A few years ago I received a rejection to a magazine article submission that has stayed with me. The response was as gentle and encouraging as a writer could hope for, and included a suggestion that I write about my experience being a writer, as a woman and mother. At the time I was on my way to motherhood and recognized that I didn’t face many of the challenges that would likely resonate with that audience so I let it go. Still, I have a hard time turning my back on a challenge and the question has remained with me in the years since. As far as I can tell every writer’s story is different, so there’s obviously a story to tell. If I were to write such a piece, what would it look like?
Visually, it would probably look like a jelly fish, with long tails dragging in its wake. Each of those tails would be one part of my every day. I’m a mom, wife and a person with my own interests. I’m a professional in a completely unrelated industry, a magazine interviewer and article writer, a novelist, a short story writer and someone who doesn’t mind just relaxing for a few precious minutes without being productive. I’m serious, responsible, creative, silly, stressed, joyful, overwhelmed, in control… you get the picture. It’s all true and it’s all there in each moment.
I’ve struggled recently to keep up with creating new stories, and each week I contemplate how to approach this weekly post. Do I provide the lengthy list of worries and woes that have prevented me from having time to write? No. I want my readers to come here for something that lifts them up or interests them each week. Do I announce the pregnancy that’s stealing all of my energy? Hmm, I guess I just did. Staying up until midnight on a Saturday night to finish a story no longer being viable, do I rerun a story I liked from when I started this blog three and a half years ago? I’ve done that a few times. Do I give up? Not an option. And that is the underlying answer that I’ve found to the question.
What does the life of a woman/wife/mother/writer look like?
You don’t give up.
This blog has helped me to grow as a writer in many ways, but probably most especially in my commitment to the people out there who read my work. I can’t count how many times I’ve groaned with the realization that I don’t have enough time, or an adequate story idea, for my post. Many people have suggested that I take a week off here or there. Then I think of the small audience that these years have built. I think of the comments that have come in on posts and through email, little encouragements, the descriptions of waking up Sunday morning and enjoying a brief getaway with one of these stories. It drives me to dig into those jelly fish tails and find the one that is The Writer, so closely woven with the Warrior Woman tail, and make something happen.
As I wriggled around in bed last night worrying about my post this morning, my mind was well down the Worrier tail, flashing every stress and excuse past me in flood speed. I have a head cold. No energy. The house is a mess. We’re under contract on a house and I’m worried about money and getting paperwork in to the mortgage company on time. I worked through lunch breaks and pulled overtime this week so didn’t have a chance to think of a story let alone write one. My son doesn’t feel good so he’s been more challenging recently. My cats are stifling me under this blanket, I’m never going to get any sleep. And yes, for those of you who read last week’s story, The Suck Goblin Trap was a story I wrote to myself. A reminder to focus on what’s important.
Most of my life I’ve struggled with sleep. I LOVE to sleep, but insomnia was a long time childhood issue and since becoming a mother I’ve found myself a light sleeper atop that. In recent years, however, I discovered a technique that most advice givers don’t think to recommend. List your gratitude. Even if it doesn’t work and you’re still awake, at least you’re now thinking of every thing in your life that is joyful and magnificent. I’ve found that with nothing but grateful thoughts left, my mind feels comfortable handing over the reigns and the next thing I know, I’m waking up again.
So, last night as the suck goblin plagued me with every thought that drains creativity and restfulness, I remembered the need for gratitude. The most wonderful thing happened, as it often does when I remember to be grateful. Clarity. I knew what I was going to write this morning. That jelly fish tail that is reluctant to talk about the personal goings-on of my life met with the tail that says “get over yourself.” In addition to the complaints swirling through my mind I found thoughts of my son’s amazing laughter, and how much my heart swells up when my husband and son go racing through the house together pushing toddler vehicles. I remembered that the extra hours I put in at work are helping a lot of people to do their jobs better. The money and house purchase that I’m worried about… well we’re about to move in to a good neighborhood, in a house that we’re excited about living in, and we’re doing so because a lot of stars aligned in just the right way to give us the assistance and opportunity we needed. Those snuggling cats, well they were spreading comfort and love in their way and shifting just a little… that’s better. And that pregnancy that I mentioned earlier? So far all signs are pointing to a healthy baby. There were more, so many more, but I’m happy to report that I was soon blissfully asleep.
What does it look like to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a professional with a day job and a writer? All of the above. The whole jelly fish. Some days I get to be The Writer. Most days I’m many different tails (or tales, depending on the day) combined. One thing I’m not – ever – is bored. One thing I am – is grateful.
Thank you for being part of my jelly fish.