This means some prioritizing. I write the best in the early morning, but it's also when I find it easiest to run. If I run, I mean. (Which I've been doing again successfully for a grand total of two weeks. Holler.) This morning, writing won though. All week I've been setting my alarm for 4:00 (Yes, 4:00) just so I knew I'd do the work first. (I'll run later, BTW. I made myself a promise.) (Parentheses!)
I realized as I carried my coffee over to the couch to open the window and start working: even the smell of morning air makes me think of that kind of productivity. I wish I was able to focus on things for the rest of the day the way I can focus on them in the hours before 7:00. Even reading has become a morning activity. I've been having trouble finding time to finish a book for a review, so I made that my morning task for a while, and it worked. Focus times ten.
Yes, this means I need to get to bed before most people are sitting down to Must See TV. But (thank you, Benadryl) I'm not having too much trouble with that. Usually after teaching all day, I'm just counting down the hours until I get to return to my nest of blankets and memory foam.
I spent some time this week talking to a bright high school senior who wants to be a writer (the rare unicorn of my high school English world) and we talked about how unique each person's process and habits can be. When I hear myself talk out loud about having two kids (one, ultra tweeny lately), a full-time job, a household to run, etc, I feel like it doesn't make any kind of sense that I'd be able to get any of it done. Somehow, it's all working. For now. Talking to the student made me think about how flexible it all is, though. How much it changes.
I wrote a review this morning on the couch by the open window, and Henry snuggled up next to me with his 3DS. I've been reading in my car as I wait for Addie to get out of school in the afternoons. But the working-next-to is lessening. When I do get to spend quality time with them--watching them swim at night or when we sit together as a family for dinner, or when we chat on the way to and from the myriad schools and activities, it's good. Easy. And I'm happy in those undistracted moments that I'm not trying to scramble to finish some kind of writing task like I was when I was in school. This year post-MFA has mostly been about how to work the same amount but to calm the freak down about it.
I have to say, it sure helps that the kids are not tiny anymore. One of my friends with a small baby is struggling to find work-life balance. I remember how it made me feel broken all the time. When mine were babies, infants, toddlers, I split in two. And not for anything good like writing that would have filled my soul. At the time, anything other than work-work (read: anything that did not fill the bank account) came with guilt. Just the daily demands of work cut at me--that unforgiving obligation of a job that brings a necessary paycheck--which made me feel constantly at war with my biology and hormones.
One of the things I see my daughter struggle with now is the idea that if something hurts now--or is difficult--now, she thinks it will always be this way. And that's not specific to teenagers. I fall prey to it, too. When things are hard or are not happening successfully it's easy to feel like I'm never going to figure it out or get it together. This week, it worked. Next week one of the monkeys will probably forget they have had a project to work on for four weeks, and the whole thing will crumble. For this week I'm happy I was able to drag myself out of bed to get things done. For today, it's enough.