Breathing Without Words

February 6, 2012

I went a whole week last week without posting. I think that’s the longest that I’ve ever gone, with the exception of that one time that we went camping for a week, and even then I had friends post in my absence. I’ve posted through holidays and vacations (such as those are), through births and deaths and triumphs and tragedies. I’ve posted from halfway around the world; I’ve posted from halfway across the country; I’ve posted from 30,000 feet in the air; I’ve posted from just around the corner. I’ve posted a lot in the six years that I’ve blogging. Posting – crafting a few words or a whole lot of words and publishing them on the Internet – has been as much a part of my life as breathing.

And then, last week, I stopped. Actually, it was the week before last. I posted a picture of Emilia in the snow and made a joke riffing on a line from Richard III, in a weak effort to post something, anything, other than ‘god, oh god, I am FLAILING, you guys, HELP.’ That was Wednesday. I’d been wringing my hands about whether I had it in me to post something substantive, something about how although I love New York, and I love my job, it’s been hard, really hard, because it’s been such a big transition, and it’s been so busy, I have been so busy, and it’s been hard on my family in a million little ways that pile up and add up and add up some more, and also, have you ever lived in a loft with small children? I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. And that’s before I even get to the part where I’m worrying about all the things that I have to worry about but am too busy to keep track of, and how not-so-little things like loved ones attempting suicide, and bullying, and death, and fear, get pushed aside and are left outside of the narrative, mostly, because I haven’t the emotional bandwidth to reflect upon them, to sort through them in words and sentences and paragraphs and put them in their proper place, because I haven’t been spending enough time in the space in which I ordinarily place them, in the place in which I reflect. And I miss that, but even though I miss that, it’s hard to even just own that, as they say, because there are so many other things to do and sort through and how indulgent would it be if I just demanded that there be time in my life for that?

And so on, and so forth.

This is one of those posts that will cause people to wonder whether my marriage is in trouble, whether my family is in trouble, whether I am headed toward some unstated crisis, some disaster on the horizon that I can see clearly but choose to not describe, and that’s not the case, not really, by which I mean to say, we are not in trouble, we are struggling, but in ways that we are equipped to manage, and this might be clearer if I wrote more about how challenging it can be to go from being one kind household to another kind of household entirely, and in another country to boot. And I might even be better equipped to deal with these challenges more effectively, if I wrote about them more, because hasn’t that been my saving power, my super power, my escape? Hasn’t that been my magic wand, my Patronus charm – writing, writing, writing (Expecto Lingua!) – wielded and executed against depression, frustration, grief, fear? It has. But then again, it also kept me tied to those experiences, those struggles; it has kept them close, and closer, and there’s a part of me right now that feels ill-equipped to – unwilling to – dwell in my frustrations, to gaze upon them and caress them and hold them close, even if doing so is part of what allows me to move toward letting them go.

All of which is a very vague and convoluted way of saying: I miss writing daily, and also, I don’t. Not writing is allowing my soul to breathe in a different way, in a way that doesn’t carry an incantation of words upon its every exhalation. What I need to get to is the intermediate condition of breathing with words, and without words, and with words, and without words, and with and without, as my soul wants.

And maybe that will take time.

In the meantime, there are always pictures.

Which are worth, as we know, some variable number of words.


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    Marinka February 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I miss your writing when you don’t write. But I understand the importance of exhaling.

    sweetney February 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    What Marinka said. Also? Love you. xoxo

    Miss Britt February 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Ah, yes. The going from one kind of household to another kind. We did that. Have done that. Are doing that. And while we, too, are equipped (thanks to thousands of dollars in therapy from a time when we were NOT equipped), there is no masking the fact that it is hard.

    Having a shovel doesn’t make the digging any less hard ass work.

    All that to say, there is at least one person in the world who gets it, hears you, and is not imagining your imminent demise as a result. :-)

    the8tregirl February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    As a blogger myself, I often find stopping to breathe is incredibly important – to prove this, I pretty much too off December. But getting back into the writing routine in January felt even better.

    One of the things it’s helping me with, even though I haven’t written about it, is MY adjustment to living in this country, too. People say to me all the time “But isn’t Canada just like the US?” Oh, lord, no it’s not. In good ways and bad ways but no, it’s not like the US in ways that are important to my soul.

    However, writing is important to my soul, like breath and eating chocolate and drinking coffee are important to my soul. I hope you’ll find the cupcakes in your writing again soon.

    (Really? Living in a loft with small children doesn’t work? I would have thought all that open space would be their dream come true…)

    Her Bad Mother February 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    It is their dream come true. That’s the problem. They treat it like a gymnasium, or circus tent. They leap and jump and climb and shriek. Which is a *leetle* much – especially for the neighbors :)

    Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) February 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Life is complicated, isn’t it?

    Arianne February 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    So with you there. Right there. Yes. xoxo

    Sandra February 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    I was wondering how the cultural adjustment of moving to the States was going. It’s a HUGE shift – sheesh, even me moving from Toronto to Vancouver last summer was a HUGE cultural shift and it’s the same country! It just SEEMS like it should be easy enough because so much is similar. Tricky stuff, this moving business…

    When I moved to southern Africa for two years I hated it for a few months and then I loved it and adored it. I was ready to bolt initially – everything was so so different. But I didn’t and it was one of THE best things that I ever did.

    It’ll get easier (I know that you know that!) and everyone will adjust. Change is hard. But staying the same is harder in the long term…

    Jadzia@Toddlerisms February 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    The culture shock, it does get easier, eventually. We moved to France last July and the first three months, I don’t even remember, but know that it’s because I don’t *want* to remember how off-kilter and, well, alien everything seemed and how nothing made any sense.

    Changing the internal landscape, the “type of household” — now that is harder. It’s been six years since that change and I am still not okay with it.

    MCKake February 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    New to this post and I just wanted to let you know that your beautiful little nephew and his family are in my daily thoughts. Godspeed…good speed….less speed….more breaths.

    Lucy February 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    God, I love how the words come out of you. But I believe in the value of breaks. I understand the need to breathe without words. Some struggles need space before you can articulate them, and some don’t need to be written about at all. Take your time.

    Missy February 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    You are a wonderful writer. Take your breaks and exhale! We will be waiting for the next post…:)

    Lori Zambito February 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Sometimes we need to go easier on ourselves. I can’t imagine living in small quarters with young kids is kind to the nerves. Every time we think about downsizing I get worried about the noise level in my house and how I want to build out the attic (make the house even bigger) to get away from the LOUDNESS and constant activity. I have to send the kids upstairs or downstairs to center myself. On occasion, I even need to leave. That kind of energy going on all around you isn’t conducive to writing either. It’s getting to be that awful time of year. We all need a change….a vacation….a new season. It’s coming!

    Susan Arcelay February 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    As I read this post I feel so connected to your emotions of living in NYC. I moved here 2+ years ago from NH where I had a large home, yard, time on my hands. The biggest change for me has been the pace of life here. It seems as though there is always something to do. I can never really relax here. We live ON TOP of each other verses spread out-space to breath-etc. It does get a little easier but it’s a struggle here. Trips out of the city (vacations, etc) help a great deal for me. Helps me clear my head.

    Alexicographer February 6, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I simply cannot imagine living in NYC with small kids. Or at all, actually. So there you go. And there’s the “moving from Canada” bit, and the “changing” bit and then everything else. So — yeah. Also, what Marinka said.

    Chrysula February 7, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I feel like the hunch dropped out of my shoulders and I gradually exhaled as I read through your entire, exquisite post. This is why we come to these spaces. These spaces that become almost sacred because of what is shared. Because someone, you on this particular day, can say beautifully, yet straightforwardly and recognizably, the bitter sweet agony that is life. And we can say “yes”. And “thank you”. Without really understanding *your* bitter sweet, layering our own over your words.

    Related and yet not, our first three children were born in NYC where we lived in 800 sq ft in Manhattan for many years. I absconded to the suburbs when the fourth child came. Three years into tree and beach laden Connecticut bliss, I am still in denial that I am no longer a New Yorker. It takes time but the city will imprint itself. And you will love and hate it and love it for ever.

    Kat February 7, 2012 at 2:22 am

    I’ve missed you.

    Helen February 7, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Flippin great post. “Expecto lingua” is such a great way of expressing the power of it.

    Ladygoogoogaga February 7, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Well, your writing hasn’t suffered! That was beautifully written!!

    Dawn February 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I get it. Life throws you into this giant cyclone, and you flail and try to grab hold of anything you can, anything that will stop the dizzying pace that has become your life. I stopped blogging when my life became so overwhelming, and I think I shouldn’t have – but at the time, didn’t know what else to do.

    I hope your life slows down and straightens out soon.

    Mike February 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Just curious, but is the Basement dead? haven’t seen a post since May.

    Her Bad Mother February 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

    It’s dormant. I just haven’t had the bandwidth. Plans are in the works to revive it, though (I miss it!)

    jwg February 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Beautiful, and I understand the need for a breather. But could we have an update on Tanner please?

    Her Bad Mother February 9, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I wrote about Tanner week before last (there’s a link to that post in this post); will update on him again soon.

    Becca February 9, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Although sometimes life is complicated and stressful. We all need to
    breathe and have a break once in a while..

    Joanna February 10, 2012 at 1:22 am

    I started a blog, but no one reads it, just my husband. He made a joke about blogging because I was writing and writing and writing to no one, or to the wrong people, to sort through lots of things. My sister would be in rehab again, and tap, tap, tap, bam, bam on the keyboard. My twins would not stop picking at each other all day, and I would type away. Being a mom is ridiculous sometimes. Being a mom and a wife is ridiculous. Being a mom and a wife, and an employee is ridiculous. Keep adding on the roles women fill, daughter, friend, sister, lover, and the potential stress involved in each and every one is, well… Ridiculous.

    I understand what you are saying here, deeply. It’s interesting that I can write online and not really say a single thing that is actually going on in my head… Just a whole bunch of things that really don’t mean anything to me when it comes right down to it. You can’t possibly share this part, without this part, and who wants to share that part… I used to write letters to myself, because I’m just a writer, and I need to work things through like that, on paper. But, I would never publish them. The world is not ready for that level of crazy. :)

    But most of all I wanted to write to say, when I was suffering from postpartum depression after my twins were born, the thing that gave me some hope was this image in my head of them a little older, 1 1/2, and the look of wonder on their faces when they saw the ocean for the first time, their little toes in the surf. And every year, when we go to Maine, my children on the beach, running back and forth with buckets to fill castle “motes,” and that expanse of ocean and life and perpetuity in the background, still makes things better.

    Pinay WAHM Blogger February 10, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Count your blessings. :) Sometimes, the evil one creeps into our lives silently and slowly. Just strengthen your faith and keep praying. :) Once in a while a breather is needed and being silent is a great option to meditate and focus on the good things brought by life. :)

    Joanna February 12, 2012 at 11:33 am
    Deep Fried Mama February 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I moved last year, and although I’m not starting a new job as well, I can understand the feeling of being a bit lost in the everydayness that comes with a big move. Here’s a post of mine you might like:

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