Margot Merrill on modern parenthood and the writing life

26Feb/131

This is 40

Big day, folks. Four decades on this planet! That's me. Forty.

Thank God I got most of my identity crisis shit done in my late thirties! I am delighted now. I'm the youngest of all of my friends in their forties. (Sorry, guys.) I'm the wise elder of Those Who Have Not Yet Turned Forty. And I'm cute and humble, too.

It's not like things are perfect now–it's life after all. But I hope my forties are about enjoying what I have.

Yes, I'm aware of my blessings! They were singing to me the last few days. Now my job is to quiet my brain. Shut up and enjoy it, Margot! You hear me??

Okay, I may be losing it in my old age. As proof, here is the cheesiest image I have ever posted, and will ever post, on this website:

Your thoughts?

Interested,

Margot

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23Feb/130

Catching Up

The longer one puts off a task, the bigger it becomes. Especially with writing. How can I tell you what's transpired in the last five months? Of course, I've thought about writing. Late at night, when I don't feel right, I craft paragraphs in my head. The language in my head-writing, and here on this site, is not for work, but for me. Most of the time these paragraphs just tumble around, wishing for release through expression. But let's face it here, people. I have two kids and a full time job. There's little time for elaboration.

So here's what happened:

  1. I went back to work five days a week. It's like, game on. I'm trying to figure out how to balance it all again. How can I let work go when I walk in the door of our home, when it's consumed me for more than forty hours a week? I want to do it well, but have it be gone when home, so I can concentrate on my people.
  2. I recovered a little more from that big old dip last year. What did they call it? Oh, depression? Tra-la-la. I'm over you, bitch! (Hold on - I'm supposed to be speaking positively to myself, and letting the darker sides of my emotions "just be." Riiight...Back to therapy. I'm just beginning to get it. I hope.)
  3. We got a new au pair. Another transition. Another story worthy of a post. But not for now.
  4. Raf had a super busy December for travel, but has since been home rocking the house. Hallelujah!
  5. I turned 40 last Sunday.

Out with the old! Wait. I am old. And I'm beginning to like it. Here's a new post about that.

Margot

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25Sep/121

The Dinosaur Bone (what you think you’re no good at)

I clearly remember the moment I decided I couldn't draw.

I was eight. Staring at a massive dinosaur skeleton in the Natural History Museum in Denver. Was it a Stegosaurus? A Tyrannosaurus?  I'm not sure. The view in my memory is of the right side of it. A shape which contained the bone I was to draw.

I sat on a bench in front of the dinosaur skeleton, balancing a sketchbook on my lap. To my left sat my older sister. Our parents had just divorced. To my right was the art teacher hired, apparently at great expense, to take care of us for a short while over summer vacation.

The art teacher was okay. I met her in our tree-dappled backyard in Denver. She was pretty. Natural, though I don't particularly remember her face. We did crafty things at our  house for a few days. (I keep thinking "our" house but it was suddenly our dad's house. Not our mom's.) Not much else I recall about my experience with the art teacher, except that crucial moment.

"Just go ahead and try to sketch a bone," she might have said kindly.

Or, more cruelly, as I've twisted it in my memory: "Impress me. Draw the femur."

I tried. I drew something that resembled a bone. Kinda.

Then I made the worst mistake one can make: I looked to my left. What had my sister done? There, in my recollection, lay a perfect, artistically rendered, completely-to-scale rendering of that goddamned dinosaur bone. Da Vinci, through the hand of my much-more-talented 11-year-old sister, had drawn it. I looked down at my paper, where I saw a wobbly pencil outline and some blobs. And I thought: "There. You see? I can't draw."

I remember the clarity of the thought, and the relief that came with it. I can't draw. I didn't have to compete if I refused to play.  And if I didn't do it, I wouldn't fail.

It wasn't the art teacher's fault. I probably said nothing about it. I just packed up all my drawing fun-times, along with my belief in happily-ever-after, which eroded around the same time. I folded in on myself. I still smiled and laughed and tried to be cute for everyone. But my parents were divorced, and I couldn't draw, and my sister could. And that was that. No problemo.

Thank God somehow I maintained the belief that I could write. And with the help of a great writing coach, over the course of a few years, I wrote the novel. By running that gauntlet, I found myself a writer. I have my craft, and it makes me happy when I do it. Like now.

But I dared not draw until very recently. Inspired by author Dan Roan who gave the keynote at a conference, I started sketching to explain a very complex thing: my job. It helped so much! I published a series of blog posts for work, some of which included these sketches. The sketches were rough, but they helped me communicate. And they made me laugh. Breakthrough!!!

To celebrate, I offer you the following sketch:

my second dinosaur bone drawing

In closing:

May you break any curses and reconsider any blanket-statement beliefs about what you can't do.

May you draw your bone. 

Lotsa love and just a little push,

- Margot

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23May/120

A Break. It does…

...I'm not going to finish that headline. But I will tell you I've recently had three trips away. And I'm diggity-dogged happy to be home.

My sis and I visited our mom up in Sebastopol for her 70th bday. We buried ourselves in cedar, and did as we pleased. I got a nice family-full.

Then I flew to Austin to represent the Fernandez-ez at a good friend's wedding. There I was surrounded by people who've loved us long time. I thought of the early days of R and I, and got my friend-full.

Then, the "break" of a modern parent's dreams: a 3-day conference in one city followed by a day-long client workshop in another! Yeah. Dreamy. But I had my own hotel room. A chance to see my dad and stepmom. (Pack it in, baby.) But most importantly: a few days to think big, meet people, and pass out in neutral-town when done.

Then, best of all, home! And my guy and babies! Blessed be. That's what I'm talking about. Gorgeous moments when I'm just holding them, and I'm so happy I could cry. They missed me, and I can't get enough of them.

So I'm home, and happy, and ready to hang for the summer and beyond. You know what they say about breaks.

XOXO,

Margot

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1May/127

Your rose, your thorn, and your bud

My friend Tyler's buddy asks his kids this question every night: "What are your rose, your thorn, and your bud?"

Your rose is the happiest moment of the day. The thorn, the worst part of your day: what's bothering you or keeping you back. And your bud is what you're excited about learning or doing next.

Roses have been on my mind lately. When I'm trying to calm down I visualize being in one. A giant red rose. I curl in the center like a baby, a yellow pollen blanket under me. The petals unfurl around me.

Love, that's what a rose means. In that visualization I do, it means self-love. Self-love. I didn't know I needed it, but apparently it's what I'm supposed to be learning. Have I mentioned I hate learning? I've come to recognize that my wires are crossed. Learning = failing. I'm working hard to change this belief, and to be kinder to myself as I grow. (How do you do that self-love thing? Did you always just...love yourself unconditionally? Is it learned? Does it come and go?)

I had a rose-related breakthrough recently when a wise woman who knows me well said: "You don't have to constantly be exceptional, Margot."

"Yes I do!" I shouted. And then I laughed a little and explained, "So I can keep torturing myself for failing!"

She, much older and calmer than I, said: "Lower your expectations. Especially of yourself."

It was a revolting idea.

"But I want to create! Beautiful things!" I said. "And change the world! Make it better! Help people! And be a great parent! And–"

"It's not realistic, or kind to yourself, to think you have to be phenomenal all the time," she said. "To create, you need down time. Time when you're just normal old you. You need time to gestate."

Then I thought of a rose, and why it's exceptional: it's not always blooming. The bush hibernates. It makes rose hips from faded flowers. Its roots stretch into the cold deep earth to bring up nutrients. The leaves do their photosynthesis thing.

shhhh, we're working on something good inside over here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when things are ready, it blooms.

Ah. That feels good. Pretty exceptional, huh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel like I'm coming out of a dark winter. So grateful to see the late-Spring sun. I have to move past being mad at myself for breaking down. I know this whole process–my recent crash, and evolving identity, and awkward inner growth is leading to something. More roses. I'm sure of it.

I haven't yet instated the rose/thorn/bud routine with my family. I'll have to add it to my list of to-do's. If you're inspired, and you actually have dinner with your family regularly, please do it and lmk how it goes.

Heart,
Margot

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30Dec/112

the Holiday bawl

I bawled on Christmas Eve day. It was a hearty, completely-losing-it weepfest. It felt pretty good to cry as I fought to finish the handmade cherry pie. As my daughter didn't take her afternoon nap. As a half-hour's drive away my husband, 4-year old son, and in-laws awaited me, and the baby girl, and dessert. I'd worked till 11:00 the night before. Oh yes, woe!

I was wallowing in woes. Most of my own making.

Earlier in the day I'd had good friends visit–Jen and Karissa. We drank coffee and sat outside in the sunlight as I tried to rapidly decompress. I kept looking for my holiday spirit. I welcomed it, but hadn't given myself any time. Jen, one of my oldest friends, juggled baby Story and cleaned up our kitchen. Karissa rolled out my rock-hard crumbly pie dough. She's like that. You can hand Karissa a tortured lump of "pate brisee" or a crying newborn baby, or ask her to hang a picture in your house, and she's got it. We talked about the hard knocks of 2011. I tried to tell them how much I appreciated seeing them.

I got messy after they left. I cried because year-old Story Jane wouldn't sleep, and I needed her to. (Sleep is my parental Achilles heel.) I was crying because I felt alone. And because I was remembering past holidays–Christmases of my childhood–and got swept away in the hope and disappointment. (Santa. Right. Happiness forever. Right.)  I kept crying and looking at my daughter watching me cry from her high chair. I hated that I wasn't together. And that despite Jen and Karissa's help, the pie wasn't together, much less baked.

So why didn't I just go buy a goddamn pie? Or arrive without dessert?

Humbled by this question, I have to admit I needed a good breakdown. I bawled for more than two hours, and then I felt better. I was still snuffling, but calm as at last I drove, with the pie and the baby intact, to Rafael's family's house. I was to arrive with puffy eyes and a fresh cherry pie with a small heart cut in the center of the top crust. The cherry goo had sloshed in transit and the pie looked just like I felt: an achy bleeding heart.

No matter–I walked in and it was the holidays. Raf's mom offered me a glass of wine and I sat down with Story and got a thousand hugs from a very happy Alejandro. I'd arrived. Not on time, not perfect, but present.

I'm learning that's the most I should expect and strive for. To be present. I'm still squirreling my way around it, but it feels so good when I'm there.

And note to self: it's probably best to avoid such drama in the future. Next year I'll take a couple of days off before Christmas. And maybe just buy a damn dessert.

Hold me to it.

Love you,

Margot

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