This Monday found me going round and round Laurelhurst Park with a dear friend, both of us working up a sweat while trying to stay in the shade. Our conversation meandered over many pleasant topics as we walked, and then she asked me of my plans for autumn once Kiddo was in preschool. Here, I faltered. I've been wanting to write a book to help new parents, but lately have been stalled by a serious question that undermines my thoughts and confidence at times, namely: "Does the world really need another parenting book?" Would my take on the subject add a new facet to what was out there? How would the work of writing add to my life, both in meaning and--at the risk of sounding completely materialistic--in monetary terms?
At the beginning of summer, it seemed that my focus and direction were designated: I would stay home while Kiddo was in preschool and write. This would be my year to "do it", to work toward this longtime goal.
That said, over the summer I've had some sort of Pushmi-pullyu* living in my head. "You must organize yourself and your writing so that you can get published, get yourself on a schedule..." played tug of war with gnawing doubts and whispers in my head: "If you don't do this, all your friends are going to think you are being a serious flake." "You always talk about wanting to write a book but never seem to do it." Ugh. Not the kind of self-talk anyone wants in their head. Yet, I couldn't escape that feeling that I must be working at something. This is to be expected, really--up until I'd gotten pregnant, I'd been working more or less steadily for 20 years without more than a couple of weeks of vacation at any given time. Even when Kiddo was little, it seemed necessary to keep working while he was home: to continue doing after-preschool care with a former family I'd nannied with; to start the preschool; and then to keep working, not only to pay for Kiddo's preschool, but also because I genuinely like that sort of work. Making the decision to close the school was a good one for our family, but lately I've felt uncertain of the structure of autumn. Where to start work on writing, when my feet didn't feel solid under me in this particular venture? I shared these concerns with my friend.
As we headed through a patch of hot sunshine, I wished aloud for time to sew some linen pants and tops for next summer. I would do that this winter, I had promised myself.
"Now, that is what sounds right, Hazie" my friend spoke. "That's something solid, something that you believe in, something just gut-instinct and intuitive. That's what's worth spending time on."
"What? The book?" I was confused.
No, she told me kindly. Not the book, but instead, taking care of myself. She was right; I have wanted these pants and tops for years, but haven't had the chance to sew them for years either. It suddenly put everything in proper context and contrast: how rewarding would writing a book feel if I was continually putting aside the long "honey-do" list I've had in my head for so long?
Still, I wasn't convinced. "But what about the book and the classes I've wanted to teach for parents?" I asked her. She smiled. "Those will wait until you are ready to do them. You said yourself you have doubts about the book. And even having thought about those things (the topics of the book) will make your work better. But what sounds right to me is for you to take care of yourself right now."
I'm not great at shifting gears, but walking home later, I felt like someone had handed me not just a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, but also a "And Go Have Marvelous Time Making Your Life Better--And Don't Feel Guilty About It" token to boot.
Explaining these new thoughts to Joe later, he was his usual wonderful, supportive self. The time Kiddo was at preschool wouldn't just afford me some sewing time, but also time to finish work on the kitchen walls and finally get them painted. The garden has been no small duty, and I have beds of bulbs to dig out and divide this autumn. The basement would produce an essay of worthwhile plans, so I shall spare you, but it was almost surprising to see that my twelve hours alone each week would be filled up with worthwhile work that would make our whole family's life better.
Just the fact that we could get the kitchen (mostly) done without Joe having to anticipate whole weekends of painting put a huge smile on his face.
So, the book still sits in bits and pieces in files on the computer. I've shared parts of it with friends, and hope to still set time aside to work at it in small chunks as ideas arise. The promise of having a house that feels usable and in order is a balm to my heart, because it has been a sore spot for so long. I love the idea that I won't hate how my kitchen looks forever, but can finish it perhaps before Kiddo's next summer break. There's lots of work to be done and Kiddo starts preschool tomorrow. I can't wait to get started.
Look out for the Lady in Linen next summer.
*In case you didn't know, the "pushmi-pullyu" is a two headed beast from Doctor Doolittle. It is a "gazelle-unicorn cross" and consequently, when it tries to move, the heads each go in opposite directions. It makes a marvelous metaphor for those well-versed in children's books.