A Note to Readers

A few folks have asked me to re-send information about Proximity, which has been up and running since January 1.

If you’d like to subscribe to RSS feeds or email updates for this new venture, go to http://www.proximitymag.org and enter your information there. Opting in at “Words/Wanderings” does not mean that you are also opted in to Proximity – I didn’t want to make any assumptions!

While you are at ProximityMag, also check out our “Readers Write” section. We’re requesting submissions from other writers (professional or otherwise) to contribute their perspectives on Proximity themes past and present. Don’t be shy!

Thank you for reading my work and for your encouragement! Have a great day.

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LAUNCHED!

On New Year’s Day, my friends and I launched PROXIMITY MAGAZINE, a brand-new online writing project. Read our inaugural issue today at http://www.proximitymag.org.

We are three writers in three different places: a Midwestern college town, a big city in the Deep South, a rural village in South Africa.

We live in worlds divided: by oceans and mountain ranges; by state and national borders; by accents and politics; by race and by history. We live in worlds divided by real and imagined lines.

But our worlds are increasingly connected. By cables and computer screens. By trade agreements. By communities reuniting, realizing our fates are tied to what happens to our allies, our enemies, and people oceans away.

Our worlds are far apart. Our worlds are the same.

Each week, we choose a different place that exists in each of our three locations — a coffee shop, for example, or a street corner, or a family dinner table.

Over the course of one hour, we find a story. Then we share it with you. Over the course of one year, these stories will form a collective whole, illuminating the surprising ways in which our worlds are uniquely different and remarkably related.

Our inaugural issue explores the theme of HOME and serves as an introduction to each of us, our lives and our “place”.

Beginning next week, we will publish new content each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

My publishing day will be each Wednesday, but I can almost guarantee that you will be so drawn to all the writing on the site that you’ll find yourself visiting Proximity three times a week.

Thank you for your support of MY work for the past year and a half. I look forward to sharing more of it with you in this new venue.

The Power of NOW

No, I don’t mean the National Organization for Women. I mean “Now” as in “this present time.” I am learning all about living in the now these days. Having a baby does that. The meaning of this for me is two-fold:

These days, I can only do what I am doing right this second, which is to say that if I am feeding Claire I cannot also unload the dishwasher or make the bed or go running (though I can read The New Yorker and/or Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child). Having a baby sucks you in in this way; you are, for several stretches of the day, entirely engaged and indisposed, entirely at the mercy of the now.

Secondly, I’ve realized that living in the now means I’ve had to bid farewell to procrastination; if Claire is asleep or happily “playing” by herself, I’ve got to do whatever I want or need to do, and at double the speed. Procrastination used to be part of my daily routine. Now, if I allow myself that luxury, I’ll get absolutely nothing done.

At first, this drove me crazy. I wanted to multi-task the way I did in the old days; I wanted to get things out of the way. The general state of impatience and quickness that once characterized my days had turned into something much more deliberate and mundane. Before, I was always completing one task in the midst of thinking about the next, all so I could get through the things I knew I had to do in order to procrastinate for a good long time with my writing assignments. With a baby, one can only be patient, slow, and available.

Andrew has been worried about me slipping into the MomZone, a zone, that is, where my entire personality and thought life is poured into our child. As anxious as I was about the danger of losing myself prior to having Claire, I don’t feel threatened by it at all right now. Living in the Now, from moment to moment, forces me to prioritize well, to focus on those things that are most important (for myself or for Claire) and to be available – to friends, family members, and even my writing – in ways that I was too self-consumed and impatient to be before. Plus, I recognize that Claire’s absolute need for me won’t last forever, and, furthermore, that she is a great excuse for a myriad of social and professional faux pas.

For example, there are not enough Nows between now and the end of the summer to help me get all my thoughtful baby gift thank yous written; not enough Nows to serve ketchup in dining-room-table-worthy containers rather than the cold, half-used Heinz 57 bottle; not even enough Nows to put on matching shoes to go out to lunch with my husband – Just yesterday, I got home, kicked off my heels, and realized I’d gone out about town wearing one black sandal, and one brown one. So much for thinking I had it all together.

But I revel in the Nows I do have: stolen moments with my good friend Mac, the time between feedings when I can give Ivy some much-needed love, the presence of mind to pick up a freelance job (hip hip!) and complete it on time (hooray!). Most of all, I am grateful that some of my cherished Nows are not when Claire is sleeping, but when she is awake, because the power of Now truly rests in balancing two worlds well: mine, so full, exhausting and complex, and hers, as simple as the smile she shares with me.

Fueling the Rocket

This past December, when Claire was just a kick and a dream, I met with two artist mentors, Tom and Beverly Key. I was feeling pretty crummy about my pregnancy brain at the time, and nervous about my writing career as a whole, and asked them what I should do. Tom told me, simply, to “fuel the rocket.” By this, he meant to read, to find inspiration in others’ work so that when the time came for my writing to launch I would have a sort of literary reserve from which to draw.

Over the past eight weeks, I have taken Tom’s advice to heart. I have been reading like I’ve never read before, and not just children’s books – although there are some quite delightful children’s books out there – but good magazines, especially The New Yorker and Poets and Writers. I love The New Yorker because its nonfiction is so alive, so juicy, so balanced and smart. Poets and Writers, on the other hand, makes me feel I’ve still got one foot in the literary world. It also makes me feel as though I am still in school, which, in a way, I am.

In the March/April issue of Poets and Writers, the poet Mark Doty writes about veracity and memoir. Doty gives the subject a fresh glance, and it is one of the most beautifully written meditations on honesty that I’ve read. But what really touched me was a moment in the essay’s conclusion.

Doty writes about going to a children’s museum in Memphis called the Pink Palace when he was small: “The best exhibit was a tree that had somehow moved indoors. It was huge, at least to me, and dwelt behind a wall pierced with dozens of tiny doors. I could open the doors at ground level myself, and look into whatever scene lay around the roots of the tree: mushrooms, ferns, a stuffed fox. My father would have to lift me up to look into the other doors, and that is one of my best memories of him, the tenderness implicit in holding your son up into the air so he could see.”

As I have been muddling through the first several weeks of motherhood, Doty’s final sentence resonated with me. It captured – in a way I am only now beginning to discover – all that I hope to give Claire: a window through which she can see the world and interpret it for herself. But it also reminded me of my own unique purpose here as her mother. If I am expected to teach Claire new things, to revel in and reflect upon the mysteries and the beauty and the hardship of the world with her, then I must also always be learning.

At first, I wondered if it were all right to spend Claire’s feeding times reading – if she would sense that I was absorbed in something other than her sweet blue eyes – but she doesn’t seem to care. Besides, a steady diet of sound writing is as imperative to me as milk is to her, and this, I think, is the most important thing I’ve learned in the last eight weeks: good mothering means that the mother cares for herself as well as her child.

Yesterday, I went on a swimming expedition in arctic waters; today, I’m in Bengal, tracking tigers. Reading, which once felt like a leisurely, selfish indulgence, now serves a new purpose: it gives me arms with which to raise Claire up, so she can see. It’s exciting to think of all the things she and I will discover together, of the tenderness implicit in that, and how our worlds, big and small, will inform each other.

** My presence on the blog will still probably be pretty sporadic for a while, but not because I want it to be. I’m tutoring through the end of this semester which takes most of the free time I’ve got during the day, but I’ll get back into the rhythm of what Andrew calls “the old life” sometime soon. Thanks for your patience and, as always, for reading!**