The kids are now in school and if I wanted, I could write for five straight hours. I could sit at my little black table in the kitchen or the bigger wood table in the dining area. Or on my couch. Or at the desk in the secluded room in the basement with construction grade paint on the drywall, littered with piles of papers and books.
If I wanted, I could write from the minute I returned home from walking the little ones to school, the trip on which we stop to watch butterflies and poke twigs at the iridescent green shell of a dead beetle, holding hands and talking about the word “ordinal” — I could write from the second I walked back home until the minute the middle-school bus drives by in the early afternoon to drop off our oldest.
If I wanted to, I could write during those child-free hours.
If I wanted, I could put off buying bananas, and garlic, and jelly. I could forgo sweeping the GrapeNuts up from this morning’s displaced cereal bowl. I could sit down and write instead of throwing my wallet and phone onto the passenger’s seat of the minivan on my way to rent a trumpet, the one he doesn’t need it until next week, I tell myself. And no one demands I spend thirty minutes swimming, or an hour lifting a barbel in a room full of women (and usually one man) sweating to heart-thumping music.
To write, the thing I love to do, I could avert my eyes, or forget altogether about the three loads of clean socks and shorts and undershirts and towels that need to be folded. I could avoid the pile of too-small clothes I’ve left in the boys’ room for the last three months, knowing deep inside it would only take thirty minutes to organize, store, or relegate items to the donate bag.
I could put off a little longer all I’ve put off for the last thirteen years of raising kids.
I could write, instead of hustling for more paid work. Or figuring out how I’m going to get three kids home from soccer practices next Tuesday (why is everything on Tuesday this year?) or making a meal for the friend on bedrest.
What I need to do, what takes me away from writing, are the tiny jobs of my life. Like calling the company that packed up our basement when we had the water damage a few months ago, the ones who didn’t return the trumpet, by accident of course, but this means my son needs me to go rent one. Calling them reminds me that the kids need flu shots. Another phone call, schedule juggle, decision. But these are just excuses.
Only one person has outright said that I must be bored with the kids in school.
The rest have been generally pleasant questions about what I’m going to do with my time, how I’ll ever fill these hours — the ones that were, up until this month, full of my children.
I don’t know how to explain that I’ve felt like a woman who fell out of an inflatable boat going down class V rapids. How I have my life preserver on and I managed to grab a rope, and everyone assumes I will be okay when we get to calmer waters. What I don’t know how to say, for a time, was that I was gasping for air, scared. And it takes some time to recover from that.
With the kids in school, yes, I have space to think and breathe and if that was all I needed to do during my days, maybe I would get bored. But like I used to tell Chris after I’d get a few hours away from the kids on a weekend these last few years and he’d ask me, “How was it? Did you get everything done? Are you good?” and I’d laugh at the ridiculousness of it and say, “It’s never enough.”
There are many more important things to do than write. I need to wipe down crumbed counters, a toothpasted mirror, and a boy-used toilet.
Also, I’m afraid.
I’m afraid of sitting down at this computer and never getting up. Because writing takes me time. And even when it’s hard, and slow, I like it. And I want to keep at it, whether the words are pouring or fighting, and I will look up and the kids will be home but we will still not have bananas or a trumpet or dinner or a clean bathroom. I’m afraid of wasting time. Of writing poorly. Or too vulnerably. Or saying the things you would never be allowed to read. But I don’t want to write on the surface. And it’s difficult to dig into the dirt when you aren’t sure what you’ll find. Or how long it will take. Or when someone will call you away. I have a million excuses.
I’m afraid to sit down and claim this time and this space, even the small chunks, for me.
I ask myself: Does the world need my words?
And the answer is most definitely no.
But maybe there is a different question:
Do I need my words?
And is that okay?
Can I accept, for whatever reason God put it in my heart, the desire to write? Can that alone be enough, especially when I’m scared or frustrated or after I stop looking to everyone else for permission and acceptance? Can I give what I create to no one, but lay it out as an offering?
I can focus on my fear — of not being good enough, followed enough, published enough. Of not saying the earth-shattering thing or communicating my idea as well as it formed in my head. I can wish to be more crafted. I can worry about what you will say and how you will react. And I can paralyze myself weighing the benefits of what I should and could be doing with this time.
Or, I can sit down at a messy desk, imperfectly, somewhere in between a phone call and making salmon the kids will gag over for dinner, and write anyway.
Click here to read the next post in this series “Write Anyway.”