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For a long time after Hannah was born, I didn’t write. Anything.
I didn’t want to write. I didn’t know what to write about even if I did want to write. I didn’t have time to write. I was too tired to write.
I didn’t read anything either. From the beginning of February to the beginning of June, I read maybe two books. Usually, I read a book a week. But I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t have time.
I didn’t know how to make time. Being a full-time mother was just so all-consuming. I didn’t really know how to deal with the identity change. I didn’t know how to deal with what felt like a severe loss of myself.
I don’t blame Hannah for this. I just couldn’t adjust. I didn’t know how to go from being “mother of a dead baby” to “mother of a living baby.” I didn’t know how I was going to survive worrying constantly about this tiny, precious, perfect creature that had come into our lives. I didn’t know anything at all.
And then I began to accept that even if I didn’t know how, I had to do it anyway.
I have never been a person who loves babies. I didn’t hate them, and I didn’t necessarily feel awkward around them – I just didn’t like them much. Especially young babies. The babies that do nothing but eat and poop and sleep. I didn’t get the big deal about them. And, of course, everyone said that would change when I had one of my own.
Well, yes and no.
I love my daughter immensely. She’s pretty awesome, and yes, even adorable at times. But . . . the older she gets, the happier I am. The more I like her. The easier it is to deal with her. Even when it isn’t actually easier to deal with her, if that makes any sense. She was okay as a one-month old infant. As a nine-month old baby, she’s a lot more okay. And while I sometimes think about how tiny and helpless and precious she was seven, eight, even nine months ago, I don’t want to go back to that. I don’t really want to do the newborn thing again.
I love my baby, but that doesn’t mean I love babies. It took a while for me to admit that, because I felt guilty about it. I mean, babies are great, and I’m happy for all the people I know this year who have had beautiful, healthy babies, because that’s awesome. But babies aren’t easy for me, and that’s just something I’ve come to accept.
About six weeks ago, I started reading in earnest again, and I started thinking about how much I missed writing. But this is still the first real writing I’ve done since then. I’m out of practice. But I was starting to miss it more than ever. It’s not something I want to let go of. I probably won’t have time to write every day – Hannah the nine-month old is still as much of a handful as Hannah the one-month old. But I know that if I don’t do something now, the longer it will take me to do something later.
And I’d like to get a little practice in before November and Nanowrimo come ’round again.
So it’s time to face the wall and work on getting to the other side. This is where I’m starting.
If 2011 had a word, it was change. If 2012 had a word, it was healing. If 2013 had a word, it was hope.
2014 does have a word, and it is patience.
The One Little Word project is not my idea, and it’s been around much longer than when I first discovered it late last year. At its core, it’s a journaling project, incorporating some scrapbooking and photography elements. The main thing is reflecting on your word and bringing it into your daily life. And this year, I want to be more conscious about being patient in all facets of my life.
This will, I think, be a year that will require patience, mostly with myself as I adjust to this new life of active motherhood, but also with Hannah and Geordie and with family far and near. And beyond just my relationships with people: I’m hoping for patience with my writing (including this blog!), with challenges in the kitchen, with expectations of the future. I want to be patient and not rush things – I want to enjoy Hannah’s babyhood and be present in her life. At the same time, I know I’ll be balancing my joy at finally having her here with us against the grief over Lauren that still remains and will always remain. I want to be patient with our future; whether we will be staying in San Antonio or pursuing adventures elsewhere, I want to relax and enjoy the small things as well as the big things.
I want to welcome patience into my life, along with its companion words: calmness, peace, compassion, kindness, composure, and poise. This is what I want for 2014: to take things as they come, to greet them without fighting them, and to treat people with the grace and gentility that I would hope for in return.
To be as calm and serene on the inside as I try to be on the outside.
Two years ago, the earth shook in Japan and changed many lives forever. Geordie and I were lucky in that we lived far enough away from the epicenter of the Tohoku Earthquake to suffer too much damage. I wrote about the actual earthquake more than a year ago, and I keep meaning to finish writing about that day and the one that followed. Well, here’s a bit more of the story. Not all of it – it’s a bit too long to post all at once. I’ll write what I can manage now and try to write more later. Hopefully, the next installment won’t take another year to get done.
If you haven’t already, you should probably read the Earthquake (I) first.
Though the worst of the earthquake was over, the aftershocks came steadily. I never really felt balanced the rest of that day. I put on my work clothes as quickly as I could, and I left to go to Loc City, the mall where my branch of Nova was located. I had no idea what to expect on the 10-minute walk. I tried calling Geordie again, and that got me nowhere. I wondered how big the earthquake had been, where it had originated. I had lived through weather-related natural disasters before, but nothing had prepared me for an earthquake like this.
My walk to work was usually a quiet one, but it was especially so that afternoon. Cars were still on the roads, but there were very few of them, and they went slowly. I too went slowly – the ground still moved uneasily. And at one point, I passed a car dealership that had lost a panel of glass during the quake; it had shattered all over the sidewalk. Just beyond that was a liquor store that smelled strongly of alcohol. Likewise, the 7-11 was a mess, and the three workers inside looked at a loss for what to do as the aftershocks kept coming.
A street behind the businesses ran parallel to the main road, and it had mostly houses along it, all eerily quiet. I saw only two women, neighbors, who stood clinging to the supports of their carports, calling to each other. I walked by them – there was a gap between two buildings where you could see the houses – just as a large aftershock hit. They both shrieked and held on; I had to read out and steady myself on another carport. It took nearly a minute for that aftershock to pass. One of the ladies saw me and shouted at me to be careful; I said thank you and moved on.
Loc City has a large parking lot that covers three sides of the mall. There were cars parked on the side I always used to enter the mall, and there was also a handful of people sitting a good distance away from the building. They looked like store employees. Since Nova was on the opposite side of the mall, I decided to walk around to it and see what was happening there. There were cars on that side too, and a lot more people. Most of them were sitting at the far end of the parking lot, as far away from the mall building as possible. I started walking in that direction, and it didn’t take me long to pick out my manager in the crowd, sitting on a parking bumper and looking forlornly at her phone. She looked almost relieved to see me.
Unfortunately, she knew as much (or, rather, as little) as I did. Loc City had been evacuated during the earthquake, and nobody could go back in until it was declared safe. She didn’t think it would be any time soon because of the near-continuous aftershocks. The worst for her was that she couldn’t get in contact with any of the branch’s higher-ups, and considering she’d only been working at Nova for about five months, she had no idea what to do. So we did the only thing we could do: we waited.
About thirty minutes later, we were allowed back into the mall – employees only, of course. Not that there were any customers hanging around; I’m sure they did what all sane people would do and get themselves home immediately to find out what happened. The mall had held together pretty well: a few broken glass panels and some toppled-over displays were the worst I saw. Nova sustained little damage, but then we occupied a pretty small corner of the mall and had nothing much to make a mess of. The power was on, which was the most important thing. I logged onto the computer to find out what had happened, while the manager attacked the phone and started calling whoever she thought might be able to tell her what to do.
By this time, the tsunami warnings had been issued, and I tried to wrap my head around how strong this earthquake had actually been. It was nothing I could have imagined. Even worse, I knew Geordie was both closer to the earthquake epicenter and closer to the coast, and so must have had a worse experience than I’d had. Somehow, he’d been able to post to Facebook that he was okay, and I had the feeling that was the only thing I was going to hear from him for a while. I did the same, knowing that our families back in the States would be waking up to the news and need some reassurances.
An announcement from Loc City came over the speakers, which the manager translated for me: the mall was not going to re-open and it would be closing even to employees at dusk. The manager still hadn’t made contact with her boss, so to kill time, she settled in to start calling students to tell them that classes had been canceled. She told me I could go home, but I wasn’t in any hurry to do so, so I told her I’d stay with her a little while longer. Again, she seemed a little relieved.
All the while, the aftershocks kept coming, some of them fairly strong. About 4:30pm, another announcement was made: Loc City was closing at once, right now. We had no choice but to leave. I still hadn’t got hold of Geordie, and I had no idea if he was on his way or was stuck in Hitachi or what. I told the manager I’d walk to the station with her; I was curious to see what was going on there.
As it turned out, nothing was happening. The trains were shut down indefinitely. Neither the manager nor myself were that surprised. Much of the Tsukuba Express is elevated, while most of the rest of it travels underground. While it would have been nice to find them running, I can only imagine how dangerous it would have been. The local line was also stopped. The station was in the throes of controlled chaos. Nobody seemed to know what to do. Buses were still running, but the lines for them stretched longer than they’d ever been. At least thirty people were standing in line at the taxi pick-up, even though there were no taxis to be seen at all. Across the street, Moriya’s only hotel had a line out the door.
“What are you going to do?” I asked the manager.
She took a deep breath and said, “I will try to call my boyfriend. He is in Kashiwa.” She normally took the train to work, just two stops on the Tsukuba Express. Not so far, but now it seemed like a long way away. Still, he was closer than Geordie was. And he had a car. If she got hold of him, he could come and pick her up.
“That’s good,” I said. “I’ll go home too. I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Okay,” she replied. We waved goodbye, and that was the last time I saw her.
I don’t mean that in an ominous way. I heard nothing from Nova over the weekend, so Geordie and I walked by Loc City on Monday. It was closed. Tuesday was supposed to be my final day teaching, the only day of work at Nova that I had actually looked forward to. There were a lot of students I hadn’t been able to say a proper goodbye to. Loc City was open on Tuesday, but Nova was not. Even though I had come to hate my job at Nova, there were still many students I enjoyed teaching and talking to, and I wish I’d had one more opportunity to tell them so. It was not how I wanted to leave the company, but there was nothing I could do about it.
(to be continued)