"I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the house; and how good Mrs. West could have written such books and collected so many hard works, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment. Composition seems to me impossible with a head full of joints of mutton and doses of rhubarb."~Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1816

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Books from Past Lives

I am having a hard time letting go of all these books I've accumulated - the good majority from my English major - but let them go I must because we are quickly running out of space here at the "Magic Cottage," as Mom has coined it. Part of my reluctance is because Mom and Dad carefully shipped a bunch of the books here and I carefully shipped the others when I first moved away, before kids. A good several hundred dollars has been spent preserving these books for me. For what? A dear work colleague of mine told me years ago, before I had children, that I would likely give the books away eventually, as much as it would hurt, because I really wouldn't need them in my post-baby, post-college life. Did she really mean my post-thinking life?

I called the library yesterday and was half relieved to hear that no, they can't use books that are highlighted or have notes in the margins, disqualifying a good chunk of the books. The books are a motley assortment. Some date back to high school. Many are ones I didn't particularly attach to except for sentimental reasons, such as A Dance of Legislation, by Eric Redman, which we read in high school government class the semester a boy sat behind me pulling out strands of my hair. Some I have read over and over, connected with for reasons I don't now have time to analyze, Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, E. M. Forster's A Passage to India. There are books I've never read, some assigned in my college classes and some of hubby's from his college days, books I might need one day, one unlikely day when I have leisure to again read leisurely.

Another recent organizational project has been assembling my diaries and journals through the years. In that process I realized that my journals from college have either gone missing or don't exist. But, looking through my assigned texts from those years, especially from the government classes I took, my notes in the margins are a form of journalling. I didn't just summarize points, write down professors' ideas about selections from the texts, I pencilled in my own reactions to texts in the margins. My copy of Rousseau's The Basic Political Writings is thoroughly annotated in this way.

When my university alumni magazine arrives each season I quickly gobble it up, desperate to connect again to those heady days of reading and thinking. I read something in the magazine recently that alarmed me: "A new study indicates that some cognitive skills peak at the age of 22, then begin a slow decline a few years later. Timothy Salthouse, ... professor of psychology, conducted a seven-year study that indicated a decline in measures of abstract reasoning, brain speed and puzzle-solving at 27." I can't think that my lifetime analytical capability peaked at 27! Perhaps that is another reason I hold onto these books, especially the annotated ones, proof of my onetime intellect.

I didn't read much at all from when I graduated college until recently. I was too busy with growing up, becoming an adult, finding my path. Now that I am officially an adult (not that I have found my path), I'm making time again for reading. I'm hoping these new explorations in words, this new effort at thinking critically, will begin to shore up that lost part of my identity. Hopefully now I will be able to let go of some of my old books, finally.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stealing Time

These days I can't stop looking at the clock. Whether I am up early to write, the kids are finally down for their naps, or hubby has taken them out on some excursion (likely to the nearby park) to give me a little time to myself, it is always too little time. I scramble to figure out how to use the precious epoch stretching too scantily before me, guiltily knowing I should be resting at every opportunity to give this third baby chance at staying inside me as long as possible. The scarcity of my alone minutes puts such a premium on them that I become anxious and ultimately paralyzed at the prospect of actually spending them. Defeating the purpose of having minutes!

Time is crunching down on hubby too. We got in a fight this morning knowing it's Sunday and while there is so much to do - enjoy being together as a family, enjoy the beautiful day, go to Costco, plan and make dinner, and most important to us selfish parents, have the individual time we can't have during the week - there are too few hours for all of this. Yesterday hubby went for a long morning run with Toddler. Girlie and I had bought scones, and starving, I started to make eggs and put breakfast together like every morning. As the eggs slowly scrambled I became more and more fumed that although here it was Saturday, my only day "off," once again the family maintence jobs fell to me. But of course, there are no days off for moms - or dads. Hubby had woken up early most days this week so he could try to finish work before starting a new job next month. He's been trying to cram so much into his days that he desperately needed the run yesterday morning. Truly I understand and don't begrudge him his run.

But there's no person other than him from which to steal time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Family/Writing Balance

She's at my shoulder suddenly. Her hair mussed up and hanging in her face. She has just woken up and her mind slowly is coming into focus. Somehow snuggling with me on the couch helps her wake up. I actually started the snuggling habit because I needed snuggles to wake up. I don't have my tea any more, now that I'm pregnant. I need something else warm and soft to gather me together in the morning.

But I am now too busy for first-light snuggles. I have gotten up at 4:00 or 5:00 to try to start writing a book. A book! The audacity of it! When my daughter appears at my shoulder at 6:30 I am annoyed that she has interrupted me - she who depends on me to feed her, hug her, set a good mood at the start of her day. I have read that kids easily pick up on their parents' moods and adopt them as their own.

I should not be annoyed by her having woken up. My job as her mom is to greet her with a hug in the morning, like my mom did me every morning as a kid. My mom wasn't working at a computer when I first saw her. Doesn't Girlie deserve my full attention? Not merely to be squeezed in amidst my other life concerns/responsibilities/obsessions?

Truly I am desperate for some "me" time. When I was at the computer now checking email, reading blogs, I should have been doing our family budget for after the new baby comes, figuring out if we will be able to afford a Nanny one morning a week. Maybe I can actually get some time completely to myself, with no possibility for distraction.

I am wary of getting drawn into the virtual world of blogging. Why should I spend my time typing, here at this desk, when I could be talking with another person, planting those impatiens, playing with my kids, enjoying God's creation? At least, writing in my journal on the couch I am more able to look up, to ponder the deep royal red of the budding roses in our backyard.