Striking a Balance


balance is a tricky business
(image courtesy of wikimedia commons, click through for source)

I didn’t do any writing or writing-related stuff this weekend. Not a bit. Not one iota.

I had plans  — finish a short story, format a manuscript to send to a gracious and patient beta reader, do some worldbuilding, maybe query some agents. But nothing happened. I had an anxiety flareup, my kid caught a cold. Life happened.

I, like a lot of people who live through an anxiety disorder, need self-care strategies to keep me on an even keel. Writing is one of my strategies. I derive a lot of comfort from writing; I do it because it is easy for me, and I feel accomplished, and it lets me engage a different, calmer part of my brain. And, like a lot of other people who are doing their best to live through waves of anxiety, sometimes I skip the self-care or don’t have the time and energy to do it, and sometimes I beat myself up for it.

This weekend I didn’t have the wherewithal to do much beyond feed my kid fruit and watch Dr. Who, and today I am actively fighting this feeling that I’ve shot myself somehow in the foot for taking space.

I am a huge proponent of discipline and routine in my writing, but missing a couple of days does not mean any of the following:

  • I have lost my Writing Mojo and will never find it again
  • I am terrible to my beta readers
  • I have lost momentum on…something?

I go back and forth a lot between wanting writing to be my livelihood and job and wanting to keep it separate. I would LOVE to have more time to write, and I would LOVE to make money off of it, but it is enormously useful for me to be writing in a self-directed way without the imposition of deadlines, without the stress of depending on it financially. It takes active work on my part to establish any sense of balance between the things I do and the life I live. This weekend the pendulum swung toward tissues and TV. Maybe tonight it will swing back to enough privacy to get some writing in.

Queering Thanksgiving

Holidays have always been a sort of mystery to me. It’s hard to understand what the point of returning to your natal home is when you don’t get along with your family and you hate your hometown. It never made sense to me to spend the few days I had to myself, away from the day-to-day grind of school or work or what have you with people where there is more bad blood than good. A visit home is exhausting.

People from less than ideal families and queer people – and let’s be clear here that these two categories are anything but mutually exclusive – seek each other out. Sometimes this phenomenon is deliberate, and sometimes it isn’t, but in my experience it’s generally pretty useful. It can be hard to explain that dread when Christmas rolls around and you know you have to drag yourself back. It’s a simple comfort to have someone in the same boat read your expression and just get it.

What I’m saying is that when your natal family is not supportive, is not safe, that many of us build a family that provides us with these things from the ground up. I am lucky enough that for years I have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my created family. This year, I had my partners Jon and Hunter here with me, a dear friend Van, and the kiddo. These are people with whom I can be totally, unapologetically myself: genderqueer, sexually fluid, poly, brash, foul-mouthed, an enthusiastic eater. They call me B instead of my given name without having to be asked to do it. Reconnecting with them, soaking up the easiness of our relationships to each other, that is what I need from a holiday.

This is exactly the kind of holiday atmosphere I want my kid to have growing up. I want to model an expectation that you get to choose who you share your life with. I want her to know she’s not obligated to spend her days with me if it means she needs a week to prepare to see me and two weeks after to recover. I want her to know she’s not obligated to be with anyone she does not choose to be with, and that she’s allowed to set high expectations for those people.

NaBloPoMo: Writing and parenting and self-care

I have a 20 month old kid who is bursting with life and inarticulate personality. There is truly nothing better than this kid of mine. The human race should really just throw in the towel, because we’ve peaked, and the peak is my kid.

My kid is a toddler, and that means it’s harder to get things done than it was before. It’s definitely harder to write. Zadie loves a computer, and especially loves to smash them with  sticky baby fingers. This really sucked for a long time, and then I thought about it, and maybe it doesn’t suck quite as much as I thought.

My writing is more deliberate now, precisely because I have to work around the demands of this child who has no concept of writing and really only knows that when I’m doing it that means I’m not paying attention to her, which is a crime. There’s less dicking around now when I sit down to write. I no longer have hours and hours to wallow in. Writing from midnight to 2am is no longer an option. Things have streamlined.

The times I get to write at home – almost invariably while she’s napping – underscore how much I like writing and how (typically) restorative it is for me. It emphasizes that I write for me, not really for an audience, and that reminder is welcome because I have a tendency to psych myself out when I think about trying to find an audience, trying to publish, how I measure up, etc. And those are important things to think about, but not to a point where they actually overwhelm my ability to get the writing done in the first place. I love my kid more than anything, but parenting a toddler is hard work. It’s exhausting mentally, emotionally, physically, you name it. And it makes me remember that for me writing is a form of necessary self-care.