievement, and racing to the finish line is no exception.

But then, the inevitable next thought always comes:  But I have not yet done what I always knew that I should do with my life.  I have published only one story.  I have written the majority of several novels.  One of them should even have a finished first draft by the end of the, dare I say it, by the end of the summer.  But it’s hard to not to despair that it has taken me so long to get this far.  What if the same thing happens to me and I leave all of that work incomplete?

My Beloved is approaching retirement in the next decade and so we are beginning to talk realistically about what that next stage of life will look like.  How will we afford it?  Can I retire anywhere near the same time?  When I was younger, I thought that I would retire early – or at least semi-retire – because I wanted to travel. But travel in the way I had pictured has lost much of its appeal, as my life grows to make my home the place I really want to be.

So perhaps not that.  Perhaps I will retire just to find a second career.  I’m not certain.  But I know that whatever I do, it will be arts based.  That is who I have always wanted to be: someone who creates something that matters to other people.

But what does even that look like?

 

 

Like most fiction writers, I dream a lot about what would happen to my life if I managed to write that best-selling dream novel.  Who does not?  Isn’t it fun? Just one success and then your money worries go away for the rest of your life.  Get optioned by Hollywood and then pay off your house.  You’ll take the lump sum of your earnings that year and invest them in ways that keep turning the money into more money.  Maybe you’ll take a part-time job, just to keep the brain cells flowing.  Maybe you’ll work on writing your next ten novels without having to balance another full time job.  Maybe you’ll spend your days just sitting in the garden, enjoying the kind of time you never used to have.

Creativity needs space and time.  Executing the dream, the work of the doing, that takes time too.

At the end of the day, every dream I have is really about freedom, not money.  It’s about being able to buy the time that I feel so starved of now, here, in my present life that sometimes feels like it’s lived entirely in service to the needs of others.  How is it that I’m spending my days folding laundry and going grocery shopping and and not doing, doing, doing the creative things that would satisfy this longing?

This feeling is only temporary, I tell myself.  It’s just a few more years before Baba can fold her own laundry and cook her own meals and won’t want me around.  How I’ll long for her then, this sweet-skinned babyish form of hers that crawls into my bed and curls against me and says, “Mama, I just want to sleep on YOUR pillow,” as if that makes all the sense in the world.

And then I will miss this time, this hard, frustrating time that is filled with a thousand small moments like that one.

And so.  So I carry on, scribbling when I can, as best I can, and trying to be gentle on myself for staying up too late, for forcing myself exhausted through the motions of each entirely forgettable day, for not doing the work that will satisfy my dreams.

There’s time yet, after all.

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A Syrian Crisis

I was thrown into a whirlwind of self-doubt last week, after seeing a single photograph.  If you’ve paid attention to the news at all, you already know the one — a drowned toddler, clothed in vibrant primary colors, washed up on a beach.  You probably know the story, too; another migrant family, desperate to escape the civil war in Syria, put their trust (and their savings) in the wrong boat captain.  Half the family drowned and, because of the death of a child, the world is suddenly paying attention.  This is the power of photography – to capture human suffering with a strength that makes people pause their lives and actually do something.

Suddenly, the world has been afire with criticism for the European reactions to the millions of Syrian refugees.  Perhaps it is because I am now a mother, but that image has haunted me in a way that I can’t remember another photograph doing.  Every child, no matter their nationality or language or ethnicity, has become mine.  It is only chance that my Baba is safe in her crib, while so many Syrian children are still in danger.  To be a parent is to be so aware of how vulnerable you are to great loss, at any time.  It is to know that your heart walks around outside your body — and to fear what will happen to you if you live long enough to see tragedy strike.  This child, Alan Kurdi, was born during the civil war that has torn Syria apart.  He never experienced the safety that I have been able to give to Baba, simply because she was born here and not there.

It is an awful thought. My heart breaks for his family — for all of the families that have had to make such desperate choices.

One of the members in an online mothering group that I belong to posted about having a feeling of gratitude that Alan Kurdi’s mother also drowned.  At least she was spared the pain of living, after the drowning of her sons.  It’s an awful sentiment, a terrible thing to say out loud, but also a feeling that I fully understood.  If I were unable to keep Baba safe, but I survived….living would be the harder course, by far.

When he was interviewed by the press, the words of Alan Kurdi’s father really struck me.  My wife, he said, my wife was everything to me.  How do I go on?  How does he, after the death of his life partner and two of his children?

How do you go on in the face of such loss?  Your children, your wife, your community, your home.  What do you do when your entire world has become a place of danger, a place of loss?

It puts the trivialities of my daily trials into a certain perspective.

What can I do from here?  I can donate money.  That’s easily done.  But what can I do?  Do my daily efforts contribute to making the world a safer place, a place where “the refugee problem” is solved not by finding refugees new homes in new countries, but creating a place where we don’t make refugees in the first place?  In my job, I build a communications network, but that seems feeble.  My writing…well, I have had an artistic crisis, as every trivial scene I’ve ever written feels empty and hollow.  I haven’t written a word all week, because what could possibly be the point of it all?

I’ve read that there are more people on the move in Europe since the end of World War II.  Armies of people are sitting in camps and at checkpoints on national borders.  Vivid photographs of their marches through fields and along highways have made it across the world.  It’s touching — and frightening — to see just how many people have had to give up their lives.  My heart goes out to them.  It makes everything I do to get through the day seem meaningless.  What does a clever story matter, when there are people who have lost so much, suffered so much, through no fault of their own?

What am I doing with my life that really means something, when there are such problems in the world?  It’s a question that has lingered with me, ever since I saw a single photograph.

How to Donate:

Neil Gaiman and the UHCR’s Efforts for Syrian Refugee Relief
Unicef’s Syrian Campaign
International Rescue Committee

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Study Study Bee

I’ve been a high-geared nerd lately, which has been taking up tremendous amounts of time. Being a professional nerd means that studying on a regular basis is a pretty important part of being able to advance my career, since technology is constantly changing. I’ve been on a hiatus since my mom passed away (since that is pretty much the most awesome excuse to not study ever), but about a month ago, I got myself back in gear to try and finish off my CCNP, which is a five-test series on Cisco’s equipment as regards switching and routing. Or, for the layperson, “what makes a large part of the Internet go”. I have been on my last test for about a year and a half, which is just silly. It should never have taken me this long, but I lost motivation and got lazy. And, y’know, my mom died.

I’m currently set to take the test in about a week. I cannot wait to have this obligation from over my head. The material for this particular test is actually largely irrelevant to my current job, so it just feels like a pull away from what I’d really like to spend my time focusing on.

Is it a sign of the unrepentant nerd that I’m excited to finish the CCNP series just so that I can start studying for the next certification?

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