Trying to do it All, Ten Things at a Time

A Perfect Post

I'm going to have to take things down a notch. Brace yourselves. I'm going to get serious and angsty and probably cry and scream and kick and remove my glasses to clean them five times and drink a beer and pour the beer in the sink in exchange for wine. I will likely smoke a cigarette or four and tear at my face and writhe. Sometimes I writhe.

The problem is that it's very hard to blog when there is little to say, when one's heart is full of bubbles and brain is full of burps. It's difficult to find the words when every day they seem farther away. When hope leads to waiting and waiting to more waiting and finally news. Bad news. Good news. More waiting. Waiting and trying not to wait.

If I were to describe myself to a stranger I would use this image: Three computers going at once and a baby in my lap. Three computers going at once and a teething, "I want to go outside, mama" baby in my lap.

How can I do it all? What if there are days I can't go outside. Days when I have a deadline and the children need me and the house is a mess and the dogs have fleas and there are friends in need and the phone keeps ringing and there are blogs to post so my readers don't disappear, so I don't become obsolete again, sucked into motherhood and responsibility and writing for a paycheck instead of a dream.

I started a new novel as soon as I finished my last. "How's it going?" Very slowly. When there is time and there is never time except of course 3am when I am sleeping and the world isn't quiet and my dreams return to remind me to keep going. Never give up. Even after three rejection letters there is hope. There has to be.

Advice to friends. Advice to fellow mothers in the same boat. "How do you do it all?" Crack a joke. Make it seem easy. Make everything seem easy. Make life seem easy and parenthood and marriage and freelancing for pennies, writing a novel and smiling after a rejection, keeping the faith after two, reminding oneself that four years of work counted for a lot, counted for everything. Make the bed. Make it nice. Make the people laugh when you sit down to write and if you can't make them laugh make them cry. Make them want to hug you or hold you or punch you in the face. Make them want to kill you or fuck you or be your friend. Make them change. Make them happy. Make the baby smile. Make him laugh. Make him dinner. Make him proud.


Hold the phone, someone is on the other line. She says its important. People are dying. Children. Friends. Press mute because there is nothing you can say. Press off because you're running out of minutes. Running out of time. Soon he'll be grown up and you'll regret the time you spent pushing him away for one more paragraph in the manuscript no one will ever read. Put down the book, the computer, the ideas. Remember who you are now. Wait. Remember who you were. Wait. Remember what's important. Make a list. Ten things, no twenty. Twenty thousand things you want to do before you die but what if tomorrow never comes? No one will remember. No one will know. No one will laugh or cry or make the bed. No one will have a clue which songs to sing to the baby. No one will be there for the children. No one will finish the first draft of the novel. No one will publish the one that's been finished for months. No one will remember the thought you had last night, that great idea you forgot to write down.


Who am I to feel overwhelmed when Atlas is out there, floating in space with the weight of the world on his shoulders? His legs crooked and veiny like branches, his feet sinking deeper into nothing. What am I doing with pencils in my ears and ideas in my head and pacifiers in my shoes? There is throw-up in my hair and perfume. How can I be everything? How is it possible? Does anyone know? You? Do you?

I'm making lists. One by one I'm checking stuff off, but on no list is there a reminder to slow down. Calm down. Put the computer away and the red pen and the broom and the dog leashes and the phone and get thee to a Nunnery or at the very least outside.

Thus far the mighty mystery of motherhood is this: How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done.

I'm hoping the answers will come with time, or at least a little scotch. Or air. Or something.

GGC

47 comments:

Heather | 10:49 PM

I'm right there with ya, sister. I'm a graphic designer, working from home with a nine month old boy. And then I try to fit in painting. Ugg! If you figure something out, let me know!

giddybug | 10:54 PM

The blog entry is the single most powerful thing I have read in quite some time (and I've actually had time to read lately, so that's saying a lot). The entire time I was reading it, my soul was singing yes to a truth told in a prose that could be poetry.

Awesome Mom | 11:17 PM

Let me know when you figure it out! I think pretty much every mother feels the way that you are feeling. I guess you can never know how well you did at raising your child until they are grown and out of the house living their life.

Domestic Chicky | 1:25 AM

Just when I think it doesn't get better...damn

sunshine scribe | 4:00 AM

This was brilliant. Every word. And I hear you and feel you and get you. Man I need a scotch too and some air.

Thanks for writing this. Feels good to know I am not alone.

Eleanor Velasco | 4:13 AM

It's Pimms O'Clock in England & God knows your post just made me smile. There are many o fus in your position, so let it be known that You Are Not Alone. x

Mother | 5:15 AM

I love this side of GGC. Let your instincts lead you. If it's one more paragraph you need, then so be it - and if you have to let it rest for awhile, then so be it too.

I struggle with the same thing - feeling unproductive for me is like uber productive for most. I'm learning how to take it easy and let the dishes sit and the laundry fester.

Just for a little while.

J's Mommy | 5:16 AM

I feel this way sometimes too, although I am nowhere near as stretched as you writing a manuscript and all. I think the only thing to do is take it one day at a time. Do the things that make you happy and don't stress about the housework not getting done. It's okay to let things like that go for a little while. There are no answers, just take it day by day.

xdm | 5:56 AM

You look good. There's that.

:-)

Mother Bumper | 5:56 AM

If I have a tenth of your talent then I consider myself wildly successful. I'm dusting off the scotch and serving it up to someone I admire. I hate these days but I think we need them to remind us where we are headed (and NO, it's not back to the farm field to find Borat).

MetroDad | 6:35 AM

The healing powers of a great glass of scotch, a long walk, and a night of mindless television should never be underestimated. Chin up, GGC!

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah | 6:54 AM

How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done.

That is exactly how I feel every single day.

Andrea | 7:16 AM

Can I just say that your words are my favorite to read. Period. Over everybody, even childhood idols. I wrote in my comment on BMCs tribute in May that you take me places with your words that I didn't know existed. I'd follow your words ANYWHERE. If the big wigs rejected you, they don't know what the fuck they're doing. Maybe they are the reason that I haven't been able to find many moving and powerful books in the bookstore lately. They don't seem to get it anymore. Apparently the writers I like the most are the ones struggling, the writers at small presses who don't have the advertising budgets of the big boys to back them and so they do their own marketing, the writers who were kind enough to email me their work, their blood and their time away from their child. I look up to you for your beautiful thoughts and if I could have the talent you have in one finger, I'd be thrilled. Keep at it. Please, don't give up. Take the time you need and know that we'll all still be here, but don't give up on yourself. I gave up on myself by changing my major in college before I even got started on my dreams, and that is bar none the worst decision of my life. Your instincts are true, and if one more paragraph is what it takes, then write one more paragraph. If going outside and playing is what it takes to get that breather you need, then do that. If you need a shot, I'll buy you the bottle.

But please know this: your words make the world a better, more beautiful place. And while I'm only reading The Envelope a page or two at a time, I'm still enthralled. Slow as I'm taking it, I'm doing that on purpose so I can soak in every word. I've never read anything this slow before, nor have I enjoyed anything this much. Breathtaking. Seriously.

Fraulein | 7:43 AM

Just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it! As far as getting nothing done: unfortunately, that continues for a while. Or at least it is for me. My daughter is 21 months and I'm working full-time, and it's all I can do to more or less keep the house from falling apart and try to spend some time doing fun things with her and my husband. I really want to spend more time doing my own writing, which is why I started my blog, but it's so hard to find the time. But for you, being 25, you probably have somewhat more energy than I do at 37!

Mom101 | 7:45 AM

I am breathless.

You do what you have to do woman. But hell, if this is how you write when you don't have time to write I think finding time would land you a pulitzer for sure.

Rock the Cradle | 8:05 AM

Whew.

I know exactly what you are talking about. I'm a painter. And for the past two years my easel has stood in the corner, mocking me for having the temerity to hope I'd have time to do ONE painting.

All I've figured out so far is how to bide my time, sketching and planning and spending the time to really see things, in hopes that some day, when I do have the time and space, something great will come of it all.


"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage."
Georgia O'Keefe

Heather | 8:13 AM

Damn, you captured it perfectly. Wish I had the answer.

Wendy | 8:53 AM

I cannot even begin to tell you how much this post affected me, Bec. These are thoughts I have each and every moment of the day but I could never put them so eloquently. It is so hard to give in to the time-sucking, emotion-needing vortex that is writing while staying sane and happy for a little human you happen to be raising. Thank you for expressing (beautifully) what so many of us feel. I am sure you know how many understand what you are going through.

Binkytown | 9:01 AM

GCC you will never be obsolete. Never. Know that!

It's impossible not to try to do it all, to be it all, especially if you are a mom, but take a deep breath, slow down if you need to. We'll be here.

Her Bad Mother | 10:11 AM

I don't know what to say because I feel this too, too keenly. Does it help *at all* to know that you are not alone? That others yearn for the scotch, the air, the hours multiplied by ten so that there will be time for lingering over fat baby thihgs and wet kisses AND writing? (It helps me, a little, hearing you/seeing you write my thoughts, knowing that you're out with the same struggle.)

Mel | 10:16 AM

Let me just add my "I've been there" to everyone else's... and let me also add the fact that I love your writing. I can't believe anybody would turn down a manu from you.
Asses.

Megan | 10:51 AM

I totally hear you!

something blue | 10:56 AM

I say find time for happiness. I'm sure writing makes you happy and your writing certainly keeps us happy. Going outside with the baby will only give you more things to write about. The endless circle.

Eventually your words will reach more people, fall into the right lap and the world will be yours.

MrsFortune | 11:12 AM

Hmm. I smell a perfect post award. :-) Doing so much and nothing ever gets done. Love that. Gah. Do men feel this conflicted???

cutemama | 11:35 AM

You are exhausted, I could feel it in every word! While we are all on this stupid treadmill type of a life, we do need to take time and actually enjoy it even just a little bit.

My suggestion:

Call your hubby, trusted friend or relative, and ask them to watch the kids for a few hours(out of the your house) one evening. Go for a long slow nature walk. Then go home & draw a bath. Have a scotch. Sit and soak and wrinkle. NO TV no phone no music. Let your mind not HAVE to do anything for one evening. You deserve it. Everyone needs to just sit and BE once in awhile.

www.carolinascoffeebreak.blogspot.com

MrsFortune | 12:06 PM

Okay okay bad timing I know and I already commented once on this post but CAN YOU SAY NEW SEASON OF PROJECT RUNWAY STARTS TONIGHT??? (As if you didn't already have enough to do). ANYWAY, I'm sure you knew but I've been meaning to tell you about this for a while now and I finally remembered (There's a 2nd season marathon on right now, BTW).

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 12:16 PM

Wow! Just read all comments and YES! It really does make one feel better knowing we're all asking the same question and trying to "do it all" and do everything while feeling overwhelmed. I figured as much reading you, all writers, all parents, all jugglers of worlds and words and plates and...

Thank you all. Truly. I want to kiss all of your faces and hug until it's dark outside.

Your advice, your kindness, your love is so big. I hope you can all feel me loving back through this little comment box.


P.S. Mrsfortune. I know. I am very excited about tonight. Very excited indeed. I've missed Heidi oh so much.

reluctant housewife | 12:32 PM

Thank you for posting this. It's one of the reasons I'm taking a break. Your line "How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done" sums up my life right now perfectly.

Your sister in balancing a baby and a keyboard -

R

Jill | 12:53 PM

Now that is a spectacular post! I have four kids and eight more years of parenting experience than you, but I still have no advice to offer. All I can do is commiserate with ya' sistah.

Kell | 3:52 PM

I think your writing is incredible. Rejection must be hard to take but if you are writing and being a mother you are doing an amazing thing. I have been a mum for 8 years and have done nothing but that in 8 years. And I still dont have time for anything else. I have meaning to learn how to drive and have no time to get round to it.
I have learnt to let things go. The ironing piles up (infact now I pay someone to do it - I have help!), I dont vacumn every day and I leave my hair a day longer than I really should before I wash it. One day my kids will be gone and I will have all the time in the world. But what will I do with it?

By the way, you are bootiful! Your eyes!

LadySeduction | 4:10 PM

Sing is Sista.....all I gotta say, you spoke my heart and my overwhelm to perfection. Gorgeous writing.

FRANK | 4:42 PM

you can call me anytime and i'm there. you need a break! i'll help make it happen! you want your house cleaned..well with that one..i'll call my cleaning lady..LOL..just call on me and i'll be there.
xoxox

bitemycookie | 4:52 PM

oooh - i get to post under uncle frank. yummy.

just here to say: you said it, i read it andi'm here to represent it.

and i love you.

jennster | 5:02 PM

this post is fucking award winning. seriously. i have nothing to offer you, but hugs. virtual, fucking, bullshit, hugs.

mothergoosemouse | 5:05 PM

Well, I'm almost finished with my first glass of wine, and it's not quite 6pm.

Kyle saw the document that sits open on my laptop all day. It's titled "What I Did All Day". Instead of it being a to-do list (been there, and it really sucked as I kept moving items from week to week without ever getting them DONE), it's a list of what I actually DID do.

Stupid? Maybe. But it feels good to type that bulleted list. Much better than checking off.

And what you've said about rejections and trade-offs - that's why I'm not sure I'm ready to embark on actual, trying-to-get-published writing.

Cheers to you. In honor of you, I tried on my old bikini this morning. Would you believe that the bottom looked fine, but it was the top that was a problem?

Christina | 5:57 PM

Whew, the pure emotion and power and exhaustion of this post already made me run for a drink!

I so understand where you're coming from. But I sometimes have to wonder - is being able to do it all really, well, do-able? I think it's impossible to do it all and do it all well. We either have to accept that some areas will be neglected from time to time and some things will not get done as well as we like, or we will kill ourselves with guilt and worry.

I have to echo a previous commenter: do guys drive themselves crazy trying to do it all?

Hang in there. You're an awesome writer, and I know you'll find a way to make it all work.

Jamie | 7:27 PM

This is such a powerful post. I read it this morning and I'm back again. I don't have any answers for you (I now have two kids and I still have many days where I don't know what the hell I'm doing or what I've really "accomplished" at the end of the day.) Just know that you are not alone in your feelings and that part of the reason you will succeed as a writer is because you aren't content to just sit back and let life pass you by. Keep putting your words down on paper. You are an excellent writer.

mo-wo | 8:34 PM

And.. break and break and break. Let some rest in to the futile desire to intersect with utilitarian accomplishments... forget doneness it's for cakes!

You are perfect.
You are right
But, you are also tired and need some help. some rest.

Emily | 10:23 PM

What would Mr. Rogers say? SAY IT! SAY IT TO YOURSELF, BETCH!SAY IT!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:32 PM

It's a beautiful day for a neighbor? Hee.

Angel Baby | 11:59 AM

I read this a while ago and it really got me thinking... I have felt this way in the past, but I haven't felt this way in many months now. What changed? I wasn't sure... but then I realized:

I've stopped doing ANYTHING for myself. I have become the mother that I promised I wouldn't become- a mother that lives for my child in a possibly unhealthy way. But there really wasn't time for me in between all the caring/caretaking. I didn't fit in, so I cut myself out of the picture. I basically stopped trying to do it all. And, honestly, more does get done. It's just not stuff that would enrich MY life, it's stuff that helps out Annabelle.

I tell myself this: it will pass. It always does.

Sigh.

Hang in there.

Binky | 3:08 PM

I'm reading this in the den while my daughter is strapped into her high chair in the kitchen, shrieking at the dog. I should be in there feeding her, or, at the very least, watching her grow. Or, I should be working on my book project instead of reading blogs. Or, I should be laundering boxers so my husband doesn't move back in with his mother. There's never enough time. But at least you're documenting the time we do have in a way that entertains and validates so many of your readers. Let us know the minute you sell that manuscript! I doubt we'll have to wait long.

the weirdgirl | 10:48 PM

I hear you on so many levels here. It's not just hard being a mom, trying to do it "all" and never quite getting it done, it's also how our art is our baby. You can take a break, but that's almost as painful as the late nights, guilt, and exhaustion. You feel a little inadequate either way. However, one thing I've learned is you CAN take a break and go back. I put writing on the back burner for years and made it back. I've also learned to do things in increments. And yes, I KNOW how hard that is for writers, how hard it is not to say I'm going to have X amount of chapters/short stories/poems done by this time, but it's not only doable it makes life a little more bearable. Hang in there and know a whole lot of us are there with you.

Also, (and please, blog world, don't kill me because you know I love you) sometimes if I have other deadlines and blogging is my "fun" project well, then blogging just has to wait. We understand and we'll still be here.

mummyv | 6:15 PM

a lot of people read your writing every day... and love it and are moved by it and inspired by it and crack a smile to it when they've had the shittiest weekend of single mom baby juggling working from home impossibilities... take a breath of air and smell your bubba's neck.

nonlineargirl | 9:52 AM

Thanks for something beautiful and true.

jennifer starfall | 11:31 AM

shit. i feel like that and i don't even have a kid yet...

cmhl | 6:31 PM

that is a very "real" post. loved it.