In writing and in life, this is what I’ve learned: Whether struck by disaster or hit between the nostrils with a deadline, priorities have a way of floating to the surface.
Two weeks ago, completing my current outline so I could begin the act of writing A Woman’s Place when I returned–and recovered–from RWA Nationals, was a priority. And then I realized I needed a dress for the Awards Ceremony. Suddenly, the pressure shifted, and my focus turned from keyboard to closet.
Cracking down on my manuscript, venturing into the world of self-publishing with a new short story available each month for ten months in a row, once-considered necessities have fallen to the wayside.
For instance? Well, since launching this here blog, I have consistently stayed a week ahead, consistently written and scheduled next weeks posts the week before, and written two posts per week. A few weeks ago, one Saturday post wasn’t even thought about, let alone written and scheduled. It took several days for me to notice. I doubt readers noticed at all.
I learned something. A career as a blogger is not my goal, a career as an author of books, is.
In my early twenties, new mother and new to the office workplace, I attended a workshop targeted at women with careers. Administration is not writing is not doctoring is not policing is not firefighting is not teaching is not raising a family, but women face many of the same pressures, regardless of the career choices they make.
We must do it all, be it all, and wear the crown, Cream of Corn. Or, Queen of Corn, as Sandra Bullock’s Birdie Pruitt (Hope Floats) once upon a time had.
I still recall the strategies we brainstormed in that workshop long ago, from choosing our attitude toward ‘disaster’ , i.e., unexpected company when you haven’t dusted, (So what? Who cares?) to heading off the horror of being outed as a non-duster by installing dimmer switches.
One of the reasons I love the movie Hope Floats is
Henry Connick Jr. Bullock’s Birdie. I feel her pain and humiliation without resorting to pity, and I love that Birdie has some choices to make. Whether victim or victor, the choice is not up to her cheating husband, but up to her. She doesn’t want to get out of bed, but priority–a daughter to raise (and set an example for)–force her to shower, to brush her teeth, to move forward even when she feels she’s tumbling backward into nothingness.
Pause for plug: It’s why I love Stella, my heroine in As It Should Be.
Something small and ugly moved in the mirror. I leaned in closer. The small and ugly thing was me.
Hair hung in strings around my face, the skin on my forehead itched. I lifted my bangs to scratch. When had all the tiny red bumps appeared? I ran a finger along the side of my nose and found oil under my fingernail. Crusties caught in the corners of my eyes.
I grabbed a towel to polish the antique taps Jim and I’d picked out. This was our dream bathroom, our escape, an extravagance we’d share together. We’d giggled, heads bent together like naughty children as we picked the tile, the mirror, the fixtures, the towels and rungs and soap dish. But there’d been no two-hour soaks, no body scrubs, no milk baths. I only came in here to pee and brush my teeth. I ran my tongue along my teeth from one wisdom tooth to the other.
I only came in here to pee.
Not all of life’s hurdles are as desperate or as devastating as the loss Stella suffered, or Birdie’s humiliation. Still, some days, it’s easier to curl in a chair and get lost in a book rather than write my own. Easier to wander around the kitchen, peeking in cupboards, looking for snacks when I’m not even hungry. Easier to give up and walk away because the weight of the To-Do list threatens to snap me in two.
The good news? We are building a house. We’ve yet to pick out our lighting (Egads, another To-Do!). Now’s the perfect time to install the dimmer switches. ‘Tis also the perfect time to make the choices the matter, and trust my priorities to rise to the surface.