Friday, March 5, 2021

Welcoming Home the Prodigal Heart

 What keeps my writer's heart going?

Here is what I almost wrote:

Nothing keeps my writer's heart going. My writer's heart flatlined last March, the day the CDC announced that I was officially elderly and at risk.  Before last March, I thought of myself as a ten-year-old heart in a body of indeterminate age. Overnight, I became an old person who could die. My ten-year-old writer's heart curled up in a closet somewhere. Except for blog posts, I've written almost nothing since this time last year. 

Me, Carmela and April at a long ago conference

All the things that normally keep my "kid's heart" going...are gone. Young Writer's Camp. Didn't happen last summer, haven't heard about this year. Writer's group and conferences?  Gone or gone virtual. (I have difficulty hearing on Zoom.) Eavesdropping on random people. There are no random people because I don't leave the house unless it's a dire emergency. Talking to friends, over a glass of wine, meandering from subject to subject. (I mentioned my problems with Zoom, right?)

The world was so hateful and judgmental and scary...writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Not writing was the scariest thing of all, because writing is how I make sense of life. Now, the more I journaled, the less sense anything made.  Words not only failed me...I couldn't find words. I was using a thesaurus just to have a conversation with my husband. I couldn't remember why I ever thought I could write.

Maybe I couldn't write any more. 

Then something happened.

Yesterday morning, I started out on dire emergency errands...picking up prescriptions from various pharmacies. I left the house in cords and a flannel shirt. By the time I got home, the temperature was in the 70's and I was hot. So I changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and took my dog for a walk.

I wear shorts around the house in winter, because my husband insists on keeping the thermostat set to "The Tropics in July."  I walk my dog several times a day. Neither of these things are unusual. However, for the first time in months and months...I walked the dog while wearing shorts. A warm breeze tickled my knees. Boing! In an instant, I was ten years old again, wearing shorts after a winter of wool tights and storm boots. Free of slogging through slush and toe-freezing winds, I was barelegged and skipping along in my new Keds. (OK, yesterday I was wearing Vans.)

Mom and I brave another Chicago winter

My cousins and I (I'm the one shorts.)

My child's heart had returned. My inner ten-year-old is who writes my stories. Life was fascinating when I was ten, full of possibility and  hope, both sadly lacking this past year. Kids are all about hope. That's why I write for them and not their parents.

My family has been spared sickness this year, and for that I am truly thankful. But COVID and all the accompanying chaos did a number on my heart and soul. I thought my ten-year-old heart had packed her bags and hit the road, never to be seen again. 

My writer's heart has come out from wherever she was hiding, ready to hope again. And write. However, she needs time to recover. She might blow bubbles on the back porch.  Or dance around the den to her old Monkees albums.  She will most definitely re-read her favorite childhood books. And of course, dog walks in shorts and Keds. 

Some day, in-person writing conferences and long talks over wine will return. I've had vaccine shot number one, with number two scheduled for St. Patrick's Day. Until it's safe for me to re-enter the world, there is time to re-read the two best books ever written--Charlotte's Web and Harriet the Spy.  E.B. White and Louise Fitzhugh certainly knew how to keep their child hearts beating.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Carmela Martino said...

MA, so glad you've found your writer's heart. And thanks for sharing that long ago photo of the 3 TAs--brings back lovely memories.
Here's to getting your second vaccination and better days ahead!

Linda Mitchell said...

Welcome home.

Buffy Silverman said...

Your post struck home for me... so many of the feelings and lack of doing this year. Here's to spring and a return of our inner 10-year olds!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Hooray for you! Hooray for spring! Hooray for persistence through a very tough winter! Looking forward to the days when we can meet in person again!

Linda said...

I'm with you, Mary Ann. Being told that I am elderly hit me hard too. So many of the things you mentioned hit home for me. I'm glad you had your first shot (I had my first too), and hopefully we'll soon be able to go out into the world again!

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Thank you all for your support. While I'm not happy some of you are experiencing parts of what I have, it's good to know that we are not alone. Then there is that guilt component "What's wrong with you? You're not sick or suffering? Why aren't you writing?" There are sicknesses that don't involve fevers, and suffering that doesn't include physical pain.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Mary Ann, it's nice to meet you (I've arrived by way of Carmela's post today). I'm sorry that your year has been so challenging, and yet your eternal 10yo heart shouts out through your bare knees--even through the shock and grief. I wish you a speedy recovery of your powers and also that the lessons we all learned about Ourselves will stick with us going forward. I'm about to reread HARRIET THE SPY myself. 😊

April Halprin Wayland said...

What I love so much about you and about your writing, Mary Ann, is your bare-bottom honesty. Or in your case, bare knee honesty. Your honesty carries me. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Lovely and painful. It was a hard year for so many writers and you are one of my favs. So if you didn't write much, I don't feel so glum that I didn't.

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Just a second shout out to Heidi and April and Unknown whose posts I'm just now reading. Thank you for understanding, and in some cases, for letting me know I am not alone in this. Vaccination has helped me see the end of the tunnel (on Tuesday I'll be "officially immune" but still taking every precaution. Still, it will be good to be out in the world without having a panic attack in Kroger's produce section. I had another birthday this past Friday...and did NOT go into a funk over being "at risk and elderly." The breeze on my knees grows warmer every day. Thank you all for commenting.