Right now, I’m sitting on my couch. My cat, Minden, is on my lap trying his best to stick his tongue down my throat, but I position my head so I’m just out of its gooey, raspy reach. Even though he has no teeth, except for one fang (upper left), his breath is pungent — and I start to think that, though it’s cheap, this isn’t the best way to exfoliate my skin. A layer of dead skin cells successfully removed from my chin nonetheless, he lies down on my arm as I type, purring like a lawn mower, noxious fumes and all.
I work at home a couple of days a week now. It’s great because I can finally get the solitude I need to nurture my neglected introverted self without indulging my inner hermit too, too much — since I work at the office the other three days a week. And it’s great because I can take the kids for lunch, manage my time better, and wear Lululemons even more often (whether you think they’re actual pants or not).
While I’d love to write here at Cheaty Monkey more often — in case you haven’t noticed, every post I write here is vexed with apology, guilt, regret for not blogging as much as I used to — I’ve come to see my absence from this space not as a failure but as part of my personal evolution. The urge to write here just isn’t there very often. The urge to share in this way just isn’t there. Sad, but true.
So I release you, Self-Inflicted Pressure.
These days, I find myself exploring other writing urges that require a lot of time, silence and solitude — all of which are hard to come by when you have a five- and seven-year-old, and a bizarre little Maltese who has just made me lose my train of thought.
She’s barking at a human and his dog outside. If she came face-to-face with them on the sidewalk, she’d hide between my legs, shaking, curly tail tucked straight down. She’s like an Internet troll: she’d never say it to their faces; but place a screen in front of her, and she’s fierce as a lion. Thankfully, I just discovered that if I say, “Want to go for a walk?” she’ll stop barking immediately, curl up in a ball on the couch and cower. “Canine Walkophobia.” It’s not a real condition because the animal psychiatrists haven’t discovered it yet, until right now.
I’m not sure where these new writing urges have come from, but I’m giving them time. Maybe they came from my kids, who are bursting with creativity at every turn. Just last night, before bed, the Monkey designed an “Indian Princess” gown out of my scarves and a necklace. I kid you not: this was Project Runway material. And at seven years old, she’s the Editor-in-Chief of her own magazine, Today’s Kids, which, among other things, cautions kids not to swing on chandeliers.
The Rascal bowls me over all the time with his boisterous imaginary play. Put him in a room with two little cars, and he’ll be shouting in minutes, absorbed in the most intense race the world has ever seen.
I remember one class in particular when I was a student in the Visual Arts Program at York University. It was a class that focused on alternative arts, like Found and Performance art. I thought it was the silliest class ever at the time, but it’s the one that seems to have resonated the most with me over the years. One of the assignments we had to do was a “found art” project: we were asked to put together a piece made up of found objects. I wasn’t prepared at all for the assignment, for some reason, so I said, “WTF, I’ll just put a bunch of stuff from around the studio in a pile and see what the class comes up with.”
I ran around room in my flannel button-down, tight black tank and ripped jeans, piling chairs on top of one another, adorning them with paper weights, twigs, art supplies, cups, anything that I could find — the more baffling, the better — as the class watched. I stayed perfectly silent, insisting that the building of the piece was a fundamental part of the piece itself, and I made them guess. Everyone was, indeed, baffled. “What is it?” the professor asked. “You tell me.”
So maybe that’s where I go from here. I don’t have a message, a theme, a place to start. But I have an urge to write fiction (this has surprised me too, believe me) — short fiction, to be precise, because it’s the midpoint between my two favourite literary genres, poetry and the novel. I carry this urge with me wherever I go: a burning satchel on my hip, multicoloured like the rogue hacky sack that’s taken up residence in my purse.
I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be back here. Probably in a month, because that seems to be the pattern with my “Cheaty Monkey urge.” Until then, I’ll be figuring out what this “writing short fiction urge” is about by handwriting a lot in my notebook, going back to yoga (yes!) for that integral silence and solitude, and getting inspired by my kids’ awesome creative bursts, my odd dog and toothless cat. And of course, I’ll be writing up a storm at Todaysparent.com, and sharing little sparks and photos on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.