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Time regained

September 23, 2011

This has been the strangest summer I’ve ever lived through. It’s not because anything strange has happened–it’s simply that time has felt all out of whack. After ten years in this town (dear god, as I typed that I realized that it has been EXACTLY ten years and one month since we pulled into the driveway after driving cross country to this house–my then-husband, my then-only son, our beloved dog who’s now dead) I have gotten summer down to a science: the long peaceful afternoons at the pool, the hours whiled away on the porch, the hot nights with the inadequate fan trained right at me, the wilting windowboxes, the humidity, the fireflies and cicadas and owls and mosquitoes. Baseball and boredom. Popsicles and peace. And then the mass exodus that happens every August in our town, when everyone else heads off and we get the pool to ourselves. Even the frantic events of the last few years didn’t disrupt the familiar rhythm of summer. But this year it all went haywire, and I’m not sure how.

It’s not bad–in general, this summer was perfectly lovely. It just went too fast, and time felt perpetually out of joint.

Then school started, and I got slammed with a bunch of assignments (which was great, because I need the money).  My new tenant moved in.  Various essential mechanical devices broke and had to be tediously, expensively repaired.  My younger son, right on cue, got sick and stayed home from school for half a week.

So please be patient with me as I try to gather my wits and get my bearings again.  I have what I hope will be some entertaining stories to tell, once I catch up.  This website gives me more pleasure than any of the writing I do to earn a living; however, I can’t miss actual deadlines in order to write here, although I wish I could.  I regret not writing here much more than I regret missing my deadlines (to the chagrin of my poor editors, who put up with an awful lot of flakiness).  September, for me, is New Year’s Resolution time, and my big resolution this year is to treat my deadlines with the respect they deserve.  To do that, I need to factor in time for sick kids and broken-down cars and (apparently) hurricanes and plagues of locusts and floods.  I’m also about to begin work on a bigger project–which is thrilling, and will probably increase my productivity (the more work one has, the more work one does, I think) once I get started.  It’s the getting started that is proving terribly elusive, because right now every day has been a tiny backward slide.  I have more to do than I did yesterday.  I’m scrabbling a bit frantically, I fear.

Remember way back last spring, when I begged you all to leave a comment saying so if you would read me on another site?  My editor at a print magazine I write for had pitched me as a blogger for her magazine’s website, which would have meant steady income for a couple of short posts a week.  I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally a few weeks ago my editor (who is a good egg, and who is not to blame for any of this) told me that her bosses had finally gotten back to her.  And unfortunately, they had decided that my writing (by which they mean this blog, and the blog at Babble) was too bitter and angry and depressing for them.

Naturally, this made me bitter and angry and depressed.  It’s not just because the indignant responses I spluttered in my mind felt, to me, so justified (I wasn’t trying to sell anyone the writing on THIS website, for crying out loud!  They were just supposed to look at the posts as examples, damn it. Besides,  I’ve been writing for this particular magazine for years!  I know how to write in the chirpy and upbeat tone they prefer!  And why did they sit on it for months instead of getting back to me right away?  And god, how depressing is it to try to sell out–because that is exactly what I was doing–and then have the would-be buyer turn you down?)  It’s also because (like all criticism that stings) there’s a grain of truth in it, I fear.  I have tried very hard not to write like one who’s bitter and angry and depressed, but I’ve worried about it.

I’m not trying to get you all to reassure me that I’m well-adjusted and sensible and thoughtful and that my writing is fair-minded and that the editors-in-chief of women’s magazines are all idiots.  I’m okay now, I promise.  However, the mental machinery did seize a bit after this all happened.  I stopped writing both here and at Babble, which was terrible timing for Babble.  I am supposed to be promoting that blog and updating with greater frequency, and instead I’ve let it gather dust and cobwebs.

For a long time I thought I’d simply run out of things to say.  But, despite summer’s stagnation, little germs of ideas kept coming.  I took a lot of notes, and this fall I’ll try to organize them into something cogent. The beauty of this website is that it’s entirely voluntary–it has no reason to exist.  I don’t have to think about publicizing it or promoting it.  I don’t have to feel guilty when I don’t update (although I always feel better when I do).  I simply have to make sure that I write when I have something to say, and that I aim to write as consistently well (and maybe even as consistently often) as I can.  Which strikes me as a very good New Year’s Resolution indeed.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Melody_NC permalink
    September 23, 2011 1:55 pm

    I know you said you weren’t looking for reassurance but as someone who lurks more often than comments I wanted to say something. I adore your writing, I get a thrill when I see a new post from you in my blog reader, I would read anything you wrote, anywhere. I found you when I was on the fence with my marriage. Your posts let me see that if I chose to leave I would be ok, my kids would be ok, IT would be ok. You have no idea of what that meant to me. My husband and I are in a good place now, who knows what the future will hold but I feel secure now knowing that I’m staying because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.

    Your writing is so real to me. I have two kids (twin girls who are 7) and a husband in the military who is gone frequently. I can relate to your parenting ups and downs, dealing with things on your own, just life in general. I’m sorry that the magazine didn’t recognize the value in your writing, they’re total idiots in my opinion. I don’t want to read about puppies and unicorns and rainbows. I want to be able to relate to what I’m reading and life and parenting is messy, I like to feel like there are other moms and women out there who are living my life. Not some sanitized version of it.

    Looking forward to upcoming posts from you, no matter how infrequent. You’re worth the wait.

  2. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    September 23, 2011 2:10 pm

    Well, that certainly makes my day, my week, my summer and fall. Thank you. What a lovely thing to say, and I’m honored.

    The women’s magazines don’t seem to know WHAT they want, poor dears. They’re like baby boomers about Facebook. They know they should have some sort of internet presence, because it’s what all the cool kids are doing. But they’re deeply suspicious and somewhat mystified by it all.

    It makes me extraordinarily happy to hear that someone who read my blog when her marriage was in a rough place is still married. I have also secretly worried that I’m coming across as a rah-rah fan of divorce, which is not the case at all. So thank you very much for that, too.

  3. The One Who Comments From Time to Time (but always reads) permalink
    September 23, 2011 2:39 pm

    I second everything that Melody_NC said. I’m still in my flat tire of a passionless-but-respectful-and-polite marriage, and your blog has helped me find my way — which, currently, is to stay married!

    What I appreciate about your writing and the reality that lies behind it is the humanity of it all. That I am a middle aged woman with two kids who is going through some things in her marriage and struggling, trying to be the best person that I can be, and that you, also a woman with children, were married and you went through, and are still going through, things and you are writing about them and sharing them – *that* is the connection that I am always trying to make when I surf the Net!

    I’m not interested in reading any Prince Charming/June Cleaver stories at this point in my life (I wrote a post about how I hate how bloggers across the Net refer to their husbands as “hubby.”) I know that shit is not real – at least not for me – and I am so thankful for courageous, honest, not to mention superbly talented writers like yourself who write something that I can relate to. It’s not about being angry and depressed; it’s about being angry and depressed some of the time, happy and sad other times and somewhere in between the rest of the time. It’s about being real.

    Thank you – and don’t ever change!

  4. September 23, 2011 3:13 pm

    Wait a minute, wait a minute! I thought I had the market cornered from the “bitter, angry, & depressed” aspect of things…

    Previous commenters have already stated it more eloquently than MY bitter self – I continually remind myself of what my last therapist told me: that if I gave up on Marriage #2, I’d just have to start all over w/the next one! (she was hinting that there was hope)
    Turns out she was right – it’s no kinda fairy tale, but manageable at this point.

    “We’ve come to an understanding” – but I still greatly appreciate your POV

  5. September 23, 2011 4:54 pm

    I’d take bitterangrydepressed over chirpypositivehappy any day. Especially when it’s divinely eloquent, like your writing. Silly women’s mags. No wonder I stick to the NYer and Brain, Child.

    Anyhoo, glad you’re back!

  6. Susan permalink
    September 23, 2011 6:30 pm

    I think realistic and normal would be a better description; surprisingly unbitter in fact. Anyway, like Andi I would prefer honest bitter, angry and depressed to that awful faux cheeriness of so many magazine articles. I think you write beautiful, articulate posts with real feeling. I don’t often comment but I always read.

  7. Midlife permalink
    September 23, 2011 6:51 pm

    I think it might be a little gift — from wherever those gifts come from — that you have been refused the opportunity to “sell out.” Possibly it is even a gift from you to yourself considering you let them read this honest blog which sounds not like a “women’s magazine.” Perhaps the money would have been good but chirping in chirp-speak every week? Oh, dear.

  8. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    September 23, 2011 7:25 pm

    You are all very kind, and thank you very much–I’m flattered beyond measure. But let’s not diss the women’s magazines too much, nor that chirpy tone, since it’s presently my bread and butter! I suppose I should have made that more clear…I already sold out, long ago, (though not as a blogger–Babble lets me say whatever I want) and I whore my talents (such as they are) for the women’s service magazine industry whenever I can and for any magazine that wants to publish me. It’s actually not a terrible way to support oneself, all things considered, though there are obvious disadvantages–no steady income, no health insurance, et cetera.

    There is, however, this: My friend Emma, when I brought up the subject of clandestine midday wanking, said, rather jadedly, “Oh THAT. Around here, we call that a ‘freelancer’s liedown’.”

    Worth the month-to-month financial uncertainty just to get to use that term, in my book.

  9. Nan permalink
    September 23, 2011 7:27 pm

    Long time lurker. Glad to see you back, was getting a bit worried. Your writing is awesome.

  10. SarahB permalink
    September 23, 2011 8:44 pm

    Good to see you again!

    For the sake of the “too bitter” business, I would just like to add that I am happily married and read your blog regularly. Let the head honchos of women’s magazines (which I do not tend to read unless I am in a waiting room) puzzle out why.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 23, 2011 9:48 pm

      That’s where everyone reads them! I’m always amused when someone says, “Hey, I saw an article of yours! I was at the gynecologist, and…”
      But anyway, the whole reason I started this website was because I wanted to be able to write this way, not their way. As my brilliant editor friend (herself a much bigger shot in the magazine writing business than I have ever been) said, “The problem with writing that kind of stuff isn’t the writing per se. It’s that after a while you start to think that you’re the kind of writer who can only write that kind of stuff.”

  11. September 24, 2011 9:51 pm

    so glad to see your post. i was wondering where you were and worrying … you seem to have resolved your mental conflicts; do keep on writing here. i love the honest outlook. whether it is cheerful or not! take care, and look forward to reading many many posts by you!

  12. liza permalink
    September 25, 2011 1:00 am

    ouch, ouch,
    I’m in a marriage still, probably will be for a while longer.
    I read you religiously,
    and i must be the most angry bitter person,
    cause I am scratching my head wondering why your blog is being called
    angry and bitter.
    you seem pretty damn cheerful to me, all things considered.
    that hurts.

  13. September 25, 2011 11:24 am

    Bitter and depressing? I find your writing the exact opposite. I’m astounded by that assessment. There is always a light shining through and a sense of humor in all you write.

  14. Suzanne permalink
    September 26, 2011 7:07 am

    I’m happily married and my children are grown, but yours is one of a handful of blogs that I read regularly and always enjoy. I worry when you are absent.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 26, 2011 6:20 pm

      That’s awfully kind of you, and thank you. But don’t worry–it just means I’m lazy and shiftless and undisciplined if I don’t write. Or happily busy. Or trying to spend time away from the computer for one reason or another…

  15. Was Living Down Under permalink
    September 26, 2011 7:53 pm

    Another happily married dedicated reader here! Totally not bitter and depressing. In fact you often find humour in the “drudgery”. It makes it real. Previous commenters were way more eloquent, but I wholeheartedly second them! Glad you’re back! By the way, your post over at Babble gave me a laugh.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 26, 2011 9:57 pm

      Hooray! I wouldn’t be making people laugh if I were such a wretch, now would I? Thank you. I’m trying to make the Babble blog the funny one and this one the pretentious one. But there’s some inevitable crossover….

  16. Anne permalink
    September 26, 2011 11:29 pm

    I love your writing, and I love your stories. And I am happily married, so it’s not because of the content, but because you are such a gifted writer. I do think that, in the very beginning of this blog when the wounds of your divorce were still new, your writing had a “rawness” to it that, as you said, doesn’t fit with the saccharine tone of women’s magazines. But, I only read blogs that are real, not toned down or tarted up, and yours is a real blog, in spades. Keep it up, my friend!

  17. October 1, 2011 12:02 pm

    I usually lurk, but have been reading your posts for a while now – I love your writing. Keep on doing what you’re doing and all will be well. I dread to think what an editor would say about my blog – sharts, 4 year-old pain au chocolat, periodically considering murder….but you just have to write about what you know in your own voice. So KEEP ON DOING WHAT YOU DO!!!!!!

    Ali x

  18. October 1, 2011 10:16 pm

    What a stupid decision. Well, I read Babble when you were there, now I won’t be, and I won’t be seeing any of their ads either. No skin off my nose, I’ll just read you here (along with other intelligent writing which wouldn’t find its way into their chirpy, upbeat pages.)

  19. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    October 3, 2011 3:58 pm

    I’m still at Babble, so please still read there, because it pays a small amount! I’ll include a link to their feed in my next post, because it’s getting harder and harder to find anything over there (the ads are only part of the problem).

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