When I became a mom, I didn’t know what my life would look like but I knew this: I had to find a way to still be creative so that I could stay me and feel full as a person outside of a mom. I think that when we become parents it’s easy to find yourself on autopilot as these little people that we love take the controls. That’s the hardest thing about parenting for me is that I’m not longer in total control of my life. His mood and naps and meals and emotional and mental development don’t always go in line with what Misty wants to do. I want to shop for the holidays. Leo wants to play in the rocks by the garbage filled gutter on the road next to the shop. Misty wants to paint and write. Leo wants me to follow him around the house while he dusts and sings Baby Shark for the ten-millionth time today. Giving is easy for my personality because nothing was ever about me when I was younger. I was loved and my mom is great but her priority was keeping me housed and fed, not making sure that I felt emotionally safe. Also in the eighties “emotionally safe” wasn’t a fucking thing.
So it’s easy for me to give, and give, and give, and forget that I need things, too, until one day my head is full of darkness and there’s a gaping hole in my heart and I can’t shake the emptiness. As I’ve gotten older and worked on healing myself I’ve started to get better and seeing the markers, the red flags, that the emptiness is coming and I have a list of things that I do, tools, if you will, to start fighting back against the darkness. I call my therapist. I call my friends. I do something for myself. I wish I were better at being proactive than reactive but I’m a work in progress and with the circumstances of this year being so different unfortunately I’ve found my ship rocking almost weekly and have spent more time fighting loneliness than I have feeling happy. And this week was really bad. A few days ago I was sitting on the couch just staring at a wall feeling absolutely drained and hopeless and depressed and so alone. Being a stay at home mom during a pandemic is the second loneliest time of my life and like I’ve said in the past, being alone is triggering for me. It’s like if depression was a starved mountain lion and loneliness a giant fucking bloody steak. Yoo-hoo, over here, come fuck my brain up. And I stood up and Facetimed a friend and we talked about writing and I could feel the color return to my cheeks and when we hung up I said enough is enough to absolutely nobody.
When I became a mom I knew that self-care and maintaining things that mattered to me, that fill my cup, were necessary and essential to being a good mom and a happy human. And I started out great, but that’s when I was still taking contracts and working with humans, and had a nanny, and could go to the bar with my friends on occasion or meetup for lunch. This year, without a sitter, I let go of the steering wheel and have been coasting, and fading, and fading, and fading, until I don’t feel like myself anymore. I feel like a shell of me. And enough is enough. Because it’s just shit modeling for my son and it’s not great for me. And so, I decided that I’m going to do the only thing I can do right now and that’s let go of some sleep in exchange for time to write, to create, to live in my head, to dream of worlds and live in them because I have to. And? So far, I feel the best that I have in a long while.
I’m not the first mom in the world to let go of sleep in exchange for some “me” time. In fact, this is the routine of happy and successful mothers and fathers everywhere. Working moms, stay at home moms, full-time dads, working dads. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter on a train or after her daughter slept. Stephanie Meyer wrote Twighlight during naps and in the early morning or at night. Glennon Doyle wrote in her blog Mamastery at 4 a.m. every day before her house roused awake. I’m inspired by all of the parents in the world who find time for themselves and their passions and self-care in the chaos and meadows of parenthood. And I need that inspiration and my therapist to remind me that in order to be happy I need to consistently take control of my life, to grab the wheel, and drive. Numbing out and coasting in my experience walked me through an unstable and traumatic childhood and I thank my brain for her epic survival skills but as an adult zombie mode is no way to live life.
My husband is confused by my drive and desperate desire to make things. He’s an engineer and I’m not sure he’s ever even had an imagination. Or empathy, honestly, but that’s another post. It’s hard to explain the need and the drive and hunger. Not writing, not making art, feels like death to me. Like the very force that drives me to breathe has been ripped away and I’m gasping and flailing to survive. I’m sure it’s rooted in some form of OCD, I don’t know. But what I do know is that for all of my life I’ve created worlds inside of myself either by re-creating and shaping real things in the form of storytelling and personal essay and memoir or in the form of fiction. When I was in elementary school, I would tell my friends stories for hours about the unicorns I’d have one day and the wars I’d fight and the creatures that existed in my flower beds and grapevines. My imagination is part of my DNA. And for a while it’s been stifled because of my breakdown, and my career as a copywriter, and then adjusting to motherhood. And now that I’m being proactive in chasing the things that feed my soul and brain (and proactively sleep deprived) it’s like the floodgates have actually opened and in the darkness of the night I can’t stop writing and it feels incredible.
I’m working on my second book and two screenplays right now simultaneously. I was up until almost midnight last night outlining a fantasy vampire screenplay/book and I am so excited to jump back into it tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day. I’m working on another fantasy fiction action screenplay and I’m already in the second act so it will probably be dunzo by end of year.
I don’t know why I’m sharing this, exactly, except for maybe to say that if parts of yourself go missing, go find them. Fight for them. Claw them back into you as if your life depends on it, because it does. Even if that means less sleep or a messy house. You need every part of yourself that makes you, you, whether it’s dancing to salsa music or writing or making art. All of the things that bring you joy are bits of your soul and none of us can live full and happy lives in pieces.
And while you’re doing whatever you’re doing in the night, in the early morning, I’ll be right there with you.