Sometimes I waste time in a highly symbolic way. Today, for example, I searched online for quotes on motivation, figuring if I put some into a Word document in a really cool font, printed it out and pinned it up in front of me as I tried to get things done, I’d magically stop procrastinating. It didn't work. I’m aware lately that I give off an air of competence. I appear to be a person who gets shit done. I certainly don’t feel like that person. With the MFA complete, I get the same question a lot. How did you do it?
- I don’t know.
- With a lot of help.
- I'm a deadline kind of person.
- It was hard.
The truth is, I’m a bad procrastinator. I get easily overwhelmed. I hate pressure, but I seem to need it in order to finish a task. Really, I’m not quite sure how anything gets done.
The other truth: I find people who have it all together all the time kind of boring. The sort of people who have their Christmas presents wrapped before December is even upon us (I haven’t even started shopping…), who finish essays then stick them in drawers to await their actual due date. How is it even possible to function when you don’t have the fire of panic nipping at your ass?
I don’t want to be hard on myself... I know I’ve accomplished a good amount in my life. I have three healthy kids and I did finish that damn MFA. I occasionally exercise and we eat decently enough in my house. But a lot of that has to do with the people around me. My husband is an insanely patient and hardworking person. My extended family is helpful and supportive. I alone am never on top of things. Ever. That’s never, ever happened. Our house is almost always a mess. I’ve never, ever experienced all the laundry folded and put away at once. The cup holder in my car is disgusting. But, I do my taxes and I stay in touch with friends and my husband and I get out for the odd night. I write. I’m writing. I’m trying. It’s not that bad.
Last year, after my third son was born, we went through a period where things were truly overwhelming. We had three small children, my husband worked full-time and I still had to write because my thesis due date was looming. So how did I do it? Like this: I showed up to my cousin’s wedding with one son in track pants covered in holes and grass stains. My husband sent our oldest to a birthday party with an already-opened Pez dispenser as the gift. Our baby got bathed, but usually by the babysitter who’d notice on Monday that he was wearing the same onesie she’d put him in on Friday. We were forced to let some (many) things go so other things could stay. It felt like we were treading water in a choppy lake. It also felt somehow important not to hide that from people, to polish things up and make it look easy when it wasn't. Facebook already does that for us. Look how awesome my life is! So, I tried to be honest. When asked how are you? I answered truthfully: I’m barely hanging on. How do I do it all? I don’t.
Things are better now, or maybe we’re just used to the chaos. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I pay a price for all the things I want. I want to be a writer, so I’ll never have enough time to exercise. I want to take my kids swimming, so my car will always be a mess. I hire babysitters and I rely heavily on my husband, my parents, my sisters and my friends. I. Can’t. Do. It. All.
I can’t do it all, at all, ever. But I can do some of it, sometimes. That will have to do.