“Gee, Wally, I’d *love* to make you a carrot cake. Let me get right on that.”
Well, wow, I didn’t really mean to take the summer off writing. Not that I didn’t write at all, but here it is less than two weeks before the kids start school and the truth is I’ve mostly been a mom this summer, and not much of a poet.
As summer winds down (and, conveniently, as the kids are at their one week of camp for the summer this week) my thoughts have turned to re-engaging in my writing life and becoming, once again, a working mother.
(Meanwhile, Husband is on a conference call talking about things like micro-stuffs and nano-thingies, and I wonder, is this how he feels when I say anapest or iambic?)
One thing I’ve noticed this summer, which is probably not a news flash to anyone, is that everyone is a little bit happier when I’m not writing. Everyone, that is, except me.
Why is this? Well, probably because everyone can usually find clean socks and undies, dinner tends to be early-ish instead of late-ish, and I have lots of time to color and go to the park and play Old Lady Dusting (which is what my littlest one calls Old Maid, and I haven’t the heart to correct her). Also, while not perfect, the house tends to be neater and a bit more organized; the cupboard a bit more regularly stocked.
[Dear residents of the Wee, Small House: Prepare ye! For days of deprivation await, and ye shall soon have to dig in the dryer for clean socks and undies. And ye shall wait and wait for a decent meal, and there shall be no homemade desserts not even one. For a voice cries out in the desert, make straight the path to Mom’s writing desk!]
But anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the inner work of scheduling and how to plan my writing life this school year, and also about my word for the year, which is TEND and how I can tend to myself and my poetry. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about.
First, that the most important thing is staying healthy. Long-time readers know that I have a chronic illness that involves arthritis and other unpleasant things that we won’t dwell on now. So I’ve learned the hard way that if you lose your health, nothing else is okay. For me, this means getting enough sleep, healthy food, and some regular exercise. It also means not “over-doing it.” Which means…
…I have to say no. I confess, from the center of my very bones I am dreading the near-constant requests for volunteers at the kids’ schools. The mere thought of it exhausts me, which tells me I need to draw more stringent boundaries about what I commit to. I’m also going to have to say no to the kids — and here’s the thing: sometimes I do it to myself, Reader. Like, somehow I’ve said yes to making a CARROT CAKE today in recognition of excellent table manners five days running. The first day all summer that I have basically open and I say yes to CARROT CAKE!?!? (that scraping sound you hear in the background is me thinking of how long I’ll spend hand-shredding carrots this afternoon). So don’t feel sorry for me. But what I’m hoping is that awareness is half the battle, and since I’m aware of saying ‘yes’ too much I’ll be able to say ‘no’ more often. Stay tuned.
Also in the saying no department is a not-100%-pleasant intuition that I even need to cut back on some of my writerly commitments in order to spend more time heads-down at my desk. This I will hate to do, but I’ve learned over the years to trust my intuition even when it’s telling me something I’m not thrilled about.
Next on the list is what I’ll call my This I Believe statements. I’ve been walking around saying to myself over and over again, I believe that a reasonably well-functioning household is good for the soul, and, I accept that life is better for everyone if I don’t put off the grocery shopping til Saturday. I accept that life is better for everyone if I don’t put off the grocery shopping til Saturday. I accept that life is better for everyone if I don’t put off the grocery shopping til Saturday. So yes, I’m thinking about balance, and my motto 2.0:
(I swear, Reader, my problem is the whole “rotating basis” thing — it’s much easier to leave everything else up in the air indefinitely, don’t you think?)
And then lastly, I’m thinking about flexibility. Last year, I had my writing life all planned out. I was going to do this, and that, and also this other thing. I blocked off my calendar. I found babysitters when needed. I even said no to some volunteer “opportunities” at school ;). I had a plan. And then, kidney abscess, which I said in this post was “nothing too scary” but actually it was too scary and took a lot of time, energy, babysitters, etc. So, I’m reminding myself: You are a human being. Human beings live interdependently with and amongst other human beings. Sometimes things happen that require one to shift one’s plans.
So, yeah, somewhere around September 15 (and October 15, and November 15, and December 15, and… well, you get the idea), someone remind me:
- first, health
- say no early and often
- cut back–>heads down
- aim for balance
- be flexible