Hi, friends. I’m so grateful you read this, even though I don’t know who you are. Actually… scratch that. I know my cousin reads. He told me so when I saw him at Christmas. (Hey, Mason! Thank you for saying that!!!) And I have the sweetest words logged away in my memory from you, kind friends, who have called me out on my writing, said that in some way it mattered to you that I wrote.
I was at a Christmas party, and someone told me that when something bad happens, they look to see if I’ve written something. That may be one of the best compliments of my life.
But I don’t write here often. Or anywhere. I have very, very, very good reasons. I have a one-year-old. I have hard work to do that I love, that I’m grateful for. I also own a home. I have laundry. I need to get my car fixed. We need groceries. I have important things to do.
I do not write often.
My mom will tell you, “When Brent was little, he needed books like he needed to breathe. I knew we couldn’t leave the house if Brent didn’t have his book.”
I remember that part of my life. I didn’t want to be anywhere without something to read. When I was 8 years old, I carried 9 or 10 to school every day. The Witches. Farmer Boy. There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom. Dr. Doolittle. I would pile them up by my desk at school, an altar to the possibilities of the world.
From a young age, I said all the time that I wanted to be a writer.
I have spent a lot of time wondering why I would have said it, why that dream is the one that has stuck with me (not astronaut, gymnast, police officer, Mother Teresa, Muppeteer). I have spent a lot of time wondering whether or not being a writer is something I could ever call myself at all. I am 33 years old. I do not write often.
I’m not trying to chastise myself. I’m observing, I guess, what it has been like for me to dream. I am observing what it has been like to dream and build a life at the same time.
Last night, I was thinking about my life, my career. My husband so patiently and lovingly washed dishes. I dried while he listened to me talking in circles about my work, my hopes, the dream I have for what my life could be. I somehow bumped into this question:
“When am I the happiest?”
Immediately, I thought of a day in May. I thought of laying on a picnic blanket in the yard with my daughter. She was 6 months old. It was the first time she’d been outside in the yard in her life. The two of us were on our backs. She stared up into the sky. I stared at her. She watched the leaves on the dogwood tree shake in the wind, she studied them. She stared. She listened.
She had no names for it all. She did not know the word “leaves”. She did not know that we were outside. She did, however, recognize something worthy of her attention. She stared. She noticed. We laid on our backs, staring up at the trees, listening.
I saw my daughter discover leaves shaking in the wind.
I have never been happier than I was in that moment, watching her discover leaves, the sound of them rustling.
I told Charlie last night, “I think it’s just the seeing, the noticing. My heart is full just watching the world, staring at it, seeing it. Noticing it.”
My heart was full noticing the moment when my daughter first heard leaves. It is the best medicine, the delight I feel in noticing – her newest tooth, the squeal when she sees our cat, the way she started to grip my shoulder to hold on when I was finally able to carry her upright in my arms.
Recently, while visiting my Texas home, I noticed the new embroidered names on our old childhood christmas stockings – a token of love from my mother in honor of our family story. I noticed the boxes of holiday cookies stacked on the kitchen bar, waiting for us to open them. On the way to visit my grandmother in the hospital, I noticed the deep green of the short cedar shrubs and the perfect tan of the dry winter grass. When I held my grandmother’s hand, I noticed the pink, smooth polish on her nails painted by my sister when she’d visited days before.
At my parents house, I noticed the way my nephew said my daughter’s name with glee when he met her. I noticed the way my brother, who I haven’t seen in years, came up behind me when I wasn’t looking and wrapped his arms around me in a bear hug.
To see it all. To notice it. My heart fills.
Why writing, then? Because writing is the only thing I’ve done in my life that makes space for the noticing. Writing is the practice of taking an hour to notice the moment your husband comes in the front door after work, how the air shifts, how his lips curl into a smile when he sees you. Writing is the practice of of taking a day to follow a squirrel from the roof of your garage to the neighbors windowsill and back to the pie crust you left outside to cool. Writing is work that lets you use the bright sparks of your daughter growing up to build a bonfire in your own heart that will warm you in the coldest, loneliest winter nights for years and years to come.
Writing is the practice of noticing.
I have wondered for so many years why I care at all about writing. I may be on to knowing why now. Thank you for helping me make space for it.