Following serendipitous breadcrumbs

Saturday morning Mel posted a photo of her reading pile, which got me to Googling one of the books in it, and I learned that it was written by Brooke McAlary–a name I thought I recognized. Turns out Brooke is a writer I used to follow long ago, when I was writing a different blog and she was just starting hers. It was in the early 20teens, before Pinterest, Instagram, podcasting, etc. ad nauseum left old school blogging (what we do around these parts) in the dust.

I stopped following when the blog became more of a commercial enterprise than a personal journal, but Saturday I stopped by her site to see if she still writes a blog, and yes, she does. I poked around in it a bit, and was especially pleased with this post, which reminded me more clearly about both why I originally followed (a strong writer exploring issues I care about) and why I eventually stopped. Brooke writes about going back to look at old posts she’d written and finding that most of them “just felt… small. Like returning to my primary school as an adult. What once felt big and unwieldy and hard to navigate simply felt outgrown.”

Boy, can I relate to that.

As I know has been true for so many of us, the last few years have brought profound shifts in how I see and understand the world and my place in it. I am still working to find some sure footing on what feels like unsteady ground, and often, when I look back at the place I used to be, I feel some feelings that could easily turn into shame.

Why didn’t I see…

Why didn’t I understand…

How could I have said…

Why did I…

Brooke seems to be coming back to writing after an extended absence brought on by a health challenge–something I can very much relate to–and I especially appreciated these words of hers, about looking back at her earlier writing and feeling some cringe:

“To allow ourselves to grow and change is such a gift. I wish I did it earlier. And while this is not the day to dig into this thought, I think self-compassion might be one of the biggest gifts I’ve received from spending much of the past couple of years being unwell. I’ve had to let so much unravel. And it’s in the putting back together that I can really question what old stories to bring with me, and which ones get left behind.”

And then I went looking for another writer I used to follow, and I must’ve gone a few other places, and somewhere along the way I found a simple list-ish way of giving a quick update on the week that is much like Kate’s lists of -ings that she regularly shares. Even though I have a million tabs open (per usual) I somehow lost that particular breadcrumb in my morning ramblings through the Internet forest. It was a simple, short list of -ings that I wanted to copy here.

I wanted to use it because I like connecting with others here regularly, but I’m just not in a place to write much these days. I had a good week–a really good one–but I seem to be in a fallow time when it comes to writing. My days have been full of PT exercises, skating, and mundane homemaking. That’s the surface of them, anyway. Under the surface, lots of shifting and dot-connecting that I don’t feel ready/able to write much about.

So, here’s my modified, from-memory list:

Listening…to The Love Songs of W. E. B. du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. I wish I had the print version of this book because it moves around in time and there are so many characters; sometimes I wish I could turn back to an earlier part of the book to remind myself of what came before. But: the narration is so good. The book is big, painful, beautiful, and beautifully written. Jeffers is a poet, and it shows. I can’t remember if an audiobook has ever brought me to tears, but this one did this week. I’ve also been listening to the Lori McKenna mix on Spotify.

Reading…A Headache in the Pelvis by David Wise Ph.D., Rodney Anderson M.D. This was recommended by someone, somewhere in my chronic pain journey, and its explanation of pelvic pain is helping me connect the dots of all my various kinds of pain and their root causes. After years of feeling hopeless and maybe crazy, this book–along with several other key things over the past few months–has me feeling hopeful and seen. I can’t express yet what that means.

Feeling…joy in my pain-full body. I skated 4 of 5 days last week after a break over the holiday, and it felt so good to move that way. To feel how much I had missed it. On the ice, I feel strong and joyful and free. No longer having the body that I had when I was a child, I can’t skate as I did then, but I can still feel in my body some of the ways I once did–and it’s such an unexpected gift. I can’t stop marveling over it. (Trying to tell my physical therapist about it brought me to unexpected tears this week, too.)

Planning…to paint our second bathroom. In early February, my daughter will be visiting her husband in Sweden for an extended stay, and that seems like a good opportunity to paint our second bathroom. It’s a room that’s never gotten much love, but it could use some. OK, a lot. I truly dislike the floor tiles (they don’t fit with the rest of the house and always look dirty, no matter how much or with what I scrub at them), but we’re going to work with them. Maybe a different paint color will transform them. It could happen.

Wondering…what it means to be a poet (or anything, really). In the context of a conversation this week, a co-worker of my daughter’s said to me, “You’re a poet, right?” and I wasn’t sure of how to respond. Later, she and I debated my answer to the question. Since I rarely write poetry now, I don’t really think of myself as a poet. She says that, since I have written and am still capable of writing poetry, I am one. Which has me thinking about the labels we attach to ourselves and how we use them. Am I still a teacher? What about a librarian? Am I still a grand-daughter, even though I have no living grandparents? Was I a skater all those years (45!) I didn’t skate? If I’m not the things I used to be, what am I now? (Is this a question we need/get to keep answering until we die?)

Trying…a new way to keep the house clean. We have 6 rooms/zones that are regularly used. That’s one per day, with a 7th day to rest. It’s only been a week, and I haven’t been perfect in this, but so far I like it.

Making…a Sunday dinner habit. Or tradition. Or ritual. Something. We began having nice Sunday dinners in the lead-up to Christmas, a Swedish advent tradition that we adopted. When advent ended, we didn’t want to dinners to. It’s the one night a week that Cane, Grace, and I are all together around the table. Tonight, we’ll be having Ditalini with Chickpeas and Rosemary-Garlic Oil, by candlelight. If the dinners don’t have to end, the candlelight doesn’t, either.

Taking…photos of things that please or interest me. From this week’s camera roll:

Photo of an old tree with many branches and deep grooves in its bark.
This tree is the old woman I want to be.

A hand-crocheted sweater with varied flowers in it.
My daughter began teaching herself to crochet earlier this year. She followed patterns to make the flowers in this sweater, but everything else is her own creation. This delights me in so many ways.

An old, grand house almost invisible behind overgrown branches and brambles.
This house is almost lost to the trees and vines and brambles growing around and–in some places–into it. I always wonder what the story of such places is and wish I could write them.

Hoping you all have a good week. I’d love to hear about your -ings, whatever they may be.

8 thoughts on “Following serendipitous breadcrumbs

  1. Ally Bean says:

    You did many interesting things this last week and I feel like a boring slug. I’m glad you’ll get the chance to paint the room and that you’ll [fingers crossed] keep getting the chance to be back on the ice and that you have candlelight with your dinners. My -ings of the week are just that our deck is going to be replaced next week, weather permitting. Because of that it’s been a week of phone calls and supplies dropped off and a port-o-let in our driveway.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Because I Please, I’m Answering Maggie’s Blogging Survey QuestionsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Your comment is so interesting to me because I felt a bit like a boring slug all week. Almost every day was pretty much the same, and it’s all so quiet. As winter tends to be. Nice, but boring. 🙂 Nothing as exciting as a new deck, with its attendant workers, phone calls, and worry. And a port-o-let in the driveway! I mean, what can top that? 😉 I hope it all goes smoothly and that you love your new deck. We had a very small one put on the front of our house a year and a half ago, and I couldn’t believe how much even that cost, but we still say it was worth it. It was so nice to have someone else do the work, and to have it done so quickly, and we use it all the time. I hope you have a similar experience.

  2. Marian says:

    I love (you knew I would) your daughter’s crochet cardigan!

    Your paragraph on “Wondering” hit home with me. I once, unthinkingly, used the present tense (“I’m a—”) for a career I had left 20-some years earlier. I immediately felt angry with myself. I really wish we didn’t feel the need to label ourselves or others as one single thing. Your words have reminded me of a Yarn Harlot post I read a couple of weeks ago in which she talks about (among other things) answering the closely related question “What do you do for a living?” with “My best. I do my best.” I’d love to be the kind of person who could actually answer that question in this way. (I’d link to the post, which I think you might like for other reasons too, but my aged computer isn’t cooperating. It’s her December 17th post, if you’re interested in finding it.)

    I’ve had a quiet week with my youngest back at school. I’ve been writing out recipes to make a recipe book for each of my boys, the way I did for my daughter, and I’ve also been knitting a pair of baby booties for our nephew’s first baby, expected in February. Those things—and some mending—are the only things I’ve done besides the usual household stuff. (I too am a boring slug.)

    • Rita says:

      Here’s to the boring slug club! Honestly, I am so thankful every day for my now-boring life. Truly. My days pass quickly, and they are satisfying, and it is so nice to finally be able to care for myself and our home in ways I always wanted to. Your week sounds lovely to me. I hope it was for you.

      And yes: I am so proud of Grace! She learned the fundamentals of crochet from a friend, and then she started going to town. The first thing she made herself was mittens, with no pattern. She just made it up. They were too pointy, so she adjusted and the next ones were perfect. I don’t know how she does it. She has consulted some pattern books–where she got the flower patterns–but she figured out how to piece them together and add the sleeves. She has always been an artistic, crafty person. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to brag. 🙂

      And thank you, too, for pointing me to the Yarn Harlot. I loved that post. And I love that answer, too. I consider myself a full-time home-maker now. And I will admit it feels a little funny. I respect the work a lot and find it challenging and creative, in the way teaching was. Like teaching (and almost anything we might do for money), it has its boring/mundane parts to it. But I know others don’t feel that way about it, and my funny feeling comes from that. I’m a little young to be retired, and I wonder about judgement about that, too. But I do my best to recognize that feeling and let it pass. I try to listen to my own voice more than those of others I’ve let into my head. It’s a work in progress.

  3. Kari says:

    I was embarrassed by the writing I had done in the past for a very long time. I even deleted some older blog posts. Thank you for sharing that article; I enjoyed reading it.

    I really appreciate posts like these (and Katie’s) because they give me a sense of what your daily life is like from a far. I appreciate you bringing me along.

    Regarding your Wondering, “What am I now?” I’ve had trouble answering that question for a long time, but it’s a good one. When someone asked me what I did for a living many years ago, I recall transitioning from calling myself a blogger to a writer. Making that change felt really sophisticated. It felt close to being a lie. Am I a legitimate writer or am I “just” a blogger? I can relate to this feeling.

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I’ve deleted some old posts, too. I think I’ve done that from this blog? I’m glad you liked the blog post; I appreciated what she had to say, too.

      Also, I think blog writing is “legitimate” writing, even if you don’t try to monetize it. There’s a crap ton of really mediocre writing out there that makes money. There’s some really good writing on blogs that don’t. I’m glad you call yourself a writer. You are (IMO).

  4. Kate says:

    I, too, am joining the boring slug club. I’m pretty sure if there was ever a month for sluggishness it would be January. Replace your skating with skiing (or Pelotoning), and our months sound relatively similar – PT, homemaking, lots of shifting and dot-connecting below the surface.

    Grace’s sweater is impressive! I’ve never been able to create an item without a pattern guide myself which makes it even more an impressive feat in my opinion – I especially love the stitch pattern on the sleeves.

    Speaking of breadcrumbs – I clicked on your recipe link (because it sounded delicious) to find another with with Orecchiette with Kale and breadcrumbs that looks divine as well. I think I’m going to have to add it to the menu for this week.

    Finally, I like the idea of answering the question of who and what we are until we die. I vote for still being a granddaughter even with no living grandparents, because I truly loved being my grandparents’ grandchild. I’m definitely no longer a runner, accountant, or conservative. How wonderful to get to check or uncheck boxes however we see fit. I’m pretty sure that there are earlier versions of me that couldn’t imagine the person I am today, and even some that wouldn’t like me much, but I love that.

    Hope you have a wonderful week, Rita.

    • Rita says:

      I hope you have a wonderful week, too.

      I still feel like a granddaughter, and I never want to stop being one. Other things I’ve been I would no longer claim, just as you have unchecked some boxes. I think I will always consider myself a writer, but maybe not a poet. I guess ultimately it doesn’t matter all that much; what we do (or don’t) is more important than how we conceive of ourselves.

      I already bragged about Grace’s crocheting in my reply to Marian, so I’ll refrain from doing the same here. But yeah: No pattern!

      I’m glad you found your way to a recipe to try. I am so close to pulling the trigger on the NYT cooking subscription, but I just haven’t yet. Trying to expand my limited repertoire.

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