Wednesday I will go out for an intensive writing session. No more of this half hour before I take a walk with my sister or 20 minutes while Abby plays in the bathtub.
No, tomorrow Pat and I don’t walk and David works late in the day instead of his usual 10-6 workday, so I am planning to leave home at 6:30, head to a restaurant (maybe walk there!), plop down in a chair, and spread my work out on the table. I will order coffee, poached eggs and whole wheat toast, and begin the arduous task of pulling together my book outline. I will sit and write. And write some more.
“How do you have time to write?” I’ve been asked one too many times, and the answer is simple.
I don’t have time to write. I have to make time to write.
While I have gotten quite adept at squeezing in 15 minutes here and half an hour there, it is the planned writing sessions that are the most productive, and away from home even more so. I can get up before the kids on the days that Pat and I don’t walk and still get in two hours of writing, but then there are those niggling distractions: the pot of coffee needs to be made, some dishes done, the table cleaned off, or my husband wants to talk. None of this happens at a restaurant or library when I go out to write. (since beginning this post this morning I have been interrupted at least twenty times)
My advice to any aspiring writer is to take you and your muse out to breakfast occasionally. Give yourself an hour or two alone together. The first time you do this you might be shy with your muse, not sure what to say or how to act, like a high school girl on her first date. But I promise you, before long you will be eagerly anticipating these sessions and find them most productive. Now, I am practically writing even before my seat hits the chair, especially if I have been waiting for any length of time.
I have heard that silence and alone time is essential for mental health, and I would have to agree. For most of my years raising young children I had too little of both. You know there is something wrong when a woman looks forward to giving birth just so she can have those few hours (with baby number seven they kicked me out after 12 hours!) away from the demands of her other children.
What about me? When does MY time come? I wondered as I spent most of my days changing diapers, nursing babies, picking up toddlers, and wiping noses and bums, sometimes simultaneously. Having grown up with a mother who selflessly gave,gave, gave, made anything less seem selfish. My most vivid memories of mothering involve moments like washing kitchen floors at 3:00 a.m. with a teething baby in the backpack, holding a puke bowl in each hand while two children threw up in them AND nursing an infant at the same time, taking walks pushing one child in a stroller with a toddler in the backpack. I used backpacks a lot in my years with babies and toddlers. Mothering can be back-breaking work. Literally.
My days still revolve around children and their needs, but in the last year or two I have finally noticed more opportunities for silence, for some alone time. Limited, perhaps, by what might be described as a heightened sense of mother-guilt I have struggled with for years.I better get home, David might be having a hard time with the kids. I should hurry up. The kids will be wondering what is taking me so long. They are probably watching television the entire time I am gone, their poor little brains.
What gift do I ask for repeatedly, every single Mother’s Day?
Don’t give me jewelry, flowers or expensive purses. What I covet is simple: peace and quiet. Silence. A period of time when I am not responsible for getting a child’s drink or picking up after someone’s mess. An hour alone. Two hours. Three would be heavenly.
I’m better about getting that time away than I used to be, since David’s bout with cancer in 2006. I’d spent several months caring for him, along with caring for the house and the children. The day he returned to work, after hugging him good-bye I stepped into the bathroom and took a good long look at myself in the mirror.
And promptly burst into tears.
Who was that old, tired woman?
Thanks to some encouragement from my husband I started going to Curves then. When we moved to town I began walking regularly with my sister. I lift weights a couple of times a week. And I go out to write, but not nearly often enough. I am still fighting that mother guilt, that sense that I shouldn’t be spending that kind of time or money on myself.
But now I really need to. I need to finish this proposal so I can sell this book.
Tomorrow I write.
I can hardly wait.