The Thousand Things

JordanMothers and Writing, Musings

red toes

From the archives. This post originally ran June, 2011–but it feels right for now.

On the phone with a writing client today I say, “It’s a crazy week,” and he laughs knowingly.

“It’s always a crazy week,” he says. I can’t read his tone. Is he chastising me? It does seem that I say this to him each week during our standing appointment. Is this his impression of the person he’s hired to coach him through seeing his manuscript through to publication? “It’s always crazy, for everyone,” he amends, but somehow I still feel guilty.

The day spins out like a yo-yo flung too far and gone slack. I’ve finished several critiques and a book review on time and suddenly it’s time for the one truly luxurious part of this day, of the month: a trip to get lunch and pedicures with dear friends, if only I can get out the door–already thinking ahead to the after-pampering plans. The last time I let someone pamper me like this was the morning of my wedding, nearly 12 years ago. I am not in the habit of stopping, resting. Resting is the thing I do at night, when my body crashes against the waiting cup of my bed.

The pedicure is a blur of lovely sensations–warm water on my toes, strong hands on the tender points of my soles; a massaging chair that shimmies, making us laugh; even the act of cutting away the calluses feels good, restorative, like dead hours shaved away. And the slick red paint that I never bother to apply myself reveals ten little shiny reminders that there are feet somewhere below my head, the fort of brain matter where I am tucked away most of the day, forgetting about the hard packed earth that holds me up.

Then there is a rushed hurry to get my son on time from daycare, a burst of arms and bared teeth as he explodes toward me the moment I enter the room, and I remember that we parted this morning in frustration with each other over limit testing and not listening. I gather his towheaded sweaty boy sweetness into my arms and kiss him all over his face, tuck him into the car, stop by the store, make it home to begin dinner early so I can make it to an evening exercise class.

And somewhere between the fresh gleaming raspberries gathering an inedible dusting of sand from his sandbox, and the lasagne noodles boiling into a mass of glutinous rectangles I can’t do anything with, and speaking for 15 minutes to my producer at the radio station where I have been slogging through a book commentary I hope to record while my son peppers me with questions about the baby who was temporarily kidnapped yesterday, and remembering to drain the spinach I set in the sink, rescuing my son from the top of his play structure, making sure he doesn’t have an accident on the living room floor, calling the auto mechanic who never called me back, fielding a tantrum borne of disallowing television…a big rush of air leaves my lungs and I find myself slumping to the floor of my kitchen, broom in hand, task abandoned.

Here, the cold of the linoleum pressed against my bare calves is jarring and enlivening, a cool, hard contrast to that watery womb I soaked in earlier. I never was very good at switching channels–a child who was forced to go back and forth between her parents’ houses weekly until I was 16–I hate this zig-zagging energy of moving from one thing to another. And yet…that is how my life moves, how children move, how a freelancer’s business moves. But sometimes, in the spaces between the thousands of things, thousands of harmless and normal activities of a day, I feel as though I am a creature made of steel being asked to bend like rubber. I feel as though I will crack under the strain of constant shifting.

I wiggle my red painted toes. In a few minutes I’ll be stuffing them into tennies andheading out to an exercise class, an hour of another kind of motion, one that helps keep my disparate parts from turning into useless jelly, gives me fortitude to keep up the bustle.

But in this moment I don’t want to put on my shoes, or move off the floor, or do anything but listen to the sound of my son talking to his toys in his sandbox outside, even though I know in a moment I’ll have to run out there and pluck stickers from his socks, or brush sand off his snacks.

Right now, I am still. Right now, stillness is perfect.

JordanThe Thousand Things