I'll never forget the moment when a coworker teased me about my post-birth life. I commented I realized I'd have to give up some things - notably, I'd closed down my beloved literary magazine - but I still intended to be active. After all, I currently was a volunteer ESL teacher, attended church regularly, was writing my third book, worked full time, hiked weekends, blazed through video games, cooked daily, and kept a Martha Stewart-organized house. She laughed and basically said I wouldn't have time for anything but work and family.
I was annoyed, certainly, but it was more than that: I was hurt. I expected her, as a fellow mother and writer, to be different than the teaming hordes who mercilessly teased me about my soon-to-be overwhelmed life. It seemed like a betrayal - to throw your hands up and say "Ah, I'm done, time for art is past." The fact that I knew so many mothers who'd done the same didn't help the tickling, awful monster at the back of my mind that wondered: was she my future?
It wasn't, but to say I underestimated the challenges to come was like - well, saying I had expected the shark wrestling to go more easily, I guess. Church went out the window, along with ESL; so did sleep for a very long time. (My daughter started sleeping through the night a few months ago. She is turning four in a few weeks. Years, not months.) Writing and editing slowed heavily, though it didn't vanish. And I learned to work faster, harder, and smarter than ever before.
Fellow geeks know what I'm saying when I say my life is less linear and more of a wibbly wobbly, timey wimey experience, where a day disappears in a blink and then I try to cram a week's worth of work into an hour of scrambled writing/editing/dental appointment making over yet another cup of coffee.
But the problem with cram sessions, however well intentioned, is that when you're working in fractured, broken moments, it often leads to fractured, broken results - and at the very least something less than ideal productivity.
Who knew writing the book was the easiest part?
I'm a practical sort of person, and I tend to quickly recognize issues and tackle them with the feistiness of a bulldog (sometimes the elegance, too). But there's something almost unbearably bittersweet about my position. I can't change it, but even if I could, I wouldn't know where to begin. I wouldn't sacrifice a minute with my daughter; I wouldn't drop my art. Fiscal constraints require me to work a day job, but I'm not delusional enough to ignore the fact that I enjoy it, too. Where is the balance in my wibbly-wobbly life? Is the complete absence of any a balance of its own?
On good days, I feel like I'm dancing and juggling too, a cirque du soleil of authorial proportions. On bad days, it's a swamp I feel myself sinking into, without Falkor in sight. (It's a heavy geek reference day, I guess.)
For the time being, I suppose, I must simply clutch my book cover, set an early alarm, and remember the Oracle's just a luck dragon away. And set the kettle to boil.