Before kids, I always thought that there would be a time for writing. Somewhere off on the horizon when I was done with the all-consuming (life sucking?) office job, when I caught up on things and organized my life. The funniest of my delusions included “when the babies come, and the stress is less”. At a time when my personal load of responsibilities was so manageable I should have been writing voraciously, but I allowed the someday mentality to overtake me, and writing had to wait.
In my youthful ignorance I had not factored in such things as babies being machines made for consumption of all available resources. I hadn’t considered things like sick babies who cry incessantly for the first 6 months of their lives, the fact that you can’t form thoughts when you haven’t slept or that when you write from the underbelly of postpartum depression, it shows. The babies came, and the job went away. Since going back to work outside the home in my fragile state wasn’t an option, I needed to find an alternate way to contribute. Writing wasn’t coming easy in my sleep deprived state, so it had to wait.
Much Too Much
Five years and another baby later, my flexible easy-going work-from-home side job had become what I did seven days a week. I rarely spent quality time with my family, rarely cooked them dinner, rarely saw my husband who was working obscene hours himself, and rarely smiled. Both my children had medical needs demanding my attention, and if it weren’t for my mother, I was guaranteed a failing grade on that score. I remember the day that I left my doctor’s office with seven (yes, seven) prescriptions. Some for sleep, some for my worsening depression, and some to help keep me upright from the debilitating stress and work induced pain all over my body.
At 32, I had become the person I never thought I would be. A joyless, overweight product of a lifestyle that was neither honouring me nor my family – and all in the name of making sure that no one thought I was lazy. I was going to contribute if it killed me, and it might have. Either way, writing had to wait.
In May of last year, the greatest gift of my recent years was bestowed upon me when I asked my body to keep going and it replied, simply and assertively, No.
That was that. My body wasn’t just asking for a reduction in the pace of things, it was making it very clear that until everything in my life changed, it wouldn’t either. My nervous system was shot, and I had no physical tolerance for anything. Light and sound stimulus was too much, I was uncoordinated, and I could feel my insides shaking even on the brink of sleep. I was scared.
Changing The Game
I didn’t take a break from work, I shut my small business down abruptly and entirely. We cut every expense that we could reasonably cut, and I was humbled into prioritizing and re-evaluating my values. I spent time sitting and staring at the walls. So much soul searching ensued, and my circle of concern shrunk dramatically. I no longer had time for relationships that weren’t reciprocal, I no longer felt compelled to prove anything to anyone, and I was left with the desire to actively control the quality of only three things in my life: family, health, and peace. Writing could join the conversation.
So we ate some green vegetables, I started sleeping, and I lost 20 pounds. My body came back better and stronger than I remember it. My husband and I put things in motion for him to get a regular 9 to 5 schedule and suddenly, we were a family again. I played with my kids, cleaned and organized my house and created a dedicated place for writing in the front of it, where the sun shines in from three beautiful bay windows all day long.
There is a moment after life events like this where, when you speak, the people who really love you listen. Without questioning and without judgment, though perhaps out of fear, my family heard me when I said that writing is where my peace lies. No longer was I going to be the mom who would like to write, I am now the writer who writes to keep the current of life from swallowing me whole. I am the writer who writes so that my children can see me smile. I am the writer who writes to remind her husband of what is Me. And when writing helps pay the bills, I celebrate it without making it my focus.
If you’ve ever wondered when, exactly, one becomes a writer the answer is this: when you start behaving like one. When you do what you need to do to put yourself in that world, you become, once again, who you are at your core.
Happiness, it turns out, is found within fractional moments of inspired gratitude. Moments where we honour our foundational selves to the detriment of all the fake plastic, albeit necessary, pieces of our lives. Give yourself something to feel a moment of genuine gratitude for, something that makes your life feel uncontrived. Writing as a mother will never be easy, but carving out a protected place of respite from the demands of the day will allows me to give the very best of myself to the experiences and the people in my life who deserve me the most. After all, self-care is self-respect, and our precious children are watching.