Unfortunately, I think, I am an ALL or NONE person. Really. I think I try to pretend that I am not. One of the things that makes me think I am one of those is that I tend to make fun of them. I tend to call it out in those I know. (Just ask my husband.) I am always, always amazed that I never learn this lesson faster.
You know the one, the lesson I’m talking about. Where things drive you crazy, too crazy. You become obsessed with them, noticing them. Not in yourself of course, but in other people. And then, one day, BAM! It hits you. I hate this and it drives me nuts because it is me.
Some time this spring, I realized I needed to make some changes. If I were honest, I really thought everyone around me needed to make changes. Somehow I figured out that wasn’t going to happen, so I had to take charge.
Since school started last fall, I have not stopped. I could actually write this sentence instead: Since my third child was born, I have not stopped. But that would be for a different paragraph. Sally started all day Kindergarden in September, and I was scared of all that free time. So I signed up for all kinds of volunteer work at school. I knew for years that I was going to do this; it was part of my plan. I would stay home with my kids until they were in school, then spend all my time volunteering. It sounded like the perfect life, this script that I wrote years ago.
What wasn’t in the script was how utterly bored I would be.
That’s right. Bored. When I think of all the things in life that truly surprise me, my boredom this year will stand out.
There were other things that made this year difficult. My older daughter had major issues at school, Steve’s beloved aunt finally lost her battle with cancer, Steve’s work, and all the silent things that were beginning to stir in me, to name a few.
I was at the school, or doing things for my children and husband, from the time I got up until the minute I went to bed at night. Busy work. Riding the hamster wheel. I was managing the details so everyone else could have a life. I kept thinking it was going to end, it wasn’t going to stay like this because all my kids were in school now and I had all this free time.
I am not a natural housekeeper, and organization is not a strength. So I didn’t even reap some benefits that all the time put into our house and family might otherwise provide. Like a clean house, or the feeling of catching up, or forms or homework done on time or healthy dinners by a cozy fire at night.
No, that didn’t happen at all. It seemed like every part of my life was in shambles - my health, my home, my kids, our stuff, our happiness. My kids think clean clothes come from a laundry basket, not from dressers in their rooms. They think its normal to scramble for matching socks every single morning.
I spent fifteen hours a day trying to keep up, doing something I don’t enjoy and wasn’t good at doing. And I missed my husband and children desperately. I don’t think I was better at the details when they were younger, but there was less of the details, and I was in relationship with them most of the time.
My husband got very sick this spring, and I was not the wife I wanted to be. It turned out to be only a sinus infection, but it lasted for six weeks. Every weekend, which I now realize were my lifelines, he slept on the couch and moaned in pain. The weather was always, always cold and rainy. Every weekend. Many friends down south were facebooking about the beautiful spring weather; I felt like I was trapped in the eye of a storm.
Now my lifelines were reading in bed at night (preferably with him gone) and my Starbucks latte in the morning. Every other minute was waiting to get to one of these two times. One morning, I was so distraught that I went in for my latte and I decided to stay. I had my computer, and I spent the morning being useless. I had so many things to do, but I surfed the internet, read stories, papers, magazines, facebook. I didn’t do one thing for anyone else. About noon, I returned to my life - laundry, lists, and schedules. I did it not with joy, but with a lighter step. At the end of the day, there were still just as many things left undone as there had been the day before.
And that’s how I started taking my mornings; that’s how I began writing again, after all these years. I went to Starbucks, and wrote. It was a lot of journaling, but some pieces began to emerge. And I revisited this blog, one of several I toyed with a couple of years ago. If I couldn’t write, I read. But most mornings, I wrote and wrote. And it became my air. It was like I had breathed through a straw for so long, that I was gulping the air in full breaths.
I went on a retreat, I wrote, I started yoga. I spent the mornings take caring of myself. I became happier and hopeful. I enjoyed my kids and husband more. I finally understood that just as a car can’t go without gas, I can’t be everything to everyone without taking care of myself. I did it every single morning. It was my ALL.
And then the second half of May came. There were endless end of the year celebrations, parties, performances, tasks to complete. I quit coming. I gave up the mornings. It didn’t take long; I got crabby again and wasn’t enjoying my days. I became anxious because I knew my kids activities were going to dominate the summer. I didn’t have a plan to continue my journey. I was back to NONE of all or none.
I had a sitter today and wanted to come write but I had to complete a project for school for the transition to the next leadership team. I worked hard on it, not enjoying it, mad that my kids were at breakfast and the beach with a sitter. I wanted to be there. I want to enjoy the summer with them. If I get caught up, I can DO IT ALL with them.
I took a little break and read some of the blogs that had become my “friends” during my mornings in the spring. They were still there. Relief, but not surprise. Then I looked at my blog, and realized a few people had been there. SURPRISE, but not relief.
This was when I realize that, indeed, I am ALL or NONE. In the spring, I became ALL IN with my writing. Every day. And then I got busy, and felt better, and I was ALL NONE without even realizing it.
I reached out a little, not much, when I was trying to make changes. It paid off. The few comments and fewer visitors have engaged me. Like most people, I don’t like asking for or needing help or support. My very small , if not community, settlement is calling me. I need to come back.
I do want to enjoy the summer with my kids. I know I can’t be ALL writing or ALL kids or ALL husband or ALL house or ALL writer.
But I am learning that I also can’t be NONE. I have to write.
For better or worse, I now know the ache of the pen.