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Posts tagged ‘diary’

Brittany Writes a Book

britmirandacropEditor’s note: Brittany and I have been friends for more than a decade. Our friendship started through this very blog and then transitioned to the holy grail of IRL. I’ve read enough of Brittany’s writing over the years to know that I love her work. So when I saw that she’d self-published a narrative chapbook of poetry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Brittany graciously fulfilled my request for a signed edition and mailed it to me post-haste.

It’s always an interesting experience, reading the work of a friend. I’m a writer and editor by trade and have worked in the professional world of words for nearly 30 years. As a creativity coach, I enthusiastically applaud every passionate, whole-hearted foray into creative work—but that doesn’t mean I admire the work itself. As many of my creative friends will attest, I’m unable to say, “Wow, this is brilliant,” when I’m not of that opinion. I’m preternaturally allergic to even little white lies of artful affirmation. I don’t want to give or receive disingenuous compliments about creative work. With that nugget of context, here’s what I wrote to Brittany after receiving Courtesan

Courtesan

“Brittany, your book arrived on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) and after a ridiculous work day that capped off a 55-client-hour work week, I crawled into bed with it. Granted, I was a little punchy on account of chronic fatigue, but in the dozen pages I read that night, I laughed out loud and—I know this is going to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your poopchute but it’s the truth—I wept with happiness. Some of these poems are So. Damn. Good. At one point I had to explain to Liam (11 years old, who still sleeps with me when he’s home and my man isn’t) why I was making such a racket (‘persnickety douchebaggery’ set me off). I’m bursting with pride for you, Brittany. I truly am.”

Courtesan is an anthem to the contemplative divorcée. This slim volume will delight you, hit you in all the right spots, and leave you wanting a bit more—just as an experienced courtesan should do. These poems confront you with the pain and loneliness of being married to a person who (you are ultimately forced to concede) will never be able to love you in the ways you most want to be loved, even if one day he does stop screaming and throwing shit and raving like the asshole he is. (Apparently you’ll also find a dose of catharsis between the lines.) Despite what hurts, Courtesan is also a tale of hope—and finding oneself, and love, again. Highly recommended.


Brittany

It’s amazing how much can change in 11 years. In the spring of 2008, Miranda discovered my blog Re-Writing Motherhood and plucked me from total obscurity to ask me to become a Studio Mothers contributor. The Studio Mothers blog was still in its infancy, as was my life as a (theoretically) stay-at-home-mom and full-time novelist. That time marks one of the most prolific creative periods of my life. But considering that I’m *still* working on the novel I started that year, it’s clear that creativity waxes and wanes, too. Now in 2019, I’m in another creative period. In addition to the 900 craft projects I have going on, I recently self-published a poetry chapbook titled Courtesan.

Courtesan is a diary told through poetry. It’s an eye-opening, no-holds-barred exploration of social and sexual re-awakening post-divorce. This is the book I never had any intention of writing. Generally speaking, I’m fun-loving, free-spirited, and unabashedly whimsical. Dark, brooding, erotic stories that would cause my southern Baptist relatives to have a collective pearl-clutching stroke were never part of my repertoire. But as I state in the book, there comes a point when the last thread of I-would-nevers snaps, and you become someone who would.

I became someone who would when I got divorced in 2015, after 13 years of marriage, eight of which I’d spent as a stay-at-home mom. There is a reason stay-at-home moms don’t just up and get divorced and abruptly go from full-time mom, to full-time working/part-time mom. It is traumatic on every level, and something I don’t think you can ever be prepared for. I was completely unprepared for the cold, hard smack of reality that awaited me.

And I did this alone. I was in Upstate New York, which was a 14-hour drive from my family in North Carolina, and across the country from my mom in Idaho. Not that my family was supportive. No one could understand why I was willing to give up such a seemingly comfortable life to go back to work and become a part-time parent. They acted like I had selfishly decided on a whim that getting divorced, re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence, and parenting my children only half time would be a fun thing to do.

Brittany_bouquetI sunk into a horrible depression, a depression deeper and more pervasive than the depression I had already felt in the last year of my marriage, a nasty black pit I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and constant anxiety. I’d always been an introverted loner, and suddenly, I couldn’t be alone anymore. I would beg my friends to let me come over and sit huddled on their couches, just to hear the noise in their households and feel like I belonged somewhere again. I cried constantly. My relationship with my children suffered. They were angry that I’d left them. My relationship with my ex further deteriorated. My family was as unsympathetic and unsupportive as it was possible to be. And overnight I became a third wheel among my married friends. Suddenly, I had not very much in common with them anymore.

I liken it to throwing a grenade on my entire life and watching it blow up around me. And into this stew of existentialist crisis, I thought it was a good idea to jump headlong into dating again.

Fresh from a bad marriage, I lived in a fantasy land where post-divorce dating was like an island of misfit toys. Divorcées would arrive broken and battered, having seen better days as a result of living with the wrong partners, and there they would magically find a more suitable person and live happily ever after. But my little fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality. Dating post-divorce is an, as yet, unexplored layer of Dantean hell and I realized that for most men, I was merely a commodity. Interchangeable with every woman out there. The transactional aspect of these relationships left me feeling very much like a courtesan, or more colloquially, a whore.

Brittany_mermaidI wasn’t sure how to process any of this, but I started a diary and wrote down snippets, dialogue, things people said to me that angered or inspired me, and all the observations I made, to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately learn from it. I pulled the diary out periodically to add to it, but was mostly preoccupied with other things, like paying the bills and buying groceries.

The worst part of that period was the complete lack of creative spark inside me. For the longest time, I was barely functioning. And when my creativity started to trickle back, it only came in fits and starts. I knew for my own sanity, I needed a creative outlet, so I took a painting class. And a jewelry-making class. I started to dabble at doll-making and embroidery again in my spare time. My friends knew I was their go-to girl if they saw something on pinterest they wanted to try and we started having semi-regular craft nights. I felt better when I was crafting, so I crafted. I felt better when I was painting, so I painted. I wasn’t able to write anything for the longest time, but eventually, poems started forming in my head again. I wrote them down on whatever piece of paper was handy. If they were good, I stashed them away and saved them. They were shoved inside books and drawers, and sometimes fished out of the dryer lint tray.

Fast-forward three years. My life was entirely altered. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a writer, and only a writer. But during my post-divorce journey, I became an artist, too. And after three years, I was more artist than writer.

Brittany_carI bought myself a little green bungalow and painted the walls bold turquoise and coral and purple. I painted the furniture and decorated the walls with my artwork. The dining room table was always covered in hot glue, paint smears, and glitter from the numerous projects I had in progress. I was always creating something, and as a result, I was happier than I had ever been at any other time in my life. My happiness changed the trajectory of my relationships and three years post-divorce, I was living with the man who would become my husband. In clearing away my clutter to make space for him in my house, I started to rediscover the writing and poetry I had been stashing in all manner of strange spots for three years. He encouraged me to do something with them, rather than re-stashing them somewhere new. But what was I going to do with a bunch of mostly unhappy autobiographical poems about my days as a single divorcée?

Brittany_bouquet2One day as I was driving (a time when great ideas seem to arise), and it occurred to me that if I collected all those poems and added the love poems I’d started writing more recently, I had a story there. I imagined calling it Courtesan, as a nod to my former single life and the way dating had made me feel. I mulled the idea in the back of my mind for some time. It continued to grow on me.

This winter I put it all together and self-published my chapbook. People ask me why I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. I self-published because I figured my “weird little book” didn’t have mass appeal. I wasn’t really sure how you’d market a diary that was poetry. And I thought it would only appeal to women of a certain age who’d experienced a traumatic mid-life divorce. Plus, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t particularly confident in my writing. I liked my writing. I had written it for myself, but I wasn’t sure at all if it would resonate with anyone else and I didn’t want to alter it in any way.

Since I published Courtesan, I have been shocked to my core by the feedback I’ve received. Women who are single, and never been married, have written to tell me how much they related to and enjoyed it. I don’t know whether to feel pleased or saddened that so many women can relate to so much darkness and despair.

Brittany_wandsI think that in most stories, and Courtesan is no exception, the main narrative is that a woman’s life turns around when she experiences true love. But the story functions on two levels. While on the surface, Courtesan is the story of the darkest time of my life and how I fell in love with my husband, there’s also the secret story hidden in the pages, about my love of the creative process, how it brought me back to life, gave me purpose, and fueled the creation of the diary in the first place. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself through the act of creation. And I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how much joy I get from the doing.

 


See more of Brittany’s artistic projects at her current blog.
Order Courtesan at amazon

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Everything and Nothing: A Day in the Life

Yesterday was one of those days filled with everything and nothing. I bet you can relate. It started in the wee hours:

12:30 am My three oldest (Russell, Matthew, and Emma) return home from a Dear Hunter concert; I am only vaguely aware of noises downstairs in the kitchen as someone prepares a midnight snack.

4:00 am Matthew, a high-school senior, is picked up by his girlfriend and her dad. They head to school for the band and chorus road trip to Cleveland. I have left a good-bye note for Matthew; I stay in bed.

6:00 am Up for the day — late. Abbreviated morning practice. Make tea. Husband departs.

6:20 am I plan the day and drink my tea. The three cats are acting somewhat frantic. One of them, Finn, is scheduled for surgery today so no one has had access to food or water since last night. Sasha tries to eat a houseplant.

6:35 am I carefully read through the thick recital packet from Emma’s dance school, decide that I’m not going to volunteer as a chaperone, and calculate our ticket purchase. Emma is still in bed; I go upstairs to confirm that she wants to stay home today on account of last night’s late concert. She does. So I don’t need to make her breakfast or lunch. Bonus!

6:50 am Liam, who just turned four years old this week, gets up (unusually late). We snuggle and eat breakfast.

7:20 am After settling Liam on the couch watching Tom & Jerry, I go upstairs to shower and dress.

7:40 am Seven-year-old Aidan is still asleep. I wake him up, hurriedly get him some cereal, make lunches for both boys, and dress Liam. I put Finn in the kitty carry bag and make it out to the garage.

8:10 am We drive down the hill. The school bus rolls up and Aidan departs. Liam, Finn, and I set off for the vet’s office. Finn howls all the while, trying to claw his way out of the carry bag. Perhaps he knows that he’ll be leaving the vet’s office with a little less than he’s bringing in. Each time Finn howls, Liam screeches in delight.

8:30 am At the vet’s office. I fill out Finn’s paperwork and Liam kisses Finn goodbye through the carry-bag’s mesh.

9:00 am We arrive at Liam’s school. Liam hates his school, and informs me of this repeatedly, as he always does, clinging to my leg as I try to leave. I extract myself remorsefully, telling myself that Liam’s acceptance letter to his new Montessori school is surely imminent.

9:25 am Back in the car, I listen to an installment of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which is lovely. En route to the studio, I pick up a cappuccino at my favorite local café.

10:00 am At Open Studio for the monthly meeting of my nonfiction writers’ group. (I am a member of this group, rather than the facilitator.) I love these women. Great feedback and encouragement on my e-book project, which is nearly finished.

12:20 pm Check e-mail from the studio, respond to a few client messages, take my turns at Words With Friends via iPhone, and plan the rest of the day before heading out. The vet calls to say that Finn did great; he’s still seeing double but I can pick him up anytime after 2:00.

12:40 pm Heading for home. On the way, I drop off two bags of shirts at the dry cleaner’s and stop at the pharmacy to pick up an rx.

1:15 pm At home. Eat lunch. Check in with daughter, who is enjoying her day off. More e-mail triage. Let dog out. Register Emma up for a creative fashion camp.

1:45 pm 30-minute phone call with student from my Wednesday writers’ workshop who missed class yesterday due to illness.

2:15 pm Brief chat with my oldest, Russell, about last night’s concert. Russ just returned home from college yesterday and I haven’t had much chance to see him yet. I also spend some time mapping out the choreography for the afternoon, as Matthew, who normally drives Emma to her voice and dance lessons, is en route to Cleveland and there is a lot to juggle being down my Thursday afternoon chauffeur. Russell is on deadline with five papers that are due tomorrow so I can’t assign him any driving.

2:55 pm Depart for Emma’s voice lesson. Emma, who has her learner’s permit, does the driving. I practice my deep breathing as Emma hesitates in the middle of an intersection, nearly causing a five-car pileup. But she’s doing great.

3:20 pm Arrive music school, late. Emma goes in for her lesson. I get into the driver’s seat and head to Liam’s school. More of The Forgotten Garden.

3:30 pm I retrieve Liam, who is always deliriously happy to see me. I have brought him some leftover candy from his birthday piñata, which he munches intently as we drive back to the music school to get Emma.

3:45 pm Depart music school with Emma and Liam. Emma is driving again. Getting to the dance school two towns over requires several highway stints. More deep breathing. Meanwhile, Russell, who is at home working on his papers, will meet Aidan when he gets off the bus.

4:10 pm Park outside the dance school. Emma goes inside for class. I check in with husband via text to be sure that he’ll be home by 6:00 in order to take Aidan to soccer practice. Everything seems to be on target. I have promised Liam a treat at the bakery next door (the piñata candy hasn’t made a dent in this child’s appetite for sugar and even though I try not to eat the stuff myself, apparently I have no problem feeding it to my children); we attempt to enter the bakery but they’re closed. Liam bursts into tears. I assure him that there’s another option a short walk away. He cheers immediately and we have a nice walk in the sun. He ends up with a brownie and apple juice. Happy.

4:40 pm Back in the car, we still have over an hour left to wait out Emma’s 90-minute class. I allow Liam the rare delight of watching a DVD in the car. I queue up Monsters Inc. With Liam plugged into the electronic babysitter as he happily strews brownie crumbs all over the car, I sit in the passenger seat and prepare to do some work on my laptop. I realize that a studio document I need is only available online, and I have no wifi access here. Instead of doing client work, I opt to make edits to my e-book based on feedback from the morning’s writers’ group. Nothing like creating in the middle of things. I make excellent progress punctuated by intermittent conversation with Liam.

5:40 pm I hear an unfamiliar beeping noise and suddenly realize what I’ve done. In my frantic attempt to jump out of the car and run around to the driver’s side, I get caught in the strap of my messenger bag and nearly wipe out in the parking lot. By the time I make it to the driver’s seat, it’s too late. The car battery is dead. I’ve been playing a DVD for nearly an hour without running the engine.

5:45 pm Call husband, who is nearly home. We decide that I’ll use the roadside service deal that comes with our car lease. I call and make arrangements for a jump. They tell me it will be about an hour. This is going to be a very long hour. Emma asks me if the battery will recharge itself just by sitting there. No, I tell her. That’s not how it works.

6:00 pm Liam is hot, as he’s sitting in the sun, and Emma is cold, as the windows are open and she’s sitting in the shade. I’m on Liam’s sunny side, and I’m pretty sure my left ear is getting burned off in the late afternoon soon. I’m unable to address any of these climate control issues, seeing as the car is dead. I tell Liam to climb into the shady side of the car. I check in with my husband, who has arrived home to take Aidan to soccer, but Aidan isn’t ready. (I neglected to ask Russell to tell Aidan to get his soccer kit on.) Aidan will be late for practice. I inform my husband, in case it isn’t readily apparent, that I will not be making dinner.

6:30 pm We’re getting hungry, and I really have to pee. Meanwhile, the vet closes at 8:00, and someone needs to get there in time to fetch Finn. The tow guy calls to tell me he’s on his way. He’s leaving from Newton, which is at least 45 minutes away. Seriously? Time for action. I decide that Liam and I will walk over to the pizza place around the corner while Emma stays with the car. As Liam opens his door, the interior light flicks on. How can the light go on if the battery is totally dead? I turn the key in the ignition. The car roars to life. Apparently that is how it works, I note for Emma’s benefit. It’s been a while since I experienced this level of gratitude for the combustion engine. We set off for the vet’s as I call to cancel the jump.

7:05 pm We make it to the vet. Liam, ever curious, comes in with me. $210 later, we come out to the car with Finn in his carry bag, which I hand to Emma. At which point we discover that it’s soaking wet. Apparently Finn, in his post-surgical state, relieved himself upon being installed in his bag. (At this point I can relate to his sense of urgency.) Given that Emma doesn’t want to hold the wet bag on her lap and Finn is meowing his head off, it’s an interesting drive home.

7:20 pm We’re home and I make a run for the bathroom. Emma takes Finn upstairs in the pee-bag and the boys sit down to eat the veggie corn dogs that my husband has set out for them. I scrounge up some dinner for myself. Aidan, recounting the day’s events at school, bursts into explaining that when he was out at recess, a second-grader named Tommy gleefully pulled a worm in half, brushing aside Aidan’s protests. Aidan, haunted by the image, is devastated, sobbing uncontrollably. I stifle the urge to do to Tommy what Tommy did to the worm.

7:40 pm My husband takes Liam upstairs for a bath. Aidan is still too emotional for bathing. We talk.

7:50 pm Partially recovered, Aidan heads upstairs to brush his teeth. I clean the kitchen.

8:30 pm It’s way past bedtime for the boys. I go upstairs to tuck Liam in and read to Aidan. We’re in the middle of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Aidan and I very much look forward to our nightly reading ritual.

8:50 pm I tuck Aidan in and go downstairs to start a load of laundry.

9:00 pm At my desk. As he has requested, I edit two of Russell’s final papers.

10:00 pm More e-mail triage. I set up a water delivery for the studio. I design a flier for an upcoming author event and post it to our facebook page.

10:45 pm Russell brings his laptop into my office and shares a few funnies from the interwebs. Emma makes an appearance and laughs with us. I advance the laundry.

11:05 pm Upstairs, I say goodnight to Emma and get ready for bed. I check my pedometer and see that I’m 100 steps short of my 5,000-step daily minimum. So I run downstairs to grab my prescription. By the time I get back, I’ve hit my quota. My husband has long since turned out the lights. I’m too tired to read my book, even though book group is on Saturday night and I’m only halfway through. Sleep awaits.

If you’re reading this line, you are the only person in the world to get this far, and I hug you for keeping me company all the way to the end.

Despite the day’s adventures, I’m pleased that I managed to create in the middle of things, and that I kept my cool rather than succumbing to stress. I know that by this time next year — heck, this time next month — I won’t remember this day at all. And yes, tomorrow is another day.

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