Paying Attention for What’s Next

What next? I’ve been batting this question around quite a bit, especially inspired by seasonal changes. Back-to-school activity, Monarchs frenetically flying around in migration prep, evening and morning temperature drops, these shifts into autumn prompt my own search for another gear.

‘What next?’ has recently been a question I particularly ponder about my writing. I’m ready to let go and get my memoir out into the world. While there are certainly still rewrites ahead on that, the question is, what to write about? I needed to write about my husband, our time in Bosnia, my daughter’s premature birth in Italy, struggling with his addiction, navigating Molly and myself out of the shadow of his suicide. The compulsion to tell that story got me up on the coldest of mornings, 7 days a week.

And the discipline stuck. For the past few years I religiously rose before dawn, before setting off to my day-job, rewrote, rewrote, rewrote. Now, it’s time to move on. I need to find a new story-itch and I think if I pay attention to the clamoring voices inside of me, I will. Perhaps that’s one of my best insights from years of living with insanity. Paying attention leads me to a feeling of serenity. Focused, present in a thoughtful way – that’s the state I aspire to be in as much as possible.

Writing helps me get there, especially if I do so with the expectation/hope of being read. So in a kind of letting-go exercise, I’m setting myself the challenge to come to this space each day rather than revisit old pages. If even briefly, to write — as a kind of meditation, or perchance to find my next story. It’s a start.

Back-to-School Finale

The angle of light is changing. The scent and temperature of the morning breeze is cooler, even as mid-day is still summer-sweltering. The shift of seasons has begun.

Nature’s markers will always remain my signposts to autumn. But this is my  last year of back-to-school rituals. Molly is a senior in high school. Of course next year we will launch into new ‘back-to’ routine for her college years, but this year is the last of 18 years of participation. And now, it every task feels poignant.

Molly plays sports, is in the play, in the orchestra, in the choral group. She’s busy and that means, I am too. What food, what supplies, what rides does she need? What game, show, concert is scheduled? What money must she raise? (meaning: what check do I need to write) I confess, I have never felt like I was very good at this stuff. It’s hard to be when working a full-time job and single-parenting. In years past, I sometimes have been grumpy about what was required of me. Often I have felt like a failure compared to other parents who are (bless them) gung-ho volunteers.

Molly is a different kid than I was. She’s at the liveliest table at the cafeteria, Honor Society — all that. I am proud of her and am grateful she’s not the kid sneaking out to smoke behind the bleachers. I was a good-enough student. I worked on the literary magazine and back-stage on a play or two. But I was more inclined to sit by myself with a book at lunch, maybe hang around the art room and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the school colors. I never, ever went to a school football game. And funny enough, I still feel a little bit this way as a parent — sometimes like an alien amongst the gossiping moms on the field-hockey sideline.

Yet I will miss it all.  This way of measuring time, the schedule of a school year will no longer be mine to participate in. Not as much. I will miss being part of it, there to cheer her as she runs her heart out at a game, will miss hosting the mob of teammates for the requisite pasta party at our too-small house. I will even miss the desperate, last-minute rushing to buy the right shirt she needs for a concert or shoes for some dance or other.  I will miss packing her brown bag lunch. The day-to-day stuff.

The morning I dropped Molly off at her first day of kindergarten she practically waved me out of the classroom so she could get on with comforting the less-happy classmates howling for their parents. Driving away from her elementary school that day, I was the one who wept. It felt then, that she was somehow less mine. In fact, she was. That first day of school, she blissfully launched into becoming herself.  And her bliss and joy at school, continues. I vow that in this last year, I will be better at my part in it all. It’s time to really savor the moments I get to share.


Magic of a Morning

Here’s what I love about my day-off early mornings: The light. The light.

The light. The gentle slants of sun stretching across the grass, easing in through the wavy-glass of our old-house windows, magically illuminating floating dust.

And I love my cup of tea.

And another and maybe, another again.

Through the open window, there is an almost-silence. (crickets and cicadas gently buzz)  Birds swoop by to assess the feeders and quickly spin off annoyed, I imagine, by the empty grates.

I try not to think about the rest of the day – not yet. I avoid making the mental lists of to-do: filling the empty feeder or following that fairy-dust as it creates yet another layer to be cleaned on the many neglected surfaces in my house. I push away thoughts of laundry piles or what groceries to buy, menus for the week. Not yet.

This morning, almost-autumn cool, I sit a little longer to marvel at the Monarchs hovering around the butterfly bush. I notice how the green of the hedge seems brightened by yesterday’s rain. There has been a seasonal shift and now, it’s cool enough for a sweatshirt. A sense of a fleeting inspires me to savor these moments — just as the solitude of these early mornings is sweeter for the thought of my still-sleeping loved ones.


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