Heady shit, I know. Here’s the lived experience from which it comes: I gave myself the task, in the form of this blog, of regularly chronicling my experiences as a new parent so as to better understand, appreciate, and integrate this new identity of mine. My goal, one to which I have with only a few exceptions remained faithful, was to post something every week. Those of you keeping score at home (bless you if this is you, and might I suggest you get out more) may have noticed that I missed last week. Last week was a very busy week, but the real reason I didn’t post anything was that I didn’t know what to write.
This seems like a rather silly conundrum for a parent to find himself in. After all, I am living in the nexus of one of the most tumultuous developmental periods of a young infant’s life. She literally changes every week, and in big ways. She’s eating “school food;” she can walk while holding a parent’s hand; she’s forming words; and her crazy curly hair continues to grow and delight us with its whimsical beauty. She’s learned to point and gesture for things she wants. She’s started pitching fits when she doesn’t get her way, and these fits often manifest themselves in epic proportions. I’ve written posts on lesser things before, so what would prevent me from reflecting on any of these aforementioned milestones? Or, to put it in the existential terms familiar to all self-serious writers: why the writer’s block?
I usually experience writer’s block as a crisis of self-worth. Who would even want to read what I have to write? I think to myself. Writer’s block becomes an outward expression of insecurity and doubt, the assumption that if I even had something worth saying (which I don’t), then I wouldn’t be able to say it well enough anyway. At least, that’s my usual psychic state when faced with the inability to conjure words on a page. But that’s not been the case in this instance. First of all, I haven’t written this blog to gain readers. I mean, this blog makes no money, at least not until I gain readership from an employee of Arianna Huffington. It’s not opening doors for me professionally or establishing any kind of cred for me in the world of literature. It really is freeing in the sense that I can post something without worrying about what it will look like if no one reads it. So who gives a damn if I have nothing to say or if I say it well? I can post it anyway. That’s why God made the internet, as a leveler of distinctions between literary luminaries and lumpy loser wanna-bes.
No, in this case it isn’t about my insecurity, or at least my insecurity about being a decent writer. Instead, it’s this catch between living the joys and anxieties of parenthood and attempting to capture them in writing. I mean, taking time out each week to reflect on the experience of living with a brand-new human being is work. And truthfully, I’d rather spend that time living with my brand-new human being instead of writing about it. Here I am at my laptop tapping away about what it’s like to play with my beautiful little girl when what I really want is to be actually playing with my beautiful little girl.
Sometimes I’m at work and I can see her in my mind, waddling down the hallway with her toy cart, her feet swinging in wide Chaplinesque circles and her wild curls bouncing about her ears and I want to be home, I want it to be six o’clock, and I want to be chasing her giggles down the hall. Sometimes I can hear her gurgling in my ear, feel her warm weight against my shoulder, smell the mingled scents of baby shampoo and strawberry-flavored cereal puffs. And that’s suddenly where I want to be, not wherever I currently am. At times, writing about it is the next best substitute. But anymore, writing about it feels like a cheap and half-assed reproduction of the real thing. Why would I want to write a description of what she does when we listen to Beatles records when I would rather be home with her in my lap actually listening to Beatles records?
I’m not giving up the blog. Not yet, anyway. I can construct magnificent monologues on the grandeur of the written word as well as the thrill of constructing and assembling written words, and I would believe these monologues as true. But lately I haven’t really wanted to write about it. I know I have something significant to say and that I can say it well enough. But I’d rather just be with the source of it all: living the real experience of my sweet, lovely daughter in my arms as she smears her dirty fingers across my face and tries to say “banana.” Writing about it is just a poor substitute.