Is everything saving or sinking me?

I first logged on here back in October. A former student of mine pointed it out to me: an altogether unique and gifted kid who was home-schooled on an off-the-grid island in the San Juan archipelago. He's in college now, but we keep in touch and he sent me an email telling me about some of the things he was into now, one of which was E2: "This one takes a while to appreciate, and longer to understand. It's essentially a subjective encyclopedia. My username is vruba."

I checked it out from my day job in Manhattan. Thought it was cool enough to create a user name and even posted one writeup, but then I forgot about it. Big things were in the works: my wife, 5-month old son and I were moving from New York to Seattle. (God, I hate moving.) I temped for a while upon arriving here, but my wife found the better permanent job (better being relative in this depression's current job market, especially in Seattle). So we switched roles and I became the stay-at-home-dad.

Lord knows, my wife wasn't thrilled about the arrangement. She missed the boy desperately at first, abidingly cranky when she left in the morning and close to tears every evening when she got home. As for me, needless to say, the job proved much harder than I imagined, even though my brother, who has five kids , claims I'm "living the dream" because all women are lazy and just want to stay at home. (I can never tell how much he's kidding when he says shit like this.) I know it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with my son. And it's not like I'm not used to working at home, having had long stints as a freelance writer between obligatory corporate slavers. But the difference between this and those times is literally unfathomable unless you, like I'm starting to, experience it.

The baby has his own schedule, and it's not always the same schedule every day, though every day many things absolutely have to happen, over and over and over again: feeding, changing, playing, snuggling, naps. It's like a constant melody constantly varying. And like a shopworn jingle, it can drive you insane unless you learn somehow to love it-- not love the boy, he's easy to love; but love the grinding predictably never predictable routine.

So you find ways to get out of the house, even if, as in winter, you can't always get out of the house. Everything has become one of my ways. The 25 writeups mark seemed insurmountable at first, given my distractions, but surmount it I did, though not always with the best or most interesting writing I could manage. Now I can vote, which is less of a blessing than I imagined. What really turned the corner for me is when few of my w/u's inspired other users to write me messages of congratulation or interest. (Heck, even the correction messages were welcome communication.)

I've corresponded with a retired engineer 20 years my senior and a college-bound high school senior 17 years my junior. I've been literally swept to tears by nodes like Helping your kid brother die, which I only discovered because IWhoSawTheFace wrote me a nice response to my Sonnet LXXVI writeup. The common denominator among nearly all the folks who've messaged me is their intelligence and earnest commitment to this place and their own writing. This is deeper than it first appears. Becoming a better writer is almost always commensurate with becoming a better human, because writing challenges you to think more clearly and more honestly.

So I'm gonna stick it out here, though I'm gonna calm down a little on the noding: I got a long way to go to the next level and no real interest in acquiring the extra votes I'll get when I get there. I can already feel the obsession easing a bit. This place isn't my salvation, but on the other hand, even if it is a somewhat compulsive indulgence, it boosts me, and raises my bar as a writer, as a person.

Yesterday I was walking back from the QFC in the Seattle winter rain pushing my baby boy in his clear plastic covered stroller. It hit me then, clearer than it ever had before: I love this. Truly.