The Balancing Act

When I started this blog, I made myself commit to writing at least one post a week. That probably lasted about…oh…one week. I’ve followed other people’s blogs, people who post at least one thing a day.
Sometimes it’s worth the read, and other times it’s an obvious marketing ploy. Sometimes (and these are the ones I really hate), the frequent posters are so damn cute and clever. I just don’t fit. Here’s the thing – I’m not that interesting.

My private life is private, and my writing life is not really different from any other writer’s. I’m not qualified to give advice or instruction. I’m not cute enough to do…I don’t know…anything cute. I’m only clever part of the time (and mostly in a sailor-talk kind of way after a few drinks). Oftentimes, I find myself staring at a blank screen, chomping away at my fingernails trying to think of a topic to write about. After a few minutes of this I get frustrated and wonder: am I really that boring? Is there really nothing for me to tell you?

Probably nothing that anyone would care about. I grew up a lonely girl in a large family. There were always people around but I preferred my own company (probably how I ended up with very high standards for companionship and very little social skills). Even now, I wouldn’t consider myself outgoing. If I’m in a social setting involving strangers, I’m polite and cordial enough, but I only speak when spoken to, and I’m quite content to watch from the shadows and excuse myself early.

You wouldn’t know it by the posts on this blog, but my life is filled with drama: the literary kind I create and the other, everyday bullshit I try to avoid (did I mention the whole big family thing?). If I used this forum as a venting chamber, it would house the foulest pollution. But life is so full of negativity – myself included – that I try to use this blog as something else.

The part of me that is the writer, the artist, the dreamer – exists outside of my everyday world. Reading can be the conduit to escapism, but writing is absolutely vital to grounding. I have my roles, my titles (mother, wife, office rat, etc.) but the only part of me that truly encapsulates who I am as an individual is my craft – whether it’s music, or writing – any type of art. People have so many reasons for writing, and some of the popular ones resonate with me still. I have stories to tell, I have passion for words, and so on and so forth. But the real, the sacred, reason that I write is because I have to exist outside of my functions.

I’m not a naturally selfless person. Simply giving all of myself to my family and my job everyday doesn’t satisfy me (go ahead – throw rotten tomatoes at me all you mothers-of-the-world). I love my family, but they don’t define me. I defy any person to claim I don’t love my children 110% (and get ready for a slap if you do), but I DO exist outside of them. I am a person with thoughts and motivations and aspirations independent of the people I love most of all, and there is nothing shameful about that.

I could deny my deepest self, abandon my writing, my hopes for success in that arena, but to what end? Why pump our kids full of the reach-for-the-stars mentality only to abandon it the second we give birth to them? We raise our children and send them out into the world. When I was young, the idea of being a parent seemed like so much of a sacrifice. So much time dedicated to these little humans I’d create, but the truth of it is that you really don’t have much time to raise your children, and they will go on (as they must) and leave you to yourself. You spend more time with, and as, yourself than you do with your children. One of my favorite poems about parenthood is by Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

One of the foremost emotions that comes with motherhood is guilt. I often feel guilty that I don’t spend more quality time with my children. I must work and so am away from them ten hours a day, and when I get home I don’t feel like the jolly sort of playmate they would like. I do my best, though not as often as I’d like. It is a common thing for mothers to encourage one another to get away and have some “mommy time.” But with that comes guilt. (I should be at home with my kids instead of the movies with my girlfriends, or instead of this massage or lunch date). I always feel guilty for being away, but I never feel guilty for being me. I wish I made as much time for my writing as I did for my “mommy time,” (which isn’t much, I’ll tell you for free!).

The scary part about parenting (and writing!) is that you never know if you’re getting it right. But I think the most important thing in either endeavor is to be true to yourself. If you can’t hear the beckoning of your own soul, then the quiet and most beautiful moments of life will be lost on you.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “The Balancing Act

  1. I enjoyed your essay. Women wear too many hats and the one they really want to wear probably doesn’t get used much. Many writers delay writing or tailor it to fit their life style. Some wait until the children no longer need that time for bonding. A writer’s life is never easy. But those to hang in there will eventually be able to write what they want.

    • Thank you and I agree. I find that it’s difficult to set rules for myself like “I must write one blog post a week” or “I must write one chapter a day on my latest book,” etc. etc. Part of the balancing act is being flexible. I fulfill my duties each day, but am always mindful not to lose that part of me that is just myself.

  2. Melrose

    Great post and great poem.

  3. Sandi

    Ahh..yes indeed Sawyer, your thoughts on this one of “guilt as a mother” sure hit home for me as well as other mothers I’m sure. As I was a single mom holding down 2 jobs to make ends meet I didn’t feel I gave enough time to my kids. Guilty 😦 but I did the best I could, and since I certainly cant remember any “me time” I must have been giving out some at least. But I did forget about me and I admire that you do take the time for you and don’t feel guilty. That poem is just what I needed to read as I have moved closer to my son and granddaughters with hopes of being closer and having more time with the ones I love. as well as flying out to see my daughter who has moved away. And it’s hard,because they are always busy and my son say’s he feels guilty he hasn’t had a lot of spare time for me. Does this sound like we have come full circle? *sigh* And I have felt left out..so I think it does,and the poem helped me to remember I gave my son and daughter life,but they don’t owe me theirs and now is the time after all these years..for ” me time” So thank you for sharing what you have felt because it made me realize it’s time to hear the “reckoning of my own soul” and leave them to theirs but still always be there for them. No guilt allowed 🙂

    • That’s the part of motherhood that stinks…the guilt. I’m glad that my post resonated with you, and I do hope it helps you invest some time listening to your own soul. 🙂 It’s easy to feel left out with our kids, especially when we give so much to them. We feel like they owe it back. Ha ha! But that’s not why we invested in them, right? To get a return? No, we invest in our children (as the poem says) to shoot them out into the world as living arrows. I, too, was a single working mother, but only for two years, so bless you for your sacrifice, Sandi! Now, it’s your time! 🙂 No guilt allowed!

    • And I know a great way you can have some “me” time! Curl up on the couch with a steamy book!! Something about a Lioness or something like that… 😉

      • Sandi

        What you have said is so true Sawyer and “empty-nest” syndrome is no fun. It’s hard to think of “me” when it has been so long about them. And yes I am planning to curl up with a particular pirate romance..any day now:)

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