I’ve fallen off the writing wagon. Again.
Honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened to me in the years I’ve dared to call myself Writer. Three? Four? Who knows?
This time, though, it’s different. This time, I think I might stay off.
I gave up anger for Lent this year, rather than my traditional chocolate, because I feel angry all the time these days. I’ve always been prone to road rage (my kids can attest to this) but lately, I fly into a rage about dirty dishes, stupid political opinions, random millennials in coffee shops putting their feet on the upholstery and my dog’s incessant barking. My neck and shoulders are in knots, I clench my teeth, some days my head pounds. I feel overwhelmed by the littlest things, and guilty about all the things I’m not doing, for instance, writing, calling my sister, or attempting to befriend colleagues at work.
The straw that broke the camel’s back seems to be my job. Three years ago, in answer to a plea from the teachers at my kid’s school, I decided to was time to go back to teaching. When I’d left teaching twelve years ago to follow my husband to another province, I thought I’d left the profession for good. My skills went to good use, raising my own kids and helping on field trips and with play groups and I made my peace with being a volunteer, as it was almost impossible to get a job in the school district I lived in. Once my kids were all in school, I took the plunge and began writing, finishing a novel and finding a supportive writing community.
A supreme court ruling changed the need for teachers overnight, and suddenly, there weren’t enough teachers-on-call. Having lived through that when I worked in Alberta, I applied, thinking I’d take a day here and there. I’d be able to pay for all the writing courses I wanted to take while still helping the teachers at my kid’s school. It would be the perfect win-win situation.
Be careful what you wish for.
The teacher shortage that was looming three years ago has arrived, and I find my phone is ringing off the hook. I feel duty bound to answer it, and take the jobs, because well, money, but also the knowledge that people I know and care about have asked me to cover for them. If I don’t do it, there is a real possibility that no one will.
I’m now working three jobs- mother, writer and teacher- and I’m exhausted. Being split into three means I’m doing a crap job in all aspects of my life because I can’t focus on any one thing to complete it. Multi-tasking is a myth. To do the jobs I’ve chosen, as well as I want to do them, I need to give all my focus to it, be it a student, my kid or my novel. At the moment, no one is getting my best.
There are literally not enough hours in the day to get all I need to do done, let alone what I want to do. Heck, just maintaining my health- eating, sleeping and exercising- feels like it could be a full-time job. I’ve jettisoned a lot of things all ready- coffee with friends, calling my siblings, catching up with neighbours, gardening, cleaning my house- everything else in the boat feels like it’s essential.
All in? Or all out?
I would love nothing more than to devote 100% of myself (sorry kids!) to writing. Realistically, I cannot.
I am a wife and mother- I made that choice (despite all my moaning), and the four people and two furry mutts I share my house and life with are not on the table. There is no guarantee that I will ever make any money at writing, in fact there is a lot of evidence to suggest that I never will. It is insane to pass up the chance to make money and help support my family, while contributing to the health and well-being of the next generation of this province. I can never forget that teaching was my first calling.
I believe that creativity is important, perhaps essential, to my well-being, but in my life at the moment, as it’s causing me stress, perhaps it’s time to put the pen down. For the time being. I’ll write for fun, when I have the time, but as for driving myself to publish, take courses and be active in my writing community, I’ll back off. It’s said that those who succeed in the industry are those who persevere, but it takes an enormous amount of energy to do that. Energy that I don’t have at my disposal at the moment.
Perhaps, once I lighten my load, I’ll be happier, and I’ll be able to let go of all the anger I’ve been lugging around. I’m not the first person who’s had to make this choice, as evidenced by all the retired people I take courses with and the amazing women I teach with. I set a goal this year to be kind to myself, be present in my life and to seek balance. Given the mounting evidence, perhaps the best thing I can do is to stop pursuing my passion and focus on doing what I’ve committed to doing better.
I thought I could have it all, but I don’t think I can. Something’s got to go, or I will crack under the pressure.