Tuesday morning was the first time I left a twenty foot radius from my infant’s side. She’s still reticent to accept a bottle after a week of coaxing, but it was time for me to get back to teaching my Playwriting class. I had to convince myself that she would survive the two hours away from her primary food source while in the care of her doting dad. So, I borrowed Joe’s car and headed to the university, listening to NPR for the first time in over a month. A soldier was talking about the blog he kept in Afghanistan. He said that the Army offers medicine for depression, sleeplessness and anxiety, but that he found writing to be better than any drug.
Then, bam. I was rear-ended just a block from the university. Since this was the first time I was outside of the twenty-foot-from-infant radius, it was also the first time I had been in a car without her since she was born. My mind raced from oh my god I can’t believe that just happened to what if she were in the car with me? Would she be hurt? And what if this had happened, and she were in the car, and it was that first day or two of parenting when I kept buckling her legs through the arm straps? What then? Or what if this accident were worse, and something happened to me, and she can’t drink from a bottle?
Jennifer Gandin Le
Natalie Goldberg’s most recent book, Old Friend from Far Away, came out in 2007, but I didn’t discover it until earlier this year, when I had the privilege of hearing her at an Austin synagogue. This book is focused on the practice of writing memoir, and is as rich as all of her other books on writing.
One chapter is titled “Practice Notebook.” In it, she suggests keeping a small separate notebook where you write a brief note about your practice every single day. You write down the date, whether or not you practiced, and any other short notes about the day’s practice. The idea is to be aware of your writing practice, rather than feel ashamed or derailed by the days that you don’t write. It’s all part of the practice. She says, “This act of noting makes your writing–or not writing–conscious. It plants a seed; you stay connected.”
I’m now keeping a practice notebook for my writing, and, indeed, I feel the ways that this kind observing of myself has started to transform the evil, self-judgmental voices in my head that crop up when I skip a day.
This style of radical self-acceptance and awareness is useful beyond writing practice, too. I’m using it to observe myself around other habits that I’d like to change, and it’s such a relief to see the habits clearly written on the page, rather than seeping like mist through the dangerous regions of my mind.
What places in your life could use this kind of loving, non-judgmental attention?
Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.