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Waking Up

posted Dec 31, 2019, 6:32 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Dec 31, 2019, 6:33 AM ]
Once upon a time there was a meet and greet open to all the writers and illustrators of the land. But then, there was a flash of thunder snow (yes, that’s a thing) and thick blankets of sleet fell, coating all the fields and valleys with ice and yucky slushy stuff. So—what became of that meet and greet? It is said that seven individuals seeking community, inspiration and motivation for the new year blew in the door one by one and very wet, the last to arrive exclaiming, “So, are these the diehards?” And, of course, I pictured Bruce Willis walking on glass and hoped I could do something similarly badass if it came down to it. 

It was disappointing to think that the meet and greet so many of us look forward to and some would be attending for the first time was thwarted by the off-again, on-again Super Hero/ Super Villain: Mother Nature, but the dramatic and poetic writer side of me thought, Yeah, that makes total sense—especially since the theme of the night was to discuss how to eek out time in our lives for what we are passionate about: writing, art, music or whatever drives us creatively. Of course, it was a real-life metaphor playing out before our eyes. 

Make time for your writing. Make time to make art. Cue the excuses and the list of things that come before that. Cue the thunder snow (really, THUNDER SNOW!) trying to keep us from meeting and talking shop. Perhaps, this meeting was seen by the other things in our lives as a revolution (more than the resolution it was cloaked in) and they threw all they had at the effort: sleet, snow, rain and—yes, I’m going to mention it again—thunder snow. Perhaps that was my walking on glass moment, minus the bloody sweat, the ripped tank top and the “Yippeekayay Mother [Nature].”

What’s the biggest message I got from last night’s chat: Wake Up. It’s like Show Up or Put Up or Keep Up or Shape Up or Giddy Up. That’s the funny thing about what we usually need to do. It’s usually something super simple, followed by the tiny word, “Up.” Don’t get me wrong—there were lots of specific books mentioned to read, detailed advice and extremely helpful connections made, but above all else the two words that seemed to trail me out the door, through the slush and home were the words: wake up. 

You have to understand that I am not one who enjoys waking up, early or otherwise. There are few things more luxurious to me than lingering in bed even if I’m awake, even if my bladder is full, even if there’s bacon cooking downstairs. Staying in bed is a luxury I definitely didn’t have for a long stretch as my children were babies and so whenever I can get an extra wink, I do.

My full-time job is mother-of-four: MOF. It’s kind of like a CEO without the suit or the salary. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I’ve clocked in. I’m on. So, I keep my feet under covers as long as possible, which isn’t impressively long but the point is I loathe waking up earlier than necessary because it doesn’t seem to matter how early I wake up. They find me—the little ones. Those adorable earthlings with the big eyes but horrible morning breath somehow hear me and stagger toward me in a half-sleep stupor needing something. Sometimes it’s breakfast, but often they just want to sit beside me or snuggle and who can resist that!? I discovered this morning that while I want to wake up early to focus on my writing—my youngest daughter somehow sensed I was awake and, I’m convinced, she woke up early to try to get some unobstructed Mommy time, alone and without the other three siblings to distract me. 

So, you’re wondering (no, you don’t give a rat’s arse, but in my imagination you’re totally engrossed in what I’m saying and focused on my every word—and therefore wondering) what became of this pilgrim trudging through thunder snow and slushy stuff to glean some inspiration from a gathering of creative villagers? Did she risk life and limb for nothing? Was it worth it?

I’ll tell you: I woke up. It’s school vacation and my husband is on vacation and there’s no reason to wake up early, but today without setting an alarm I looked at the clock at 6:55 am and instead of just closing my eyes and going back to the cocoon of my pillow I set my feet on the ground and stood up. 

Then I wondered: What do people who wake up early to do their writing do, exactly? Do they go directly to their writing and take down the smatterings still rolling off that treasure trove that is our subconscious or do they brush their teeth and make their beds first? Those are two things I have to do to wake up feeling: up. But, while I was carefully folding the blanket down on my bed (of course, my husband is way more disciplined than me and was already up and out of bed) I heard a door open and a pair of bare feet patter into the bathroom. “Oh crap!” I thought almost out loud. My bedroom door had been wide open and so I was clearly awake for all to see. I quietly closed the door so perhaps whoever it was would think I went back to bed or just forget they saw me if, indeed, they did. I left it with a thin slit instead of closing it completely and making any noise.

I waited. It was like an 80s horror movie where the girl waits in the room hoping the guy with the mask doesn’t see her and then there’s the shadow on the wall getting larger and therefore closer until there’s no denying someone is there—someone is looking. I opened the door but instead of a masked man there was an adorable little girl with freckles and big blue eyes, in a purple nightgown whose eyes flew open, hand flew to mouth as she quietly claimed while mock relieved-laughing, “You scared me! I was trying to see the clock and you scared me.” It was all very hushed and sweet in those morning hours. She was careful to not want to wake anybody by yelling or being scared in any truly disruptive way. I knew then that I would not be writing right away. So we hugged and we sat.

I sat on the edge of my bed and she hopped up and did the same. I sat quietly enjoying her hushed retelling of the tales of our new kitten from the night before while I was at the meet and greet. It consisted of the kitten being held and then let down and then held again and then finding her way to the third step on our basement stairs that are carpeted. Apparently there’s something about that third step that the kitten gravitates to. 

As I sat there listening, I thought about making writing a priority in my life, but I couldn’t deny that the simple conversation I was having about a kitten with my daughter was any less important—to her. She was, perhaps like me, waking up early to sit quietly beside me and know that I was fully listening to her without interruption or correction from any siblings as to the chain of kitten events. I can only imagine it felt as good for her to connect with me unencumbered as it does for me to write and write and write as I’m doing right now.

I finally realized she may never tire of talking to me on the side of my neatly made bed and so I stood up and started walking downstairs. I didn’t want to tell her to go back to bed because that felt dismissive, not to mention, I’d be encouraging the very habit I was trying to overcome. I didn’t want to declare that I had woken up early to have quiet time to myself in which to write because that would be rude and it would make it sound like I didn’t enjoy her company and her quiet words recounting the events of a kitten because—quite honestly—I enjoyed sitting quietly and just listening without the pig-piling of competing words that often happens among the kids when someone is telling a story that they were all present to witness through their own personal point of view. 

So, at what seemed like a lull, I just stood up and slowly walked downstairs. She did the same and when we got downstairs her attention shifted to the kitten and my husband talked about where the kitten might be and then I was distracted by a Where’s Waldo type of search—also a child, myself, and wanting to be the first one to find that kitten. Then I remembered what I had woken up to do and it didn’t involve looking for a kitten. So, I chatted a bit with my husband and put the kettle on for tea wondering if the others who woke up early to write made their tea or coffee first or if they just went as bleary-eyed as possible directly to their writing. In that time the kitten was found and I went to go peek at her staring out from beneath a shoe bin and then back up to finish preparing my tea. 

I took it upstairs with, now, two kids awake and two still in bed. I went into the office and closed the door until it clicked completely closed. Perhaps that was me clocking in? It certainly sounded like the machine in the “old days” where you slid your timecard in and it literally punched the time.

And, what do you know?! It worked. Despite all the unintended distractions I was able to stay focused on what needed to happen—if not immediately, at least eventually—and one hour later I’ve written way more than I should actually publish in a blog entry, allowing for self-satisfying frivolity and constant digressions, the likes of which I usually weed nearly completely out after I’ve proofread a piece a time or two. But, this time I am just going to “ship” this as is. I am going to let it all hang out and instead of luxuriating in the extra hour in bed, I am allowing myself to luxuriate in an hour of writing without a smidge of tightening to make it more digestible.

And wouldn’t you know—the new kitten even taught me something. Perhaps it’s not always the first step that is where you want to end up. The first step is where you start, but maybe it’s the third step that is where you want to be sure you end up.

So, wake up. That was what I found out I needed to do. 
It’s not easy, but it’s that simple. 
Wake up—the first step.
[Insert real life stuff, but don’t lose complete focus]—the second.
Write—the third.

Here’s to waking up in the New Year.
Happy 2020!