A tiny step back from the edge

My annual studio recital was yesterday, and my students all performed to make me proud. It was short and sweet, and while I didn’t feel at the top of my game, I think that it went well, and students and families enjoyed hearing everyone. Some parents emailed and posted recital photos and video on Facebook, which was nice.

Except.

(and this has nothing to do with my students)

Holy cow. I was so unhappy with the way I looked in said photos.

Yes, the camera angles were anything but optimum (looking down at the camera is not advised.) No, I wasn’t wearing my most flattering outfit. And, as  I mentioned before, I wasn’t feeling my personal best.

But all the camera positioning, flowy tops and tiny mood issues in the world could not have been responsible for what I saw.

I’ve been feeling pretty unhappy about my appearance for some time now. Some of it is due to age, of course, but most of it is simply because I weigh too much. And did it ever hit home yesterday in the photos of what should have been proud, happy moments for all involved.

So, I did what anyone would do in the situation, really. I came home, put on pajamas and kind of drooped around for the rest of the day. I won’t mention the Oreos, grilled cheese, tomato soup or chips and dip I ate, in that order. I will mention that I passed on Earl’s famous blueberry milkshake, however. Go, me.

I watched not one but two episodes of the X-Files, but even the David Duchovny eye candy of old couldn’t move me out of what, I feared, may have been the beginning of a bigger funk. It wasn’t just the photos, of course; I’ve been feeling like I’ve been teetering on the edge of a depression for a little while. Maybe a few photos were going to kick me over the edge.

I resolved, as I went to bed, that I was going to get up early and exercise. I was going to slash my carbs and get myself into shape. No matter what.

Thus bolstered, I slept. And then, when the alarm went off, I hit snooze, as is my habit. Earl said, “Why don’t you shut the alarm off? You don’t really need to get up early today.” So I did.

And then, I remembered.

And I hauled myself out of bed, put on some exercise clothes, and went downstairs, where I did a short on-demand workout. It wasn’t much, but I remember twenty years ago, when I first got myself into shape, I started by riding an exercise bike for six minutes. Six minutes! So I decided I wasn’t going to tell myself it wasn’t good enough to do a short workout today.

It’s almost absurd how proud I was of myself this morning after that short workout. One has to start somewhere, I guess.

New Year, Same Old Me

Several months ago, I wondered whether not having a deadline every two weeks would mean I just didn’t write. I guess the posting activity on this blog has settled that question.

I’ve been mostly on vacation for a week and it’s only now, two days before I jump into the craziness with both feet again, that it occurs to me that maybe it would be fun to post something on the blog. What has happened to me?

In short, I’ve been working more. My responsibilities at my church job have increased, and I’m still teaching at home, and that all adds up to full-time, and then some. Then there’s the home shift, and, well, I don’t have deadlines for the blog, which would force me to publish.

Be that as it may — I am doing some writing for my job, so it’s not like I’ve suddenly forgotten how to string words together. But when I forced myself to sit earlier this week and write my family’s annual “year in review” — my New Year’s greeting, which I send instead of Christmas cards — I realized that, while every year has its moments, my life is mostly settled. For this I am grateful, full stop. I don’t think, however, that it makes very compelling writing, or reading.

As a writer, I know that my gift has always been not with scintillating subject matter, but with the words I choose to communicate it. That’s all well and good, assuming that there’s at least a little spark of a subject to get me going. But who wants to read — or write — about getting up, going to work, coming home, going to bed, and getting up to do it all over again? Plenty of interesting stuff happens at work, but I’m not comfortable writing about that. The kids still say funny things, but I don’t typically have the time, or the inclination, to build a column out of a quip.

I guess it’s not writer’s block. Liver’s block, perhaps, but I’m not dissatisfied with my life. Perhaps it’s mostly a time issue, combined with the sneaky suspicion that the day-to-day of my life doesn’t need to be written about so much any more.

Tim’s writing assignment

My 9-year-old just shared his journal entry — his 4th grade homework — with me. Here it is, reproduced in its entirety:

9-23-14

One Sunday like any other Sunday, I went to church. We sang a hymn, heard the opining prayer, and sat down to hear the reading. The reading was nice, and when it was done, we sang a psalm. We heard the second reading. When it was over we sang the Gospel acclamation. Then we stood for the Gospel and sat for the homily. We had communion, prayed, sang the closing hymn, and left. When we came home, I read the bouliton. It said: (I was overjoyed!) Alter Servers Wanted! I was so happy I could’ve gotten 1,000,000 bucks.

The End

Chiaroscuro

Gaza

MH17

Upheaval at work

Humidity

Finances

Climate change

General tubbiness

Dental instability

Galloping girl above my head

Birthday shopping panic

But

Fresh sheets

Practice time

Funny book

Road trip

Clean bathroom

Beautiful phrasing

Air conditioning

Good friends

Hair clips

iPod

it all balances out

 

Didn’t see that coming. Or maybe I did.

This really happened the other morning.

Timmy, on the way to camp: I want to be a priest when I grow up.
Brian: You can’t get married! You can’t have kids!
Me: Brian, hush! He knows that. Really, Timmy?
Timmy: Yeah. It’s my secondary dream job.
Me: Oh? What’s your first?
Timmy: Major league baseball. But being a priest looks interesting.

I’d say bring a ballplayer looks pretty interesting, too, but I found it really interesting that out of all career possibilities and dreams, my nearly-nine-year-old son put priest at the head of the lineup. Well, in the #2 spot.

His ten-year-old brother is ever practical, and tends to think in terms of more lucrative careers (geophysicist and pharmacist were two of his recent ideas.) He frequently talks about “When I grow up and have kids…” as well. No seminary for him.

But Timmy is a different animal. He loves people, and people love him. My husband tells me that out of all three kids, Timmy pays attention and participates the most during mass. He definitely had the best attitude of all three of my kids when they sang in my children’s choir, both during rehearsals and on Sundays.

I told him that morning in the car that he could see a bit more of what a priest does during mass, up close, if he were an altar server. He was interested in the idea, so I contacted the appropriate people at church. Later that night, I told him I’d gotten an email back, and that he could sign up for training in the fall.

“Yessssss!” he whispered.

I don’t remember what my eight-year-old self wanted to be when she grew up. Probably some sort of singer, as that was a pretty constant theme in my formative years, except for those few when I wanted to be an astronaut (high school physics and then my wooziness on the tilt-a-whirl put an end to that nonsense.) And here I am, more of a pianist and organist than a singer these days, but still singing and helping others to do the same.

I don’t know of the plans God has for Timmy, but at the very least, a tiny seed has been planted. Whether it will grow into fullness, time will tell, but in the meantime, learning to be an altar server could nourish the soil.

Maybe it’s inevitable

My eight-year-old son said to me the other day: “Haters gonna hate; skaters gonna skate; potatoes gonna potate.”

Writers gonna write. Right?

Apparently not, since it’s been more than three months since I’ve written anything more involved than a grocery list.

Most of the time, that’s okay. I’ve got a lot of other outlets in my life that keep me busy and, for the most part, satisfied. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling that once-familiar nudge. It says, go on, just sit down and write a little. Tell that story you thought was funny. Describe that struggle you’ve been having. Reflect on that event. Share yourself a bit.

It’s really true, what is said about the creative process. It’s about doing, and one has to do in order to create. If you’re a painter, or want to be a painter, you have to paint. Or, say, if you are an organist, you have to play the instrument, a lot (some more than others, ahem.) And if you’re a potato…well, you know what you have to do, and the more you do it, the easier it is, generally.

I’m finding that the opposite is also true. Not writing makes it more difficult to write.

Wait. Actually, it’s not the opposite at all: not writing makes it easier to not write.

It’s still true that there are some areas of my life that I think it’s best not to share through writing, chiefly my jobs and the inner workings of my family, save for some witty or telling comments here and there. Most of the time, work and family are all- or almost-all-consuming at this time in my life. So what is there left to explore through writing?

***

I went to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday. There was free admission, and I took my daughter and her friend for a couple of hours in the morning. We spent most of our time in the Ancient World wing, with artwork from the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Both girls ate it up. I enjoyed it, although there are only so many mummies and sarcophagi one can see, fascinating as they are. After several mummies, in particular, I started feeling a little sad, thinking about how the deceased no doubt expected to remain in their tombs and/or pass on to the next life in the way their faith traditions held to be true. None of them would have thought they’d end up in a museum thousands of years later, ogled by so many passersby.

I felt better when looking at the ancient coins, and found the exhibit on the gradual evolution of coins and monetary units to be fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by a Roman coin that dated from the lifetime of Jesus, and reflected on the biblical aphorism attributed to him, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render to God what is God’s.”

And the jewelry!  I’m not much of an accessories girl, but some of the breathtaking ornaments created by Roman goldsmiths were so intricate and beautiful, I found myself thinking, “I’d wear that.” I loved the spirals that are believed to be hair ornaments, as well as the diadems for “high coiffures” (as the explanation read.) I’d pile my hair high every day if I could wear a gold headband like one of those.

I was staring at a pair of delicate gold earrings, with the famed granulation characteristic of Roman jewelery-makers, when I thought, someone made that. Someone took the considerable time necessary to create something of beauty, and today, long after its creator was returned to the dust of the earth, that thing he made still endures, and people still find it beautiful.

***

There’s a Grook by Piet Hein called “Simply Assisting God,” which comes to mind as I reflect on the creative process:

I am a humble artist

molding my earthly clod,

adding my labor to nature’s,

simply assisting God.

 

Not that my effort is needed;

yet somehow, I understand,

my maker has willed it that I too should have

unmolded clay in my hand.

 

Maybe that explains, at least in part, why potatoes gonna potate.

 

For more Grooks — I have a book of them and I absolutely love them for their wit and wordplay — visit this page.