Unless Your Head Is On Fire

I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to write all day.

The heat is broken in my bonus room office so I can’t write there. The ideas and fingers of a Texan freeze at any temperature below 50 degrees.

The box of Christmas presents from grandparents arrived this morning and after it was unpacked by the kids the living room has been noisy. I sit on the sofa and try to line words up into sentences but there’s an acre of bubble wrap being popped all around me, and cats are running through brown paper strips and kids – lots and lots of kids – shriek all around.

So I scoot around the corner into my bedroom, sit on the bed, lower my head and go to work again. But there’s only a thin layer of sheetrock between me and the cats and the kids…and the popping…so it’s slow going. Start and stop and start and pop and start and…

The door opens.

“I don’t have anything to do,” he says.

“I’m working, son.”

“But I don’t-”

“When you tell me you’re bored what do I tell you?”

He only shrugs.

“I tell you it’s your work to play and make friends. It’s not my work. My work is trying to write something. Your job is to ask a friend to play or find a toy to play with or work a puzzle or draw me a picture. Go do your job.”

I try to write through the guilt and the questions about whether I was too hard on him…and then the singing begins.

The girls are blaring the soundtrack to Frozen from their bedroom ten feet away. And they’re singing loudly. Beautifully, but loudly.

I slip in the ear plugs and mutter a prayer for words. I consider Googling Adderall. I hear you can get it without a prescription from pharmacies in Canada. Hmmm.

The door opens. It’s him again.

“Is this important?” I ask.

He shrugs.

“I’m listening,” I say and close the laptop.

“I don’t have anything to do.”

Nothing to do. 900 days in a row. Fresh from shaking down grandparents for Christmas loot. Nothing to do?

I look at the floor. I take a deep breath in slowly..then out even more slowly…

“Listen, son. Look at my eyes so I know you’re listening.”

He opens his eyes wide and stares into mine.

“I love you very much. And I like you very much. I would love to play with you all day…every day. But I cannot play today. I’m working. You are going to find something to play and I am going to lock this door. Do not knock on this door unless your head is on fire. Do you understand?”

He nods and holds back a smile.

And this is why I didn’t get much work done today. Or about 100 days last year.

My goals are based on what I know I can accomplish with my God-given talent, intellect, passion, hard work and lots of help. But there is a gap between my goals and my reality. Today, in that gap were two hyperactive cats, two of my favorite singers in the world and a very bored six year-old.

One day my kids will move out. And take the cats with them. And I’ll get so much done. I’ll read entire books without pictures. I may even write a few.

But, my mom says, I’ll miss this noise. She’s been right about everything else. I have to keep telling myself that…and build a soundproof room onto the back of the house.

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