Yesterday marked a discovery that changed my quarantining life. Before you get all excited, you can rule out any Earth shattering revelation. This discovery was not one that was uncovered by soul searching, digging through personal history or even scrolling through social media, leading me to recognize something in myself after reading a conventional quote.
This discovery was made in a Writer’s Digest issue dated March 2020. I picked it up to browse through while my children were momentarily working self sufficiently. Listlessly I flipped through the articles, knowing the moment I began to delve into one someone would reflexively yell out, “Mom”.
I’m not sure about your children, but mine yell out for me in accusatory tone as if my not anticipating their need for help is simply preposterous. Furthermore if I am helping the other child at that moment, their beckoning also includes an unfounded accusation that I am always ignoring one of them.
As this is happening, my brain begs my mouth to respond with an inappropriate response that almost always includes expletives. The fury permeates my body, only to be tamed by the mental reminder that I am the mom so I need to model self control. It is then that I begin tuning them out and breathing.
This is my foolproof method of always maintaining composure during quarantining. Just kidding! Sometimes I am able to do this, and sometimes not. This morning was a “not” when I preceded to lose any ounce of patience I was fiercely attempting to hold on to. My multiple requests for them to focus were met with less than substantial results. So, I lost it. The children then declared that they were no longer speaking to me. That lasted for less than five minutes.
My youngest child woke up today determined to finish his assigned work for both today and tomorrow. He is seven years old and a big believer in working smarter, not harder. His persistence is unmatched when he stands the chance to gain something he wants. Usually this has to do with candy, getting us to play a certain game or anything that helps him earn more free time. Anyhow, in less than five minutes he was speaking to me again. When his older brother gave him the stink eye he said, “What? I’m not talking to her. I just need her help.” Well if my role in this house wasn’t already clear, now it is!
I digress. The discovery. Isn’t that what you are truly wondering about? My obviously mind blowing discovery that changed my quarantining experience. Here it is!
Yesterday while perusing Writer’s Digest, I found an activity that is mindless and mindful all rolled up into one! If that doesn’t symbolize quarantine life, I don’t know what does. Open up a magazine, newspaper or any other piece of paper with words on it. Now get down with your creative self and start crossing some of those words out, leaving only what pertains to the message you yearn to convey. You get to choose what goes and what stays, much unlike your life right now.
The simple act of using a black marker to block out certain words was so gratifying. The effort of deciding what words to keep and what words to discard taxed my brain just enough. It also spurred a connection to a conference I attended with Dani Shapiro, who is a brilliant writer. One of her points to us was that writers start with nothing. Sculptors have their clay, musicians have their instruments but we start with blank pages. This exercise however gives the writer a place to start.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this exercise is observing how vastly different the meaning of the original piece is from the new creation. The traditional editing process charges the writer with the task of reading the piece and executing discerning changes while keeping the overall meaning intact. Here, there is no such responsibility.
Another reason this is a satisfying activity is because it takes little time with no continuous focus needed. It feels like the equivalent to magazine reading. You have the luxury of picking up wherever you left off without the burden of recalling too much information. During this quarantine when time to oneself is as scarce as toilet paper, these activities are gladly welcomed. It’s like finding a hidden message that is meant only for your eyes to see!
I urge you to give it a try. In a matter of an hour I created three new pieces of writing. I’m a little hesitant to share my finished pieces but I will share one anyway. I present…
By nature play
Attempting to gain knowledge
She could immerse herself
Take her inside the mind
Listening to how courage
Is an interpreter
To help make sense of thingsAn “Erasure” poem by Cara Martinisi
Stay safe everyone. Sending love out to all of you and of course sending love to Heaven….