One of the hangups of being a responsible person is not knowing when to say, “Okay. I need some time to myself.” I deny myself the time to write. I admit it.
When the kids were young, I would hunker down over my keyboard until 1 or 2 AM, aware of nothing but the story. I would live and breathe, some days, to get back to my characters. And I felt guilty for that. Numerous people would tell me, “You’re going to miss this time in your kids’ lives. Treasure it.” I wish I could’ve treasured it more because they were right; I miss the times when they were little. Now I do. When they were little, I just needed a break! Every stage of life is different, and in that stage I was running from my kids–trying to find a moment to think, trying to shut the bathroom door to pee, trying not to burn supper while addressing the Battle of the Toddlers #7,008 in the other room.
Then the kids grew up, and I found the solitude I needed holed up in my walk-in closet (yeah, I talked about that once). When we moved, I missed that closet. I tried the next closet for awhile, but the magic was gone. I returned to writing at night, but I could see my kids were doing a lot of emotional growing up. When Mom was typing in the quiet of the night, that became the time they could have just me with no distractions. That was the time to ask, “Who am I, Mom?” and “I have these things I want to do in life, Mom, and I don’t know where to start.” How could I deny them that personal, introspective one-on-one time? (Don’t get me wrong; there were a few times I, flat out, did.) I had to put my writing aside and hear them–really listen to their needs. I fed their spirits, and I’m glad I did! But I went hungry sometimes.
After I stopped feeding myself the time and the space and the quiet I needed, I began to miss it less and less–which is the same as saying I missed me less and less.
In four years, Lord-willing, my kids will be moving on. Leaving the nest. They’ll still need me, but it won’t be in the same role in which I’ve identified myself for most of my life now. I’ve been looking in the mirror lately and wondering who that person is looking back at me. I thought I knew her, but as I see the empty nest looming, I’m intimidated by her. What are her expectations? Who is she, and what are those dreams she’s been trying to tell me are in her heart? I’m already regretting the time I haven’t spent feeding her spirit, helping her find the place to start.
This past weekend, I took her out, just the one of us. My friends let me stay in an apartment over their barn and get some quiet time. I laughed. I cried. I was scared, but I still wanted to meet me. And there, I found my story. My characters had been waiting for me. If they can pick up where we left off, I know I can, too.