I have to admit it (and especially for any of my students who happen to be reading this): sometimes, I just don’t finish my homework. Oh, not the wish to write. That’s a constant, daily joy, a labor I love, a daily discovery that I can’t seem to live without these days, like breath. I still take photographs every day. I’ve entered every single blog competition, save one, since I started writing this site seriously in July. And school is full in session, three weeks in, no longer a novelty, and I’m still caught up on all my grading. Somehow, I’m caught up.
No, it’s the memes that travel silently through the internet that seem to plague me. I was tagged for the five childhood memories meme over a month ago, and I’ve started to write it a dozen times. But every time I do, the memories spill between my fingers, all over the keyboard, gushing so much that I can’t keep up. And I have an adorable photograph of myself to post, one that looks so much like me now that a friend called it, “Shauna’s face on a six-year-old body.” I’ve always been exactly this. But still, I haven’t finished it. I can’t be limited to five foods. I’m always thinking of more.
Or maybe I just don’t want homework. I give myself enough.
So when I was tagged, multiple times by bloggers I love, for the latest task to circle the globe, I sort of groaned. Especially because this one felt so arbitrary: go back to your 23rd post, find the fifth line, and share it with us. Write about it. See what happens. Why 23? And why 5? Those aren’t even numbers I like, and the evenings are growing darker, earlier, and I have so little time. Maybe I could just forget it, and be a bad blogger for once.
But then I went back, out of curiosity, and found the fifth line. And I let out a little hmmmm. And knew I had to do this one:
“Oh yes, I have succumbed.”
This came from a post in early July, when summer was just bouncing forth, and I had all those months of unexpected discovery ahead of me. The sun was not setting in the sky until nearly 10 pm. And I had nothing to do, no responsibilities, except to myself, and to this blog, which I was just starting to know. I was falling in love–with food, with the long days, with writing about it, with taking photographs in my kitchen awash with light all day long. With this lovely, wondrous site, which has taken me places I would never have expected back then. And I’ve only been at it for three months. I can’t imagine where I will be next summer.
The sentence, at the time, actually referred to finally giving in and reading the latest Harry Potter book, an activity I was reluctant to do. But then I spent two days reading, curled up on the couch, turning pages quickly, pausing only to write about organic vegetables or leaving comments on other people’s blogs.
Ah, what I wouldn’t give for such indolent times these days.
My life has shifted, enormously, in the last month. I wake up early, to the unpleasant bleating of the alarm clock, which I resent immediately. That’s not a good way to start the day. I have to be scheduled instead of indolent, responsible for large clutches of people instead of only myself, sitting in a small office or pacing in front of a class instead of riding my bike and wandering the city. My free time has disappeared. My world feels smaller. And I’m sticking with the blog, because I love it so wildly, so wonderfully. As much as I love teaching (and I do; don’t doubt it), I sometimes wish, fervently, that I could make a full-time living with my writing. But these days, I feel as though I have two full-time jobs. And I’m run a little ragged.
I have to succumb.
We have such a negative image of succumbing, surrender, letting go. Somehow, we translate them as weakness, passivity, early death. But it takes enormous strength to admit when you have had enough. To accept life as it is. To breathe in and say, “I can’t do it. Life is different than I expected.” And every time I remember this, I relax my shoulders and breathe into my day, instead of disappearing into it.
I teach wonderful students, dear human beings who make me laugh and dazzle me every day. I love being with them. But it saddens me, every day, to see how they cannot accept their imperfections. All tensed up and flinching at the thought of turning in a paper not quite yet perfect. It’s one of the graces of my life to remind them to breathe, to walk them through the process and remind them to trust their own minds. But it’s also exhausting. (Remember being a teenager? All the drama and frailty, the way everything felt impossible at times? Imagine being with it all day long, then trying to teach them how to read 20th-century literature and write essays with more life than proper spelling.) And sometimes, like today, I come home just ready to collapse.
I had no choice but to succumb.
The truth of it, dear reader, is that I want to dazzle you every day. I want to make you laugh, make your stomach growl with hunger, make you feel a little more clear in your life. I want to inspire you with recipes. I want to be bombarded with comments. I want to write sentences that sing, in three-part harmonies and unexpected chord changes. I want to have three hours every day, like I did a few months ago, to wander through my thoughts and pluck out the line rising from my unconscious, the one that makes me smile and think, “Aah, that’s it.” I want to do all this justice.
But sometimes, the writing feels flat. And sometimes, life intrudes, and I just don’t have the time to write a post I like every day. In the past few weeks, I’ve stayed up too late, writing and creating links and trying to beat the midnight deadline I have created for myself to post every day. I’ve been fighting. And fighting isn’t truly strength.
So I succumb. And there will be fewer, shorter posts now. Pithy. Full of life, because they will be born out of joy, instead of any taste of obligation.
I want to cook every single night, in equal balance of healthy and moan-inducing tastes good. I want to try a new recipe every night, eat a new food every week, discover new sources of great, organic foods. And then share it all with you.
But tonight, I stood at the kitchen counter, opening a bottle of wine three minutes after I returned home, tearing off pieces of chicken from the remnants of the roasted bird I had made on Sunday. I ate leftovers out of the refrigerator. I nibbled on popcorn from Trader Joe’s. And I ate chocolate on the couch as I watched videos. Nothing smart or enduring or illuminating. Just plain entertaining. I didn’t take a single picture. I didn’t answer any of my emails. I didn’t clean the house. I’m falling backwards onto the bed soon, even though it’s early. I’m ready to sleep.
And it feels damned good.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
So, dear reader, I’ll see you here when I can. In smaller doses. Smiling and singing, still, but without the pre-conceived notions of how much motion and red dancing life I should give you from the palm of my hand. I’m just going to be here.
I’ve known this before. But with every new endeavor, I need to crack a little before I remember: slow down and breathe, my dear. This day is nearly done. Make sure you really live it.
After all, you have to crack the shell if you want the egg.