Writing for My Life
It is 8 AM on a Friday morning and I write in peace. Not that there isn’t peace around me generally; there is almost always a sense of peace in and from my little family. But this morning, my daughter still sleeps and my husband has slipped away to make some work calls, so now I am in quiet, able to focus on a little bit of me without the call to my wife and mother selves, and, just for awhile, to write.
Off hand, I can’t recall when I last wrote straight from the heart. I don’t have time. I write for our site that chronicles our full-time, tiny-living travels, where I document destinations, side trips, recipes and more. I also write and send a weekly newsletter to friends and family — a love letter so to speak — that is a kind of lifeline as they support and encourage our continued endeavors. I love what we do and enjoy writing about it, but the constant upkeep of travel writing is a lot of work. If I wane, I lose some of the vital parts, and it becomes a chore to reach back into my mind to retrieve such details. So I keep up on my goal of writing weekly for the site and for the family, even though it impacts writing for myself.
I feel as though sometimes I am thinking too much for others.
Then there is my husband’s business. He is a web developer, and his work makes it possible for us to travel full time. It is fun and good work, and it is important. As our daughter has grown, I’m a little freer each day to help him more. I write and/or edit content for him or his customers, and I help him market, create, redesign, and brainstorm. I love this behind-the-scenes work, too.
It is fun to write for others, it spurs my husband’s creativity and builds momentum, and it’s wonderful to partner with him in such ways. But this, too, impedes writing for myself. When this happens, I feel as though my brain atrophies. It takes awhile to massage it back into a pace that spills forth more effortlessly. I feel as though sometimes I am thinking too much for others.
Also, we are an unschooling family. For some, it is better understood as natural learning. Whatever one calls it, all three of us — my husband, my daughter and I — are together most of the time, or my daughter and I are together. No school, no office, no child care. We learn and share from each other and our daughter is thriving because of our tiny life, our travel life and her natural learning path. But it requires an all-in commitment — at least one fully-engaged parent all of the time to ensure guidance, understanding, support, nurturing and play.
Our daughter’s maturation enables her to do more things for herself and by herself, again freeing me up to examine my own thoughts in written form, but it is often short-lived: Motherhood calls, snuggles beckon, snacks and lunches need to be made, hair washed, teeth brushed, hikes and swims taken. By the end of our thorough days, we are wiped out. I am grateful for sleep-inducing fatigue as a result of fulfilling endeavors, but I wish that I required a little less sleep just so that I could write a few more lines.
Finally, traveling can be work. Our travel days can be invigorating, but also long and exhausting. The time spent before them hitching and unhitching, planning and making meals, navigating traffic or maps, booking campsites, trying to explore, working and building images and content for our travel site can be very time and energy-consuming.
Travel days can interrupt good flow, but they must be done in order to continue seeing the world the way we want to do it. They also allow us to be off-the-grid for a while, which we embrace as well. We love our travel life. We wouldn’t trade our travel, work or unschooling lives for anything right now, but it still doesn’t help me write for myself.
Writing for My Life
Lately, I’ve noticed that I feel depleted, like my soul is thirsty. I couldn’t tell at first; the feeling crept up on me. When finally it occurred to me that I have not written enough for myself lately, I became anxious, a little pissed off, a little frustrated for having let it slip away.
The choices that I’ve made to lead and live a fulfilling life are some of the culprits of my own undoing. Like most mothers, caregivers, parents — working, single, underserved, traveling or otherwise — how do we make time for even the littlest space for our soul work? Even when we are enjoying what we are doing, how do we make time for the things that must be done?
Sometimes I don’t know, but it seems to be a constant game of personal sacrifice and decision-making, like chess for the soul. I know many women who chose not to have children or chose to go it solo, women I really admire — chefs, writers, artists, musicians, politicians, activists. Many fellow travelers are couples without children; many more are men or women on their own. This is not to say that their lives are happier. Rather, it suggests that this lifestyle encourages the possibility of room for a more creative life, which requires a more selfish attitude, one that is not often taken by the tendencies of the selfless.
Which brings me to ego. Over the years, I certainly have paired down my want to be at the forefront of most things. It doesn’t interest me to have glory or fame, awards or even recognition. I’m content with my abilities; I would just like to exercise them more often. I still haven’t figured out how to do that with so many other people, places and things in the mix.
Plus, there is the want: I desire to be with my daughter and husband and engage in their work and play and in our travels, for their sake and for mine. But it is so easy to lose my place in that, especially when writing can be joyful, painful, fluid/fluent and difficult work. Isn’t that the story of most moms, though, especially writers and creatives? How do we find balance in the life we build with others and the life we need to carve for ourselves?
Perhaps I could take lessons from the responsible self I put forth for others. If I am so willing to cater to marketing plans and others’ editions; if I am so willing to be the ever-present parent encouraging my child; if I am so willing to make the time and space to articulate our travels, then I ought to be taking the same steps for myself. It must be done.
Every day is to be different. Every hour that goes by, every year a new age, every moment affected by wind, weather, temperament and other forces beyond my control. Seasons and cycles evolve and reveal themselves as they should. But how do I let the soul speak so that it doesn’t atrophy? How do I keep that pace? Should I want for less? Should I become more “disciplined?” Should I rise earlier? Meditation and yoga help calm my mind’s many questions and concerns. Writing when I can eases the pain. So do swift departures.
Like most mothers, caregivers, parents — working, single, underserved, traveling or otherwise — how do we make time for even the littlest space for our soul work?
As it stands, I have written this piece throughout this long Friday. My daughter awakened, my husband returned. We ate breakfast, talked business and about the day’s goings-on while listening to music. Then my daughter slipped and fell and needed more snuggles. We ate lunch, made travel arrangements, did a bit of marketing, washed the dishes and made a grocery list. Finally, at my behest, father and daughter scurried out the door for a few errands, giving me just enough time to squeeze in some yoga to take the edge off of my subtle anxiety and to focus. Then, I wrote some more. It has been over an hour and I am still writing. I might even finish this piece, and, thus, my thoughts for now. Beautiful, stolen moments.
But I am curious about whether my thirst will be quenched, or will I find myself continuing to seek the oasis? Does that yearning ever really subside? It is a question for the times. It is a question for all times. I would love to know how to keep the river flowing. Don’t we all?
Writing for My Life