I realize I've been spoiled the past, what, 20 years since I quit working at the chemical plant to be a stay-at-home mom.
Before you get the wrong idea, first let me tell you that being a "stay-at-home" kicked my butt, especially at first. It's the toughest job I've ever had, and I was the toughest boss I've ever had. I had all of these ideas about time - as in, I thought I'd have plenty of it to do everything I wanted to do,and for years I had dreamed that, if I could only "stay home", I'd have a sparkling clean, organized house, write a bestseller, be a gourmet cook, get my degree, learn how to sew, and play with my kids 24/7.
I was wrong. Within a week, I was exhausted! I had to learn to pace myself, take breaks and just let some things go. But by the time my kids were all in school, I was swimming in the co-mingling worlds of Mom and Volunteer. I cooked, I handicrafted, I room-mothered, I PTA'd and chaperoned everything. There were meetings during the day, meetings at night, with reports and research and phone calls in between. Before too long, and for a very long time, I was in way over my head.
When we needed money, I substitute-taught for years and even "librarian"-ed full-time for one. I added two or three other part-time jobs... data entry, newspaper reporter and substitute church secretary.
There were some long days in there. But the thing is, I was still in control of my day. I could say yes or no... if there was something else I needed to take care of... a birthday present or some Christmas shopping, or even just a friend I needed to meet for lunch... I did it with no guilty feelings whatsoever. My family, my connections, came first.
Life has changed. No one really needs me to be that flexible anymore; the greater need is for a bigger paycheck, which means working more hours, and thank goodness my boss agrees with our bank account and I have that option.
Back in my chemical plant days, I worked 12 hour shifts. I had to work two weekends a month. On the up side, Tom cooked and took care of the kids on the days I worked... except when I worked the night shift and would wake up early to pick the boys up from daycare, needing to spend a little time with them before heading out again.
When I became a stay-at-home mom, I took it all on... the housework, cooking, shopping, bill-paying (we traded off and on with that one, but I've had it most of the time), the doctors' visits (and there were a lot, with three asthmatic kids), the insurance, the medicine, the calendar, the... you get the picture. Tom helped (he has always been Mr. Amazing) but he was mostly in charge of the cars, most of the outside work, and "large projects"; when he moved to Austin ahead of us, I had to add mowing our huge corner lot and pool care to my list.
Meanwhile, I was also taking a college class every semester, and writing... in my spare time.
The writing is what I sat down to write about here.
Twenty years ago I took my first writing class... had my first essay published... but in the years since then, my writing has been like this piece of fluff, above, flying here and there at the mercy of whatever else was going on in our lives that took precedence... landing every once in awhile long enough for me to scribble another essay down or start this blog, but then lifted by yet another breeze/priority and forgotten.
This week I'm changing that. I'm trying, really trying, to work on my book every day, no matter what. Because I'm working a "real" job again, one without the flexibility I've enjoyed for twenty years, I'm having to learn to fit the pieces of my life together, and it's tough. It's such a give and take.
The thing is, I'm stubborn. I want to do it all... I want to continue everything I've started, like my work-outs and my morning walks and my get-togethers with my friends and being available for my kids whenever they need me and my blogs and my photography and my drums...
And I want to write my book.
I came across a quote by Meryl Streep this week; she seems to be talking straight to me...
"Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head. Guard your good mood. Listen to music every day, joke, and love, and read more fun fun, especially poetry."
By golly, Meryl, I'm going to do it! But... that means something has to give. The reality... the hard, wooden boundary I'm having to work within... is that there are only 24 hours in a day. I've juggled those hours around, tried different combinations, tried to work out systems, but the truth I can't get away from is, if I want to write this book within my lifetime - if I want to finally finish something, go all the way to the end with it - I have to carve into my sleep.
Yes, I know it's not good to skimp on sleep for a number of reasons, but when days go by and I haven't had a chance to work on my book or play my drums, and I'm getting behind on my blog and have to rush my words and lose my thoughts or just give up on publishing a specific post, period, something turns gray inside of me. That can't be good, either, and I don't like it.
So for now, for this time in my life, for these dreams I've carried in my heart for so long, I'm going to sacrifice a few hours of sleep... however many are necessary to get what needs to be done, done, work on my dreams for a little while every day, and try to include the things that color my sky. It's the only way it's going to happen and no one can do it but me.
I apologize in advance if, next time you see me, I mumble incoherently or doze off mid-sentence. I'm sure I'll be using a lot of eye cream and concealer to cover up dark circles and bags under my eyes.
I'm going to try hard not to mention this again or complain about not getting enough sleep, because it's my choice and I'm blessed that I have even this much flexibility to make it ... and also because my mother worries about it and Tom grumbles about it, but only because they both love me.
Well, we'll see how long I can carry it out. Who knows, I might give it up by next week and start scrambling for a new plan of attack. But the past two nights haven't been bad - I told myself I'd turn into a pumpkin at midnight, and I listened to myself. I seem to function pretty well on 5 1/2 hours of sleep.
But tonight I had to go to the grocery store when my work day was done. And poor Tom fell ill and went to bed before I left (please say a prayer for him!) so the unloading of the groceries and the putting away into the cupboards fell to me, by myself (there are 42 uphill steps to the car - I had never counted them before!) I used to do it by myself all the time... during the daytime. At 10 pm, it's a little tougher, especially when I know I still have work to do on the computer.
However, the night captivated me, turning a chore into a blessing... we park in a small clearing with a wide view of the sky. It was a soft navy color tonight, sprinkled with stars, with a half moon standing guard. I stood still, looked straight up, and thought about how truly insignificant I am when compared to the vastness of the universe... how piddly my little problems really are... how magnificent the hand who created this intricate world is...
I let myself soak in the night music... a chorus of insects singing from the trees, with solos by cars on the highway in the distance and the wind whispering through the treetops and in my ears, the breeze cooling me after my climb from the house. I didn't want to move... just wanted to stand there all night... but then Belle's collar jingled, pulling me back to real life and I remembered I would need to feed them for Tom, besides put all the groceries away, before I could get to work here on my blog and on my book.
But even feeding them didn't feel like a chore - I rocked on the back deck while they ate, sipping a glass of wine, listening to the little creek down below us playing on its way down to Lake Travis; that half-moon had hopped around to the back and now kept me company, sitting just above the silhouetted tree line directly ahead of me.
And so finally, here I am in the middle of the night, sitting at the computer, preparing to work on my book, at least for a little while. I'm not worried about being too tired or uninspired - that's what writers do... write when they can, not necessarily when they have huge chunks of time or feel in the mood or inspired. You just sit down to write, and write.
So here I go. Sweet dreams to the rest of you!
P.S. I finished writing this at 1:30, but didn't hit "Publish" because I know better than to post something I've written impulsively in the middle of the night without a quick perusal with morning eyes, albeit blurry ones.
Tom is really, really sick. He's staying home from work today - that doesn't happen often, let me tell you. We're thinking maybe it's the flu. Please, please, keep him in your prayers!