Author's note: I wrote this in late June and never got around to editing it until this week! Chalk it up to what came out of the incident below -- lots of other writing and even more decline in my laptop's function. The latter's at the shop, so I'm working on borrowed technology until further notice ...
Yesterday, I sat down to write as I've been sitting down to write for several months since establishing something like a morning routine with D. and O. We have breakfast together and go for a walk, then D. leaves for his office and I entertain O. until he's ready to nap. On some days he shuttles happily from toy box to sofa to floor, sorting and piling various items with intentions only he understands. On others, he gets impatient and sweeps aside the entire mess -- a fallen tower of blocks, stacking rings that refuse to stack -- flailing his arms to remove every last offending piece. And then he starts from scratch, arranging the materials he was just rejecting toward whatever ideal his busy fingers want so much to create.
Most of the time, he finds his way, but I've been wondering lately when to step in during those moments of frustration to do more than comfort and redirect, as so many parenting advocates suggest. To teach him how to handle the disappointment without producing quite so much debris. For now, when play is no longer fun, I know it's time to give him a break. That's also where my nap time writing window fits.
My laptop had restarted in the middle of the night -- to install some automatic, unavoidable update the operating system insists on making once every few weeks -- and I'd expected that, given the warning messages it had been flashing the evening before.
What I didn't expect was that the essay I'd been working on over several weeks had been failing to save, thanks to a glitch with the software, for three days.
I'm sure the first thoughts I had after the discovery were unprintable. Silent, fuming, desperate, I considered my options. Rewrite it all? It was worth a shot. The draft that had saved was substantially different from the version that was lost. In a moment of clarity -- rarely do I have these, so ever more my dismay -- I'd drastically altered the direction of the essay, moving sections, reintroducing ideas where they made more sense. Those changes were gone. Sifting through the older draft, I could see the phrases that had triggered the shift in thought, could see fuzzy fragments of particular transitional sentences in memory that I'd begun working in, an essay in pieces that if only I could reassemble them --
Thirty minutes later, I might as well have been trying to rebuild a melting sand castle on a beach at high tide.
The words just weren't right. I was copying a badly damaged artifact without the benefits of the original moment of inspiration guiding my choices. I wasn't hearing the stream of thought, just listening to echoes and fighting a mounting swell of frustration instead.
The impulse to sweep it all aside -- much as O. would -- was suddenly a hard lump in my throat. But there was nothing really to fling, lost data being lost. I understood, though, the temptation of clearing something away, of needing to be rid of the mess that I was unable to right. After a few minutes, I gave up. If I couldn't sweep aside the damage, I could at least clear myself away -- to deal with my frustration without staring the creative disaster in its face.
O. is asleep again this morning. I have, perhaps, another hour to work at this unforgiving thing I do because I need and want to, in spite of all the challenges the act comprises, even without technological snafus. That I'm actually grieving the loss of this essay tells me it matters, that the work is essential, that scraping together the time at the cost of -- well, at the very least, certain household chores and anything else I can't do while O. is awake -- is better than any alternative.
But after looking at the essay yet again, even with fresh eyes, I know I won't be able to pick up where I'd left off. All frustration aside, I can't relocate the place in my consciousness where those particular words dwelled. So I'm going to have to start from scratch.
Am I disappointed? Yes. But maybe there is something to be said for debris, and what can come of rummaging through it.
Feet on Ice, a Taste of Home
8 hours ago