I met Amie on the first day of graduate school at Fordham almost exactly three years ago. We were on the margins of the program: Master’s, not doctoral, students; older than most of the others; interested in both creative writing and scholarship (making us suspect to loyalists of both groups); and perhaps chiefly because we were mothers, with six-year-old boys born two weeks apart. We could not simply worry about our presentation challenging New Historicist readings of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, we had to worry about whether the person who was supposed to pick up our 6-year-old from the bus was had indeed remembered to pick him up. This doubleness bound us. Like Sharyn last week, with little notice, here Amie, busy mother-writer-professor, agreed to write this lovely piece for us. xoxo, R
I hit a squirrel today; I ran it over with my car. He darted out in front of me, spastic, through the bushes that decorated the parking lot of a McDonald’s. At first I thought he was a crumpled bag of trash tumbling in the wind, but then I felt an almost imperceptible rise and fall under my right rear tire and saw him tumble, limp and broken, into the asphalt curb.
The squirrel is not a metaphor for anything, really, but it could be, since I was driving my husband to his vasectomy appointment and I realized that, though I was first and foremost startled because I had just killed something, I was then perplexed because I had killed something while we were on our way to permanently stop our ability to procreate. I took a life on our way to life creation prevention.
I write about the squirrel because it happened, and because I am feeling feelings about it that seem too big for something that is so small. To write about it is a way for me to try and make some tiny sense of these moments. Perhaps I am seeking reparation. Reconciliation. Release.
In Rachel’s first post, one of the things she writes about is her journey to this project. She writes that she and Kajal came together and “talked about what yoga could help writers do: release tension, find clarity, harness creativity.” I read this and think, I need this.
I tried yoga faithfully only once, when I was pregnant with my son. I borrowed a set of DVD’s from a friend who had long practiced and swore it was the key to natural childbirth. I watched the first one the day after I fell off a kitchen stool while trying to paint the soffit above the kitchen sink. I needed to find balance.
The DVD required us moms-to-be to find our balance with props. Poses required chairs or walls to support the burgeoning breasts and bellies that were shifting our gravity centers. Since my TV was in my tiny, open-concept living room I had to move to the dining room to lean against a wall, and then awkwardly crane my neck to see the TV.
I can’t remember how long I stuck with it, but it wasn’t long.
My son is nine-and-a-half now. He goes to school all day, I go to work, he plays the saxophone and takes swimming lessons, I write. Schedules are often harried and days are often hurried, so I write in small pieces.
I think, perhaps writing is my yoga. Bending words around concepts. Searching and stretching for meaning. Using writing as my path to transcendence.
But I am missing something. I have notes misspelled and mistyped on my phone, unnamed Word documents opened and lined up at the bottom of my screen like sheets on a clothesline, marker smudged ideas dripping on the whiteboard in my shower, sleepy thoughts scrawled in a notebook on my nightstand. I am not flexible or rooted. My words are short of breath, frantic sometimes, unbalanced.
I think, I cannot write this post. Me, a clumsy, tumbling down, flailing juggler of words. I think, I am too scattered. I am not flexible. I cannot touch my toes.
But maybe that is not true. Maybe, in writing I can be both fluid and jumbled.
Because writing allows for questions and imperfections. It is thinking and moving slowly, figuring it out as it unfolds. And yoga, like writing, does not have an immediate reward. A muscle can only stretch itself further in tiny increments, and with daily practice, wherever that practice might be.
In Kajal’s post, I felt her tension, her flickering worry, and then her release. She writes, “Instead of worrying about how this blog will turn out, whether or not anyone will like it or if it works with Rachel’s blog from yesterday, I try to breathe and stay focused on the practice of writing.”
I read and think, Yes, and exhale.
Amie Reilly is an adjunct English professor at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut where she lives with her husband and nine-year-old son. Her essays can be found at Mothers Always Write, Fiction Advocate, The New Engagement, and The Evansville Review. She blogs at https://theshapeofme.blog