poet enough

Posted by on October 3, 2012

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”ย – Rainer Maria Rilke

Yesterday morning while trying not to block a narrow aisle at a Trader Joe’s, somewhere between the peanut butter and the dried pasta, I got a call from the nurse at Esme’s elementary school. I pressed the phone against my ear to block out the upbeat soundtrack booming in the store and listened while the nurse told me in somber tones that Esme had head lice. I would need to pick her up and treat her that day. I took the groceries home and put them away, then lugged several bags of day-late books back to the library before getting to her school. She met me in the nurse’s office and seemed calm and unperturbed. We went to the drug store and bought an over-the-counter treatment, then picked up Elsa, who went straight to sleep for a nap when we got home. Then I treated Esme’s hair with the heady, chemical-smelling stuff, and then spent what seemed like an hour combing through her entire scalp, searching for “nits” to pick out while she watched PBS Kids. I think she was actually quite happy to receive a free pass out of school and come home and watch cartoons. My day, on the other hand, and anything I had planned to do yesterday, was usurped by this little crisis. I ran myself ragged washing towels, bedding, and bagging up stuffed animals, head bands, and dress up clothes.
I think they caught her case early, because I checked her this morning and only found three little nits that I must have missed yesterday. Elsa doesn’t seem to have it, and, although every time I think about it too hard my scalp feels itchy, I think the rest of us are clear. Hopefully after a few days of vigilance all will be well.

Elsa is going through a crazy phase of three year-old defiance. She seems bent on making most of the practical steps we have to take throughout the course of the day take about five times longer than they should. She frequently does things deliberately that she knows will upset someone: drawing on the walls and furniture, pulling out reams of toilet paper, grabbing forbidden food items from the counter and cramming them into her mouth before I can stop her, or getting down Esme’s lip gloss and applying it to her stuffed animals. Another thing she does often is to grab a piece of Esme’s artwork– like a newly finished watercolor painting– and just crumple it up aggressively while look Esme straight in the eyes. She sometimes destroys the tips of markers just to destroy. Of course there is always crying and gnashing of teeth as a consequence of these things, but I suspect that this is what Elsa is angling for because it is exciting and forces everyone to pay attention to her.

When it comes time to get into to the car to go somewhere, she will plant herself on the back seat in between the car seats and insist that this is where she will sit, until I insist, usually angrily, that she get in her proper car seat and buckle herself. Then she will decide that she wants to bring a certain toy from inside the already locked house and throw a full-fledged fit about not having the toy. Of course I do not cater to these whims, but that does not seem to stop her from thinking that they are a good idea over and over again. Twice recently she swiftly unbuckled her seat belt and popped the car door handle open while we were driving. I pulled over, got out, and gave her a huge, gigantic, mad lecture about the concepts of safety and the limits of what is acceptable– concepts which she may or may not be developmentally capable of comprehending, no matter how much volume or drama I employ.

All of this is rather boring to recount. It’s just that I have nothing much else to account for right now. Well, that is not exactly true. In my own defense, I am working on a writing piece that is spinning into something I am actually pleased with, and it is very fun to work on. I do not know what I will use it for, or what it will turn into ultimately, but it is fun to watch it expand and also to go back over it again and again and sharpen what I am really trying to say. I love writing, and probably love revising even more. But it does feel as if I have to fight for those extended moments in which I can really sit down with a clear, fresh mind and work on such a project.

I am inspired by my husband’s dissertation writing, which he does in such a faithful way, day by day, slowly, slowly making progress. I have learned a lot by watching him journey through his PhD. His dissertation will be something like four sixty-page chapters when he’s finished, and will hopefully be published as a book eventually. I’ve never written anything like that (need I even point this out?) and I suspect that I’ve been blogging for so long now that my writing style and neurological habits surrounding the writing process are in bad shape. Hopefully that is changeable, and I am trying to change it. But now that I am trying just to write a significantly longer and more sophisticated, deeper and more polished piece than a blog post, I realize how far I have to go. But the good thing is that time is, ostensibly, on my side, so nothing prevents me from pressing on, even if, on a day like yesterday, I am able to write only three sentences because I have noxious, insecticidal hair goop on my hands. And inconvenience aside, I am just so grateful that what I am dealing with in my children is a pedestrian, treatable nuisance like head lice, diagnosed by a kind and efficient school nurse, and not something insidious, chronic, or terminal, diagnosed by a physician at a Children’s Hospital somewhere. My girls are healthy and robust, energetic, curious, and lively, and therefore they are incredibly needy, demanding, trying, and time consuming, but how can I not be grateful?

I am reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet right now and it is comforting and affirming. The quote above is from the very first letter.

Yesterday after being submerged in the battle with head lice and three year-old defiance, and tromping up and down the basement stairs what felt like a hundred times to the washer and dryer, which we are still paying off, I managed to notice a pink sunset happening right after dinner and went outside to take a few pictures. I’m not claiming that it was transcendental, but I felt proud of myself for establishing a small moment like that in an otherwise cooped up, closed-in sort of day to be a creator (with a lower-case “c,” like, I believe, Rilke is indicating in the above quote). It assists in the process of petty resentments blowing away and dissipating into the open air. Our little grey house took on a pinkish hue, a phenomenon which departed just as quickly as it arrived and which might not happen again for some time, so I am proud that I stepped outside and left the dirty dinner dishes on the dining room table so that I was there to see it. Why not? And yes, I do need to find some proper curtains for those French doors. We are not living a college dormitory over here.

  1. Kate T.
    October 3, 2012

    You and Esme have my sympathy re: the head lice. I caught it from a cousin when I was about Esme's age and had to be kept home from school. I was blissfully oblivious to the consequences of this until I returned to school and my teacher (who was a weird lady) attempted to reassure me that it was absolutely not my fault that letters had been sent home, mandatory head checks of my classmates were happening in the school, etc., things which I promptly realized were all because of me. It was the opposite of reassuring. Thanks, Mrs L.

    If/when you reach the point where you want a reader for your project, I would love to read it!

  2. Julia
    October 3, 2012

    I've never had head lice or any experience with it, but it seems like everyone else has a head lice story. I guess it's time I got mine.

    Kate: I will definitely take you up on your offer to read my project. Thank you. I already feel ten times more motivated to get it into better shape.

  3. Veronika
    October 4, 2012

    I was around 8 when my mother discovered lice in my hair. Her reaction was so strong, that I thought I got down with some incredible disease and wouldn't need to go to school for at least 2 weeks. I couldn't understand what the problem was – I couldn't feel it, I couldn't see it, nothing hurt. And also, I spent hours sitting on the chair (yes, watching TV) while mother was fully attending to me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I thought it was quite perfect! ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, as a mother I can only imagine what it's like – any little extra thing that falls into your hands that you have to deal with. So sorry!
    (Second time around I had lice in my early teens and my mom just gave me the right kind of shampoo and a comb and told me to wash my hair twice a day, combing under the water – not as exciting as the first time).

  4. annajouj
    October 9, 2012

    Wow, I've missed your blog! Blogger sites have been blocked in this country for weeks now, and I'm excited to get to catch up now on your words of loveliness and wisdom, dear Julia. We actually have lice going around at our school right now too ๐Ÿ™‚
    That photo is stunning, by the way!
    i miss you, dear Julia.