I’ve become more than a little bit obsessed with HabitRPG. So much so that adding a To Do to write a blog means that I am here, writing it. Is that meta? I don’t know. There’s something about things that are meta that make me as irritable as hipsters chattering in my favorite coffee house. Probably because they both leave me feeling like I’m fourteen again and a little slow on the uptake (I was too busy worrying about what my mother made me wear that day and hoping I didn’t have food caught in my braces).
Remind me to tell you the story about the time in our sex education class when we all had to swish and spit into Dixie cups*.
Like most writers I know, I am an extremely skillful time waster. And like most writers I know, I lament this fact even as I’m collecting images of period gowns for an inspirational Pinboard on my latest project, perfecting my cold brew for the smoothest cup of iced coffee to accompany my morning writing, or “networking” on Twitter by fangirling about Doctor Who and retweeting Feminist Hulk. So anytime I’ve been able to incentivise getting shit done, especially when it comes to writing, I do it. It used to be a solid hour of writing meant a little gaming, but now that I have a baby who monopolizes most of my higher brain functions when she’s awake and contributes an alarming amount to the dishes and laundry, there is no time for games. Which is why my achievement whoring heart loves HabitRPG so very much. I can collect experience points and gold for outlining a chapter? Washing a load of diapers? Writing a blog post? DONE.
But in all seriousness, it’s really, really cool, and sincerely helpful in prioritizing exactly how you’re going to waste time, if you must waste it, and how you’re going to be productive. Sword-wielding, armor-wearing, wolfhound at your heels productive.
*Our gym teacher dumped everything into a glass pitcher so everyone could see what our water and saliva looked like all mixed up together, which is, I suppose, exactly what it would have been like if we’d all slept with the same undeserving eighth grade boy? A real gem of a girl pointed out the floaters and informed everyone of how they must’ve been mine, even though I brushed every day after lunch.
I made a promise and while I’m not always good at keeping them unless blood or marriage or money are involved, this one I’d like to. I said that when I’d finished editing I’d write about something else, and that something else is the life I’d like to have now. Or the life I’d like to have until I begin working in earnest on the second novel, which won’t happen until I’ve read everything ever on the business of publishing.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ll be making pesto from the basil in my garden. I’ll croon to green bean buds curved and pale as festuses beneath womb-veined leaves. I’ll slather Mod Podge on bottle caps and balsa wood and anything that dares to reveal a blank and boring surface in want of a bird. Friends I haven’t seen I’ll see again, games I haven’t played I’ll play again, favorite books will be thumbed and loved and read over for all the very same reasons and new ones, besides.
And in good time I hope to see fruits of a literary kind. I might still be thrilling from having finished, really finished, with a novel that no longer feels like a draft to me, but I hope my hope isn’t only that. But now I’m talking about writing again when what I really ought to be doing is planning and dreaming and growing. Though not, I hope, my hips. With time enough now to be a warrior of another kind, I’d like to lose the eight pounds I’ve been wanting to all year. Priorities, right?
Years ago when M and I painted the living room of the house that wasn’t yet half mine, we pushed all of the furniture into the middle of the room and crab-walked the perimeter, brushes and rollers stiff as sore limbs and caked with pumpkin-colored paint. We queued episode after episode of Star Trek: Voyager and Tuvok’s stoic acceptance of the vagaries of children’s tempers helped me to control mine. House projects are something I have accepted with reluctance, and perhaps only because of my love for a man who is convinced that if he doesn’t know how to do something, he’d rather learn than pay someone else.
So it was that when we agreed to begin tearing up the kitchen floor, I indulged in a little TNG and sliced up some watermelon. Stealing bites between peeling tiles, unable to hear over the roar of the heat gun but having seen enough to know just what Wesley Crusher was prattling on about, I found comfort in being part of a crew of two. We’re always doing or dreaming big, and for all it might seem that our projects are for the someday that hasn’t happened yet, I know these are the memories the rest of our lives are going to be built on. I think our kids might be as inclined to groan as I have been, but I’ll share with them my secrets: suck on cold fruit, escape into utopian fiction, trace the patterns of paint and stain and grit on the same pair of old work pants, remembering where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Work together. Be a family.
Or maybe because he’s their Daddy they won’t be so buggered.
Joyful things are sweet and small today. Filling wide-mouthed jars with coffee brewed double-strength; the grounds slopped into the compost and joined by lemon rinds and the heads of strawberries, their leaves like bad haircuts. I boiled water for tea, mint whose saw-toothed leaves left a scent on my fingers more lasting than any cut. When the tea had steeped and cooled I washed my hair and poured it on my head, balanced over the sink, watching the beads of water drip-drop from curls as loose and slim as cursive handwriting.
Capturing my cat in photographs of a clean house, folding his hairs already into freshly laundered towels and t-shirts and socks bundled mate to mate. They’re easier to find this way, one wrapped snug in the other, paired.
The rumble of uneven wheels on pavement when M and I take the recycling and the garbage out, when we linger in twilight and track the progress of a single lightning bug between our yard and the neighbors’. We could see one star, too, like a chip of quartz in field stone, but it wasn’t a wishing star. Just then I hadn’t anything to wish for.
There is a vintage postcard I like, one I’ve intended to frame since I first laid eyes upon it, that says, “In the spring, we are getting busy in the garden.” This is exactly what M and I did today, without the dirty subtlety that makes me giggle. After we discovered that the cherry tree that grew beside the patio was diseased – when M leaned against it and heard the sickening crack of roots breaking – we visited the greenhouse and bought a Royal Raindrops crabapple. We likely won’t ever see the tree at its loveliest, the shadow cast like a projection, weak and fine as a skeletal leaf.
In uprooting what was old and rotted we found granite boulders and bulbs buried too shallow last autumn, ugly as old onions rolled into the depths of the pantry, like bald heads or shaved testicles. M was digging. I was pruning. The irony that I must cut into live wood to know if it is live, to recognize in the minty stripe of health another season survived, or read in the rings of dry wood a finite promise that doesn’t seem to me to belong to any tree. I’ve always imagined them like turtles. They’ll live forever, or at least, certainly longer than me.
I was uncomfortable by how much I had to uproot and cut away. I did not like to mulch too much and make it seem like a human has been here.
But this summer I will imagine myself barefoot on a carpet of sweet woodruff that will, I hope, spread beyond my control. Poisonous or not I will fancy the blooms of my Camelot Rose foxglove little horns to trumpet or faerie cups or hats. I will lay down little stones for feet or fingers far more delicate and more green than mine to pass between the Lobelia and Coral Bells.
Perhaps a child, though not mine. Our business in the garden had to do with other kinds of dirt.
I feel like someone took a file to my thumbs, which is I guess what it feels like to have jammed twenty grommets into holes in fabric that are necessarily smaller than they are. After my third sewing marathon this week – it’s like a 5K, only you don’t actually go anywhere, you just totally kill on a presser foot – I still haven’t finished the costume whose pieces I cut out months ago. I don’t actually enjoy sewing, I just like to say that I’ve sewn things and to wear them, and if I haven’t shed tears or blood or both it’s possible I’ve been kidnapped by body snatchers and am actually a shear-toting, zipper-setting pod-person. Friends take projects away from me when I start to look murderous, and pin boxes are carefully and discreetly closed. They help me to finish the things I start, though, which is undeserved but nice.
I learned how to sew and forgot and learned how again in a years-long fit of recovering lost domestic arts, and outfitting on a budget the fictional characters I sometimes like to play on weekends. When I was in junior high we had to take home economics and shop – which I’m sure had a real name, but I can’t remember now what it was. I hated both classes, though my partner and I in home economics were lauded for our clean, dry sinks after making pizza crackers and biscuits and whatever the hell else only took forty minutes to prep, cook, and clean up. The half of the term that we didn’t spend cooking we spent sewing, making gym bags and pillows. I’m sure there’s still a lumpy square, emblazoned with a glittery silver cat and my name in puffy paint, shoved in a box in my basement. I suppose I felt the same way about that pillow that I do now about the skirts and bodices and dresses I’ve wrestled from my Singer: they sure are bitchin’, but they sure were a bitch.