Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Having written

A week ago, I was planning a blog post in my head as I moved through the afternoon routine with the kids. And then I left B.A. alone in the living room with a full pitcher of milk and my laptop.

So thank you to the wonderful L.L. who has loaned me her laptop for a bit. It's a rare friend indeed who will commiserate over a carelessly destroyed computer and then say, "Hey, would you like to borrow mine?"


The biggest surprise of my computer-less week was not how slowly Facebook loads on my smartphone. It was how much I ached to write, how much the daily events of my life seemed to be demanding to be typed up and mulled over.

Like everything else in that I commit to, blogging often feels like homework. I have decided to try to write once a week, and so every week I feel like I should write, like I am supposed to write. And once the post is up, I feel a sense of achievement. To paraphrase the variously-attributed famous quote, I love having blogged.

So I was surprised to find that I really missed writing, that I felt the need to write. And so I texted L.L: "Think I would like to borrow the laptop after all."


I recently heard a podcast where the host made an offhand comment about the "mommyblogging" phenomenon that gave me whiplash. She said something about how the so-called mommybloggers are frustrated writers who channel their desire to write into blogging about their children. This woman is herself a parent and writes for a living as a journalist. She said this without any apparent intention to condescend.

And maybe that does describe some bloggers. But it's so different from my experience that it was like she was speaking a different language.

I never thought about writing until I was four years into parenting. It's a funny thing, because writing is women's work in my family. My mother is a poet. My aunt is an author. My grandmother wrote for television. And one of my great-grandmothers is said to have written verse  in Yiddish. I started keeping a diary when I was nine, and kept writing these private books for the next decade.

My journals weren't particularly self-reflective. They were books of stories. Stories about being a teenager, dressing up in vintage dresses and roaming around downtown Tucson, waiting for something to happen. About going out to hear live bands and thrilling from encounters with the musicians in the small clubs. About boys. About fighting with my parents and trying to dodge my little sister. About discovering the rituals and codes of orthodoxy and visiting Israel for the first time. About moving to Manhattan by myself and discovering what adulthood might involve. About choosing my clothes carefully to go to a human rights demonstration, hoping to meet interesting men. About falling in love with the man I chatted with at the rally, and marrying him.

I don't know why I stopped writing the journals. It seemed like such a peripheral part of myself, I guess--an afterthought. One day I just didn't write, and 10 years passed.


Before I became a mother, I had everything figured out. I lived in Manhattan and planned to go back to Jerusalem with my husband. I had spent a number of years working on myself--on my issues, on my relationship with God and other people. I felt a certain flow and harmony in my life. I felt clear-headed and stable and smart. Pregnant with twins and looking toward this huge life change, I felt ready.


I've probably written about this before. Here I go again. When my daughters were little, I used to hear people say that parenting is the "hardest job." I rolled my eyes, sure that they were just saying this to assuage the awkwardness of my admission that I don't work outside the home.

The hardest job? Surely being a surgeon is harder. Or a political analyst. Or any number of careers. Look, I personally find it impossible to contemplate a job in addition to homemaking and have the luxury of doing so. That doesn't make parenting rocket science.

But as my little kids get bigger, I see what is so hard about this enterprise. It requires everything of me--all my patience, all my intelligence, all my creativity, all my ability to sacrifice, all my empathy. And then it asks for more. And then the day ends and the process begins again.

I'm glad I started out my parenting career with a baseline of wellness and inner peace. But I don't feel that peace and wellness and consistently these days. Rather, I feel constantly challenged by parenting, like I'm on a spiritual treadmill that never turns off. And that sounds kind of awful, but it is often amazing.

And the experience of writing about parenting in this space? It makes the narrative of my life as a parent so much clearer. Writing keeps me focused on what I am doing here, as I wrote about in my first post. It turns out that blogging is the best reminder.


In retrospect, I think those young-woman journals were my attempt to understand my life through chronicling it. The blog has that dimension, but it also has the amazing aspect of reaching other people. I love getting feedback and encouragement, and hearing how you guys are processing and growing with the same ideas I'm struggling with.

I am not glad that B.A. wrecked my laptop. I'm not there. But I am happy that being without a computer allowed me to reflect on why I do this, and how enriched my life is as a result


Espresso Aroch said...

Sounds to me like you are just where you should be: reflecting, feeling enriched, sharing with us and moving on.

I don't think being actually glad about the laptop being wrecked has to fit in there. It sounds like you accepted it and dealt with it. That's pretty high. You're doing the work.

I really appreciate everything you share and do definitely feel enriched by it all.

Thanks. said...

loved this, chaya. Keep writing, please (and thank you LL for enabling it...)

Anonymous said...

One of your best posts yet. I'll try to fix the laptop when I get home!

Anonymous said...

This and the previous comment are from Chaya's husband. My smart phone isn't so smart.

pamela opper said...

From poet mom. What is interesting, is that all that is required to parent as our children grow older continues. It becomes more complex as they enter into relationships, have children of their own and lives of their own. It still requires the patience, creativity, empathy and WORK you describe. And when our hard work results in having the daughters I continue to be enchanted and humbled by, it is all worth it.

sina @ the kosher spoon said...

chaya, i finish every post with: "i relate to her so much, I could have written this myself." except you write beautifully.

i recently bought a journal to start writing again, 1 entry in the past 2 months...thanks for the reminder that I need to push myself.

and my daughter spilled water on my laptop 2 years ago. I cried. I really feel your pain.

Chaya said...

Thanks Sina. That's such a great feeling when you read something and relate to it, and it's even better to hear that someone else feels that way about my writing! Good luck with the journal.

Chaya said...

Mom, I'm glad it's worth it! It's hard to see the big picture right now.

Chaya said...

Thanks, Espresso.

Beth Newman said...

Beyond the compliments to your beautiful words, per the above "i'm not there" - get there. I had the opportunity this week to 'get there' because Hashem 'blessed' me with a perfect storm of root canal, ear infection and concussion this week. I was instructed to disconnect with every distraction, from the food I normally 'chew' to the TV I watch, the internet that keeps me awake and the sleep I never get. Doctor called it 'cognitive resting'. From this blessing I emptied my own thoughts, dreams and stomach and awakened again to me. If not for the maelstrom of events, I would have continued the 'normal' days of the week of regret and wonder of how to replenish my soul and body.
Baruch Hashem to B.A. for being a messenger to Mommy to reconnect to her own inspiration so as to inspire us with words so easily fluent from her soul. And to give you permission to accept the gifts of friends who can now be a part of your rejuvenated ruach and ratzon.

Chaya said...

Wow, Beth, way to go. And refuah shleimah!

gimmetorah said...

You said this so well! I was an avid journal-keeper until I got married, then it tapered off. Then I had kids and it tapered off some more. But I found that I missed the continuity of having a journal, of being able to to track my progress. Somehow, I feel like all of the "mundane" challenges grow to have meaning when I fit them into my journal or blog. I'm so glad you find meaning in it, too, because I get such strength from what you write. :)

Ds said...

Chaya, why did you stop?

Chaya said...

Just a hiatus. Hopefully back to posting soon.

Leah said...

Chaya, you are an inspiration...always have been. Miss you muchly.

Elana K said...

I've just discovered your blog and relate to so many posts. I have always loved to write and when I had one baby, started a blog (maybe I am a "frustrated writer" but I don't care). Since I had my second baby 5 months ago, have only written one post. And I really miss it. Maybe when my kids grow up a little I'll have more time. Until then, I'll continue writing blog entries in my head as I fall asleep :-)

Beautiful writing.

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