Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vacuuming! or How to be Fulfilled


I have to vacuum today. Not an exciting way to begin. It is a tedious job to lead into what could very well be a tedious post. But I have a lot to say about vacuuming. I have a personal history with vacuuming. A WRITING history with vacuuming. Everything that I do can be tied together by the simple act of vacuuming.

During my grad school years I wrote about vacuuming quite a lot. I wrote about the feeling I would get sometimes while pushing the thing to and fro, surrounded by the noise, the whirring and sucking air, the lifting/removing/spiraling of dust and debris. I was actually the vacuum, taking on all the detritus of the carpet and beyond, filling myself up with all the things around me, my family, the whole world. Full with everything and growing larger, so large that I would no longer be able to fit in the living room, so large that I was far away from everyone and all alone. These moments were both exhilarating and scary.

I have written plenty about my adulthood chores as well, the messy, tedious realities that created a home life worth living, for our toddler and for Josh and for me. Somehow this subject though was never good enough for me. These domestic experiences while my gradschool cohort were making connections, finding time to write and drink and cavort. I was feeling sorry for myself, and hooking into an old story told by my high school fiction teacher, I had technical skill but a propensity for the mundane.

At the end of grad school we were to perform a reading as our final graduation requirement. Even after much fretting, nothing I had written seemed good enough, complete enough with a beginning, a middle, and an end. After even still more confusion and struggle, I chose a cutting from several of my essays, and read the parts about vacuuming. I was thrilled to find this connective tissue running through everything I had written. And it was funny and sweet and real and barely manageable, the way my life had been those years of grad school and raising my first baby, the years of rushing to teach and rushing to pick up Henry. Breastfeeding and cloth diapers. I did it all. And held to my principals. But it was not pretty and hard as hell. When I wasn't writing. I'd dip into the corners of our tiny little dollhouse with the wand of my canister vac while 9-month-old Henry scooted along behind it. It was a moment of extreme effort, my joyful-faced-boy, the dog hair flying around us like confetti, paws skittering across the wood floor, my heart racing with exhilaration and fear. It was as if we were in a snow globe and this was it, all there was and ever would be.

I have regrets that I thought having the MFA degree would make me a writer. I now know, it was the vacuuming that made me the writer. The vacuuming, the kid, the teaching, the savoring of each moment good and bad that made me a writer. Every moment deserves my attention. Especially vacuuming.