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Waiting for Happy Endings

I had a really great post planned for tonight. The kind that seems to come out of nowhere yet feels incredibly right as it leap-frogs from your subconscious to your gut. The kind that you know has an “aha!” patiently waiting for you to tease it out as your fingers fly over the keyboard too busy to bother with spell-check or even remember how to use commas properly, at least on that initial outpouring from brain to page. The kind that went right out the window this morning at around 11:30 when the power went off at work in the middle of the blog post you were setting up for work, hurtling further and further away as you tramped down six flights of stairs with your colleagues, dawdled in the cold for half hour or so, got lunch at the new sandwich place, somehow managed to tramp back up six flights of stairs without dying or losing a lung on the way, and tried to rearrange all of the interviews you had planned for the afternoon on your cell phone as it gasped its way through its last few minutes of battery life.

All afternoon that perfect post has lingered on the tip of my brain yet I haven’t been able to muster up even a quick Polaroid of what it was supposed to be. When you work full-time as I do, you get used to writing in the cracks and crannies of the day. You get used to ideas wanting to go into full-blown labor at the precise moment when you can’t take a moment to jot them down cause you’re in the middle of that interview you’ve been chasing for two years now or you’re desperately trying to sketch out the ideas you’re getting paid to produce 9-5 or you’re just in another meeting about another thing you don’t actually have time to do. In other words, you get used to spending a great deal of your day as a frustrated creative writer, no matter how well your other writing work is going.

I’ve learned, however, to just let go of the snippet of poetry, the character insight, the flash of slant rhyme. I’ve learned that they don’t, in fact, go galloping off into the galaxy never to be heard from again. Instead they burrow back into the body, polishing off some of the rougher edges, highlighting some of the hidden nuance, generally gussying themselves up so that they’re even more lyric, more fluid, just more more when they finally somersault onto the page.

The best ideas, I’ve learned, are willing to wait. They’re a lot more patient than I am and will gladly stick around till the right time if I let them. Instead of fussing and fidgeting and fuming about the ones that got away, I think we’d do well to learn to be patient as they are. To trust that when we can finally carve out a few minutes to dance, that perfect phrase will set the needle in the groove and be willing to waltz or samba or do the hustle for as many minutes and as many pages as we have.


Spoiler Alert: This post is all about my period.

Last night my period started, which, after approximately 33 years of fertility, is not exactly news. Still it feels momentous because it may, in fact, be my final period ever. As I have been warned by my doctor, he may not be able to save my uterus when he removes the fibroids, and if my uterus goes so does my period.

I don’t remember if I was 10 or 11 when my period started but I do remember I was in 5th grade. Mrs. McGrath was my homeroom teacher, and she walked me down to the school office where she exclaimed to the secretaries, “One of my little girls just became a young lady.” One of the secretaries—yes, that is what we called them back then—opened up a cache of emergency supplies and out came a sanitary napkin that was pretty much twice the size I was. Not only that but it was the kind that was designed to be worn with a sanitary belt. I made do with two diaper pins instead.

Later that evening, my mom gave me the talk. It went a little something like this.

Mom: Do you know how you get pregnant?

Me: (tentatively) By playing with boys.

Mom: That’s right.

To be fair, my mother remembers the conversation rather differently, with her version having a little more detail. Whatever the actual exchange, I got the gist. Given that I’ve spent most of my adult life either as a virgin or celibate, with only a handful of years of being sexually active, I’ve never really paid that much attention to my period. Sure it’s annoying but I never worried much about tracking as I didn’t have to worry about pregnancy. I figured it would just get here when it got here. It’s actually embarrassing the number of years (and by years I mean decades), it took me to pay enough attention to realize that my body actually gave me plenty of signals when Aunt Flo was arriving to spend a few days on my couch.

I did, however, finally notice a few years ago that the several days a month when lines of poetry presented themselves unprovoked by prompts or any my usual poet’s tricks coincided with the days preceding my period. So while I don’t exactly look forward to the physical mechanics of menstruation, I do look forward to that time when, for whatever reason, I seem to have greater access to my creative spirit. I sometimes think about the Old Testament prohibitions that say women must be separated from the group during their cycles. I’ve come to believe that it’s less about cleanliness and more about giving women a time apart to fully engage with their creativity. Even as the body physically cleans itself of the unused mechanisms of physical creation, the mind itself shakes off and shakes out the lines, the scenes, the characters that have been waiting for fertilization. Some land on the page, some are reabsorbed to gestate a little longer. Yes, I realize I’m willy nilly mixing my metaphors here, but hopefully you get the point.

I wouldn’t say that I’m scared that my creativity will suddenly disappear if I no longer have a uterus and get a period. But I am mindful of the metaphoric implication of giving up that place in myself that was designed to harbor life.

I’m not sure how to write my way out of the end of this post, and I guess that’s where the TBD comes in. The poems will still be there hidden in my body, I will still be capable of creation regardless of which body parts I may or may not possess after surgery, and while something will be lost, I am expectant that out of that loss, something else will be born, some new metaphor for creation that I’ll only be able to hold onto if I’m capable of letting go.

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