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Miranda: Creativity and a bit of green grass

Yesterday was one of those days.

My hair looked such a disaster that “bad hair day” didn’t quite cover it. “Finger in electrical socket” would have been a more accurate description. The rest of me wasn’t going to win any beauty prizes either, but I checked my ego and made it to the grocery store with my 3-year-old and 5-week old boys. While I was tanking up the little one in the parking lot, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends pulled in to the spot next to us in her black BMW. Perfectly coifed, dressed, and made up, I hoped feverently that she wouldn’t notice me. But she did, sticking her perfectly highlighted head into the passenger side window to say hello. I hope I only imagined the pity in her eyes.

Despite having nursed, the baby was unhappy while we shopped. I had to perch the infant car seat across the shopping cart so that the baby could suck on my pinky knuckle while I pulled the boys through the store at top speed. Unfortunately, the large “transition” capris I was wearing were too loose around the waist and kept falling down. I’m sure I exposed more post-partum midriff chub than anyone in the store had ever hoped to see.

Then, naturally, we got the SLOWEST cashier available—she was busy talking to another cashier and chewing her gum while I frantically threw my items onto the belt, rocking the car seat with one foot. The baby was getting frenetic, as was I. The cashier turned to me. “Aw,” she said, slowly zapping each of my 13 Balance Bars one by one, “How old is your baby?” “Well,” I wanted to say, “He’s five freaking weeks old, obviously in distress, and if you could speed it up JUST A LITTLE BIT I might be able to get out of here before I let down all over your scanner!”

We made it out to the car, loaded it up, and I fed the baby (again), even though we live .6 miles from the store. On the way home, the SUV behind us honked hard at me for no reason (he didn’t like the fact that I was turning left while using my signal?) which rattled me more than it should have. (Note to self: do not honk back and use the F word while three-year-old is in phase known as repeat-everything-Mommy-says-and-relate-story-to-Daddy-later.)

I pulled into my driveway to discover the well repair guys and their large truck; in my sleep-deprived haze I’d managed to forget the 10-12 window I’d scheduled to assess my broken sprinkler system. Luckily they had already assessed; unluckily I learned that the irrigation pump was broken but could be replaced. For $2,100.

When I started breathing again, I choked out an approval of the work order. Our house is on the market and trying to sell it with a broken irrigation system and a lot of dead grass probably wouldn’t be a plus. Not sure where the cash will come from, but that’s what visa cards are for.

I managed to get the perishables put away. While getting my three-year-old ready for his nap, I discovered that the liner bag inside the Diaper Dekor had run out and slipped down inside the bin, which meant that a week of very yucky Pull-Ups had piled up in a disgusting, stinky mess.

By the time I got things cleaned up, the baby was fussing to nurse again but I had to scoop him up and run downstairs to answer the door. It was our new real estate agent, dropping off our listing sheets. She had bad news. All of our septic records indicate that our system was installed for a four-bedroom house, not the five-bedroom house that we bought five years ago. We’re still doing research and exploring options, but the bottom line is that for now we have to market our house with one fewer bedrooms than we paid for.

While we discussed how this discrepancy hadn’t been caught by someone before, and I wondered about the economic wisdom of switching to this by-the-book-agent who had found a problem that our two previous agents had not, my fussy baby spat up over my shoulder and down the back of my shirt. The agent politely ignored the puddle of milk on the floor as she left.

What does all of this have to do with creativity? A lot. Under normal circumstances, a day like yesterday would have been enough to send me to my knees on the kitchen floor, crying while I nursed the baby on the cheap-but-decent-looking new tile we installed to help sell the house. I’m sleep deprived, hormonal, I work part-time from home, and I have five children. Who wouldn’t be crying? But I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, or even close. Here’s why.

Despite the seeming chaos of my life, being creative on a daily basis has proved to be my anchor. No, I’m not able to spend six hours cranking on my nonfiction book or complete a painting—not right now—but I’m doing enough to keep the creative spring flowing. Writing a daily haiku, journaling, making notes about the creative projects on my mind, reading a little, and staying in touch with the inspiring blogosphere through this blog.

There is no question that creativity is a centering force. Without it, I would have experienced yesterday as an assault on my inner self—and our bank account. Of course, it wasn’t. It was just a series of events I had to deal with. I was able to keep my perspective, and not jump off the cliff (as my husband often puts it).

Instead of freaking out, I opted for some laughter therapy by watching my favorite SNL clip. (God bless Will Ferrell, Christopher Walken, and the cow bell.) There were a lot of good things going on around me to focus on, if I didn’t obsess about finances.

The mail arrived, and with it the beautiful—and affordable—nursing jewelry I had ordered (more on Jen Johnson in coming weeks). My 17-year-old son wanted to play me his latest composition on the acoustic guitar. I turned on the TV to watch Tiger win sudden death at the US Open—and my 3-year-old, just up from his nap, asked “Mommy, which one is Lion?” In the late afternoon, I took the two little ones and my daughter to a local farm, where we picked up our first CSA shares. While feeding the baby in the parking lot (again), we watched an exquisite hummingbird feeding from the flowers next to our car.

Happily, my husband got home a little early and I managed to pull off a tasty batch of penne with garlic, shrimp, spinach, and grape tomatoes for dinner.

I would not have savored many of those moments if I’d let my knickers get in a twist. Creativity, I am sure, is what made the difference. Investing in your “source”—whether it’s the irrigation well in your yard or the creative font in your psyche—simply helps the grass turn greener, on your side of the hill.

And hey, I’m sure things will look up on the house front. The bug guy is due this morning. Who knows what could happen?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    i love this one! a little extreme yesterday, sorry miranda, but i’m glad it happened b/c this that came from it and reminded me (who is having a lot of similar days lately) that balance has more to do with state of mind than with events and course of day, esp when loaded with nursing breaks (read interruptions) throughout.

    your hummingbird moment made me think of last night, exhausted and needing to lie down, nursing chloe, looking out my window at the strangely yellow sunset, jonquil sky, caused by smoke from the Dismal Swamp (real name) fires that are SW of me. nice thing about bad air quality – gorgeous sunsets and hazy days that put one in a nostalgic writerly mood.

    June 17, 2008
  2. Your day sounds so much like many of my recent days, and you are right: if I relax and laugh, they are so much easier to deal with. Oh, and of course Christopher Walken and the cow bell skit could make anything right.

    June 18, 2008
  3. What a great story. I’m so glad that you are feeling fulfilled and happy inside because of your creative life. I know of what you speak! The past two months working on my blogazine have been the happiest in years, despite the poverty associated with not having a new gig…

    I was thinking of a good comeback for the girl at the supermarket who asked how old the baby was: “Well, he was 5 weeks old when we came in here, but he’s aged considerably since…”

    Happy for you.

    June 19, 2008

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