It’s been twenty-three days, give or take, since I sat down to talk to you, to really talk to you. Not that I haven’t thought about you. I have. And I’ve filled the void, here and there, with fluffiness, lighterness. I just . . . I don’t know. What is there to say?
But does it matter?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Sometimes. Sometimes not.
In some seasons, seasons like this one, I have turned my heart and mind and eyes upstream; leaned in against the current; strained for a foothold; fought for even the smallest movement forward. And felt compelled to describe the waves, their depth and height and velocity, for you.
It’s not that I’ve gone limp, resigned to let the rapids wash me away.
It’s more that, if I can’t change the tide, if the only decision I have is one of how hard I fight it or how willingly I float it, then I’m kind of in the mood for a floppy hat and an inner tube. Nevermind that it’s February.
* * * * *
About a month of Sundays ago, the sermon included this theme: don’t fear being a failure, fear succeeding at something that doesn’t matter.
Something that doesn’t matter.
When I opened up the Other Such a few years ago, it was not without some anxiety that the whole thing would fall flat. I like to
tell write a story, but could I write it in a manner that held anyone’s interest besides mine? Or would I just be more noise? (Or both?) I cannonballed into the deep end anyway. And, you know, here we are.
From that nose-holding-eyes-squeezed-shut-flying-leap of faith have come some incredible things: new friends; closer connections with old friends; additional writing opportunities (more on that soon); and a creative outlet for sharing the ups and the downs and the forwards and the backs and the apropos of nothing.
But what of that matters?
In January 2009, as I was writing on an old private blog centered around my infant daughter, as I daydreamed about writing beyond that password-protected place, I drafted up a set of “rules” for myself in case I worked up cannonball courage. My writing rules, copied and pasted from that old document, looked like this:
- Be honest.
- Appreciate irreverence and satire.
- If the topic embarrasses Mom (or embarrasses you to talk about in front of Mom), fine – but keep the language Mom appropriate.
- No anonymous comments.
- Marriage, children, family, home first.
Without having looked back on them until this month when I happened upon that document in an abandoned folder, I’ve mostly kept to those ‘rules.’ I think. I might not get an A+ on Number 3. One post in particular (you know, about the shoe donation) might be an F of a Number 3, but it was nothing if not honest and irreverent and Other Such in its most pure form.
I’m honest with you here. I don’t share everything with you, but what I do share I tell in truth (at least as I know it at the time that I write it). We aren’t a perfect family, ours isn’t a perfect marriage, but we try–not so much for perfection, but for happiness and goodness. We’re just, you know, real. Like you, I’m guessing.
I don’t just appreciate irreverence and satire, I crave a consistent sprinkling of it in my life. Not the blasphemic kind of irreverence, but of satire, of wittiness and sarcasm and irony. I want to understand things–situations, events, illnesses, language, whatever–well enough to be able to poke fun at them, to be able to identify why they don’t matter and why they, or we, are laugh-worthy.
Anonymous comments are mostly a “no” because of two reasons: (1) holy spam; and (2) anyone who undertakes to write in a public forum should own the words s/he uses. They are “mostly a ‘no’” because while a name and email address are required to post a comment here, there’s nothing to prevent a made up name or address. (Unrecognized email addresses do get held in a ‘potential spam queue,’ though.)
Marriage, children, family, home first. Sigh. That’s the hardest part.
Right now, Sophie Belle is happy as a lark in the middle of a circle of Barbies from her Aunt K, explaining something about the rules for deciding which of them gets to spend the night at her BeBe’s with her tonight. Some kind of Barbie contest is about to go down. I could be in there with her, mediating the contest. Or at least soaking in the details of a child who is changing in front of my eyes. I could lean in against the current that is her, begging my memory to capture the wonderful waves of her.
Instead I am at the computer. And that is okay. This time.
I only cooked one meal, did about five percent of my bookkeeping, only made it half-way through the laundry this week and instead of finishing that chore I am sitting at the computer. And that is okay. This time.
Marriage first. I feel like I fall down on that one with the greatest frequency. Maybe because by the time I have tended to the responsibilities of child and home and business and family (in the broader sense), by the time the end of the day comes and he arrives home, I am exhausted and desperate for some me-time, not we-time. Often, that is what I blame it on. But just as often, it is all a matter of how I have prioritized my days. (And, similarly, how he has prioritized his.) This has not been a banner week for we-time. However, as our child sorts out which Barbie makes it into her bag for one grandparent’s house and which shoes to take with her to do some goat-tending tomorrow at another grandparent’s house, the evening and the weekend hold the promise of restoring the connections we’ve missed in recent days. And so I’m skipping chores, getting in my me-time at the computer now. And that is okay. This time.
But when it gets right down to it, this Other Suching? The writing at which I feared being a failure? Does it matter?
Yes, because it is an outlet, emotionally. Yes, because it is a forum, creatively. Yes, because it, the writing, is what I most want to do . . . when I’m not doing the other things. (And, well, sometimes even then.) And yes, because it is leading to other writing opportunities that actually pay to support my wordiness habit.
But, also, no. Because for the most part it has been noise. I have, in many ways, succeeded at making noise. Noise that doesn’t matter. Funny noise, satirical noise, cutesy-fluffy noise, but noise.
Sometimes I have sensed that maybe something I had to share was more than noise. Which would have been intimidating to the point of silencing me, but for the overall weight accompanying those times. October pretty well stripped me (freed me) of concern about which fringe-friends I might offend if I wrote about all of the things I was struggling with–infertility, miscarriage, friendships, and most especially faith. Without concern about how that writing would be received, whether it would be “successful” in terms of website traffic and comments and interaction with readers, I instead plunged into writing about what mattered.
One woman’s “what matters” is another’s “noise,” I suppose. There are a couple of friends I haven’t heard from since then. And I kind of expected as much because I know that as non-believers the examination of faith is off-putting and a tedious exercise in the unimportant to them. I get that. There have been times I felt that way, too. It was noise to me until it wasn’t; it didn’t matter until it did.
But since winding my way through the Considering It Joy series I’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here. With everything.
With my family.
Do we keep trying for another child? I think so. I don’t think we’re done, not by a long shot. But what is best? And when?
With my marriage.
How can we better prioritize one another? We’ve talked about this, are trying some things, have a dialogue and evolving plans. This is part of what marriage is: adapting, together, to the seasons of our life.
With my writing.
Is there a balance between noise and substance? Noisy substance? Substantial noise?
Meanwhile, the Barbie contest is now complete and I have shushed my daughter three times. So, as it inevitably does when I try to write in daylight hours, the time spent at the computer has gone from “okay” to competing directly with another of my priorities.
But I haven’t concluded this thought, this conversation. Really, I have scarcely turned in the direction of a point, to potentially something that matters.
And yet, two blue eyes are teasing me from behind a chair. The softest whisper of “mama, this that beat that make you groove, mama?” and then a hopeful waiting to see if I’ll ditch the computer chair, pick up with “get on the floor and move your booty, mama,” and boogie across the kitchen floor with her.
Sometimes it is hard to decipher which is the failure to fear, which is the thing that matters.
If I don’t make it now, will I be able to make my point later? If left to twist at the end of a long, relatively pointless post, will you still be listening when I am able to pick it up again?
Which failure do I fear more? Losing her attention or losing yours?
And if I can succeed at holding only one of those, which is the one that matters?
Please excuse me while I err on the side of
moving my booty.