Posted by: alegra22 | May 9, 2011

the shape of Z

Zaviera getting changed in the privacy of her portable ‘room’

I like to respect the needs of my husband’s nature. He perks up at the hint of a challenge and being the dedicated wife that I am, I like to provide him with ample challenges. One of the ways I do this is to pretend as if I don’t listen to his little nuggets of wisdom. It is a tricky tactic because my husband also thrives on praise and is prone to pouting. If I don’t acknowledge at least half of his insights, I’m setting myself up for punishment – the ‘cloud of doom’ descends if I don’t strike the right balance. My husband’s sense of injustice creeps through the house, filling the rooms, clinging to the walls, and settling in the corners to stare at me accusingly for indefinite periods of time.

There is also the other side to this problem. When I sense Dan is getting a little over-confident, a little too relaxed about his great and over-spilling reservoir of wisdom, I like to credit his insights to one of my female friends. “So, babe, I was talking to (insert friend) and she said (insert Dan’s words), isn’t that so powerful? It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear!” I know, he’s a lucky man to have a wife like me. 

It was my husband who suggested that I commit to writing a blog a day (either that or it was my friend, Jordan Rosenfeld). I turned this suggestion into the 90 day blog challenge. One blog a day, unedited, for 90 days. The idea was born out of a conversation that took place during the winding drive over the Kaimais, our children sprawled in the shadows of the backseat, leaning against the various straps and buckles holding them in place, drool glistening in the oncoming headlights, soft snores, and the occasional verbal eruption from my daughter. 
 Dan asked, “What are you thinking about?” and we ended up in a discussion about effort surrendering to listening, will power translating into a receptivity, a waiting on instruction, a faith-filled action. I quoted a line from Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write:


“There is an organic shape, a form-coming-into-form that is inherent in the thing we are observing, listening to, and trying to put on the page. It has rules of its own that it will reveal to us if we listen with attention. Shape does not need to be imposed. Shape is part of what we are listening to.”

I said to Dan, “That’s what I want.  I want to stop imposing shape on my writing and let the writing shape me.”
He said to me, as he has often said to me before (this is another strategy, I make him repeat the same insight over and over until 6 months to a year later, I acknowledge it as a brand new ‘A-ha!’ as if he’s never mentioned it before), “Alegra, you just need to record your dreams, record the moments of our days, you don’t need to make stuff up.”
The 90 day challenge was born – 90 days of writing without thinking too much about it, just allowing the moments to take shape on the page.
 Last night on Day 3, I sat in front of the computer and lost courage. A familiar troll came belching into my brain and sat down, scootching his butt cheeks around until he was good and settled. He then pointed out: “Who wants to read your crap every day? They’re going to get sick of you and your blah, blah, blah! This was a stupid idea, kid.”
 I slunked off to bed and pulled the covers up to my chin and blinked in the dark, words cowering at the edges of my mind.  
In the next room, Zaviera cried out for me. My mind drifted back to the other morning when Sol woke me up with his fidgeting, his anxiety that the sun was going to be late in rising, or that it might not come at all. Frustrated, I rolled over on to my side, groaning, and Zaviera had pressed her body close to mine and started to stroke my back. “I’m giving you a massahdge,” she whispered. She pushed the hair away from my face and continued to pat my back gently, trying to help me go back to sleep.
As I think about Zaviera, the words begin to creep away from the edges of my mind. They grow bolder. In the next room, Zaviera carries on a conversation in her sleep. She is telling me things but the words are lost, muffled around the pacifier we let her use at night because she grinds her teeth like she is looking for diamonds in stone.
I think of a moment before bedtime – her laughter as she lay in the middle of the kitchen floor, Joaquin crawling all over her. My daughter’s laughter is the most generous sound I’ve ever heard. I wonder how to bring her laughter into shape, how to bring words to the shape of my daughter’s nature. I want to say that Zaviera is the kindest spirit I’ve ever known in this life. I don’t mean that she doesn’t throw tantrums. She is fierce in her self-defense, but when Joaquin bit her in the chest, she didn’t hit out, she crumpled in shock. She cried from the fierce pain. She didn’t hold a grudge against him. She will run up to her Dan and kick him in the shins out of frustration. She will try to wear me down by sheer force of repetition and will and if that doesn’t work, she’s been known to simply grab my hands and try to force me to do what she wants. But still, every day I am stunned by the purity of her presence, the kindness of her mind.
I push the blankets aside and go to the side of her bed. I sit in the dark, stroking the hair out of her face. I place my hands carefully on her chest and feel the beating of her heart. I hope that while she is sleeping, she can feel my love seeping through her skin and into her bones. I wish I could put a shape to the way Zaviera’s spirit makes me feel, but I suspect, like God, it is a thing beyond words.


  1. I can think of someone who loves reading your blogs and treasures each one no matter how frequent or infrequent.

    • :o)!!!!

  2. Alegra, it is inevitable that every blog you’ve written has made me cry. There is always a moment that seems to pull on my tears like a lever that has been pushed, and then they just come gushing out. Or sit quietly in the corners of my eyes. My favorite writing of yours are these beautifully captured thoughts and moments of your life, with your family, your dreams, your inner journeys and observations… So tell that troll to take a hike, or put him gently to sleep and get on with things, your life, your beautiful, insightful, touching-beyond-words-through-words, observations on your life. I thank you for sharing them–they change me in some way, and I am grateful.

    • Heather, your support always means so much to me. SOmetimes I read one of your comments and I don’t respond right away because i just want to absorb it and saying ‘thank you’ always seems too simple and inadequate, but thank you. You are a blessing in my life.

  3. Dan gets credit for the 90 day thing. Dan, you’re welcome.

    Alegra, damn it, in 90 days you might have a finished book 🙂

    • Hahaha! Gus whispered to you about the book thing, didn’t he?

  4. Love for a child. It is a big thing, isn’t it. Well dreamed. 🙂

    • unfathomably big!

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