Bookbub, one of the most reputable sites for book bargains, will be hosting Monochrome on Oct. 9th in their fantasy category. If you’re not a Bookbub member, you could sign up for emails on the latest book deals, ranging from .99 to free. But even if you don’t do that, my publisher, Gravity, will be putting my book up for sale for the week of Oct. 9th for .99. Bookbub is very selective with the books they choose, so you can be guaranteed quality when they list a book. I’m honored that Monochrome was chosen to be displayed on the site. Please take advantage of the sale of my dark fantasy/magical realism book about marriage, depression, motherhood and finding joy in life’s darkest hours.
You get weird looks if you talk to yourself in the grocery store. Trust me on this one. I’m always muttering to myself, “Okay, Hannah, what did you forget. You’re forgetting something. You should write lists, you know, or stop leaving them at home.” And, yes, people smile in a frightened sort of way and give me a wide berth.
I’m not sure why people treat it like such a big thing, though, since most of what we read online is people talking to themselves. Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming, blogging and even taking selfies are mostly forms of self-engagement, aren’t they? I look like this today. Insert selfie here (I need you to notice how much weight I’ve lost). Share this and say “Amen” if you agree with this post (these are my beliefs and I need you to concur with me). I had a hard day today and I want to discuss it (I want you to read about my day and send me some empathy).
I’m not making fun of people. I’m writing a blog right now. I hope you relate to it, but mostly I’m just writing my ideas and thinking how clever I am to come up with them on short notice. I post pictures of myself in new outfits. I do not post chain images because I think Jesus could hardly care whether or not I am sharing a poorly spelled self-congratulation on my spirituality. He probably would rather I work on my piss-poor attitude and dripping sarcasm. I am just pointing out that most of what we do (online) and in conversations with friends is try to locate ourselves, talk about our problems, and receive empathy from others about this or that situation. That’s fine, especially if done sparingly.
But it’s a also a bit dull, isn’t it? And it seems to frustrate people, a lot. I have friends who get all bent out of shape because a person didn’t agree with the world view of this or that post. I have been bent out of shape, myself, a time or two. But not everyone is always going to like what you are made of, the things you like, the way you style your hair. And that’s okay. Isn’t it? Well, in an a world where over-sharing and receiving prizes/ranking/stars/likes for every action we partake in, whether it be ordering food or reading a book, it feels NOT okay when people don’t agree with us. It feels like we are not validated in our lifestyle. And validation is huge in the social network world.
I have not remedies to hand you. I have no desire to tell you not to worry about how many likes your new hairstyle gets. I just want to let you know that I might not “like” all your posts, I might not agree with everything you stand for, and it doesn’t matter. I just hope you love yourselves. I hope, sometimes, you take a walk and a break in sweats with messy hair. I hope that no matter the rating of your book, no matter the likes on your profile pic, no matter the shares on your blog, that you love that you ARE. I have been feeling very happy with myself lately, and I think it’s because I’ve started to care less about being approved of. Maybe that comes with age. I don’t know. I just know that I like the feeling. I like to talk to my groceries and skip through stores when I feel like it. And I don’t mind if you think I’m weird for so doing. I am. I am here and I am.
I have been a full-time mom since this little lady was still a baby. I always thought I’d be a working person, a career woman. Until it became clear to me that my daughter needed my care, needed a little extra attention. She didn’t eat or sleep well as a very small baby, and I had severe OCD PPD with her for so many months of her infancy that I couldn’t even experience the joy of new motherhood. It was all anxiety and sleeplessness.
I remember a select few moments when she would sleep and I would look at her and a overwhelming love would break my heart. When that feeling came more often than the thoughts of self-harm and loathing, I knew that I was getting out of my PPD and into mothering. And it is the most trying, most beautiful job in the world. It is a job. Ignore people when they say it’s not. It’s not always something I want to do, it’s not always fun, but I do my best work mothering because the end result matters so much. So I decided, a Master’s degree in hand, job offer lined up, to be a full-time mother. It was a decision I made work in a way I know that not everyone can. I’m not even suggesting everyone should. It was simply what I thought my daughter needed.
You see, she has always been emotionally fragile, ready to storm or cry or jump with joy, always in the most extreme ways. I knew she needed me when she was a baby, infant, toddler. Even as a very small baby (13 months), just putting clothing on her took a good twenty minutes. Nothing was comfortable. Every pair of pants would be discarded because they were too itchy, too long, too tight. She would scream about the way a certain piece of clothing felt on her, and throw tremendously long fits. So I learned to let her wear fleece pajamas. No big deal. But eating, sleeping even playing have to be approached in a certain way or it becomes another explosion.
She’s smart. She’s five and will listen to chapter books being read for an hour, remembering and reciting lines that stick out to her and asking pertinent and difficult questions about the content. She will imagine scenarios for play that blow my mind, so detailed and precise. But she’s only five and reasoning is still difficult, especially since her moods are more severe than some. She has to find her calm, and she’s learning to, as we all must, but it’s just a little harder for her than some.
So I stuck by her side, helping her learn and grow and play, allowing her to attend preschool for three hours when she was 3 to 4, so she could socialize, even though every morning was a fight. It is sometimes trying, but it has mostly been really wonderful to be with her (and her brother, who was born two years later) every day. We had tea parties, read great books, went on trail walks, visited museums, played at the park, baked together, and learned how to deal with each other’s highs and lows.
But this week she starts Kindergarten. She is no longer a toddler or a baby, but she is still my child. Watching her take her seat in class broke something inside me. It wasn’t the first time I’ve let her go, but it seemed like the most significant. I know how to deal with her storms and her teachers won’t. I know what her looks mean, and they can’t. She is my reason for joy, but she is only another student when in class.
And I understand it all, now. The many times my mother shed tears over this or that milestone–a school play, sending me off to Junior High, my first dances, my first car, the day I left for college. I couldn’t know how difficult it was for her to let go, but I do now. And I’m not ready for it, even though it’s here.
I know this week has been hard for her. I’ve received calls about some fits I knew would come, been asked questions about how to care for her, what to tell her, when to let her be. And I just wanted to step in and do it all.
“I’ll pick her up, if she needs me to.”
But it’s their job to keep kids in school. “No. It’s okay. Thank-you for telling us what you do at home. That helps.”
I want to yell that I need her now, too. That my days are still busy but with things that just don’t matter as much. But I let her go when I signed her up for school. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. She’s not far away, but she is doing her little kid job. She’s learning to be without me. It’s terrifying. I am frightened every moment of the day, wondering if she is having a hard time with other kids, with the lessons, with life…if she thinks I’m abandoning her, or don’t want her around.
I wrote a poem for my mother, not long after I had Clara, when mothering and anxiety and tears seemed to go hand-in-hand. I love that poem today more than I loved it then. Because now, I am that mother letting go.
Uncontainable, implacable strength
in a length of all, five-foot five.
Graceful, swift movements, juggling
a multitude of lives, errands, jobs,
heart breaks, burdens and joys.
Boundless energy, quick dancing
step-by step, building four lives
better than what she was
born with, dealt with, ran from.
She ran towards us, full womb,
overflowing mother breasts bursting,
always giving life, giving
what she did not have.
That moment of release, standing
half-in, half-out of the home she labored in,
disciplined in, bled and sweat in,
clinging to the threshold,
fingertips white and strained,
desperate to reach out and take back,
eyes running, brown shimmering orbs
crying for me to go, begging me to stay
and become her baby again.
Heart heavily laden with the moment,
holding it fresh in an blur-thick memory—
understanding what immature neurons
threw away for a chance at a life
more exciting, more learned, less rural—
that in that snap-shot frame of a moment,
I broke the wildly in love being,
waving to her, encompassed
by the smell of a rental car,
the promise of a child-dream,
and the ignorance of one who
did not know what it took
to be a mother-letting-go
H.M. Jones is the author of Monochrome, re-released by Gravity, and imprint of Booktrope. She is also a contributing author to Masters of Time. She has self- published many of her poems, and has also been accepted as a contributing poet to several poetry anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and No More Shame. She is releasing a spooky love story Sept. 2015 entitled “Tiptoe Through Time.” She spends most of her time making sure her children are well-rounded, open-minded citizens of this world, making play dough and having tea parties.
A thoughtful and heartfelt response to Monochrome, my debut novel. Made me tear up. Thanks, Nicole.
There was a recent article about coloring books in the New Yorker, which annoyed me greatly. Apart from the fact that the pomposity of this online publication is often a bit grating on my nerves, it annoyed me because it felt like a stodgy lecture on growing up. I’m thankful my mother was never a fan of those because it allowed me to see them for what they are: thinly veiled judgments.
I think many of you have read the article, but if you have not, you can find it here: http://www.newyorker.com. If you are uninterested in being not-so-subtly lectured, however, it might not be the right article for you. It listed the many reasons that the rising consumption and popularity of coloring books for adults is indicative of a social problem, a lack of responsibility in the next generation of adults.
The quote that best sums up the entire article, if you are intrigued by the argument (and it is intriguing), is this one:
“But it is also part of a larger and more pervasive fashion among adults for childhood objects and experiences. This “Peter Pan market” has roots in publishing, beyond coloring books (the growth in sales of children’s and young-adult books to much older readers has been well documented), but it is far from confined to that arena.”
As a colorbooker, writer of YA fiction and reader of YA fiction, I feel that it’s important for me to say a few things. I’m a very successful adult. I have many responsibilities that I fulfill very well. I make money. I have three jobs. I help my children through difficult concepts and issues. I have suffered several severe traumas throughout my life. I get through the day, every day, even though I have a serious mood disorder. I go to therapy so that I can understand trauma and disorder. I write for serious publications in order to help others face their traumas. I can write seriously, ponder seriously and live seriously. I just don’t always do so because life is for living and having fun is a wondrous part of that living.
Apart from adulting, I also create, entertain, laugh and, yes, play. Not to say the New Yorker article didn’t attempt some neutrality (she says, somewhat sarcastically). The article very open-mindedly supplied, “Coloring might help to release tension, but it’s a fundamentally more directed and restrictive activity than painting something from scratch.”
Ah, yes, yes, “fundamentally directed” and “restrictive.” So that makes it non-creative? I would argue that it allows people who want a little light entertainment a form of entertainment that engages their senses in a way that social networking and watching television do not. Is it okay that a busy mother might want to sit down with her children and allow them to think that Spiderman could be pink? We engage in conversation about the norms of color and we play with those norms, and the end result? A little beauty, time to reflect and breathe, time to add our own twists on something flat that needs expanding. So I’m not eager to agree that doing that is a lazy form of creativity.
Even if it is, so what? Apart from the maxim that “adults must put away childish things” (which could have many different interpretations; perhaps they don’t carry blankets with them, anymore, but can they not have their comforts) why is it wrong for grown humans to play? Aren’t hobbies like hiking, scrap booking, running, even blogging, or *gasp* opinion piece writing a form of creative play? All play really is is engaging in an activity for amusement’s sake.
If something is fun does that make it un-adult? I hope not. I read Harry Potter, all books from Sharon Chreech, Avi, Collins, Trenton Lee Stewart, Ritter and many other successful YA writers. I do this for the same reason many readers flock to the books: they reveal the complexity of the human existence in ways that are fantastic and entertaining, but that does not mean they are not often serious, even adult. Can I enjoy Tolstoy? Yes. But I think it takes a certain sort of creativity to craft a piece of literature that is both serious and playful. My favorite adult authors do that as successfully as my favorite YA authors.
The New Yorker article attempts to paint adults of the next generation as loafers, coming home from college and moving in with their parents. Perhaps the social situation you’re referring to, New Yorker opinion columnist, isn’t so much the problem with adults seeking playful therapy, but actually has to do with the fact that there is in influx of people with degrees and not enough jobs to fill them? Perhaps the amount of debt a person has to acquire to actually become seriously educated is causing emotional and financial instability in the next generation. Perhaps, in order to take a break from a job that they took in order to make a living but does not pay well enough to satiate the loan sharks, they pick up some pencils or pens and play.
I’m not sure what kind of society a person has in mind when they disparage adults from taking a break to create, in whatever form they choose, but it sounds a dull one. I’ll pass. I have some coloring, running, opinion piece writing, YA reading, college teaching, mothering and tea drinking to do. And all of those things are great fun.
P.S. In the comments, if you color, I’d love to see your work. 🙂
A little writer’s help I guest blogged for Paperbacks and Wine.