When I went into my blog to create a new post, I realized I left a draft hanging about an exceptionally difficult week I had a few months ago. Life moves on and things got better, and I re-read it this morning hovering over the delete button. While the events passed, the feeling is still totally relevant.
After completing an article submission on goal achievement for a magazine I’m in love with, I realized that in order to explain how to pick yourself up, I also need to talk about what the bottom looks like. It ain’t all roses and book signings, baby, no matter what level you get to. I hope by sharing the below post of a difficult time, I can comfort a few struggling creative moms by letting them know they aren’t alone.
Monday morning I woke to a kitchen floor covered in maggots. Yes, maggots. M-A-G-G-O-T-S. My brain knew they were just fly larvae. That little bastards fly parents made it into the bottom of the trash can and set up shop. My imagination however put up flash card after flash card of every X-File-NCIS-Walking-Dead-Tales-From-The-Crypt nastiness my exceptionally active creative brain could think of. And that wasn’t the worst part. Since their wriggling, eyeless, creepy-ass bodies blended in well with the color of out tile floor, I had already tracked them from one end of the house to the other in my pre-coffee-daily-routine-stumble prior to noticing them. And the worse worst part? I had no more energy left with which to power an emotional response. I was dry-heaving some kind of mimed version of sorrow and disgust while shop-vacuuming up the evidence of the truly least-cool Monday morning ever.
The energy it takes to “have it all” is incredible. The line of balance between being the mom of a preschooler and being a professional bends, gets erased, sometimes even shat upon, and is always flexible. Think drunk Jenga. My last two weeks have been difficult. The kind of difficult where I goes from feeling like things are hard, to feeling like things are impossible, all the way to the bottom of the spectrum where I begin to feel as though I am actually being punished for my hard work. The place where every treasure comes with a curse and every trophy is first bashed over your head. Why haven’t I just given up already. Just screw this whole creative business and use my downtime to read a book or go for a hike like a normal person. Please just let me give up. I’m too tired to do this just one second longer.
You can’t accomplish the goals I strive for while still having time for solitaire or manicures. This presents a quite a problem. A paradox if you will. To find the happy time to be creative -or- to sacrifice the happy time to be creative. The last movie I saw in the theaters was The Hobbit. In 2012. No wait- I’m lying. I took Maddi to see Spongebob last year, but I really hope you don’t count that. I certainly don’t. It was crap compared to the first one and I am a HUGE Spongebob fan. And on top of it all I’m a practicing Buddhist, so I’m beating myself up over having so much pissy-ness inside. Probably coming to you as a shock at this point in my tirade… I like that they call it “practicing”. From the tip of my yoga mat to the roots of my crazy-artist dreads sometimes I’d really like to Namaste some of you f*ckers right upside the head. And so I continue to practice…
I talk to other moms, other artists, other writers. When I open up, which isn’t often, I can tick off the same answers over and over again as if it was one of those form “while you were out” pads.
“Hi, I’m Juli and I’m having a really crappy time trying to be everything to everyone and running a business while doing it. Please check your desired response below”
A. “Yeah, that’s why I waited until my kids were in college.”
B. “Moms always get the sh*t end of the stick. Sorry but true.”
C. “What do you think about getting a job teaching? I bet you’d be great at that!”
D. All or any of the above dribble.
If I could just give up, this would be so much easier. I might actually have a meal NOT in front of the computer for a change. Read a book. Take a nap. Why haven’t I given up already?
Every ounce of personal strength I had was gone by that Monday morning. I was beat down by being sick all the prior week. I was beat down by Maddi being sick all the prior week. By my website getting hacked by some dipsh*t casino site. By my primary babysitter being out of town. By attempting to continue my work despite all of that. My reserves were down to life support only, and even that was blinking a scarlet distress strobe from the back of my brain. Then came the maggots. Hundreds of them wiggling and worming their way across my kitchen floor. MY KITCHEN FLOOR. Like I didn’t totally bust my ass cleaning that floor just the day before. Seriously, why do I bother?
But I do. I keep going. I wish I didn’t have to, but I do it anyway. There is some invisible noose around my neck that pulls me forward through the muck and over the bramble because I am compelled to be an creative. I am compelled to succeed at this.
I’m writing a book about getting in touch with your creativity and having the guts and fortitude to make it happen. As I write it, I realize it isn’t just a book aimed toward high school kids or young professionals looking to change careers. It’s a message to myself. It represents the part of my brain that knows I can do this. Even when I’m exhausted. Even when the rejection letters appear. Even when the maggots invade.
So if you are a struggling creative that can identify with the above passage in regards to the exhaustion, the canned advice from friends and family, the constant pressure to be everything to everyone, also consider this:
(un-edited excerpt from the upcoming novel SPARK)
Endurance. The first time I made it past the breakers surfing was a personal accomplishment I won’t forget. It was just after a hurricane and the surf off St Augustine Beach was incredible. There were quite a few crazy people out on boards in the thrashing water and rain, but the beach was empty and stripped of color under the dark gloomy sky. I had been working for hours, paddling, paddling, paddling trying to get out past the wall of crested waves that seemed to cling at me from all directions. I was exhausted, and truly waterlogged after spending more time under my board than on it. The day got darker and the waves got more intense. I don’t know why it was that important to me, I could barely surf as it was, but just the fact that it was crazy difficult made me want to do all that much more. The trick was to recover from one wave fast enough to paddle past the next wave forming. Not as easy as it sounds, by any means. Eventually I got my time and my resolve, and a health dash of stubbornness to align and popped through to the other side. The calm beyond the breadline. Suddenly, the surface was quiet. A gentle bobbing up and down with a view of the backside of the wave rest, a glassy perfect arc refracting the landscape of the beach through it into a kaleidoscope projection as it approached land. Amazing view. I had been past the breakers on less violent days, when the waves were half this size and the view had never been this awesome. I could see what the work was for. Wether I caught the next wave or no wave at all, the shift – the purposeful line of being in the hurricane getting smashed to smithereens and being in the eye – the best seat in the house to admire its grandeur was worth the effort. This is true in many aspects of life, but you can’t know how great it will be until you work through it for yourself.
Maybe it can be a story you’ll remember when the maggots get you down :) -Namaste