Somewhere Out There

I write best when in my car.

No, I’m not one of those people you see mouth agape going eighty miles an hour applying mascara.  I’m not reading the map spread across my dashboard as I try to maintain lane (disregard the fact that ergonomic dashboards and GPS have made this point moot).  I’m not even trying to eat a sloppy sandwich as I steer with my elbows.

I have both hands securely planted on the wheel, watching both the speed- and tachometer, the radio adjusted to a safe level so as not to cause distraction.  My youngest daughter is safely secured in her five-point harness in the backseat.  My eyes are on the road and what the traffic ahead of me is doing.

Some part of my mind, however, is in the hills lit by sunlight on the horizon.  The clouds sweeping across the crest of the hill.  That part of my mind is parsing words and phrases, building them up and fine-tuning them.

the roadInto poetry.

Into a thousand different perfect prompts for this blog.

Into the character quirk I’ve been needing for Dmitri.

Into metaphors and images, symbols and signs –

all of which leave me when I sit down hours or days later at the keyboard.

There are times it’s happened in the ether just before sleep.  When the body has relaxed just enough to quell the mind’s obsessing, but not it’s creative processes.  Perfectly formed paragraphs gather and congregate.  Teasing me to remember them, knowing I won’t fight the exhaustion to lift a pen and record them in the notebook on my bedside table.

In the morning, the memory of them remains but not the perfect manuscript.

A voice to text application would probably help.  But I have such a nostalgia for and dedication to hand- and typewritten words.  I’m searching for a place to display the ancient Underwood typewriter my father’s holding for me now.  It would feel disingenuous somehow to speak my words into thin air and have them magically transform to text.  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.  Maybe I just hate to hear a playback of my recorded voice.

I’m hopelessly devoted to forming the perfect mental manuscript and promptly forgetting it when my hands touch the keyboard.  If only mental memory would transfer to sense memory in this one instance.  Just another form of writers’ block, I suppose.  Or another rationalization for not writing what I’m supposed to be.  It’s much easier to lament the perfect lost words than write the imperfect permanent ones.

So I’ll take leave of you now.  Perhaps to go for a drive.  Perhaps to build on the momentum I finally reengaged in my book yesterday.  Or maybe to go stare out the window and dream of the perfect words floating somewhere out there.

Odd is One Word for It

Last night, my husband and I watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  We were looking for a feel-good, fun film to offer some distraction and diversion.  Instead, it made me think.

The story is book-ended by Cindy and Jim’s overwhelming desire and relentless pursuit of parenthood.  Before they digest the heartbreaking news that they cannot conceive, they build the idea of the perfect boy – then pack their dreams away and bury them safely underground.

Watching the palpable yearning of these scenes, I realized the amazing gift of my own children.  I felt almost guilty that they came to me so easily; for getting so caught up in the drudgery of day to day that I fail to see the miracle that they are.  How blessed we are.

Then Cindy and Jim’s dreams of the perfect boy sprout out of the mud and they obtain instant parenthood.  Their joy at his arrival was a familiar feeling.  And that the universe rewarded such yearning was a gratifying feeling.  They truly wanted this child.

As the movie went on, however, their journey seemed to be less about Timothy and more about their own performance.  How did Cindy’s child measure up to her sister, Brenda’s?  How would Jim better his own father’s parenting skills?  Were they making the right choices?  Were they keeping him close enough?

The scene that haunts me most is their argument after Timothy’s game-winning goal for the opposing soccer team.  As per his demeanor throughout most of the film, Timothy is nonplussed by his social and sporting gaff.  He is happy simply to have participated and had fun.  Cindy and Jim, however, have an all-out fight about their parenting.  Did they hope for the wrong things for their child?  Are their own feelings of validation getting in the way of their parenting?

Yes.

In their pursuit of parenting excellence, Cindy and Jim lost sight of the most important thing – their child.

Is that not a struggle we all face as parents?

Do we use parenting as a vehicle for helping our children fulfill their true potential as human beings or to fulfill our own latent, unrealized dreams?  Do we get so wrapped in assessing and perfecting our own performance that we fail to see the perfectly imperfect little being we so longed for in front of us?  The yearning to have a child is a strong, very personal and intimate one and that child truly is a part of us; however, it’s also essential that we see their distinctiveness as well.  At some point, their needs and desires diverge from ours and our performance is simply a supporting role.

If I allow for a willing suspension of disbelief, I know that Timothy is a magical being sent to prepare Cindy and Jim for parenthood.  Indeed, soon after his short visit, they adopt a young girl.  But as Timothy departed from them, he said they had always been ready for parenthood.  Were they?  Were/are any of us?

Are we ready to subvert our own desires and needs for the care of this little one?  Will we be able to use our own experiences to teach him or her without projecting our own agenda?  Will we be able to train his or her growth without stunting it?

It’s not about us.  It’s not about the perfect child.  The idea of perfection is a box in which we cannot place our child.  Nor can we do it to ourselves as parents.

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