I love to write and I always have, ever since I started writing short stories about Rascal the Raccoon in the back of my grade 3 exercise book when I was supposed to be learning my times tables. I may not be the most brilliant author of all time (every single Rascal Raccoon story started and ended exactly the same, after all), but I’m fairly confident in my skills, except for one thing: I’ve never been very good with commas. It seems like such a small thing, but it can make all the difference between a well-crafted sentence and a wordy, unreadable mess.
I didn’t always appreciate this fact. When I recruited a friend to proofread my English 11 essay on Macbeth, I was frustrated by his insistence on punctuational accuracy. I mean, who cares about commas, periods and semi-colons when I have important things to say? But he knew these little breaks make a huge difference. He was a good editor.
So, I decided to keep him… and now, when my husband edits my blog posts, he teases me about my poor punctuation. Even with the casual format of blogging, I need to do better. In my last post he had to add only one comma; that’s my all-time record!
“Say it out loud; wherever you take a natural pause, that is where you put a comma” he says.
I’ve never been good with commas, in writing or in life. There are times when I need a deliberate pause. Time to take a breath before moving on to the next thing.
I tend to operate at two speeds: go and stop. When I am really busy, I often forget to eat or even to take reasonable bathroom breaks. There’s nothing dignified about a 35 year old woman doing the pee-pee dance, because she just had to get one more thing done. And on the rare occasions when I’m not busy, inertia begins to set in and it’s hard to get my butt off the couch at all. Yet life, like good writing, flows best with an unhurried rhythm and the occasional pause.
Today I needed a pause. I needed to get out of the house and find some solitude. I felt guilty about it. I worried about all the things I should be doing (knowing full well I wasn’t going to do them even if I did stay home). I asked my husband repeatedly if he minded, until he was irritated at me for thinking the world would fall apart if I left for a few minutes. “It must be hard being a single mom” (his new favourite line from Modern Family). When I finally took a walk in the woods, it was EXACTLY what I needed. Why do I fight it?
What if I took a few minutes each day to enjoy what is, rather than worry about what still needs to be done? What if I saw interruptions as a natural pause in my life, not a ghastly inconvenience? What if I took a moment to pray, to listen, and to catch my breath, whenever I can, all day long?
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
~ Jesus (Matthew 11: 28-30)
I’ve never been good with commas, but I have a good editor who’s teaching me to do better.
So, here’s me, embracing the comma.