Finding focus when you are dodging curve balls.
Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash
I wake up happy on my work days, because not only do I know my children will be well taken care of at school and day care, but I also have the freedom to dive into my writing for a whole five hours uninterrupted. The countdown to peace is on, and it fills me with joy.
I don’t know what happened one Tuesday a few weeks ago but something did. The kids were on fire, and not in a good way – and as a result so was I. Their poor behaviour was met by mine. Their failure to find the things they needed for school, tantrums over wanting to wear shorts on a freezing winters day, uneaten food in their lunch boxes, or the fact I'd asked them to put on socks fifteen times before they even acknowledged there should be socks on their feet just pushed me right over the edge.
I know – this is normal stuff. Why would you get dressed for school before you are so late the bell has actually already gone? Well, suffice to say, by the time I threw my kids out the car door at the school gates (not literally), I was already apologising for getting riled up at things that really didn’t matter, and reminding them how much I love them even when I'm not showing it.
I was riddled with guilt as I drove my youngest to day care. Finally, after a teacher peeled her off me, I arrived back at my car and burst into tears. Yip – I mean I'm a tough chick. I can handle some major scenarios with grace, but Wow! Three kids who I absolutely adore manage to take me down.
So much guilt, disappointment and horror at losing it at my kids again. For much of my life I believed the label of probable infertility spoken over me in my early teens, and yet I'd been blessed with three incredible kids. How can shoes, or the loss of shoes (everyday) make me so angry? How could these precious kids whom I would literally sacrifice my life for rile me up so much? I'm not an angry person, as a general rule I am pretty chilled.
I called Mum and she knew something was wrong the minute she picked up because she recognises my silence. When I finally spoke the only words I could find were, “How did you do it Mum? I just don’t know how you did it?”
I ask my Mum that because she was friggin’ amazing. Five kids and doing a lot of it on her own. I don’t remember her yelling. The house was clean, she baked for our lunches and always provided for us even with limited resources. She cooked nutritious meals and had kids over for play dates. She embarrassed me by hosting wild home discos and dancing on the couch - which I secretly loved. She had life under-control. And here I am feeling as though I have zero control. I mean I have fabulous kids -seriously, they are awesome and I still can’t seem to keep myself in check. Mum gave me encouragement and perspective, as well as some pearls of wisdom.
So what has this moment got anything to do writing?
Coming down off a morning like that is hard. Especially trying to step into a day of writing. I was only about 10,000 words into my third novel and knew I needed to get busy but I was so shaken. How do you find your creative flow in that?
Well, I followed my routine, (see previous blog ‘Let those creative juices flow baby!)
I filled the thermos, made my first coffee, and settled down at my desk. Then I opened up a new document knowing I couldn’t step right into my novel, and I started writing.
I wrote for me. I gave myself another name, and I stepped wholly into my new character, a mother struggling with being…a mother, overwhelmed and guilt ridden. I built a beautiful scene which resolved not only how I was feeling but also, I realised later, fit beautifully into my novel – something I didn’t know before I finished writing it. Of course, I used creative licence, but the heart of it was something I felt deeply. I wrote out of what I knew, and it was powerful.
Later on that day, I was telling my girlfriends about my morning, the piece of writing that eventuated and then I said “the psychologist was actually really helpful”.
Fi shook her head, laughed and told me I was crazy, because she knew not only was I the struggling Mum, I was also the psychologist. I created the world and the advice and perspective I wrote about in the book, and yet the writing of it, the putting it down on paper, wrapped up in a package separate from my own brain I was able to hear it.
Those two parts of myself separated for a minute and I was able to absorb what they were trying to tell me. I was able to listen to knowledge and wisdom rather than pure emotion, and process the strategies I needed to regain my sense of self and control.
This is one of those beautiful side effects of writing. The writing facilitates changes in perspective, healing and a development of self. You have this incredible privilege of stepping into another person’s world and seeing things through their eyes & experiences. And sometimes, even step outside of yourself and look back & see your own life as an outsider. I concluded that session 3000 words further along my journey, much happier in myself and so grateful for the process.
I’ve learned, you don’t have to have the perfect environment to write. You don’t have to follow your carefully laid out plans or story outline. You just have to write. Crap can literally hit the fan, there can be chaos reigning around you, and you can still write one word at a time. Writing practice or writing for personal breakthrough or release is just as important as your ‘work in progress’. Let’s face it – everything about us is a work in progress. The growing that takes place in a few hundred words where you have laid yourself on the page and been honest and raw, can be greater than if you'd written ten thousand.