I’ve written about this before, but I was reminded of it yesterday in a kind of metaphorical way.
I worked from home yesterday, because the hubby was dropping the kids off early yesterday, before going off to a night job he has every other week. Just before the rest of the family left, my cable internet connection went dead. I called tech support and was told there was a service outage in our area, related to the previous night’s storm.
So began a day’s worth of frustration.
Fortunately, after a previous outage, I’d configured a dial-up connection. That way, at least I’d have enough of a connection to get my work done. I hoped that maybe later in the day I’d have enough time and enough of a connection to get three or four things written that had been rolling around in my brain, some for over a month, waiting for me to have time to actually do some writing.
Funny thing about writing. I’m a writer who’s not really a writer. I’m not a writer at work, after all. Writing isn’t a part of my job description. It’s something “extra,” something I can do if there’s enough time after everything else has been taken care of. Most of my job consists of copying, pasting, and prettifying other people’s writing, and then promoting it to tens of thousands of people.
I’m not a writer at home. Writing, after all, is a pretty solitary practice. It requires time to read, time to write, and time to think. Thus, it takes me away from my family if I attempt to do it while the rest of the family is around. With an infant and a five-year-old in the house, I joke that somebod in my house always needs something, and half the time they need it from me. But it’s true.
So, it comes last. (Case in point: This post was written, or at least started, while on the subway this morning; until after everything and everyone else has been taken care of. Usually, by the time the kids have gone to bed, I finally fine time to (a) catch up on the stuff that I want to read and (b) focus on the stuff I want to write. Typically, I only have time for one. It doesn’t matter which I choose, but I choose writing I usually find myself nodding before I’ve made much progress.
(Interestingly enough, I toyed with the idea of going to bed early, and then getting up super early — like 4:00 a.m. — to write while the rest of the house is asleep. But a friend pointed out that most likely I’d be working on something, and just hitting a groove when it would be time to go catch the bus. So, morning or night, there’s precious little time.)
Back to yesterday’s outage. It turned out that my cable internet access was down pretty much all day. I tried in vain to get some writing done via the dial-up connection. So I tried opening links to some stuff I wanted to write about, but instead ended up spending more time than I care to recall watching the status bar on my browser as Firefox tried to load the various pages.
After a hour or more of this, I gave up and hoped that the cable connection would come back to life later in the evening, at least.
It actually came to life earlier than that. It sprang back to life an hour after the hubby dropped the kids off. Of course, with both Parker and Dylan to take care of, there was no hope I’d be getting online. (Even when both of us are at home, I average about two sentences during the entire time the kids are awake. If I’m lucky.) But after the kids went to bed, I’d have at least a couple of hours to finally do some of the stuff I’d been wanting to.
Except that right after I finally got Dylan off to sleep and put him in his crib, I came downstair to find the cable connection had died again. A call to tech support confirmed the outage, as well as the fact that when it would working again was anybody’s guess.
So, when I thought about it I realized that it had been unavailable most of the time I could have used it, available during the time when I had the least time of all to use it, and unavailable when I finally had time to sit down and do some reading and writing.
I’ve found that I need to write, in the same way that a painter needs to paint or a dancer needs to dance. It keeps me sane, and if I go too long without writing, I get grumpy, irritable, morose, etc., and not much fun to live with.
It struck me as a kind of metaphor for my life in recent years.
And, as an adult, acceptance that I “missed stuff,” in terms of being able to to move forward in a career or education when I was younger, had fewer responsibilities, could set goals and the pursue them unfettered; acceptance that I might never “catch up” to where I might have been by now if I didn’t have ADD or had gotten diagnosed and treated earlier.
By the time I was diagnosed, I had a husband already, and a family shortly afterward. Now, I guess I’m a full-fledged grow-up, with a family, bills, a mortgage, etc. And now, when I stumble upon my passion, the reality is that there are a lot of things that end up having to take priority.
Now, I find myself worrying that — and this isn’t intended to sound as self-pitying as it will — maybe I missed my opportunity to “be somebody” or “make something of myself.” There’s a feeling that something is passing me by right now, and I can’t catch it; that I missed the boat because I got to the dock a couple of decades to late. Right now, I feel like I’m doing far less than I’m capable of. But I can’t find a way to do it without stealing time from work, family, or sleep. It becomes a question of which I’m going to neglect.
Basically, during the time in my life when I could have taken advantage of being able to focus on what I’m good at and what I love to do, I might have been further down the road to doing it today. But that “connection” wasn’t available to me when I could have made use of it. Now, at a time in my life where I don’t have much time for anything that falls outside of work and family — and what I love to do, writing, has no real relation to either of those areas with the biggest claim on my time and energy — that connection is wide open, but I don’t have much time to do anything with it. Now I find myself wondering if I ever will. (My attempts to find a job actually writing about the things I enjoy writing bout have been disappointing, when I’ve applied for the few that come available now and then.)
Will it be when the kids are older, and have this practice or that event to go to after school, when the hubby and each have to take a kid and go in one direction or the other? Will it be after they graduate from high school? (By the time Dylan graduates, I’ll be nearly 60? Will I finally be able to pursue my dreams then? Will Still want to bother? What do I do in the meantime?)
Case in point, I started writing this post on the train this morning. It’s taken me all day to finish it. And most of the time I’ve spent writing it — as with most of the time I spend writing anything — is time I should have spent doing something else. That’s actually how I now if there’s something else I should be doign. If I’m doing something solely because I want to do it — not because someone wants, needs, or expects me to do it — then I probably should be doing something else, something in one or more of those three categories.
(I actually hesitated to write about it here, and commit “blog-as-therapy” again. But I don’t have anywhere else to talk about this stuff. I should probably see a therapist, but — again — when would I have time, that I wouldn’t have to steal from work or family? Instead)
So, last night, after having that realization. I decided to shut down. I turned everything off (except the baby monitors), went upstairs, took a sleeping pill, and sat in bed eating jelly beans until I passed out. After all, I’d done everything I was supposed to that day; everything that anyone else wanted, needed, or expected me to do. And I couldn’t do what I’d been wanting to do all day anyway. There wasn’t much of a reason for me to stay conscious.
So, I decided to hit my own “off” button. I fell asleep thinking that it would be nice to have an “off” button, just like any other machine — like a washing machine, a dishwasher, a microwave, or a lawnmower, or something like that. You use them when you need them, and when you don’t you shut them off, and for the most part they don’t exist until you need them again.
I want an off switch, so I can do all the things I’m supposed to do, and after I’ve filled everyone else’s wants, needs, expectations, or demands, I can just shut off the part of me that actually wants or needs to do anything else. (It seems like it doesn’t matter if I’m happy, or how I feel, as much as it matters that I keep doing all of the above, no matter what.) Then I wouldn’t write posts like this, or write much of anything else (except maybe “to do” lists). But I wouldn’t be frustrated, because I wouldn’t want to do anything except want I’m supposed to, expected to do, needed to to, etc.