I was picking up things in the kitchen when I heard the babysitter cry out to E about the scissors she had in her hand. They were a big pair of scissors with a blue handle, the ones I keep on top of my desk. They were going to make a helmet out of construction paper for E’s rocket, an Amazon box we had received earlier. E ignored both of us and said something like “I’m just cutting paper.” We both shouted to put them down, as she scowled at the paper but really at us. I managed to snag them out of her hand and slip them back into the glass cup with markers. She’s tall enough to reach the scissors on my standing desk, I thought.
Or maybe she grabbed them from where I had left them earlier when I cut open the box my turntable came in? The Jensen box is there, in the living room, full of the owner’s manual and the Styrofoam that cushioned the device. “I’m gonna keep this box just in case” I said out loud to the babysitter on my way back to the kitchen, but really I’m saying it to myself.
Things have been piling up in the apartment. No, not Hoarders style, but they’ve piled up. My desk sure has. Every few weeks there’s been a purge. My summer has been so busy, compounded by teacher training and editing projects. I keep picking up the mail, thumbing through it to see if any bills stand out to me, and then I put the rest on the desk. Sometimes, I’ll go through and pick out the magazines and put them in the dining room.
There are also some books, books I have purchased in the past couple of months that I tell myself are for work (editing and writing and teaching) and so they are there because I don’t know where to put them. E made some drawings in May, and after I cooed over them and shared them with friends and family who came to visit, I put them on top of the cat tower. Then I moved them to the desk when the cat knocked over her own tower. There are some receipts and some postcards on the desk. I even left a picture frame that E wanted me to buy to put the picture of her dad and her at the amusement park. It’s such a pretty frame. I can’t remember where I put the picture. This happened just a few days ago.
Last week a friend came to visit, and I cleaned up because I didn’t want her to see my mess. It’s the only way I tidy up these days. She came to Houston so we could work on some stuff for the blog we co-edit, but it was also our co-parenting summer break—hers two weeks and mine four days. For a while, we were carefree women, working during the day and going out for drinks and dancing at night. For a brief while.
She and I talked about my career transition. Soon I will start teaching public school, and she repeated the phrase I have heard again and again this summer: “the first year will be so hard.” She added, however, “be kind to yourself.” And you know what I said, Kelly? I told her, “I think I’m gonna take a break from thinking about the book this year. You know, because it’s just going to add stress.” And then I remember what you said in your last letter: “We have to give ourselves permission to write and not write.”
This summer was supposed to be the summer I got some research done, did some interviews, maybe even finished Chapter One (or Essay One?). But in January I had not foreseen that I would be in teacher training all summer, trying to balance training for a new job and transition out of my current job.
I wanted to, I really did. But wanting it isn’t enough, Kelly.
So the desk stays cluttered, as if to tell me “don’t come over, you’ll just feel worse.” As if to say, “you have so much on your mind.” Actually, pop psychology says the desk clutter is just a reflection of my brain at the moment. So maybe it’s all just bullshit in the end and I just need to throw out a bunch of stuff. I keep looking for direction in the smallest things.
I’m reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, per your recommendation. I also find myself drawn lately to articles about mothers and creativity. I want to feel I’m not the only one wrestling with questions, or that I’m not the only one who sits back and thinks, “I can’t think about the book right now.” And when I type that out, I feel like I failed myself, Kelly.
I’m trying to be kind to myself and keep the creative energy around me, even if it doesn’t mean researching for the book. Maybe I should clear out the desk even if I’m not going to write on it. Elizabeth Gilbert would like that.