Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One


A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire....


Biding time / Regaining perspective

Photo by Jena Schwartz

I watched a hot air balloon hanging low over the fields this morning. It appeared not to be going anywhere and that it might have to land and give up the journey. I wondered if the pilot was disappointed he wouldn't be flying today. Perhaps he enjoyed the unexpected glimpse of spring right below him—the tender green of budding trees and sprouting wheat that were awakening the winter-worn landscape. He might not have been doing what he had hoped, but he certainly got to appreciate sights he otherwise might have missed. Holding patterns can be for gathering, for gaining perspective.

I repeat this phrase to myself several times because it offers a glimmer of hope. I haven't dedicated any time to writing over the past seven months. Problems with no clear solution or quick ending have consumed me, sapping my energy and making it impossible to focus. To relieve the tension, my husband and I play games while dinner cooks. We sit at the kitchen table with Uncle Ken's dominoes, the Cribbage board my first boyfriend gave me for Christmas or the Yahtzee game with score cards still bearing the crooked printed letters of our children's names. The winning rush of rolling a Yahtzee or pegging a quadruple run in Cribbage balances life out for a minute, and I can breathe again.

I know these current difficulties might one day be subjects for my writing. When pain lessens and perspective widens, I can find my way to crafting an essay or two. 

Working through sorrow has been a focus of several published pieces: Mom's illness that robbed her of the ability to hold onto memories, my eldest son's brain defect, my youngest son leaving for college. However, complex, personal themes often take a long time to process, and a writer needs to write. The longer you are away from that blank page, the more difficult it is to get back. Sometimes the keeper of your memory palace needs to kick you in your neural network to dislodge you from inactivity. And my palace gatekeeper has his pointy-toed shoes on today.

The balloon sighting remains in the forefront of my thoughts, but by late morning, it is superimposed on the image of scrolling through Literary Mama's "Calls for Submissions" the night before. Restless, I open my email and read some wonderful essays from the magazines and blogs that deposit them there. But I am not satiated. I long to weed out weak verbs and agonize over adjectives. The need for a topic is overwhelming, so I return to the call list. My eyes fall upon "After Page One."
I imagine my gatekeeper running around in victory circles yelling, "Goal! Goal!" as I sit down at the computer to wrestle with words and coax out a story. Next time I look up, a half hour has slipped away. Lost in these perfect moments of pleasure, I spare a second to wonder where the balloon man has ended up. If he is doing what he loves, he is probably where he needs to be. As am I.

Originally from Chicago, Andrea Isiminger currently lives in Madrid, Spain with her husband, two sons and lovable, lazy dog Naya. A few years ago, with her fiftieth birthday on the horizon, she finally decided she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Since then, her work has been published in print and online, most recently at Thread (Stitch) and Mamalode.

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Thank you for this beautiful and moving essay. I have often wondered about the purpose of my own "holding patterns," finding myself unable to write at life's most fraught moments. This essay offers me gentle perspective and acceptance, which is just what I need. Thank you!
Cassie, thanks for letting me know I connected! It's great when my writing helps me discover something about myself. Or sometimes the words just flow like music, and there is joy in knowing I have hit the right notes (even if no one else notices). But what is most gratifying is when my thoughts have made a difference in someone's life, and I can almost hear the whisper, "Me, too."
Beautiful use of language and encouraging to all of us processing our own holding patterns.
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