Recently I made the decision to take a break from writing. I gave up my column in our city magazine; the column I begged the publisher to give me seven years ago. I wrote a farewell piece on my personal website after years of begging people to read it. I stopped working on a memoir I’d spent countless hours and many sleepless nights agonizing over. It all became too much. My head felt like it might explode right off my shoulders. Most of the people around me asked the same question: Are you OK?
After having several months to ponder the question, here is the answer. Yes.
I am OK. And I’m 100% certain I will resume my career as a writer. But my life (outside of writing) and my kids are my focus right now.
I have a daughter who is 19 and pregnant. The baby is due in October, a little boy.
I have a daughter, newly graduated from high school, going to college in the fall.
I have a daughter going into fifth grade, a pivotal time in her pre-teen life.
And then there’s the boy, seven, who struggles to read.
All of this piled high on my plate, pretty swiftly, and quite messy. I felt like I was suffocating from the inside-out. I had panic attacks. I woke up most nights in a puddle of sweat. I held my breath a lot. Then one day I heard this voice inside me whisper, you need to be present for this. I read something somewhere that described exactly what I was feeling. It suggested that instead of trying to escape it or run from it or even FIX it that I let it go through like ocean waves. Rolling back and pushing away. Rolling back and pushing away.
And that is what I’ve been trying to be for the last few months. I’m standing in the ocean as the waves roll over me. This is a big deal for me. Normally I don’t go in the ocean. I’m terrified of sharks.
But if I’m honest I have to say it’s been the best thing for my family, and for me. My kids have definitely benefitted from having me be more present, more available, knee-deep in shark infested waters. But even in the midst of fear I’m finding it easier to breathe.
I understand not everyone can do this. Most people can’t stop working when things at home get tough; we still have to pay the bills. The electric company doesn’t accept hugs as a form of payment as far as I know, although that’s not such a bad idea. And I won’t be able to coast like this for long, but for now, this is working.
It’s funny. As a young girl I had this idea in my head what my life would be like when I grew up. I would marry Shaun Cassidy and we would have three kids (a son and twin girls), and a golden retriever named Gus.
OK, so none of that came true. In my actual life I have three girls and a boy, and four cats and a tank-full of pretty aggressive fresh-water fish. And even though life isn’t perfect and yes, not exactly like I’d envisioned, it’s pretty great. Even when it feels like sharks are circling.
And I’m really, REALLY, glad I didn’t marry Shaun Cassidy. You know he’s like in his fifties now, right?