I’ve said on an earlier post and in several interviews that I could not have written BLACK OUT if it weren’t for my daughter. Motherhood changed me, naturally. How could it not? It changed my view of the world, and so it changed my writing. It also made me more paranoid than ever before – which is saying something. Maybe paranoid isn’t the correct word; it’s more like a greater awareness of the dark side, a more attuned desire to defend and protect. BLACK OUT came partially from this place, without my realizing it.
Conversely, being a mother has also opened a kind of fearless place within me. I have this awareness that there is literally nothing I wouldn’t bear or face to provide for or protect my daughter. I am motivated to change things both within and outside myself for my girl, which otherwise I might have just endured. Again, this is a theme that runs through the novel. Certainly, none of this is conscious or designed and it can only be observed after the book has been put to bed, so to speak. (Much like, these days, novels are better written after my daughter has been put to bed!)
There are other changes, too, of course. For example, today I was heading into my office to work – which involves my making a big show of leaving the house, then sneaking back into my office through another door. When I went to give her a kiss, Ocean said, “Mommy, sing a song.” She handed me a little book with the lyrics to “Working on the Railroad.” I have a terrible singing voice, though like most tone-deaf people I love to sing. These days I sing often and loudly – made up songs about the potty and animals, all manner of kid’s songs like Wheels On the Bus and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. There’s actually someone in the world who, finally, wants to hear me sing. I never refuse her.
Other changes: I finally have a running partner who is exactly my speed. As much as I exercise, I am still a slow, clumsy runner. My daughter, on the other hand, is a lean fast little sprinter, but her legs are, like, twelve inches long. We make a great team, even if one of us is frequently distracted and veers off into the water, or stops to put shells in her mouth. Luckily, O is always very patient with me.
The biggest change of all: Ocean forces me to stay in the moment, something that is too rare these days. We are all so easily distracted with our little beeping, ringing, picture taking machines, rarely seeing what’s around us. We’re always checking email, surfing the web, filling any blank space with noise and sounds and images. A child requires that you spend a lot of time on the floor – reading, coloring, drawing, playing with blocks, singing, making up games and stories, spinning quarters, making funny noises through the cardboard paper towel roll. Whenever I find myself thinking of what else I should be doing, I remember that I have her like this for five minutes, that every day she is someone new. And so I breathe and stay present with her, remember to be grateful that what I do for a living allows me to be with her most of the time, and that the time with her makes me better at what I do.
Favorite book for Ocean:
PIGEON FINDS A HOT DOG by Mo Willems
What I’m reading:
WHITE NOISE by Don Delillo
What I’m listening to as I write this: