Disclaimer: This was written very late at night (for me) when my eyes were beginning to burn and mental acuity melt. I do believe the lack of style and grace (she says as if she usually has some) will prove my very point: I need my sleep.
I believe I have mentioned before that I'm partial to sleep? Sleeping is an occupation I excel at. It's not something I believe should be compromised for the sake of children, work, and definitely not exercise, hell no! I have a great work ethic when it comes to sleepy-eye: in at 10PM, out at 7AM, no exceptions!
Of course, I exaggerate. Just as I was with my "real" jobs, I was a hard worker - once I got there. A start time of 9AM usually meant an arrival time of 9:10, and thankfully, I have had jobs that allowed me this slack. So, my stated bedtime of 10PM actually means that I turn off the TV at 10PM, and after turning off all the lights, letting in cats, glancing in the kitchen long enough to know I don't want to enter because I left the dishes in the sink again, and then ascending to the bathroom to brush, pluck, and fuss, it's usually 10:24 when I collapse in the bed.
From then on it's a guessing game. Guess how many times a child will appear by my side (or climb directly over my face) wanting either new pajamas or multiple bed partners? Guess how many times the cat will meow or scratch the wall (which sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard) in a not-so-subtle attempt to get some human's attention? Guess how many times Hubby will do "The Whale:" his half-asleep, annoyed flopping from side to side which shakes the whole bed and causes my sleeping heart beat to increase to marathon speed? (I seriously need one of those wine-glass-stays-still-when-you-jump-ing beds.) On a given night any (or all) of these events can happen, and yet sometimes I can wake to discover some kind of fairy dust has been sprinkled and I have been allowed to peacefully dream the night away.
One of my greatest joys (before bringing schedule-challenged children into this world) was to rise early (6AM) and write in the silence of a sleeping house. Since having children I have attempted to re-establish this habit countless times and found it be as elusive as sticking to a diet. I blindly stumble out of bed, hit the alarm clock, and strain against the powerful urge to crumble back into the bed. It physically hurts. But I do it for the sake of my writing and my sanity... for about three days. Then I have a bad night and, thank god! an excuse not to get up!
Hubby and I have an on-going fight about my inability to rise in the mornings. He's one of those irritating people who, the second the radio comes on, can get out of bed and into the shower, and even be awake doing it. I, on the hand, have to wake slowly. I set the alarm for 1/2 hour before I need to get up, even if it means listening to stupid djs telling stupid jokes and playing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" at dawn. If I intend to get up early to write, it means Hubby wakes up sometimes two hours before he needs to and this, rightly, pisses him off. So, I've given up. I just get up when Hubby's out of shower and I've had time to come to my senses.
Do you see a problem here? I do.
Bed at 10PM (OK, 10:24), up at 7AM... when the hell am I supposed to get my work done? I am now officially Self-Employed, but I am also officially Mother. Mother to two, who are awake from 7AM to 7PM and wanting something from me every five minutes of that 12 hours. When they finally go to sleep I can summon up barely enough strength to crawl to the couch and press the power button on the remote. Oh, I know, I could be using that three hours to work instead of watching TV, and sometimes I do, but most of the time I just can't.
I love the quiet of the evenings (Hubby is an early-to-bedder) but they are mostly wasted. Once I am awake, I am a morning person. Give me a day on my own and I start running from the moment I (finally) wake up. But once the sun goes down I'm a gonner (along with, I fear, my ability to form good sentences).
I have a whole summer ahead of me with both kids home, summer camps and swimming lessons to drive back and forth to, a household to run, and workshops to plan and promote. All the while essays and blog topics are banging around in my head begging to be given voice.
What gives? Sleep? Never!
I'll figure something else out.
Disclaimer: This was written very late at night (for me) when my eyes were beginning to burn and mental acuity melt. I do believe the lack of style and grace (she says as if she usually has some) will prove my very point: I need my sleep.
In my list of postings are about ten drafts of brilliant posts just waiting to be written. But it's 10:20PM, my children have come downstairs for the seventh time telling me they are trying to go to sleep, Mama (granted, it is 85 degrees in their room), and I spent the day driving around central Vermont putting up posters for my workshops. In other words, I'm ti-RED. So, here, look at a pretty picture...
1. It's a bad sign when 63 minutes into summer vacation you are wishing for fall.
2. Summer vacation is far from it when you have a six-year old who started missing school precisely four minutes after getting off the bus and decides every toy, art supply, and large, outdoor recreational apparatus is boooorrrrring compared to learning to read with her beloved Mrs. Perkins.
3. At 3pm, you unknowingly pass into another time dimension and the next four hours before bed actually last a whole year (and take that much time off your life.) But, conversely, the next three hours before your bedtime will last a total of 16 minutes.
4. Diapers put on inside out produce the same effect as duck feathers.
5. When you drive an hour to attend a festival which - along with your blossoming headache - will require the full cooperation of a well-rested two-year old, he will not nap in the car despite it being his usual nap time. Instead he and his sister will sing Bob the Builder, WE CAN BUILD IT! fifty times in a row.
6. Modeling clay holds the same temptation to a toddler as chewing gum, but not the elasticity, and when spat on the floor tends to splat.
7. Folded laundry on a couch will be jumped on.
8. A two-year old thinks lugging a massive plastic truck full of blocks up a steep Victorian stair- case (while naked and wearing rain boots) is feasible. It is not. And just as the first two times he tried it, gravity and a rather large head are not his friends. However, rubber bones are.
9. And most fascinating of all, I have learned that slugs, when obliterated between little fingers, cannot be removed with a napkin, soap and water, a dish brush, nay, even a power-washer. So, in the interest of science I will be testing the glowing yellow gloop on a plate that needs fixing.
One of my newly established "internet friends" at raisingsmartgirls.wordpress.com asked her readers to answer some questions about themselves so we might get to know each other a little better. I have some readers I know nothing about other than by the comments they occasionally post (come on people, I need more love!). Will you join in? Either answer in the comments or post on your own blog.
- What do you do for your job?
- What work feeds your souls (this may be identical to your job, but if so, then you are a lucky creature)?
- What intellectual topics fascinate you and want to learn more about?
- Spirituality (finding it myself and seeing how it works in other people's lives)
- Writers, their lives and their techniques
- The real lives of historical - not necessary famous - figures (particularly females)
- Human behavior based on personality/type (Myers Briggs, for example)
- What are your hobbies?
- Writing (journal, blog, personal essays)
- Reading (historical novels, personal essays, mysteries)
- Coffee shops
- Rearranging furniture & decorating the house (NOT as in painting, wallpapering)
- Antique stores or other fun shops/little towns
- Creative projects (that I regrettably never get to do anymore): drawing, making notecards, photo albums (not scrapbooking).
- Chatting with friends (I don't have many, we're new to the area... and shy)
- Guilty pleasures? TV, shopping.
edited to say: This shows how much I am out of touch with my own loves - I completely forgot to list a couple of my hobbies. I love to sing and I used to sit at the piano or in my car and sing and sing. I have sung numerous solos over the years and at times (especially when a little down) I would go through my entire repertoire (and usually make myself cry). I also like to dance. I'm not good at it but sometimes I will put on some Middle Eastern or African music and just lose myself in the rhythm.
On Tuesday we were headed to the town where my parents live to attend "Concert on the Green." I told Tator we were seeing Grummy (the kid's version of Grand Mummy). He asked if we seeing Grumdaddy too? And the chickens? I told me we weren't going to their house, but we were meeting them at the concert. Tator, with in infallible logic, says, "The chickens are singing at the concert?"
A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar by my journal-writing/therapy mentor, Kathleen Adams. At the time I was at the height of my distress over my job. The idea of a whole day writing and learning more about journal techniques from 'the master' had momentarily calmed and uplifted me. Then Kay asked us to finish the following statement, "Right now in my life.."
I wrote frantically for five minutes. It poured out of me. After the writing sprint we were asked to write a sentence or two of feedback to ourselves: "As I read this I notice..." This personal feedback was what we shared with the group (if we chose). I told them that although I was calm before the write I was now a nervous wreck! I had traded a relaxed attitude for hunched shoulders and a stomach of jumping beans. Kay told me I might want to explore this in an exercise we would be doing in the afternoon.
At lunch Kay and I shared a table, and the conversation - which was intended to be about my upcoming journal workshops - became a mini therapy session. I was still shaky and Kay, being the experienced therapist that she is, asked me all the right questions. The word "loyalty" came up.
That afternoon, Kay told the group about Alpha Poems. I was already familiar with them as they were a fun portion of my workshop training. I chose to do a poem based on the word Loyalty. Here's what came out:
Limits myself, always
Yes, never no
Limits the way I go
Take the road to
Wanting to play some more I chose to do a poem using the entire alphabet.
Bending to others
Cutting out the
Everyone but me
Loyalty is my
No one is happy
Open the door
I didn't think about what word or phrase would come next, it just happened. I didn't even know what word I was going to write until I began writing it. It is a magical thing!
Anyway, the phrase that immediately jumped out at me was the strange, "Resume the Stability of Tension." Now, I am a tense person and in my experience, that is not a good thing. I have even taken drugs for it. Hubby frequently asks me in utter frustration as he runs out of door 15 minutes before he needs to, why it has to be "so tense around here in the mornings?" I couldn't put my finger on what it meant, exactly, but I loved the sound of that phrase and had a feeling it had something important to tell me. I played with the idea in my journal, even wrote more alpha poems around it. Still not knowing how to decipher its meaning, I decided it would be my new mantra.
Then a couple of days ago, I read this in Christina Baldwin's Life's Companion:
... you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career that was "dragging me about" (again, I quote Christina Baldwin; she *is* me). I needed to Resume the Tension (Focus) to gain Stability.
I put loyalty to my boss and my job aside and I chose to put my longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity - up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.
I want to tell you a story which I hope will serve as inspiration.
I quit my job this past week; wrote a letter to the Board, "effective immediately." Yes, I came into work at 9AM intending to do my job but instead spent it packing up my small office.
Was I angry? Impulsive? Stupid in this economic environment? No. No. Maybe.
No, not maybe. And let me tell you why.
I never really wanted a job - Little Lady was starting kindergarten full time, Tator was at pre-school a couple morning a week and I had PLANS. But I got afraid. Afraid we wouldn't make it through the winter without an extra paycheck. So, a year ago I found myself looking for a job and had a horrible time finding one. I then decided not to look and to trust everything was going to be OK; it was then I was given a job (story here, here and here).
Although I acted out of fear to begin with, I decided not to be afraid. I made a decision not to be afraid. Goethe says:
"...the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence [Serendipity] moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would come his way."
And I got a job. A job I would have created for myself if I didn't have other plans/dreams. I have learned some valuable skills, done my job well, met a wonderful new friend, supplied the family with health insurance and winter fuel...
... and figured out that my other Plans/Dreams were not about to let me give up on them.
Ten months later Plans/Dreams have become Reality. I am officially a published writer and a certified journal-writing instructor. While I plugged along at my ever-increasingly dream-thwarting job I knew my decision to stay there was one of fear - fear of success.
So, a week ago, after a invitation to be a guest on a local TV show to talk about journaling and a positive meeting with the director of a holistic wellness center where I will be teaching, I drafted an email to my boss telling her I must follow my passion. I gave her a departure date of July 2. I saved the message in my drafts to send when I felt sure of my decision.
Last Tuesday I went to work to discover everything had changed. While the tension in the office had been extremely high over the last month as a controversial change in administration was anticipated, the accountants swarming over everyone's files was it for me. I had bigger and better things to do. I was poised on the edge of something great, afraid to jump, and here was my shove. Although a seemingly hasty move to resign "effective immediately," my decision was rewarded immediately.
Serendipity stepped in.
The very next day Hubby and I met with the director of another wellness center and found instant warmth and acceptance (Serendipity has a thing going for Hubby right now too). I also had two phone calls resulting in more teaching engagements and an email letting me know I was to be published again.
And all this just two days after the Writer's Refuge (a.k.a. my office) had been completed!
I have dreamed of being a writer, a freelance "something" for many years. I never thought my journal writing - which I would never admit was real writing - would one day become my career. And while you may say I am jumping the gun to say that it will be my "career," I am envisioning it, I am thinking positively, and I know good will come of it - it may look different down the line, but it will still be good.
So, Dear Ones, Be Not Afraid.
Envision your future.
Believe in You.
Believe in your Dreams, no matter how unreal they may seem at the time.
And most importantly, make decisions based on Authenticity not Fear.
Tell 'em Goethe sent you.
Thanks to a suggestion by a reader from Mothering.com I have decided to offer some journal-writing advice and prompts. I'm not going to do it here because I have already set up a specific journal-writing blog at jlucyjournals.blogspot.com. Each Wednesday I will write a little something about the journal-writing process or offer a writing prompt or sentence fragment to get you going. I have some great ones from some of the most experienced and influential in the journal-writing world, like Kathleen Adams and Christina Baldwin.
So grab your cup of coffee and come on over for a little quality time with your journal, starting this coming Wednesday, June 17.
I am writing these words while sitting in my very own room - actually my own building! I am surrounded by nothing but my own things, not a plastic truck, baby doll or dirty dish in sight to remind me of all the other trillion things I "should" be taking care of. Most importantly, is it QUIET. Yes, I know, I am THE luckiest woman ever! But I have been manifesting this one for a long time (if I dug out some old journals I could prove it to you but you'll just have to believe me on this one).
The converted garage in our yard was a disaster: smelly, dirty, and just used for extra storage.
But now, I am beyond pleased to present (drum roll, please)...
I think he deserves a little corner for himself too.
I have to give Hubby huge thanks! He tore down the rotten walling in the back and then jeopardized his lung and brain functions by painting. What dedication to my dream! I won't show you pictures of upstairs. It is still disgusting... orange shag carpet and all! At some point that will become Hubby's space.
I am having a hard time keeping the kids out, they don't understand a mother's need for space and quiet. And how could I ever explain without making them think they are not loved? I read (or heard on NPR?) somewhere about a woman whose mother would tie a ribbon on her office door when she was not to be disturbed. The child felt rejected not understanding that her mother had other responsibilities besides loving her. That resonated with me. So now that I am no longer working out of the home I am going to try to only come here when they are at school or camp. When they are home I will hopefully feel less pulled by my need to write because I will have had real time to fulfill that desire. I can refill my "me" tank, then have the energy to put on my other hats - housewife, wife, mother.
Today I need this space. My emotions are spinning this way and that. I am elated. I am scared. I am feeling vulnerable. I am relieved. My next post will explain all.... please stay tuned.
I am generally a shy person. I hate conflict. I don't like to complain. Making a scene makes me sweat.... until I'm wronged.
Tonight we went to dinner at a Chinese buffet. I didn't feel like cooking (traumatic day at work - post to follow), the kids love Chinese food, and I always think I do too. That is until I have inhaled my first plate of gooey, sweet, salty leather and my stomach starts to bloat. That's when I remember - oh, yea, I don't.
When we first arrive, the waitress asks how old the children are. I tell her two and six and we go about the business of stuffing our faces.
When we get the check it is listed as:
2 adults $21
2 kids $12
Now, I'm pretty sure we have never had to pay for the youngest before so I question the waitress. She tells me both kids are $5.50. Not convinced I get a menu and read this:
Dinner Buffet $9.50
Sunday Dinner Buffet $9.25 (ooo, a whole .25 savings!)
(and in a bold font separate from the above the price listings:)
Children under 10 1/2 price
Children three and under FREE!
When I point this out to the waitress she says that the bit about the kids only refers to Sundays. I say that can't be the case because Little Lady's meal was discounted; if the children's prices only apply on Sundays then logically all four of us should have been charged $9.50. No, no, only on Sundays. She circles the Sunday listing and walks away.
When another waitress comes by to clear the table I ask her to clarify our bill. Children free only on Sunday. Once again I share my logic that if the six-year was charged 1/2 price then the FREE! had to apply also. She says "I'll be back," and walks away. Never to return.
Four tables away from us is another couple with a toddler - probably a year younger than Tator. Emboldened by a now inflamed sense of justice, I ask the father if they were charged for their baby. No.
I march up to the register and tell the waitress/cashier that she cannot charge me for my baby when that couple was not charged for theirs. Flipping down through the pile of tickets she shows me where the "baby" was charged. Everyone the same, she says, gesturing to the room.
Noooo, that isn't their ticket. Theirs is on top, right there: 2 adults $21. I am NOT paying for the baby. You cannot charge me for my child and not charge another child!
Now, I have never had the desire to learn Chinese, but man! I wish I knew some right then. Out of this young woman's mouth comes this slew of what I can only assume to be Mandarin curses. She takes $3 off the bill. I would have given anything at that moment to be the hero in one of those movies where s/he breaks into Korean or Zulu to the complete surprise and humiliation of the anti-hero. Instead, I stand there acting all tough and menacing and wait while the cashier turns her back to count some money. When she faces my direction again I tell her she needs to take $5.50 off the bill, not just $3. And out comes another volley of verbal assault as she jaggedly changes the bill to "2 adults, 1 kid = $28." (I was not about to argue about the .50.)
I should mention that my husband is also very uncomfortable with conflict and even more so with making a scene. Using the age-old excuse of distracting a restless child, he had disappeared out of the restaurant at that first twitch of indignation on my face. He knows it well - and knows not to mess with it.
When I walked out of the restaurant feeling righteous and vindicated, he was far down the strip mall pretending he did not share my craziness or even my bed. But when I'm right, I'm right, damn it! And as I always say (in my unquestionable wisdom), "It's not $5, it's the principle!" In the name of The Principle, I have gotten us multiple hotel rooms refunded, meals discounted, and fees reversed.
I may now have a belly full of MSG and an ear full of Chinese wrath, but I also have $5 in my wallet and justice in my pocket. (High five!)
P.S. I am sorry (a little) that I caused that girl distress. She was probably just doing what her bosses had told her. BUT I believe the restaurant was trying to save money by being sneaky with their prices. AND she didn't have to be rude. I wasn't - I was just being emphatically logical, and if I hate anything, it's illogical, rude sneaks. So there.
P.P.S. I do know that $5.50 is not actually half of $9.50 but that didn't really seem to be the point at the time...
There is a little house, a tiny house, with a big wicker chair on its little porch. Baskets of geraniums sway in the breeze. Inside the door there is another chair, this one overstuffed with books piled on its ottoman. In the winter, a small, round woodstove makes it cozy. The desk is large, empty, and inspiring.
This house sits in my back yard looking beautiful, inviting... and mine.
But not real.
This house has been in my head for many years. It is my "room of one's own," which Virginia Woolf tells me I must have. For me it symbolizes freedom, peace, and my dream of being a Writer.
My husband has been promising me for years that one day he would build me my little writing house. But now he doesn't have to...
In the back yard of the house we purchased a year ago is a two-story building. It used to be a small apartment but city zoning does not allow it to be rented. This loss of family income is my personal gain. Although it is far from the quaint, geranium-festooned cabin in my head, it is an empty space - a place to write in peace and order, where things stay put and not one stray pink sock is to be seen (I can dream, right?).
This weekend has been deemed Operation Mamaneedsaroom. The camping, skiing, and Christmas supplies will be carried to the second floor, the carpet cleaned, curtains hung, desk and books moved in, and pictures hung on the walls. My desk. My books. My pictures. My room.
Then the children and husband will be locked out.
Edited to say: Hubby's at Home Depot right now buying the new door lock with which he himself will be locked out. Makes my heart sing!
Today I just want to turn on the TV and not move, not speak, not be. All day. Today I don't want to be a mom, a wife, a writer, a entrepreneur, an employee... nothing, I want to be and do nothing.
I've always prided myself on not being a soap-opera-watching mom, but today I would like nothing more than that. But I know I won't, primarily because I hate soap-operas, but also because I took a mental health day off work and I have to justify it in my own mind. I will continue to work on something; something that "needs" to be done - I will email a potential client (I have already stopped writing this post once to do that because it popped into my head and I had to take care of it now), I will put some laundry away, I will organize something, or I will pay some bills. What I really need to do is get out my journal and have a chat with myself. I need to get to the bottom of this anxiety, this imbalance, this self-doubt.
I have too many balls in the air. I am trying too hard.
Yesterday I attended a Journal Therapy workshop lead by Kay Adams, "one of the most prominent and established voices in the field of therapeutic writing." It was a great day; I learned some more valuable information I can use in my own journal-writing workshops and got a new burst of adrenaline to push me towards my goals.
But I also received a mini therapy session over lunch that has thrown my already tilting world a little further off kilter.
This morning I was grumpy, frustrated, and an emotional time-bomb. Yesterday Kay told me I was on the right track, "ready to explode" (i.e. my business) but then today here I am again, mopping up apple juice, brushing out tangles, packing lunch boxes, and avoiding the shaggy-haired woman in the mirror with the bags under her eyes.
Although "ready to explode," I am questioning everything. Is it selfish to start my own business when my children are young and still needing me? But would I be sabotaging my own dream (and sanity) by sacrificing my needs completely? Do I have a responsibility to my job to give it my all while still employed there? Shouldn't my children see me pursuing a dream and so serve as a role model to them? But what kind of role model am I when I am impatient, distracted, or in tears?
"Ready to explode" might be more accurate a description than originally intended. Yes, I just might explode, or implode depending where the pressure is strongest - from outside responsibilities or the voice inside my head telling me I must achieve, I must succeed, I must be more than "just a mom."
I have a friend whose dream of being a yoga teacher has been put it on hold. She has decided to be all she can be to her children before they start school full-time. She told me she needs to provide them a nice house and a mom who's there. She said the most yogic thing she can do right now is not to practice yoga. She doesn't want to put that kind of pressure on herself. Trying to be disciplined in the whirlwind that is a stay-at-home mother's world is not worth the stress.
I'm beginning to think she might have the right answer.
Who is the most important right now? Me or the kids? Me or the kids? Someone tell me the right answer, please.