Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Matron and Her Warts

Yesterday, the Universe grabbed the Matron by the heels, picked her up, spun her around and then gave her one great big thunk on the head before setting her smack damn down in Sigmund Freud's lap.

Here's what happened.

After dropping off Merrick at Art Camp, the Matron propelled herself into 3 precious hours without the five-year old. She zipped into the grocery store, zapped over to the pharmacy and zoomed home where she put away groceries, swept the kitchen floor, wiped counters and did a forty-minute top-to-bottom declutter.

This left her with a tidy house and 90 gorgeous minutes to write!

The first hint of unrest came when the Matron's blog made her feel bad about herself! (sorry, friends, but this is the wart post! promise you'll love her anyway)

Good ole Google Analytics reminded her that she did not have thousands of readers -- just a flux from 77 to 200 (and she adores and thanks you, every last one and your pets and children!) But Heather Armstrong does what millions of American women do every day (following Oprah's latest diet advice) and she gets 462 comments!

Ego thus fortified, she turned to revising her novel, Prairie Rat, into a YA manuscript as editor and agent have suggested. It annoyed her that she had the idea for the book in her late twenties and was--after the book had been unsuccessfully shopped as an adult manuscript--back to page one. Well, 37.

Back story: the Matron has won several writing awards! In 2003, her agent showed Prairie Rat to New York Publishing who said it was more appropriately a young adult. The Matron turned up her nose in artistic huff -- and while pregnant with Merrick and moving into a new house--wrote a second book in just 6 frenzied months. That book went through nearly 30 publishers and didn't sell, although late in 2004, the Matron did receive all 30 of those rejection letters at once, in one big care package from the agent. Can you imagine how much fun that was?!

The Matron didn't do much writing after that. She told herself it was because of the baby, the rose bushes, the volunteer work. But she was wounded.

Stryker pops into her office. "Mom! Mom! Can you take us to the dog park with Scruffy?"

Matron: "Dog park?"

Stryker: "The one I went to yesterday with Henry. It was awesome!"

Matron: "I don't even know where it is. I'm working."

Stryker (yells without moving): "DAD DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE DOG PARK IS"

Matron: "Please! Leave!"

He does, yelling to Scarlett, who is now equally vested in said outing.

Ding! New email. Turns out Scarlett did not get Baby Jane (although her audition got a rave review) but another little girl got it who had 'the look.' Of course, who introduced the competition to the theater and the whole deal? The Matron. Because she really truly thinks that parents with acting kids should support one another, even if it means sending someone just as cute and tiny and quirky as your own kid to a good audition.

But, still. She felt unrest, disorientation. Grumpy, like all was not right in the world.

Back to the book.

Scarlett is at her shoulder. "Mom, Mom! Can you google the dog park?"

Stryker at her side: "It's on Arlington and Awkright or Awful or something like that. I'm sure we can find a map."

Scarlett: "Is that an email from Actress X?"

Matron: "Please don't read my email! Yes. I'm super sorry sweetie, but they gave the role to Greta."

Scarlett: "That's okay. I told you I think she looks exactly like Baby Jane, plus I'm making that movie."

A dark cloud enter the room. She wants her child to be more competitive! What is wrong with that daughter! Where is the drive, the desire to win? Scarlett's good mental health annoys the Matron and this thoroughly disorients the Matron, who very much would like to be alone to work on her novel or sort out her psyche.

Stryker: "Mom! I can't stand it about the dog park. Please, please, please!"

Scarlett: "Just look! Can't you just look!?"

This banter continues for several minutes, with bathroom breaks. Seems they hear 'no' and 'I'm working' for about 15 seconds and then turn into used car salesmen:

"When will you be done?"

"Scruffy will love it!"

"Looks like you're sending email and not working, Mom."

"It's summer vacation!"

"We never get to do anything spontaneous!"

"Are you still working?"

The following is said in precisely the evil, passive-aggressive, pent-up, toxic tone you might imagine:

Matron: "You want to go to the dog park? I'll take you to the dog park, by God."

And she yelled for Satan's Familiar, got the leash and stomped (with a book) to the van. God, she was angry! Foul and mean!

The children sat silently in her stew, wondering.

Stryker: "Mom? Are you mad?"

Matron: "Yes! I am furious! The last thing in the world I want to do is take you to the dog park!"

Scarlett: "Then why did you?"

Here, she is silent.

But once they arrive at the park (after attempting a couple of scowls and starting to sour on meanness), the Matron sets her children down and says this:

"I'm sorry. I am in a horrible mood and feel full of anger and strange feelings I can't identify. I'm trying to shake it off, but I can't. So I shouldn't have taken you to the dog park but because I felt mean and icky, I just got mad and said yes. On the other hand, I also felt that you wouldn't ever stop asking."

Scarlett gave her a hug. And Stryker?

"You're right Mom. I wasn't going to stop until you said yes."

Zing! The Matron nailed that one. Here, they had a long conversation about that dogged 'must-have-now' gene that Stryker inherited from the Matron herself and how this deep tissue fear of the word 'no' will actually not work to his advantage in every situation.

Stryker: "Wow. If I ask for something like that over and over again, will you remind me of this? I really don't want to do this again."

Matron: "Me neither."

And as Satan's Familiar got the romp he didn't deserve, clarity slowly slowly hammered its way through to the Matron.

She wants to win! This is her wild and precious life and she wants more from it. A friend once asked her if she wanted fame or money and she chose fame. Which would mean readers. The competitive spirit the Matron wished for Scarlett? Hers and hers alone. And she was feeling down and out, under=appreciated, shorted.

Because she wants the book deal.

Thus sorted, the Matron was able to go back to more of her regular self - yet she remained DOWN about that not adequately successful self the entire rest of the day. But Scarlett no longer annoyed her (except in the regular way), she could not care less if Scarlett was cast as the Virgin Mary, Captain Hook or announced that her acting days were over, and she didn't practice any more passive-aggressive tricks. She was centered and clear in her Foul Mood.

But the funk was thick enough, the unhappiness and desire and drive powerful enough, that later, while Stryker and Merrick fought relentlessly about whether or not Stryker would be allowed a sip of Merrick's large black cherry juice and they were hurtling down the freeway in the van at a healthy clip and the boys would not stop fighting -- the Matron rolled down the window and poured the damn thing out at 65 miles an hour.

And that felt good!

Today, she revised 5 more pages. Because rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean -- or what your heart desires, is it?

And she had to wash the van.


Melanie said...

I'm going to propose a new blogging commandment, and that commandment is simply: Girl, Thou Shalt Not Compare Thyself and Thy Writing To Dooce. Ever. For Serious.

Keep on keeping on, and do your very best not to think about the Big D (or the Big O.)

smalltownme said...

You're honest and brave and I wish you the success that you deserve and desire.

And me? My lack of ambition astounds me but also makes life easier.

Anonymous said...

You may think you have few readers but thanks to Aaryn Belfer's Blog Links, I read you every day. I think you should have titled the post The Matron and Her Three Warts." Bonzize

Unknown said...

You are my hero for dumping the juice out the window! Me? I would threaten but not follow through. sigh.

Suburban Correspondent said...

You really need to spend your writing time behind a locked door. With soundproofing...

Anonymous said...

Okay, so slap me, but till your post, I'd never heard of Dooce. So, apparently she is famous for, um, blogging? Seriously? Far Out! I don't get that. And is success counted by views...or hits..or comments? I mean really, in the scheme of things 400+ comments isn't a lot in comparison to the population of the USA, is it?
Matron, move to New Zealand. Big fish, small pond. Make it Wellington, and Scarlett can still pursue her acting career.

Anonymous said...

I have thoughts on "the big D" but I am going to hold them, I don't read her, I read you though.

I even promise not to "mark all as read" when I come home from vacation!

JCK said...

Just remember that Dooce's husband runs the entire shebang as far as the advertising ($$$$) that the Armstrong family earns.

And I think it is great that you have such insight into yourself and that you explained to the kids what you were feeling. High mom marks!

Good luck with the youth market on your book! Only a matter of time...

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Dooce got lucky. It happens.

I too am very competitive yet the idea of fame leaves me cold. Now, money? I'd love some more of that.

Anonymous said...

I have to nag the Matron about her lack of comments. It is not due to lack of readers so much as those reluctant to wrangle the evil blogger platform. I believe we have had this discussion before.
I clicked on over from my reader to polish up one of your pretty warts.

Tricia said...

Please consider this a big writer's hug wrapped in a beautiful bow together with a bottle of wine, ear plugs and a fairy-dusted wish that the acceptance letter you're waiting for ... it's out there.

Angie said...

Ohhhh, how I can relate to this post. So many of the same feelings that you describe.

Really great that you have the insight and can talk to your kids about it and have them 'get' it. Not easy.

Your book deal will come - there is no doubt about that. You are a fantastic writer and it will happen.

Kudos on the juice out the window -I love doing that kind of stuff!!
Actions speak much louder than words.

Minnesota Matron said...

You guys are great! I had beer in a can at the baseball park tonight and, add these words: I feel better!

Nora said...

I also have SOCIAL COMPARISON ISSUES with the tracking and comments and stuff. It's palpable. And dark.

Mrs. G. said...

I keep singing the same old song:just write.

And you know my other advice for getting hundreds and hundreds of comments: post lots of pictures of your brand new puppy. That's big stuff...have you met my friend Google Images? Satan's Familiar isn't going to cut it.

Manager Mom said...

Matron, you deserve every inch of success that has already, and will no doubt, come your way. At least you are WRITING your book and have the courage to pursue your own dreams. I'm still a slave to the paycheck, fearful of what would happen to my family if I did what I really wanted to do. And you are allowed some mom crabbiness every once in a while.

Julie said...

I think it's awesome that you poured that drink out the window while hurtling down the interstate! Did you make the boys wash the van??

Anonymous said...

I understand how the YA thing must have made you feel. But the YA market is a gold mine! And it's such a great audience, because that's when so many kids ultimately decide if they're going to be lifelong readers or not. My reading memories of that time are the strongest I have. I can remember everything I experienced while reading Anne of Green Gables or the Babysitters Club series, but I can barely remember which adult novel I read last week.

Lynda said...

You're a fantastic writer - take that from someone who enters a bookstore and wonders what she HASN'T read yet. I am thoroughly enjoying you.

Anonymous said...

Writer hugs your way, Girlfriend! I know your pain, but I've determined to swamp my agent with work so by sheer odds we get a book published. First didn't sell? I wrote a second. Not good enough? I wrote a third. I think I've got about 5 more books in me somewhere and then, well, then I'll be 55 and ready to try something else. Maybe.

Anyway, nose to the grindstone and all that jazz. You are so talented, it'll come your way. And you work hard, too, and that's the deal sealer.

Jocelyn said...

Your moment of rolling down the window and pouring resonates with me heartily. Somehow, I think good kids can come out of that spontaneous solution.

I have no wisdom about readers and wanting them. I do, too, but somehow differently (because, er, we're different people. Shock.). I guess you keep writing. Beyond that, I don't know how much you can do. But, see, I'm not exactly driven, so I'm just going to stop typing now.

I like reading you. I am a fairly smart reader. That I continue to read you is a compliment.

That is all.

thefirecat said...

Good for the Matron! The wart has turned into a beauty mark from this. And Stryker is amazing, also.

laurie said...

i love that stryker dude.