I’ve had one of those rare, kind of awful weeks when I haven’t written a word. Actually, I’ve written plenty of words — words for company blogs and for e-newsletters — and I very much need and appreciate that paying work. I’ve also written in my journal. But I haven’t written or revised any creative work this week, and that is a first in a very long time.
I want to tick off all of the usual “busy” or “stress” excuses — the freelance projects piled up this week, and all of them demanded attention. My husband was away on a consulting job in Chicago, and I had to keep the home fires burning on my own (come to think of it, I really wish I had a home fire, our house has no fireplace). An old friend from England paid a visit, and I spent most of one day with her. We drove around looking at the autumn leaves, stopped at a restaurant for lunch, sat outside the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square and talked about life.
And one night I had one of those bad nightmares, the kind where you are sure you’re dreaming, but you can’t wake up. In this case I saw strange things in each room of my house — a fax machine was spitting endless papers out onto the floor in my living room, where in reality I have no fax machine; two large, black motorcycles were parked in the middle of the kitchen; I think there were dark cobwebs or curtains in another room; and a voice was telling me that I was being audited. My husband came downstairs, in the dream, and I walked him through the rooms saying, “do you see this? do you see those?” and he kept saying no, those things weren’t there, and I thought this must be what it is like to go crazy, to not be able to escape the things you know aren’t there. Then I figured it must be a dream so I tried to scream so someone would wake me up, but no sound came out.
So, maybe I had a few things on my mind this week.
But as I think about the not writing thing, I wonder if there is something else at play. I drive myself pretty hard in most aspects of my life, including creative work, and I wonder if you have to give yourself a break sometimes, even from writing. I know this flies in the face of the “sit down every day and write” method that so many writers live by or aspire to. But…there are a lot of aspects to writing, and sometimes I think you have to take time to recharge, even if your mind is, meanwhile, involved in a hundred other things.
So what happened while I found myself avoiding the keyboard?
A feral cat I’ve been taking care of for a long time has started, slowly, to experiment with coming into my house. The first time he came in for just a second and ran back out again. The second time he stayed in for a couple of minutes. Now he will stay in for up to an hour, but he always wants to know exactly where I am so that he feels secure. I’m hoping that by the time the weather gets really cold, he’ll spend the cold nights indoors for the first time in his life.
Seeing Sue, my English friend, was much more than just a day lost to work. When she walked in the door I started talking to her as if we’d seen each other the day before, even though we met more than twenty years ago and haven’t seen each other in six years. Sue has a PhD in public health and is a researcher at the University of Liverpool. She turned 50 this year, and stopped in Boston on her way to New Mexico, where she’s going to take a five-day horseback riding tour.
One night I lay in bed reading “Anna Karenina” on my new Kindle until 12:30 a.m.
Last night I taught my fourth class on “Writing the Personal Essay” at the Lexington Community Education program. I arrived an hour early and my classroom was locked, so I wandered around until I found the high school cafeteria. I bought a package of “Baked Lays” out of a vending machine for a dollar, and sat down at a table and wrote a journal entry while I waited for my classroom to be unlocked. While I sat there, some high school kids came in to meet each other, one by one, and by the time I left they were laughing and racing around the tables chasing each other. They looked happy.
Last night it was cold, the sky was clear, and the moon was full. I stood outside of my front door and looked up for a while, and watched the blinking lights of airplanes in the distance as they flew over on their way to who-knows-where.
I guess I went from nightmares to night skies this week. Maybe it will all be OK in the end.