Dani Shapiro
March 2, 2009

On Interruption

Last week I got no writing done. Oh, I wrote my monthly column, I took care of some other magazine business, I taught my private class–in other words, I took care of other pieces of my life as a writer. But I didn’t work on my book. There were hours, here and there, during which I might have been able to sit down to write. But the shape of the week didn’t allow for it. My beloved Uncle died last Sunday, and the funeral was in Boston on Monday. Tuesday, Michael spent the day reading the first 200 pages of my manuscript, so I was paralyzed, waiting for his response. Wednesday, we were in New York for a day full of meetings. Thursday–the one day I had the hours to write–I was so exhausted, so emotionally and physically drained from the sadness about my Uncle, the relief that Michael thought my manuscript pages were good, the busy day in the city–that I curled up into a little ball and…slept. For hours. Friday was Jacob’s 4th grade field trip to Ellis Island, which began at 5 in the morning and ended at 9 at night. So. It was a week full of interruption.

How to keep the thread, when life intervenes? I no longer even imagine that I will have stretches of weeks with no distraction, no lost days. There are always lost days. The question, really, is now to tolerate them. How to breathe into them and simply understand them to be part of the process, rather than to allow them to get the better of me.

Today is a snow day. (I feel less alone in this than usual. Usually here in our little snow-belt micro-climate, I call my friends in New York and they have no idea what I’m talking about.) Most of the Northeast is blanketed today, and kids are home from school. Chances are, I’m not going to get work done today. I’ll get other stuff done; stuff that needs to get done, that always gets shoved into the corners: camp forms, school contracts, haircut appointments, banking. In a way, I’m making room for the writing by taking care of all this other business that clutters up my head. But really–enough already with the snow.

Today will be full of household activities. The making of fires, hot chocolate, soup. Downstairs, my husband is cleaning his office; Spring cleaning during an early March blizzard. I’m reminded of something Sharon Salzberg said during a meditation retreat about a Buddhist teacher she had met in India, a woman who had many children, little time, and much hardship. When asked how she maintained her practice, her focus, she responded: I stirred the soup mindfully.