A thought occurred to me late last night while deep cleaning my writing space for the first time since E's aneurysm. Maybe the reason I preferred working at the dining room table all this time wasn't so much about my oldest daughter's need for the Internet and quiet space in order to do homework. Maybe the reason I liked working downstairs reached deeper.
My dining room is located in the center of things. It's social and active, and filled with light, even during the darkest winter days. My office space, on the other hand, is the smallest of three upstairs bedrooms, with sloped ceilings and wooden floors, and two narrow windows that let in the afternoon light, but little more.
Before I moved my office downstairs to make way for my youngest daughter, I ran my consulting and PR business from the space. I wrote my columns, and planned my marketing campaigns, and designed newsletters, brochures, and annual reports.
The room was quiet, out of the way, a great place to focus, in many ways a perfect retreat...
Before E's aneurysm.
Since then it's felt less like a retreat and more like a storage room with a corner for a desk. Two walls and both closets were lined with boxes, papers, and books. Some of the clutter was set there the day we relocated my office upstairs so that E--unable to climb stairs on her own after the aneurysm--could move to the first floor.
The rest accumulated over the next four years. A hodge-podge of middle-school papers, clothes needing mending, old bills, and projects I planned to pursue once my life returned to normal.
Much of the materials were necessary: craft books on plotting, description, dialogue and story; Vermont College Residency notes; works in progress; advisor letters; critiques; revisions; creative thesis; critical thesis; children's books. Much of the rest was taking up space.
All had been waiting to be culled, organized, filed, catalogued, and shelved. When time permited, I kept telling myself. When time permited.
I didn't intend to leave the office disorganized for so long. But somewhere along the way the daily to-dos associated with E's recovery and recurrent illnesses took precedence. And then, after awhile--especially after starting the VC writing program--working around the boxes became commonplace.
I can't yet fully articulate what compelled me to confront my attic space yesterday. All I know is that the time had come. Here's an excerpt from one of the old notes I unearthed last night. It's a timeline of sorts, starting with the aneurysm rupture in July 2001:
July 1-aneurysm ruptures
July 2-aneurysm clipped
July 15-permanent brain shunt placed, not sleeping well at all
July 31-E released to Marianjoy Rehabilation Center for inpatient therapy
Aug. 7-back to University of Chicago, shunt infection, went septic, shunt removed, antibiotics started
Aug. 21--infection finally clears, shunt replaced
Sept. 7-released once again to Marianjoy inpatient care
Sept. 26-finally home, commute 5 day/week to rehab at Marionjoy
Oct 31--released from full-time out-patient care; return to school part-time, begin 3 day/week therapy after school at local Easter Seals
Edited to add:
I don't remember when I wrote the above timeline or why. What I do find curious is that unlike other times I've stumbled upon notes from the dark months after E's sudden illness, I can read the list and acknowledge it with a distance and clarity. The experience is a gift, one I'd given up on experiencing.
Appetite for writing:
Contented, focused. More focused than I've felt in a long, long time.