Monday, May 7, 2012

The Words Became Flesh: Show, Don't Tell: Week 4

Okay, so, we have our blanks from yesterday:

BEFORE:  I used to think ___________________________.
MOMENT:  Then, ________________________ happened. (or Then, I ______________________________.)
AFTER:  Now, I know/believe ___________________________.

 So how do we move on?

What you really want to do, and what is actually rather difficult, is pinpoint specific ways your belief colored your actions both before and after the MOMENT.  This is really, really, really hard.  I mean it.  Count the reallys.

So I'm going to give you an example:

I used to think parental intuition would tell me all I needed to know about my child.
Then, in the middle of a horrific night when I had just no idea what to do, my firstborn son, then four days old, looked up at me with eyes that showed he believed I held the answers to all of his problems when I just didn't have a clue.
Now, I know parenting is your best guess, aided by intuition and supported by a whole lot of love and not a small amount of panic.

 Now what I need to do is work from the MOMENT backward and forward to make sure that everything I have done up until that point displays my misconception and sets up my epiphany and everything after that reflects my change of heart.

How so?

Well, first I write the moment:


3:00 AM.  I thought I could get up at any time, but it's a lot harder to get up at 3:00 AM when you just laid down at 2:30 and the time before that at 1:45 and the time before that at 12:30.  Where was the two hours of sleep that breastfeeding books promised??  Two hours, they said.  Two hours.  LIARS!

Of course, I hadn't stood up yet.  I had only looked at the clock.  After determining that the snooze button on the clock was not stopping the noise, I took to gazing at the red fragments alternately lit around two stacked squares that formed each numbers.  Maybe if I rearranged them I could somehow turn the time into 7:30 AM, a reasonable hour to get up.  My husband didn't even bother coming into the bedroom with me and the baby.  The smart man was snoring on the couch!  I could be there too, except my boobs were attached.

My mind was roaming between reforming the numbers, wondering what my husband would look like with boobs, and imagining how nice it would be to sleep on the couch when the baby's cry startled me into rolling in the direction of the crib.  There they were, a foot or so from mine.  Two coal black eyes that gleamed in the near darkness.  As soon as they caught my eyes, the little creature gasped.  His spindly, skinny arms reached for me with balled fists, and the anticipation in his gaze said clearly, "You hold the answers to all of my problems."

And I felt them at that moment.  Two great, amazing, mind-shattering truths.  One:  I was a mother.  I mean it.  I really felt like a mom at that moment.  Up till then, it was more a fantasy, a slightly bad dream that I was hoping to wake up from until the dream that I had anticipated--one with more sleep and fewer stinks--arrived.  But, no.  That dream wasn't coming, and I was the mom.  I knew that now.  That I could accept.

The other was awful, far too awful to bear.  Something that can only be whispered.  Lean close.  Are you ready?

I didn't have any answers.

BETRAYAL!!!!  Parents are supposed to know, man!  You read the books.  You feel your body.  Intuition kicks in, and you know.

It's all a lie!  A complete lie!  Just like that lamaze crap but worse.  Unlike labor, you don't get over parenthood in a matter of hours.  It sticks around awhile (and we want it to).

But in the hole where the knowledge was supposed to be, I felt something else.  Complete love.  Complete love for that little alien in the warped space ship of a crib draped with a cat tent.

 So now I have made it through the moment.  Is it perfect?  Of course not!  It's a first draft.  But do I have something to work with--yes!  What?

Here's how to identify what:
  • The misconception as foil to the truth:  thought I should know--I didn't know.
  • The feelings that go along with each side:
    • Think I know
      • arrogance
      • pride
      • confidence
      • strategy/planning
      • schedule/expectation
    • Know I don't have a clue 
      • confusion
      • betrayal
      • sadness
      • fear
      • frustration
      • spontaneity/improvisation
  • The new truth:
    • Role as parent
    • Love
  • The feelings that go along with it:
    • Role as (imperfect) parent
      • responsibility
      • flexibility
      • listening
      • responsiveness
    • Love
      • both patience/impatience
      • spontaneity
      • make-it-work moments
      • "it is what it is"/acceptance
Are those perfect all-inclusive lists?  No.  Are all the things listed under feelings even really feelings?  I don't think so.  But the point is that I now have a clue what I'm looking for and I can write forward and backward.

And actually, I'm revising forward because once I started writing the moment, I wasn't sure where the moment stopped until I reread it.  You may have this trouble too.  Or you might start writing and realize that you've written some before with your moment.  That's okay.  From here, we're going to follow a strategy.
  1. Split out your moment.
  2. Analyze it a bit according to the truths and the feelings that go with them.
  3. Write your before and after.
  4. Incorporate those truths as you write.
Here's an example below as I revise what I had originally written for the after (revisions are in bold so that you can see how I have incorporated the realizations from the analysis):

Screw it all, I thought, mentally trashing the pregnancy and newborn advice books I had read.  as I lifted him my wailing son from the crib., I was having a strangely Animal Planet moment.  I kissed his little face and tears while feeling and sniffing for the source of the alarm.  assessed the wWet.  Very wet.  And flat.  A very flat belly. situation, I attached him to my right breast to make the howling stop.  Pain.  Pain and peace.  Peace was more important than pain, so I left him there, held football style with my left hand while I   hunted down any clean clothes for the child.  Of course, in the pre-child era, when I thought everything could be planned, I had completely stocked the top drawer of our combination dresser/changing table with clothes for a sweet eight-pound baby.  Four days after birth, my little loud one was now pushing four pounds once again.  No, those clothes wouldn't work.  Even half of the preemie items, folded neatly on the top of the adjoining dresser, ballooned around his tiny body.  Rrootinged through the emergency stack of preemie clothes with my right hand. while grasping squirmer with my left, I eyed the shelf of pregnancy books towering over the dresser.  I knew where the clothes were going tomorrow.  owned, and sSomehow, in my cross-eyed state, I found a suitable outfit that he hadn't peed yet.  I detached him from my breast to change him, much to his shock--but he was so shocked he hadn't started to scream yet.  With speed I didn't know I possessed, I  and replaced the clothes he had on. 

I then attached him to my left breast to take care of the flat belly problem stifle the impending wail and turned to thunk down on the side of the bed exhausted.  Then I looked at tThe cat nodded at me from inside the crib.  who had since jumped in the crib and, I didn't even have the energy to think, Damn cat!  If I had been more rested, I would have fought to know, fought to research out the right answer.  Sleep deprived, all I could muster was, Screw it. 
I tuckinged the baby into the crook of my arm, and settled drowsily with him in my own bed.

Screw the experts.  We needed sleep. 

Again--absolutely not perfect (I need a new epithet or way to introduce it--and maybe it's the second because my vocabulary was so limited in that state), but can you see the changes.  Note also that it may take one revision.  I had planned just to write it out for you in one take, but obviously, it required more.  Don't worry if yours requires more and don't worry if you don't have time to do it all at once.  The lovely part about revision is that you can do it separately.  Do what you can, and be assured that just getting it down is half the battle.

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