September Surprises: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
Last month I was holding my breath in anticipation of life turning upside down once more: seasons changing, schools reopening, time giving of itself to me in copious amounts for my creative pursuits once again.
But when I let go of that breath I had been holding, hoping to find acceptance and relief on the other side of the big transition, I first found frenzy and unease instead.
The house was too neat and quiet, the days began to fall into too predictable and monotonous a routine of drop-offs and pick-ups, and I missed D with the agony with which one misses a cherished friend after having lived through a long adventure together. And now that I was faced with the task of sitting down and planning out my projects for the next few months, it felt like I was floundering in unfamiliar territory once more.
I was going through the website with plans for sprucing it up ahead of a new project I'm tinkering with (I'll tell you more about it below in Tales for Dreamers) and I came across what my past self had written on the 'About' page.
In these past few years of writing and parenting, I've come to find, over and over again, that when I remain in the present moment without being dragged towards the past (best forgotten but thoroughly rehashed in my mind) or the future (just as exciting or nerve-wracking as I imagine it would be), magic truly happens.
Just like everything else in life, writing and parenting are then no longer filled with strife and doubt and anxiety. Instead, everything becomes effortless and immensely joyful.
Except, the day I wrote and published the lines above (back in April of this year) was perhaps the last time I had been truly present.
Back then, there seemed to be so much I wanted to complete on the writing front before D's summer holidays began.
Then when summer was in full swing, there was this constant pang of guilt at all the words that I kept thinking I could have, should have, would have written but did not.
And when school reopened, there was guilt of an opposite kind. Did I spend enough time with D in the summer? Did he have a good summer break?
And how much I now miss the life and liveliness he fills our home with. The sound of his voice. The incredibility of the tales he spins. The fantastic songs he hums. How his little body zips from one room to another at the speed of light, it seems, faster than the wind, certainly.
Four years ago, shortly before D was about to begin pre-school, I wrote the post linked below. Funny how I feel many of the same feelings even now. Will some things never change?
But it has certainly been somewhat easier this time around to shed much of that angst of separation and that constant-guilt that seems to haunt parents. Maybe the foreknowledge, gained from years of experience, that this feeling would surface and eventually pass, helped.
Or maybe I have grown wiser after all. Or perhaps my heart had known all along that this is what it means to love with great abandon – it is never without the exquisite but unbearable anguish of separation and doubt – and the rest of me was only just catching up to that nugget of wisdom.
The wisdom of contradictions. No love without ache. No choice without doubt. No life without death. What gets me each time is the inevitability of these pairings. Like partners in crime. Together, always.
And yet we can do nothing but love because we'd perish if we didn't, make those choices and plough ahead even if and especially when we're riddled with doubt, and live the best we can even though each moment of living brings us one heartbeat closer to death.
New Zealand-based writer Jessica Urlichs speaks of this paradox in her poem, Motherhood's Contradictions. Her words apply universally to anyone who loves another soul.
MOTHERHOOD'S CONTRADICTION by Jessica Urlichs
I’ve been the happiest since I’ve had children. I’ve also been at my lowest.
I’m a much better version of myself. I also haven’t always liked what I’ve seen when mirrors have been held up to me.
I’ve never been in more company. And at times never felt so lonely.
Some days I don’t want to end. Some days I wish away, oh and the guilt from feeling that when they grow so fast.
I’ve never been so sure of who I’m meant to be. I’ve never wondered so much who I am.
I’ve never felt closer with my husband. But at times, I’ve never felt more distant.
I believe in myself, I trust myself. I’ve questioned myself and doubted myself.
I always want to be better for them. But I’ve yelled and cried and wished I’d handled certain situations better.
I’ve never loved so hard and so fiercely. And I’ve never felt so vulnerable.
I’ve never been more broken. And I’ve never been more complete.
I’ve never smiled so much. I’ve never cried so much.
I’ve never craved alone time more. But when I am, I always feel like something's missing, like an arm.
I’ve never been so excited to watch them grow. And simultaneously wished they’d stay little forever.
Some days I feel like I’ve achieved nothing. But as I think of them at night, I know I’ve achieved everything.
I’ve never looked forward to so much. And I’ve also, never looked back.
It’s one beautiful contradiction. A journey of wrong turns that are probably still right.
And dreams of the future even if you don’t get enough sleep to dream.
Exhaustion but effortless love.
The hardest and most rewarding thing ever.
But, I'll admit, I'm so used to carrying around that deep longing in my heart that I tend to overlook another truth: that all the anxiety and sadness accompanying change eventually give way and make room for different experiences.
KrA turned a year older this month, and to celebrate his birthday he and I went to the movies after seven years! With D happily in school, KrA and I went for a matinee screening of Bullet Train, an action-comedy movie, which is totally not my usual fare but is exactly the kind of movie the birthday boy likes. And both of us had a fantabulous time!
Autumn and winter are typically when I'm at my most prolific, and much of that has to do with the expanse of time and the depth of silence that fill the house when D is away at school. Unsettling at first, they eventually help create the space I need to hear my thoughts once more.
Long hours at the writing desk. Long late-morning walks with KrA. Long, leisurely moments of staring at the blue, blue skies and the green leaves jiggling in the cold breeze, changing colours and drifting to form leaf carpets on earth.
And then the exquisite delight of reunion at pick-up from school in the late afternoon.
It is an idyllic life, and I'd trade it for nothing at all in this whole, wide world.
Tales for Dreamers
First, A Survey
In November 2011, I published what would go on to become the first of many #TalesForDreamers. Original short tales of fantasy and whimsy, paired with an image, meant to evoke a sense of wonder and whimsy.
After years of writing hundreds of them on a whim, sometimes with more regularity whenever life permitted, I'm exploring plans for weekly publication of these tales that many have claimed touched their soul or, at the very least, filled them with wonder and delight.
So dear Dreamers, may I please request you to fill out a short survey (6 questions, won't take 2 minutes) to help me plan this launch?
Of Talking Sculptures and Telling Fortunes
This month's tale was written almost eight years ago, the summer I first set foot in Toronto. If I remember correctly, this was somewhere in The Beaches neighbourhood, where KrA and I found ourselves wandering one afternoon, wondering how our lives in Canada would unfold.
I hope this tale fills your day with delight.
Books You May Love
The only book I read this month was The Shadows by Alex North. It's about a bunch of high-school kids who did something very disturbing years ago, and a now older survivor of those times comes back to his hometown to visit his dying mother and the past comes alive in more ways than one.
It was a very riveting and unsettling read; the haunting atmosphere that North had woven spooked me. The story is told in the dual-timeline format, the past unfolding alongside the present, which is something I love very much. And as I neared the end, many of the assumptions I had made earlier on in my reading were deftly overturned, speaking to the author's expertise in the craft.
Apparently, North has gained much acclaim for his other work, The Whisper Man, which I haven't read yet. But knowing what likely awaits me, I think I'll wait until the days grow longer and brighter again before I dare pick up that one!
It's that time again, dear Dreamer. Time to bid adieu, so that I can go back to writing more tales to delight you, more stories to fill you with a sense of wonder and magic.
For you see, one of the most special things that happened this month was that my books and stories travelled around the world.
A very dear friend of mine, Helen, took Dying Wishes on a vacation to Curaçao and read the entire book there. I can't imagine a more beautiful setting for a reader to immerse themselves in the novel, in which the seaside makes a couple of appearances too. The Room of Repositories, which holds all the tales that were ever spun since the beginning of time, sits beside an ocean. (If you've read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about.) How fitting that my story too received such an honour! Thank you, dearest Helen, for your endless support.
My yoga teacher decided to display Erased from Existence in her studio, and I hope the book finds its way into the hands of a reader who'll enjoy it immensely. And if you're ever in my hometown and looking for a yoga studio to head to, simply ask me and I'll be sure to point you in the right direction.
And back in January, I had submitted a short story titled The Mind Meddler to the Writers of The Future contest, one of the most prestigious contests for science fiction and fantasy writers, and it secured an Honourable Mention.
I take all these as signs from the Universe that my stories are reaching out and touching many more hearts and souls, and that alone drives me to my writing desk, to string together words and weave them into tales of hope and magic.
Au revoir, my lovely one!