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Super Powers are dangerous. Quest 2015

Catherine and Suzi 1999
It’s #TBT right? Me and the adventuring Cgirl in 1999.

 

 

Today is January 29, 2015.
That means I am 38 days away from Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others.
That means this blog is about to burble with activity in the Out blog series.
That means I am 25 days away from the show at No. Six Depot of my Coptic stitch journals, titled “What a daily writing practice looks like: The Hand bound journals of Suzi Banks Baum” and the public reading of the women of my Powder Keg Sessions writing workshops.

This also means I am deeply immersed in the small projects I am doing that will illuminate these events. It also means my writing time is divided up and so far, I have slipped out of my long post/short post schedule here on LLD.

My @Quest mate Brenna Layne wrote this post about developing brevity as she hones her time-shaping skills. For many years, I considered multitasking as my super-mother-power-force for maximizing my time. You know, churning the butter while rocking the baby, while working on my abs? Exercising this power, I got cricks in my neck from holding the phone while hanging laundry, dropped the phone in the rain barrel more than once, and nearly blinded myself by leaving a spoon in the blender and looking away at some other small shiny object while I pressed the ON button. The kids were fascinated by the pattern spread across the ceiling from the blueberry smoothie. We will call this episode “another cleaning opportunity” and not chide myself anymore than the nightmares I had about being impaled by a soup spoon have done.

Doing one thing at a time while you have children underfoot is really a challenge. There is always a pot of soup simmering, a load of wash spinning, someone throwing up or jumping off radiators, beds to change and lunches to unpack. And, there is the dreaded topic that I still hate: dinner. For inspiration, I always go here.

Today, no kids underfoot and I am still capable of near death experiences by distraction. I am, however, letting that super power go.

Light Divine Clarity

So to better deliver a quality blog post and magnificent events to you, filled with lasting impressions of real life illuminated by articulate women engaged with their creative voices, I may put up shorter posts this coming month. And perhaps only once a week. There will be guest posts, and photo posts and tiny glimpses of the short movie Lynnette Lucy Najimy and I are making with miles of great footage submitted by many of the women of the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. The short movie will be full of moments in these women’s lives where they “leave the dishes” as Louise Erdrich suggests in her catalyzing poem, Advice to Myself.

People often ask me how I do all that I do.
I have a couple of answers to that, but I have to admit I am growing my brevity muscle and my “no thank you” muscle and the discipline to consider that the urgency of an incoming email is not something with which I have to engage at the moment of seeing it.

Just writing this makes me feel I have more room to breathe.

Thank you for reading me here on Laundry Line Divine.
Please stay in touch by subscribing to this website.
I do send out a newsletter once a month, usually.
And you can count on at least weekly posts here where I illuminate the sacred in daily life, with kids underfoot or not.

XO S

It was like this

Small girl collage by Suzi Banks Baum text by John O'Donohue

How we parted

 

Moon thanks this field guide,

folds map, tucks it in to the flapped pocket.

Glances once more across the field, ice tipped grasses

night-kissed glisten on one cheek,

dawn pinkens the other.

She slips silently into blue dawn.

 

©Suzi Banks Baum

 

 

 

I am preparing for my Powder Keg Sunday Sessions.

There are still a few seats left at my writing table for this Sunday.

Is your name on one of them?

 

I am adjusting to not having a child in house for these next few months.

After over 20 years, this is oceanic.

Wordless mostly. Quiet.

There is this poem.

And preparations.

Please join my mailing list here on Laundry Line Divine to stay tuned on this exciting season for Out of the Mouths of Babes, the live event March 7 and the blog series.

For today.

This.

It was like this

 

xoS

 

 

The Language of Discipline

Ingrid Kirkegaard on Laundry Line Divine

 

 

I have had to learn whole new ways of speaking since becoming a mother. In my childfree life, I wrote about Marcel Proust and his obsession with time passing. For me, as for him, the obsession with time passing amounted to an obsession with self passing — how, as your life goes by, your identity shifts continually. Different parts of who you are come to rigidify or dissolve. What was once frozen with fear expands to airy liberation. Elements of yourself you thought you could never do without become redundant or obstructive and have to be jettisoned, like empty rocket boosters. The characteristics you held closest to your heart ossify and desiccate. For example, how, from uptight teenager, you learn Expansive Liberal Tolerance as a twenty-something graduate, and from there how you become a mother, and how all that learnt tolerance disappears into the maw of discipline.

 

I had a longstanding relationship with discipline. I was a very, very disciplined child and teenager — my time management was exceptional. I awoke at 5.30am and revised in bed, I was at the piano by 7, and every day without fail my bag was packed and at the door. No one needed to tell me off. But they still did. My discipline was always fleeing whey-faced before a dark-browed father.

 

My excellent time management lasted all the way through university, which was, after all, a bit like school. It only started to crack when I finally had to leave school altogether, and enter the World of Work. Then I learnt about all the ways in which employers and colleagues undermine your self-discipline, through impossible deadlines, boring tasks, power struggles, envy, incompetence, and simple meanness. And I learnt that without the prop of studying for exams, my time management was useless. I turned out to be as lazy as everyone else, when I didn’t want to do something. This discovery threw me so much that I ran back to university, thinking that this was where I would find my likeminded community of non-disciplinarian souls, all engaged in lifelong labours of love.

 

Wrong. Once I had to teach others how to manage their time, as a lecturer, my own discipline went even more pear-shaped. It’s not that I didn’t complete tasks to the deadline, but that the way I went about finishing turned into insanity: last-minute scrabbles, tearful up-all-nighters without the benefit of following-day lazing. It scrambled me. I talked the talk of calm practice, day-to-day discipline and creative nurture, but I did not walk the walk.

 

At the same time, disciplinarians who were not my father were closing in on me. Bullies, delighting in abusing their positions of power (I could be specific but will refrain), sniffed me out and hounded me for minor misdemeanours. I did not know what to do with myself.

 

In the first few months after having my daughter, I lived embraced in the milky syncopation of her heartbeat, entirely looked after by her needs. No need to manage my own time, it was taken care of. No need for discipline, who needs to discipline a baby? I managed to extend this to the whole of her first three years, by moving to Australia, and starting my first novel. I could write while she was at nursery, and also spend several days a week with her. I complained publicly that I never had enough time to write, because I felt it de rigueur to complain, but secretly I was happy, rocked in the rhythm of her days. I did not know what lay ahead.

 

Because then… then there were two. A boy. Lover of women, charmer of all, dark-souled, uncontained, pure ego. And discipline came to visit me once again. Time management turned into sticks that beat me incessantly, a relentless roll call of disparate dull claims — feeding, shopping, cleaning, running for the tube, deadlines, running to pick up, doctors’ appointments, activities, suffering the comments of other mothers, nursery staff, school staff — and that discipline found its doppelgänger inside me. When my uppity son did not conform, I disciplined. Not kindly, but brutally. Angrily, forcefully, without finesse. There were no clever tips and techniques inside me which rose to the surface and helped me through. My longing for flow, connection, lovingkindness, to be a gentlewoman, all that was so much mush, it had all been so much learnt theory. The reality was perpetual shouting, nagging, talking back to talking back, argument, misery.

 

I wish I could tell you that this new maternal language, which seemed to burst out of me as naturally as tears, itself dissolved into understanding and forgiveness. It has not yet. For me, as yet, the melting point between discipline and creativity has not been found. I try — I seek it through yoga, dance, trying to write, trying to understand what it is like to be a child. I fail, every day. I’m about to fail again. It’s 8.12am, and I have been writing when I should have been getting my child ready to go to school.

 

Naughty girl.

 

 

 

Ingrid Wassener

 

Ingrid Kirkegaard is a writer based in North London, and is working on a book entitled Motherload. A former lecturer in French literature, she also teaches French and English, and acts as an education consultant. She is married with two children.

 

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Sunday 11 January 2015

What lights you up in deep winter?

Candle in the spiral

What lights me up in winter is quiet.
I become more than a bit anti-social.
I am hibernating.

Oh, I talk to my family.
I do all the things I am supposed to do.
I go teach. (Not in my jammies)
I prepare what is ahead of me.

I work on our holiday card, which every year gets strung out later and later until
it is nearly a Valentine’s Card. But I figure, why clamor to be part of the Christmas
chaos? My people receive our card when the table is uncluttered and we can nearly have a visit.

But I don’t make dates or do stuff that requires getting out of my studio. In deep winter, I cut out everything else.

Which means, I get a little lonely. It is almost like fasting. The ache that comes from not buzzing around town, listening, talking and listening, talking and listening, is supplanted by a sublime quiet within me.

For much of my life I have lived in response to what I thought other people wanted or needed of me. I like to be part of groups, I like to be included in happenings, and I love being a friend. I like making stuff happen. Today, what I do, I do with a whole heart, no longer out of a nagging need to be part of what is going on outside me. More and more, my relationships and work begin with a very elemental, original spark that is nurtured over time. I carry out what feels real and supportable.
This takes slow time and quiet to discern.

And all of it still has to work around my domestic life. And writing.
Writing means I am not doing a bunch of other stuff.
I am coming to realize that my writing is important, perhaps only to me, but to a few others for whom I can offer a beacon of light on this next hill over.

I write and make art, teach classes and produce events because I am responding to the world I am in. Terry Tempest Williams, one of my soul mentors who writes passionately and assiduously about the environment, women’s lives, and social change, often featured in Orion Magazine, writes this:

“Writing becomes an act of compassion toward life, the life we so often refuse to see because if we look too closely or feel too deeply, there may be no end to our suffering. But words empower us, move us beyond our suffering, and set us free. This is the sorcery of literature. We are healed by our stories.”

Last night at my Powder Keg Ramsdell Session writing workshop, I had eight women at the table. 8 women enchanted by the sorcery of literature. 8 women willing to step in to the unknown of a blank page. They are brave. They drink lots of hot tea. They listen with open hearts. I am so grateful to the library for hosting us and that I don’t have to go that far out of my studio to make it happen.

Julie Jordan Scott posted this today. Read it aloud. Then carry on with this post. Perfect, huh?
Julie Jordan Scott posted this today. Read it aloud. Then carry on with this post. Perfect, huh?

This week cannot pass without a note of gratitude for my writing mentor and beloved friend Janice Lawry. She and I met in January 2007 when I joined her writing group that met once a month in her home over a period of six months. Jan placed a key in my hand over that period of time; a key to my voice that I never knew existed. Joining her class was one of the first moves out of my mothering fog and it changed my life. Jan’s grace, brilliance and friendship continue to light up my life. I am deeply touched by her.

Happy Birthday dear Jan!

At the Heart of Me

 

 

What about you?
What lights you up in winter?
I am strapping on my snowshoes today to take a look at the ice on the lake.
All this cold is good for a few things that I love.
Ice skating being one of them.

Blessings on your day,

S

Here are some links to good wintry support for your cave time:
Julie Jordan Scott’s writing prompts
Katherine Miller’s cocoa elixir
Brenna Layne’s Best Day
Janet Elsbach’ viennese sponge omelette
Mary Campbell’s weekly call
Deb Kern’s ginger tea

These women are part of the Village that is raising me into my fullest self…in every sense of FULL!

Tomorrow the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series on the theme of The Village opens with a guest blog post from Ingrid Wassener from the United Kingdom. Ingrid and I met online via my dear Miranda Hersey Helin of Studio Mothers. Here is the post that connected us, titled When Sugar and Creativity Collide. I welcome Ingrid to the great circle of women writing about the crowded, but sometimes lonely life of raising a family and creative expression. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please download the submission guidelines below.
Out Blog Series Submission Guidelines 2015

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