Some days I am so impressed with myself. I look at my life and at all of the things I am managing to juggle and I say: Good Work! You’ve got a demanding, up and coming career! You’ve got a happy and healthy child! You’re keeping up on a little blog that helps keep you sane, and you’re just three classes away from a second advanced degree! What a hard working Mama, how do you do it?
And on those very very good days of relishing in all of my success, I will feel proud and I will feel satisfied. And then after my pep talk is over, I will go to bed and I will wake up the next morning after another night of too little sleep and that spark that keeps it all together will be gone.
It will be one of those days when I could really stand to talk to a friend.
So what do I do? I put my head down and I get on with my day. I tell myself I will call a friend on the drive home after work, but the baby wakes up crying every time she hears my voice. I say I will call someone later that night or I will make plans for the weekend, but it never happens. There is always too much going on around me to talk on the phone, and when the baby goes to sleep there is too much homework to do to send emails. It’s impossible even to schedule time with my husband, and I live with him. There is just too much to do all the time.
I know that friends and family are what give life richness and meaning, but somehow my ambition has got a hold of me instead. I am driven to make something of myself, if not as a writer then as a change maker in higher education. I want financial security and a comfortable life for my daughter, I want a PhD at the end of my name and an office with a private conference room. But I feel like if I am going to attain these things, I have a lot of catching up to do. And this leaves me with no free time,not unless my friends want to join me on Orange Grove for a 5am run, or sit on the couch behind me late at night while I sit silently keeping up with the blog.
I wasted a lot of time in my twenties, I took nothing seriously. I spent many consecutive months on vacation, I quit jobs to go vacation, I called in sick to stay on vacation. And even when I wasn’t on vacation I behaved as though I were. I’ve had my good times, and now it’s time to work. And for the foreseeable future, I am going to have to work harder than anyone else because for too long I saw my job as an impediment to the good life instead of as the career I would need in order to build that good life.
But I am beginning to worry that I have let the pendulum swing too far now toward the other extreme.
In the year and a half since my daughter was born, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen most of my friends. And I’m not talking about acquaintances here, I’m talking about my closest, dearest friends – my maid of honor, my best writing buddy and advocate, the mother of my goddaughter, the best friend I used to see on a daily basis, the girls from my decade long writing workshop. These are the people who were my extended family before my nuclear family grew, and despite this importance, I never see them, I never talk to them, I barely even respond to email or texts.
My mother has born the great brunt of this problem. She is the only adult that I’m not married to and don’t work with that I see with any regularity, which means that she gets all of the moods, all of the venting, all of the admissions that I feel like I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And she is wonderful and she lets me let it out. She keeps up on who is who at work and what political schemes I’m hatching, she makes me special lunches for work to help make days a little nicer. But this should not have to be her full time job, she works hard enough as it is caring for my daughter.
Of course it’s not just the griping that I miss. I miss relaxing, laughing, talking about books and writing and gossiping. My mom and I hang out and we have a great time, but there is always a baby there and she is still, after all, my mom. Some days it would be so nice to just sit outside and have a glass of wine with a girlfriend, even if it only lasts a half an hour and even if we travel no further than my front porch. At what point will I understand that without a little more time to enjoy the little bit of the good life that I have already made, the steep road I have put myself on is meaningless?
This weekend I went to my first party in ages, a backyard barbeque with old art school friends, those girls from workshop, and some new folks that have joined the clique in recent years. My daughter ran around exploring the garden and I got to just sit in the sun with a glass of summer punch and a plate of Persian cucumbers and tzatziki. I got to just enjoy the day (thanks to my Moonbear for even taking care of the photos). I caught up with friends, shared some of the stresses I have been dealing with, met a few new people, and when the baby let us know she was ready to go home, I didn’t say my goodbyes without first making plans to see everyone again soon.
Even though I know that I’m going to be up all night trying to finish the paper I have due on Monday, I don’t regret skipping out on those four hours of work this weekend. On the contrary, I feel like I spent a few days on vacation, and now I have the energy to do the work I need to do. And in these warm, lovely lulls, the good life feels closer than ever.