Before the long days of summer parenting melt my brain, I want to capture some of the good that happened this spring.
I wrote in late April about what life looked like in the first two months of my separation from my husband. Daily journaling for myself has become very important, but time capsules captured in a form I can Google – this blog – have proven helpful.
Here are some of the things that have buoyed me since last I wrote. Most of the links go to social media posts made from/about each event. Eventually I’ll try to add some images into this post, but following the links will lead to some!
A visit to Kunzang Palyul Choling Buddhist Temple
The final field trip of my 7th graders Religious Education year at our Unitarian Universalist Church was to Kunzang Palyul Choling Buddhist Temple. We were warmly welcomed and given an opportunity to set an intention to release others of pain and suffering as we circled the stupa. Then we spent time among the amazing crystals and participated in a guided meditation. The four of us went and I think all left changed. Thanks to the crystals, the community, the guidance and the experience of sitting and walking together, my ego got checked!
Writing & Writing Community
When I registered for the Washington Writers Conference back in the fall, I set the goal of having my novel draft completed so that I could pitch agents for the first time. In early winter, I worked my way through the whole thing, pausing on the work (and attendance at my weekly writing group) for weeks during the separation and picking up in early March. Getting back into my characters helped me that first day, when my kids didn’t remember to tell me Happy Birthday until three hours after I picked them up, and through the rest of the early spring.
Then I learned that the Barrelhouse Conversations & Connections conference would happen two weeks before the WWC agent pitch session and registered to attend C&C for the fifth time. I made it through four rounds of speed dating with editors, sharing flash fiction with two of them and part of the novel to the others. Then a writing teacher friend offered to coach me on how to pitch my novel at the WWC.
I practiced a lot and felt confident walking into those super-speedy 5-minute sessions at the Washington Writers Conference. I met with all four agents I’d scheduled with and squeezed in on someone else’s cancellation to meet with a fifth. Buoyed by a little chocolate and a nice agent, I stayed until the end of the conference and loved the final panel with a friend from my writing group, another woman who had generously given me super helpful advice.
Plus, at both conferences, I got to catch up with writer friends and to meet people I’d known peripherally or only online. Both Saturdays were great for community and creativity.
Admittedly, I’ve taken a little while to work all the feedback into a revised query, but at least I emailed thank yous to the agents that same week. I am committed to sending the queries the week after the 4th of July.
It’s been terrific to attend Readings on the Pike, a local reading series founded by a friend I met when we were both in the cast of Listen to Your Mother. I read in January and have been able to make it to at least part of the monthly readings. I also got to participate in the first author night organized by EcoAction Arlington, which was a lot of fun. (And it was great to see so many people who came out for it!)
Being part of a writing community has been terrific. It started last spring with a series of terrific readings with my sister Abundant Grace contributors and has continued with the Pike series. The writing group I hang with once a week (whenever possible) has been terrific. We mostly work on our own stuff, but just being present with people who are working with words is powerful. All this community has meant that returning to the Barrelhouse conference and attending the Washington Writers Conference this year, I finally felt like I was not totally a breed apart.
One of the agents I pitched told me about the new story collection Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaite. She was right that it’s a terrific comp for my novel. I reached out to the author to discuss my book and query letter, and she was terrific to work with. I loved then hearing her and Elizabeth Geoghegen at their Politics & Prose reading, after which I went on to a class reunion for the Extreme Novelist at the Writers Center where I reconnected with people from my class three years ago and met several others who had been through it.
I might have had to move out to get it, but Mother’s Day happened this year! This day has been kind of my kryptonite in the past, second only to my birthday. I’ve not been very fetable, if that’s such a thing. I’m not the kind of person people want to celebrate with, and I didn’t marry a person who celebrates people. When my husband spent all of one mother’s day at an Ultimate Frisbee tournament and offered to give me a rain check the following Saturday, I said instead I would go to a weekend blog conference. And I did. That year and the next.
When I turned 40, I invited friends to a group yoga class and the following weekend went on a yoga retreat, so I understand things are what you make them and that you can create your own bliss. Intellectually I understood that. But my heart was a different story.
Grappling with health issues and general feelings of being a failure – as a friend, wife, mother, business owner, ADULT, I’d come to dread other people asking what fun thing I did to celebrate myself. I took my birthday off Facebook to avoid the questions. But mother’s day is no secret. Having told my kids and husband some items they could get me for my March birthday to no avail – despite texted photos! – this time they got the memo. Well, my teenager video called me from World Market to double-check, but that was cute. For the first time that I can recall, on Mother’s Day I got some gifts and ate a meal I didn’t make myself. I smiled a lot.
One of the best things about the separation is that, even though the weeks are intense with me in charge of all the getting to and from school, on weekends I feel free to say yes to things. I always see the kids on Sunday evenings, and I usually help out with watching the younger or taking the older to something on Saturday or Sunday. But if there is no event that requires two parents, I can do things without feeling guilty for leaving the house. Transitions are taxing! Things feel so different if I don’t have to say goodbye!
Even though I practice yoga daily I think I attended only one yoga class in 2018. I started 2019 with a class on New Years Day and then attended three in the month of May – EcoFit Yoga with EcoAction Arlington, a Friday afternoon class at Ease Yoga & Café (where I drew the Forgiveness power thought card) and then to Yoga on the Mall, something I’d long wanted to attend. It was a beautiful morning and such a joy to practice with hundreds of people at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and along the reflecting pool. I seriously love outdoor yoga.
The second weekend I was alone in my townhouse, I tried jogging a little on a Sunday morning before church. I then consulted the physical therapist who had told me long ago that it was not safe for me to run until I re-created my core integrity. Most of my work with her over the years had been craniosacral therapy to support my mental health except for times I tried to jog and did damage. This winter, we talked proactive exercise and I began core work before my morning yoga practice. Light jogging without negative repercussions finally seemed possible. I’ve gone almost weekly, slowly upping the duration. My most recent and longest run was 45 minutes. Ten years ago, before I got pregnant with my second child, that length felt like a warm-up, but now it’s a thrill to be back out on the trail for that long!
Although I’ve had a lot of lonely moments over the past few months, I’ve also come to enjoy my time alone and to have a new outlook on the choices I make about spending time with others. There was a blogger brunch and a going-away party I probably wouldn’t have gone to if I was still living with my kids. My story would have been that I didn’t belong, that the other people all knew one another better and didn’t want me around and I shouldn’t spend the money or time away from my family. But free of those expectations, I attended and found a lot to share with the people I talked to at both events.
I also really enjoyed the morning I spent at the Women Empower Expo. I appreciated the messages about not fearing failure, about persistence, about believing in your own self-worth. The event vibe was so positive, and I was thrilled to see such a diverse group of participants. I was so disturbed by the article by the only black woman at a retreat with some inspiring white woman writers. The topics covered in at WEX were along similar lines, but the organizers were very successful in reaching communities of color, better than many other events I’ve attended.
I have felt disconnected from social justice work since I quit teaching to become a mother and really since months before I conceived and realized I would probably have to quit teaching to spare my health. Although I’ve done some advocacy work, I was glad to be able to participate this spring in a Challenging Racism class and engage on issues I used to spend all my time on. I expected to revisit topics I’d studied 20 years earlier and to learn about new scholarship and theory, both of which I did, but I did not expect to have such a healing experience telling a story about my shame over the fallout from a clumsy attempt to interrogate my own racism at age 22, over half my life ago. I’m grateful for the experience of listening circles and for the compassionate participants who heard me out and offered thoughtful, nuanced reactions and support.
Music & Art
In my time alone at my townhouse, I’ve spent an awful lot of time listening to NPR, but I’ve also done more listening to music and singing along. (And I also feel like there have been more interviews with musical artists, or maybe I’m just actually hearing things as they are!) Being away from the sound of the TV is definitely a plus, even if I do enjoy watching occasional things on the laptop with my teenager. We all still sing a lot of the sounds from the middle school musical. It was a delight to see my kid perform for the School Board this spring (even if it meant I had to miss seeing Ani DiFranco speak about her new memoir!)
Attending the Live from Here concert (alone!) and going to see A Doll’s House Part 2 with a writer friend were both great decisions. I’ll write elsewhere about both of those at some point, but I can’t fail to mention them.
I also loved Music Sunday at our church, where the super talented Maya Rogers is artist-in-residence.
Last weekend, I enjoyed the reception for Art in Meditation: The Chakras exhibit at Del Ray Artisans and later took my kids. I’m buoyed by the knowledge that my teen is going to do a week of choir camp and two weeks of filmmaking camp and that my rising 4th grader is going to do two weeks of a visual arts camp and two of musical theater camp.
Finally, today I got to hear a little music at the One Journey Festival and then my teenager and I really enjoyed Sisterfire Showcase at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Be Steadwell’s short film “Sometimes” had me in tears.
Fingers crossed we make it out in the heat again for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival tomorrow.
And it’s now officially summer, so that’s a wrap for spring recap!