Monday, September 8

Coe-ism and the Goodness of Gloating 

Luckily, in my case, I have managed, by writing, to do the one thing that I always wanted to do.

Jonathan Coe

It’s not often that you come upon a writer better known for a particular kind of writing attempting something different, like Coe with his first stand-alone novel, “The Rain Before it Falls;” and managing, with those words, to simply take your breath away. The more the writing offers you a vista to reflect on its impact, or in some minuscule way, a repercussion of its impact, on your own life, the more you tend to delve into the writer’s mind, the structure of his thoughts, the flow and pattern of his words - until you reach a point where you begin to comprehend in all that the grimmest of semblances with the workings of your own mind and the manner in which you choose and place your words in a sentence. I do that more often than not. I have started, in fact, cataloguing the words that affect me in the most profound manner and one of my pastimes, when I’m quite simply out of ideas or have inopportunely sold my Muse to the Devil for some indolence, is to go over these words and see if they can inspire me to take a cue, or at the least, motivate me for a while.

For instance, Coe’s words, “…All she could see, in fact, was the formlessness of jumbled buildings, trees, skyline…” have left me completely besotted. Not only do I see myself think like that, and rake over the thoughts in my head to express their import that way, but I also see his brilliance for what it is. About saying little about something immense, for Gill, the character he was alluding to with those words, goes on to realize she couldn’t possibly describe the fogginess of her vision to Imogen that way, but would have to begin afresh, with “the haze that blurred the line of transition from rooftops to sky,” perhaps, or the “sky’s barely perceptible gradations of color, from the deepest to the palest of blues.” Coe’s attention to details, to the little intricacies that form characters and their thoughts, their stories, is brilliant.

If only we could all retain the merits of our writing through a novel, or any piece of work embarked upon with a ragingly high interest level, and fold in to the pitfalls of low will power or self-assurance half way along. It may be said, of course, that these detrimental qualities bleed into other parts of our lives too, and we may be more pathetic than we think; for we cannot write with the kind of sustained brilliance or even tolerability we are thought to possess, nor can we keep a hobby for longer than a week, a day, or a few hours. Patience, as they say, is key. Of course it’s another matter that motherhood leaves you with little of it. But to stay focused as writers, I do believe, as incongruous as it may sound, we need the power of words. So for all that talk about detaching oneself from the rest of the household, or civilization, in whichever order, to sit at a desk and type away everyday, here comes the new mantra: READ. And allow yourself to be so immersed in the process that you begin to imagine you’re not a molecule less cooler than the writer who is making you go weak in the knees, and you begin to produce reams of fantastic text.

If your ego needs a boost, read a mesmerizing writer and imagine you’re them. Nothing gets to your gut like a little gloating does.

Sunday, September 7

Mad, Mad Mommy! 

One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite women, Erma Bombeck, goes like this: “Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids.”

With all the manner of things my toddler gets up to, I fear nothing but the worst - of course, we have insanity running in every iota of our beings, notwithstanding who gave it to whom; but with all the free-time I now get from her being in pre-school thrice a week for four hours on each of the days, I have accomplished much less than I have in all these three years - with her tugging at my sweats as I went about doing chores, yanking my hair as I try to have a make-believe sane conversation with someone giving me work over the telephone, or even just miraculously finding the wrong time to take a pee on the carpet or get up to something equally obnoxious, as I try to gobble down a hurried lunch before I take the garbage out, pay the bills, drive through the pharmacy, make a quick stop at the post office, pick out some over-bought groceries, or simply breathe. If this is insane, I don’t know what is.

Lately, I have been reading a lot of mommy-blogs and I was horrified when I saw this on one: “Do you ever feel like having babies ate your brain cells? Well you might be surprised at the reality! You might be right. We will talk about it and discuss what you can do to stop suffering from Momnesia.” The blog post went on at length about the issue, and said, “Kathy Peel, author of Desperate Households, will discuss how to keep our household balanced.” I cannot remember the last time I felt like I didn’t have Momnesia. Yet, I keep a household, my job, and myself, somewhat balanced. I wonder if Kathy Peel could peel the layers off and tell me I’m not a Momnesiac, when in fact I am!

I am also, I’m afraid, one of those really persnickety moms – and tend to fret over the littlest of things – will her clothes be too crumpled by the time she gets to school? Will she remember to use her best manners while conversing with the teacher? Will she spill her drink at snacktime and make a sloppy mess? Will she ask to be excused for potty-break at the right time? Will she weep and wail again? (Okay, about the weeping and wailing, we gave each other a healthy competition the first day she went to school – the hubby is certain I won hands down – but hey, I am still learning the steps to the happy dance when the house is quiet without Little Miss Muffet for a few hours!) Insanity, again. I often wonder if my mom felt the same way when she sent me off to school the first time. Or is it different with moms who have experience doing the same thing over and over again with their other children? Or do all moms, as a general rule, lose their sanity in the post-natal depression?

I had readied myself for a long time for the separation anxiety. I assumed I had roughened up a bit. But the first few days, beginning last month, were the toughest - I couldn’t bear the thought of having sent my child away with a bunch of strangers to a strange room with too many rules and too much to learn and do. I remember how often I’d crave a little me-time, even if it meant finding time to dust the cobwebs, Pledge-clean the furniture, or mop the floors - and when I did get it, I was clueless. The sudden quiet, the house in perfect order - everything just the way I’d have given tooth and nail to have - but I didn’t want it that way anymore. I noticed I was also looking slightly better, my hair was kempt, I’d relinquished my sweats for something wearable on a morning walk, and I had time to savor a cuppa every morning - without a bother. Yet, I felt as if I was lost. But now I’m coping better - of course, if you discount the time when get back in after putting her on the bus, get into a sudden frenzy and make a gazillion calls to hire cleaners to help clean the already-somewhat-orderly house, and by the end of the fourth hour, realize that I have skipped breakfast, and coffee, haven’t had a shower, haven’t loaded the dishes, haven’t flipped a page of the Sly-Fives BookClub pick, haven’t made the bed, or made lunch, and that I have exactly three minutes and a half to fix everything, including myself, to run down and pick her up. I am forced to conclude that insanity and I have an unbreakable bond - and my life is nothing without - a little disarray, a thing amiss here, a thing kaput there, a lot to do and very little time, and above all, a little madness.

I am a mad, mad mommy. And boy, do I love it!