There is a chocolate pudding hand print on the cabinet door. A trio of plastic cups--including the Flintstones Pebbles mug from my own childhood--filled with water and pretty weeds, drawing ants on the windowsill. Email messages. Laundry. Notes from preschool. A stained coffee carafe. The pool bag full of towels gone sour with wet. A ruined novel left on the front porch, soaked in the rain.
My children, pinballing off the furniture, unsure what to do with me now that I'm back. My husband, offering me Japanese take-out and vaguely apologizing for the mess. My teacher bag ready for tomorrow night's class. And the story, grown cold on my hard drive.
I attend to these tasks with my own slant on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's a return to balance, beginning at the bottom of the pyramid. First, basic physical needs: chicken teriyaki. Kiss husband, hug kids. Next, stability. I windex away the ants, throw out weeds when my daughter isn't looking. Post the preschool notice on the refrigerator door, teach my class, come home. Sleep. Finally, finally, wipe away the chocolate hand print.
Next, self-actualization: my story, my essay, this blog. I check email and facebook and zoetrope and weather.com. I stare down the file icon on my desktop. More coffee. I need some chapstick, a grocery list, an attagirl, a bit more caffeine, a surge of ballsy. A match, a dance, a jolt, perfect quiet.