Work Gets Done

work gets done; author with Christmas lights
Strange man with Christmas lights.

The current situation is this: my reading and writing life is bracketed into the spaces where my kids are either asleep or at school, and sometimes it happens even when they’re home and awake, that is, if a short trip to Barnes & Noble or the Fainting Goat is doable without making things too stressful. The life of my mind, or at least the productive and creative parts of it, limits itself to the fringes: the morning commute*; the evening commute; Mondays (which are part of my weekends, given that I work Saturdays–reference laboratory hours); and after everyone else is asleep; or on those rare mornings when I wake before the kids, feeling alert enough to actually get out of bed, even though I technically don’t have to yet. These are difficult conditions under which to write a novel, much less maintain a regular blog. My blogs haven’t had regular schedules since their inceptions. But the writing is happening. Somehow, some way, the work gets done. Is it a miracle–a disruption of time and space? Or simply a testament to human determination?

When I was an undergraduate art student, the chairman of Union University’s art department at the time, a man of modern artistic vision and a facility with acrylic paint, advised that I pursue my art before taking on the responsibilities of a family. He had my interest in mind, and the wisdom in this is obvious, but I never could seem to make such a reasonable plan work. Now in my forties, I’m certain that the young put too much stock in so-called “callings,” when there’s so little we can actually know about how life will turn out. I’ve always been one to lay out the pieces first, inadvertently tossing a few about without caution, and then seek to assemble them into meaningful compositions later. This is how I’ve done life so far.

Do people really exist who make a plan and then execute it? Malcolm Gladwell says Picasso was like that, and he contrasts Picasso’s approach with that of Paul Cezanne, who was more of an experimenter. Picasso had brilliant flashes and then produced them; Cezanne dabbled and re-tried things, and eventually he’d stumble onto something great. If I’m to produce anything great, it won’t be in a flash like Picasso.

Even now, my body is calling for sleep, but I’m resisting with thoughts of content generation and search engine optimization–blogger concerns. I hear the heater kick on with a roar–a roar that fades into a hum; it’s a cold November night. The heater noise comes from upstairs, right in front of the doorway through which my two boys are sleeping. But this does not wake them. No, they’re waiting for 2:41 a.m., so they can invade our bed with maximum disruption. We haven’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in months. This is the glorious life I’ve chosen.

*Here are some earlier thoughts on how the commute to and from work proves productive: http://alandrue.com/commuter-blues-two-sides/.

the author
Alan D. Tucker
Content Blogger,
Essayist, & Novelist

Horror and Hugs

If I want to watch a horror movie, I have to wait until everyone’s either in bed or away from home. When one of these two conditions is met, then I have to search carefully for a movie that’s worth watching: so many are compromised by poor acting, or they rely too heavily on special effects, or they peaked in their previews so there’s no good material left unseen in the actual film. So many commit the fatal error of showing too much; the terror’s in what you can’t see. For any number of reasons, really, it’s difficult to find a solid, truly scary movie, one that fulfills its implied promise, thereby making you afraid to enter dark rooms or look into mirrors. And I can’t leave out the real terror: feeling like I’ve wasted a precious hour-and-a-half. Generally, for me these days, watching a horror movie at all is a precarious endeavor.

Last night, however, the fates aligned, it would seem. Everyone was in bed. I had roughly an hour-and-a-half before I’d start falling asleep upright in my chair, and I already knew of a couple of titles I wanted to try. Scrolling my list on Netflix, I settled on I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a film with mediocre reviews but that I’m curious about anyway. The dark, opening screen appeared, accompanied by a spooky-sounding female narrative voice-over; the ghostly image of a standing girl in-profile, translucent, slowly glided backward across the screen, her face leaving a spectral smear of ectoplasmic mist; a baby cried out. What? Yeah, a baby. My daughter was awake and nearly distorting the monitor in the kitchen with the intensity of her crying. This was no couple of cries and then back to sleep; she was awake-awake, and from the sound of it, hungry. Being the one of her parents still conscious, it was only right that I get her (though I was tempted to linger in the hope her mother would get there first).

Her face was puffy and red from the crying, and from having just awakened. Her eyes squinted tight as I moved from the bedroom to the lamp-lit living room. The cries quickly tapered to nothing. I wiped and kissed her cheeks, snuggling her against my chest. For the briefest moment, she rested her head on my shoulder. Then she raised her face to mine and smiled, wielding a power I’m sure she’ll always have–the power to absorb my attention fully. In an instant, none of my movie-watching plans even mattered.

Alan D. Tucker, MA
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowy Night: I Should Be Sleeping

It’s thirteen minutes past eleven p.m., and I could sleep, but I’m too stubborn. Because there’s still a capacity for wakefulness in this winter-weary body.* Winter-weary–yeah, right, says the New Englander or the Michigander. How is a Tennessean winter-weary? Because for three nights out of the past five, I have slept in a hotel in my own town, away from my wife, away from my kids, all because there’s a possibility that sideroads may be treacherous and impassable. This is life when it snows or, more accurately, ice-storms in Nashville. Trucks brine the interstate; people with buckets scatter blue salt over concrete stairs and isolated parking lots; and the administration at the laboratory where I process cancerous tissue five days a week takes the initiative to ensure its workforce’s safety and its capacity to perform its important job by generously providing hotel rooms for those of us able to stay. Every specimen is a patient. I never forget the human at the other end of the tissue that I’m processing, because I know that we are all grasping for our lives and for the lives of those we love. We cling to this vapor of earthly existence, no matter what we believe about the hereafter. If we humans unite behind anything, it is this: we’re all trying to stay alive. This is our impulse. Perhaps it’s the purest instinct. And we don’t let go of it until there are no other options; until it’s wrested from our slack hands.

How does one not think of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” in a post like this? So I cling to consciousness,  because it’s my impulse, even though I should be sleeping. I didn’t inherit that napping gene that brings so much joy to others (neither did my oldest son). I stay awake until I no longer can. It will take its toll later in the week, when I can’t keep my eyes open past 8:30 on Friday night. But for now I soldier on, writing this blog post, thinking about how rarely we have a good snow in middle Tennessee, about how people lose their minds when the temperature drops below freezing, and about how we’re all together (even though we don’t always like each other) in this endeavor of life.

 

 

 

 

*Winter-weariness is not altogether bad. I’ve written elsewhere that I often feel more alive in winter. Weariness can coexist with contentment, it seems.