Late-night scrib­bles

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified | Home & Apartment Fi - By Me­gan John­son Twit­ter: @right­meg

May I cut a win­dow into the fourth wall for a mo­ment? Novem­ber marks eight years since “Right, Meg?” — in its ear­li­est, name­less form — was born. The ques­tion I’m asked most of­ten is a sim­ple one: “How do you keep com­ing up with some­thing to write about?”

It was eas­ier when I was writ­ing dur­ing day­light hours. After chang­ing ca­reers in July, I went from a full-time ed­i­tor to a free­lance colum­nist — and the hours I once de­voted to craft­ing 1,000-word tales about ev­ery­thing and noth­ing must now be jammed into the hour after the kids fall asleep but be­fore I do, too, smack­ing my head on the key­board. (True story. More than once.)

Twice a week I sit down at 9 p.m. with my third (fourth? Who’s count­ing) cup of cof­fee and . . . re­flect. Try to string to­gether some thoughts co­her­ent enough to be printed and archived here. It’s some pretty breath-steal­ing pres­sure when I think of it like that, so I don’t. I try to treat the col­umn as part jour­nal, part time cap­sule; I’m aware of an au­di­ence (hi!), but try not to dwell on how I’m be­ing re­ceived. Pretty sure I’d never write again.

When I sit down to a quiet house to type in the dark, I’m aware of my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties: a com­mit­ment I made to keep writ­ing — and not just to my ed­i­tors. To my­self. To my kids, who will some­day have a record of their mother’s fears and joys and thoughts from when they were just a few months old.

If I stop writ­ing now, I know I’ll stop . . . for good.

Well: not for good. That’s dra­matic even for me. But I know my­self well enough to feel that, with­out the pres­sure of a dead­line, I would add cat­a­logu­ing this ten­der stage of my life to the stack of “some­day” projects ac­cu­mu­lat­ing on my desk and in my tired, tired brain. And this — this wild, ex­haust­ing, all-en­com­pass­ing now — isn’t some­thing that can wait.

Al­ready the details of Hadley’s first weeks have be­come crin­kled and dis­torted at the edges. Oliver’s are prac­ti­cally sepia-toned. Though I gen­er­ally hate re-read­ing my work (ty­pos — al­ways a typo, friends), read­ing what I pulled to­gether with one eye open in Ol­lie’s early days makes me laugh and some­times cry. Def­i­nitely shake my head. How else would I have that raw and real as­sess­ment of be­com­ing a par­ent? There is no more mon­u­men­tal “be­fore” and “after.”

Stretch­ing back fur­ther are years’ worth of work de­voted to be­ing a twen­tysome­thing. I can track down the first time I men­tioned a new boyfriend and the sappy sto­ries I wrote about Spencer be­fore I re­al­ized his co­work­ers were read­ing — and pos­si­bly gig­gling.

I have the time cap­sules of liv­ing at home with my par­ents, sis­ter and our pup, plus the tale of our dual en­gage­ments in 2012. Wed­ding plan­ning (times two), buy­ing our house, pan­ick­ing about buy­ing our house, get­ting preg­nant, pan­ick­ing about get­ting preg­nant . . . well, you know. All of life’s big mo­ments.

Writ­ing now takes on a dif­fer­ent role than it used to. Carv­ing out time to put words to our funny, frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences helps me make sense of them. To see them in a larger, deeper con­text: the one in which I know that this, too, shall pass. And I’ll miss it. Be­fore I was a wife or a mom, I was a writer. My en­tire iden­tity — my sense of self, re­ally — was wrapped up in that sin­gle ti­tle. I’ve sac­ri­ficed a thou­sand in­ter­ests at the al­tar of sleep de­pri­va­tion, but not this one. Never. I write.

It isn’t easy. How do I come up with top­ics? Some­times by the skin of my teeth, though I hope that doesn’t show. The truth is that I’m an in­tro­vert, and com­ing up with new and en­ter­tain­ing ideas can be tough. Over­whelm­ing, even.

I even­tu­ally came to un­der­stand that my role here is sim­ply to be my­self. Who else can I be?

My third month of free­lanc­ing has been chal­leng­ing. By the time we tuck Ol­lie in for the night and help Hadley get set­tled for her ap­pe­tizer snooze be­fore an­other bot­tle break, I’ve been up for 17 hours straight and have lit­tle left to give. I could start writ­ing ear­lier in the evening, yes, but don’t want to hole my­self up with a lap­top and miss out on that time with my fam­ily.

Plus Oliver sees a screen and de­mands “trac­tors, Mommy,” so it’s not like I would get much done, any­way.

When I took my new job, I told my­self the only way I could con­tinue with “Right, Meg?” and stay sane would be to write two (!) col­umns over the week­end. Hav­ing both fin­ished would pre­vent me from fall­ing asleep at said lap­top on a week­night and gen­er­ally freak­ing out.

That has hap­pened zero times. I’m lucky to get my Wed­nes­day col­umn writ­ten be­fore Monday star­tles me awake; the idea of polishing off Friday’s, too, is crazy. I would love it and be in­sanely proud of my­self, but just don’t see it hap­pen­ing.

As it stands, I slug down some cold cof­fee and perch in the liv­ing room to see what words will flow from the ol’ fin­ger­tips be­fore I nod off. I tried mak­ing my­self re­ally un­com­fort­able — sit­ting in a hard kitchen chair; typ­ing with my lap­top propped on my knees — but I was just an­noyed as well as sleepy.

Now I sit in the cor­ner of the love seat where I’ve fed both my chil­dren and spent the ma­jor­ity of two ma­ter­nity leaves. The liv­ing room lights are off; Spencer’s face glows white with the flicker of his own com­puter. Hadley shifts in her bassinet, and I try to “type qui­etly.” As if such a thing were pos­si­ble.

It’s a nor­mal Sun­day night, and I’m here. Writ­ing.

No place I’d rather be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.