Running Shoes and Other Thoughts

posted March 3, 2009

It’s 4:10 on Tuesday March 3 and I’m up in my office on the third floor of our house. It overlooks the parking lot of the hospital across the street, but less prosaically, it also has a view of just a little bit of one of the Seven Sisters, the range that rims our valley to the south. I love this room. It’s removed from the rest of the house. I gave up my grand and commodious office on the second floor a few months before Johnny was born, and Tom painted this room a simple white. We hired our friend Eddie Duggan to strip the wood floors of their ugly rust red color and re-finish them; they are a golden pine now.

Already I am second-guessing my decision to halt my coaching practice. Today I coached two clients whom I adore, and I am sad I won’t speak to them again for a month. I love coaching and, noticing my thoughts, I see that I “coach” in my head all day in the same way I “write” in my head all day.

Writing in my head all day was the tip-off to me that I needed to be writing on the page a little, too. I have another mom friend who used to be a writer, and she told me, “Once I had kids, all my creative juices went into mothering. They went into playing games with my kids, cooking, crafts, stuff like that.” I had thought that would happen to me, too, but no. Perhaps it’s because I’m too selfish; perhaps it’s because I always hated crafts, even when I was a kid. (Though I had a thoroughly enjoyable and meditative 20 minutes this morning lying on the floor with Lila and coloring in a picture of some butterflies with her broken bits of crayons. She pretends they are ice cream, and when I’m not looking, she eats them.) But the truth is, I am still always writing. I go around with songs brewing in my head, and only sometimes do I sing them for my kids or Garage Band. I am constantly composing missives and plots and noticing characters popping up, or re-working my novel The Big Idea.

Speaking of The Big Idea, that’s the other thing I need to think about for this period of time. Do I use these two hours a day to rework that poor novel? Right now, it’s the story of a family who is also a folk-rock band who travels around the country and rides the roller coaster of a performing career. They are young: in their twenties. I am so not twenty anymore, and sometimes I find their trials and tribulations SOOOOO over the top and 15 years ago. I have also been composing a soundtrack to go with the book, but that soundtrack has been pillaged over time, and much of it has appeared on our CDs: Love and China, This Town Is Wrong and even Sister Holler. Last October, my brother-in-law and guitar player/producer Dave Chalfant read it and gave me some good suggestions. I said to him that I thought what I needed to do was take this February to write some songs and then re-write the novel around the narrator who appeared in those songs. We’ll see about that. One of the songs I wrote is a sequel to “Ash Wednesday” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones,” and I am supposed to Skype it tomorrow morning to Ed McKeon’s radio show on WWUH. I have no idea how to do that. I have about fifteen minutes to spare in the morning before Tom leaves and I have to watch the kids. I hope I can figure it out, and I also hope I can go for a run tomorrow. Also I need new running shoes because my present ones are 3 years old and flat as tortillas.

Lila had a play date today. Another mother and daughter came over and we sat at the little kids table and had applesauce and tea. The little girls had raspberry herbal tea and the big girls had Lung Ching Dragonwell green tea. The mother is a yoga teacher who owns and runs her own studio, and she is one of the most luminous people I have ever met, and also one of the best yoga teachers I’ve ever worked with. I asked her how she came to be so awesome. (We are just getting to know each other, and one thing I am learning is that trying to talk to an adult during a play date is like trying to get the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to pass a bill; you make such incremental progress that any step forward is hailed as an historic event. So it was with my friend and me.) She said she had decided at some point to let her spirituality lead her forward; to be unapologetic about it and to be clear with her students that yoga is a spiritual path.

I realized right away that this quality was what drew me to her as a teacher, and also that I myself am so shy about sharing my own love of God with the world that I often go to extremes to hide it. Most of the time, I assume that 90% of my audience are atheists who are completely turned off by any talk of God, in the same way that the woman in the running store where I was looking for new shoes was horrified when Lila stated, “Mama, I have a big big poop,” and started walking around with her legs extended like the Tin Man.

But the truth for me is that this conversation I have going on all day long in my head–– the songs, the coaching, the writing––it’s all a conversation with God (or Higher Power, or Spirit, or Inner Wisdom, or whatever you want to call it.) I want to be braver about letting that light shine in the world and not hiding it under that bushel of Generation X cynicism.

A couple more things to note before I sign off for today: Johnny is now officially Rockin’ Johnny! He is up on all fours, doing the pre-crawl rock and howling in frustration when he propels himself forward like a porpoise only to fall on his tummy. Lila’s favorite songs this week are “Sidewalks of New York” and something she calls “Mother Goose” which is the telephone conversation recorded on Dan Zanes’s Rocket Ship Beach CD. The rest of the song is Father Goose rapping, which she used to love, but now eschews. She has discovered the “clicker” AKA the remote control, and there is no longer peace in the valley at the Nields-Duffys.

Thank you all for your supportive comments! I am so glad to have a readership. What a wonderful format a blog is!

Till tomorrow.

The Comments

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  1. Maybe the time has come for an album of hymns? Things you like? (But none of those old spirituals your choir director in HS made you sing, please.) Was it Susan Werner or Sarah Harmer who just released an album of spiritual songs that was said to be quite good?

    Now, I’d be first in line (hah!) for TN’s album of old country hymn covers, things by the Carters, things done by Elvis, by Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, etc. I can just hear you and Katryna covering “Where No One Stands Alone” sort of like “Nebraska” and such a thing would be a wonder.

  2. I wish I could “solve” your problem.

    Every year when I read about the McArthur “genius grants,” I think about how one does not apply — They find you! I think about how nice it would be if the committee decided that my accomplishments were deserving of such a grant.

    But I know that my achievements are mundane compared to the list of winners I read about each year. However, I believe that Nerissa’s songwriting is surely in the “genius” category, and I know lots of others who would agree. Unfortunately, I doubt any of them are on that committee.

    So, I will send positive thoughts, accompanied by a Nields soundtrack, to the mysterious McArthur Awards committee. Starting tonight, with “Soldier at Your Door.”

    In the meantime, you have inspired me to write a blog.

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