when I try to juggle and all the balls fall down
I struggle with being a mother and a writer at the same time.
When D is at home, I find it impossible to get any writing done. When he is at home, I want to spend time with him. But after a few hours of being with him, something starts to gnaw at my consciousness. That feeling that I haven't written anything yet. That feeling that I want to write, but haven't gotten around to doing it yet. That the day is slipping by, that all these days of not writing would add up until they far outnumber my writing days in a given month or year.
My little one is a very early riser too. Trying to squeeze in some writing time before he wakes up would need me to be up at three or four in the morning. And if I were to begin working only after he has gone to bed, I'd be getting to my laptop only much later than seven in the evening. By this time, I can't even think anymore, let alone muster up the willpower to write (although some days I do and when I try to replicate that, I'm often not able to). It doesn't help that I need to be in bed by nine or ten p.m. too so that I can be up with him at five the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, without being sleep-deprived and snappy and irritated.
Even when KrA looks after D, the house remains filled with the sounds of the child, and every word of their conversation permeates through the walls and sneaks up the stairs and slips through closed doors. And I sit here, staring at the screen, unable to write, annoyed with myself for being unable to write. The guilt of being non-productive blindsides me, and I feel as if I'm squandering these hard-won moments by not producing my greatest work yet. As if any time spent away from D should be applied productively in the pursuit of something worthy.
Else, I spend this time wondering why on earth am I trying to work, coercing the words to come when they stubbornly refuse to, when instead I could be spending a few precious moments with KrA and D, all memory of the several hours I would have spent with them since morning completely erased as a result of an absolutely flawed program that seems to be running in my head.
When I am with D, I think about writing, all those stories whirling in my mind and appearing so attractive, so alluring in that indefinable space, begging to be cast into words on paper/screen, even if they lose most of their lustre in the process.
When I am at my desk, I think about D. Just in the other room. Growing up so fast. Each moment spent away from him is irretrievably lost. And I could get up this very instant and sit beside him, but my mind is already somewhere else, far away, not even here thinking of these words that I'm typing, but in some impossibly utopian alternate universe, in which I get to live each day twice. Once, as a mother. Once, as a writer. Two parallel lives that would never collide, because it appears there is so little to connect them.
But even as I type this, I get the sense I couldn't be farther from the truth. Writing fulfils something in me. It makes me a better person and hence, a better mother. Being a mother has thrown my world wide open to so many different experiences and emotions and feelings, so many of which I had been completely oblivious to before D had come along. It makes me a better writer.
These two roles of mine go hand in hand, and yet I feel as if I'm sailing in two boats at a time, one leg in each, and it's only a matter of time before I fall and drown.
Or maybe that is what I tell myself, that is how I try to make peace with this situation.
Or maybe I do not really wish to change this situation. What I truly wish to change is how I feel about it.
I'm not asking for all these contradictory feelings to be taken away. I've come to understand that my sensitivity is a gift. I'm looking for a way to hold space for these emotions as they arise. I want to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable and not give in to the urge to rush for the quickest fix on hand: a Netflix binge or a bar of chocolate or a scroll through social media.
So often the world outside promises us that all we need are the right tools or the right practice to 'fix' our messy lives.
There are two things fundamentally wrong with these promises.
1. There is nothing to 'fix'.
2. Life, with the indescribable plethora of variables that govern how it unfolds for us, can never be un-messy. It is what it is. What is messy is our approach to it. Our reluctance to accept our situation as it is, because we are so often told that we can juggle it all, elegantly so, if only we applied ourselves harder or adopted the right tools or reached out for the right kind of support. Which means that to achieve anything less than perfection is synonymous with failure.
We went to LaSalle Park yesterday evening. We've been there often and it's a favourite place for us to hang out in and watch the swans and geese and ducks at this time of the year.
We had only been there for about a quarter of an hour and were planning to embark on a long walk, when D said he wanted to go back home. He was fussy and wanted to be carried (a task only KrA can carry out now ever since I ended up with a herniated disc last September) and was on the verge of tears.
On the ride back home, I mentally lost my cool. These were the thoughts that spiralled in my head. 1. Extrapolation: 'We never have a nice outing when we go out with D. I'd like to explore the trail more but I never get to do that.' 2. Self-blame: 'I should have seen this coming. He didn't sleep well last night. I should have known he'd not be up for an afternoon walk.'
Point 1 on extrapolation is absolutely not true. But in that moment of disappointment, it was easy to extrapolate this as an undisputed representation of the rest of my life. And as for point 2, I am not an omniscient deity nor do I wish to be one.
Can't I simply acknowledge my child's difficulty in that moment of time and help him through his pain by going through mine as well as I can? Without the urge to bemoan the 'problem', find something to 'fix', find a 'solution' for it, berate myself for not having prevented such an 'undesirable' outcome in the first place, and come up with a plan to 'prevent' all future instances of such an issue?
Tears well up in my eyes as I recall this incident and record it here. I feel so bad for all the rage that erupted in me, even though I had the sense to not express it out loud and, barring a snappy remark at KrA, was able to keep mum until it passed. I feel so bad for little D, whom I was judging so harshly in his moment of vulnerability. I feel so bad for how so many of us live, adopting a problem-solving approach to life, trying to dissect life and successful living and force-fit it into some sort of an equation, which, if followed, would guarantee success, except that margin of error we must incorporate in such an equation will always catch us off guard.
I know all of this in theory. But when it comes to practise, I stumble way more often than I want to. These past few months, I've been especially anxious and unable to stay present, often stressing about the past and the future, and then guilt-tripping myself for not being able to stay present and for 'wasting' all this time I'm getting with D and KrA in wishful thinking about some alternate reality that does not exist.
Maybe, in trying to 'rectify' this 'error', I am making it harder on myself.
It is OK.
It is OK.
I am human. I make mistakes. Every moment offers a new choice. Right now, this very instant, I choose to let go. Let go of every expectation, every desire for life to be something different than what it is. All the peace and release I've been desperately praying for are right here in this instant.
In the seeking of it, I reinforce its lack.
In the tasting of it, I reinforce its abundant presence in my life.
This moment has everything I need.
In this moment, I am fine.
In this moment, life is bountiful.
In this moment, life is.