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grace period, unexpected tenderness

January 23, 2012

The photo in this post is from one of the coffee shops in my neighborhood. (Sorry for the wash-out in the coffee mug; with my iPhone, I couldn’t capture both the reflection in the window *and* the color of the drink.) It still seems so strange to say, “my neighborhood.” I’ve never lived in a neighborhood before. Not really. Always rural areas with people scattered about instead of clustered.

And now? I live not only in a neighborhood, but in an urban neighborhood. I’m loving it. It’s been almost six months. Can you believe it? I love having everything within walking distance, including half a dozen or so poetry readings/open mics each month. I love seeing people out and about. I love the park. I love being near the state museum and the capitol. And the river and its bridges just beyond.


I got in 30 minutes of exercise tonight. It’s the first time I’ve set aside an official time and followed through. I used to say that I wanted to learn to write from my body, having such extreme doubts about it, having experienced some really messed up shit. But you know what? When I was writing most prolifically, I was exercising at an intense level several times a week. There’s something in that. Maybe I was writing from the body all along. It’s clear with my back issues that my body holds onto stress and difficulty (that’s true for lots of people). Maybe I can’t access it like I want to unless I’m moving. Moving. Moving. Moving.


Every Monday evening, they haul the garbage cans out to the sidewalk. Their wheels rumble by my window, thunder that for a moment drowns out the sound of snow and ice dripping off the roof as it melts. Winter’s been easier for everyone this year, but we hold our breath waiting for the deep freeze that must come or the snow that will surely pile up. Neither stands a chance this week, though, and we enjoy more days of mild temperatures. Another grace period. Such unexpected tenderness.


Moving. I’ve always been a restless person. Now? I feel settled. And it’s so strange. Things are very difficult, but I’ve made a space for myself. I’ve protected and enhanced a connection with my kids. As goofy as it sounds, I’m living authentically. That sounds like such crap. Except that it’s true. My life with my husband was a lie. We did not love. We hadn’t for a long while. I was very much alone. We were pretending. We were playing roles. I don’t have to do that anymore.

And so that part of me, the searching part, the longing part, is quiet. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel the need to run. I feel safe. That’s good, of course, but I think I got a lot of energy for my work from the part of me that needed to leave.


So I’ve been going to the coffee shop a couple times a week in an attempt to re-establish my writing routine. My old writing life was built on marathon sessions in the middle of the night. On top of that, I had these great, inspiring writing dates with friends. But the backbone of my writing took place during the wee hours. I could sleep in to recharge. I exercised during the day and in the evening to give me energy.

Life is different now. I work full-time. I have my kids solo three or four nights a week. I’m tired by 9 o’clock at night and nearly worthless by 10:30 — the time I used to just get going. I’m lucky if I can find enough energy in my day to write for 15 minutes. I find it hard to sustain any creative momentum.

I’ve done a lot of whining about it here at the blog and also among friends. A couple weeks ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for a 6-week session with a writing/accountability coach of sorts. Here’s the latest: The new writing routine isn’t going to look like the old one. Let it go. What can the new one look like? What steps can you take to make your writing life, your new one, productive and satisfying?


Though you can’t prove it by the weather, it is mid-winter. Change is difficult. Starting over is exhausting. It’s why so many people never attempt it.

  1. January 23, 2012 9:35 pm

    You sound happy, like you are already finding new routines and keeping those things close to you that are most important. That question from your writing coach is a good one…many of us need that advice.

    • January 23, 2012 9:43 pm

      hi, donna! it’s an interesting dynamic. i am happy. but i’m also working very hard at it, which frustrates me. or maybe it just feels like i’m working hard because it’s all so new. who knows!? maybe i’m using my creativity to build this brand new thing. πŸ™‚

  2. January 24, 2012 3:45 pm

    More than anything else, it sounds like you know what you need, and that is a powerful force to move forward. And as a fellow evening-coffeeshop-writer, I say yea to that routine. πŸ˜‰

    • January 24, 2012 9:25 pm

      joseph, that’s great news that you also write in the evening at coffeeshops. i was prejudging them as not *really* times when people write. isn’t it funny all the objections we come up with?

      • January 25, 2012 4:13 pm

        My weekdays consist of working 9 to 5:30, and I am not by any means an early morning person… evenings it is!

  3. January 24, 2012 11:46 pm

    Love, love & more. Love. Body, motion, new practice, urban … and of course, YOU!

  4. January 27, 2012 7:55 am

    I have read anything and everything you write on your blog. Have watched and listened as you share you with us. Have always felt you are a special person. Courageous, certainly, even if you don’t feel so.

    You have a lot of friends out here in cyberland who would love to be in that coffee shop with you [we’d be a fun and crazy group :-)]. New lives happen. We’re here with you at the beginning of several.

    There is no wrong time to write, is there? I figure it’s a 24 hour thing that gets sandwiched in and threaded through the things we must do and are expected to do to get along.

    To coffee shops, poetry, and Carolee πŸ™‚


    • January 28, 2012 8:29 pm

      dear margo — thank you so much. “new lives happen” is a close cousin to the more famous phrase: “shit happens.” but i like it!!

  5. January 28, 2012 8:00 pm

    I used to be a night-writer, too, but lately I’ve been bleary-brained by 10:30pm or earlier as well. Completely useless. But I just found out I’m anemic & started on iron pills, & I have to say, I’m feeling so much more energetic & alert. So forgive me if I remind you to be taking care of your more elemental needs as well! xo

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