You know that saying about there being seasons of your life? The saying has to do with age and aging, but I also think it applies to what you’re doing with your life at any given time.
I’m pretty sure I’m in the writing season of my life.
Which would sound like a good thing, right? It’s not like anyone is forcing me to write against my will, I’m freely choosing to put my time and energy into this.
And for the most part, it makes me very happy. I mean, the act of writing does not actually make me happy. Words never flow with joy and without effort from my brain through my fingers and onto the computer screen. Nope, no, never. It just doesn’t happen that way, at least for me it doesn’t.
And apparently that’s true for many other writers too. I’m loosely quoting Dani Shapiro in her small but elegantly insightful book Still Writing by saying “Writing does not make me happy. It’s having written that makes me happy.”
(And hey, it was in a recent newsletter that I shared my favorite books on writing. Why not sign up for it? It’s not spammy, I promise - it’s a little extra note from me, a weekly compilation of my blog posts, along with a few fun links to cool things I’ve found around the internet. Sounds good, right? Sign up here.)
It’s definitely having written that makes me very happy.
However, it’s also causing me to have a pretty big existential crisis.
See, the current and popular trend in writing about motherhood feels a little harsh to me. OK, if I’m being completely honest, it feels a lot harsh to me. There just seems to be so much perpetuation of the negative side of this season of motherhood.
I fully know that it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “snarky” is the word most often used to describe this kind of writing. It’s humorous and meant to be entertaining and probably a little overblown but every sarcastic farce always has a kernel of truth to it, doesn’t it. That’s what makes it funny – the way that kernel of truth hits so close to home.
And it’s usually well-laced with obscenities. And seriously, what mother does not need to vent now and then? (this mother does)
I’m no prude and profanity doesn’t much bother me, but when I read belittling, foul words attached to children, even in the pursuit of humor, I feel physically pained inside. And that makes me feel like I’ll never fit in, because it seems like it’s the popular way.
I feel like I’ll never find the right and true audience for my style of writing, because it can’t measure up to what’s popular. I feel like I’m not enough just the way I am.
I have never, and will never, refer to my kids as a**holes or bastards or biotches, though I see it done a lot these days on the most popular mommy blogs.
Have I ever used these words in my head about my children?
(Yes I totally have used these words in my head about my children. I’m no saint.)
But what I won’t do is let these disparaging (though normal) thoughts materialize into words I speak or even worse, into words I write. Because words are permanent once they leave my head, no matter if they’re spoken or written. And the internet is particularly permanent - would I want my kids finding my cursing rants about them some day down the road? No.
Even still, it’s so damn hard not to feel the judgment and pull of mainstream culture. But it’s not because I want to join in.
It’s because I don’t want to join in.
I’m 46 and I’m a self-inflicted victim of peer pressure. Ironically I know exactly what to do, and I counsel my own kids about it on the regular.
Be true to yourself, I tell them. Who gives a flip what everyone else is doing?, I ask. What is it that YOU want? Follow your own path, I say. Take your own journey forward, not someone else’s.
Oh I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk?
Well yes, yes I can. And I do. But still I waver in my confidence and constantly second guess myself.
Even if the mainstream does not resonate as part of my own truth, it’s shockingly hard to feel like I don’t fit in.
I was recently considering attending a local-ish web conference. There were plenty of sessions on the schedule that I thought would be valuable for me, but when I looked more carefully at the speakers, a lot of them seemed to fall into the “bitching about motherhood” category. And because of that, I knew I would be unhappy.
I’d feel out of place and overwhelmed and insignificant and pissed off by the end of the conference, if I even made it that far. And truthfully? I can stay home and feel overwhelmed and insignificant and pissed off for free! Who’s with me?!?
And so I will. I’ll stay home instead of going to the conference and risk losing my way. I’ll stay home and do things that make me happy. I’ll stay home and I’ll write (which does not make me happy, only having written makes me happy - Dani Shapiro and I are soul sisters that way). Writing is what’s most important to me now, so that’s where I’ll put my energy.
And I’ll probably get angry and be short-tempered and yell at my kids. I’ve got three teenagers, after all. This is the season we find ourselves in – the “what the hell were you thinking, if you were thinking at all” season.
I may even curse.
(I totally will curse)
But I won’t write about it.
Because this season of motherhood is just too short and too precious, and if I can follow my own advice and stay true to myself, at least I know someone is listening.