Allow me to sound like a fussy, pretentious asshole for a moment, won’t you?
I feel self-important and persnickety saying that I’m an artist.
But I am a writer.
Yes, writing is an art. I know this. I also know that I’m not writing the great American novel here on the old bloggity.
But I’m sure as hell doing something. I’m putting words down and they all have thoughts and feelings and sweat and blood underneath them.
Sometimes I can slap some words down on the fly.
But sometimes I can’t.
Sometimes I need things.
Space. Quiet. Solitude.
Why do I feel weird saying that? Because then it sounds like I take myself seriously.
… like I’m doing something important here.
… like all all of this matters.
But you know what? It does matter. And if it doesn’t matter to anyone else, it matters to me. I need to do it and whether that makes me sound like a fussy asshole or not, it is the truth. I do take myself seriously.
Claiming my space in my own life has been a struggle. I imagine it is for a lot of people.
Announcing my own intentions, my own deepest dreams, to myself has been a struggle. I imagine it is for a lot of people.
I posted a quote on facebook a while ago that a lot of people seemed to like (not a quote by me, I might add — I think it’s from here). It was this:
I’m tired of pretending I’m not special.
You know what?
I am special.
I have a voice and needs and desires. I need what I need. I want what I want.
I am tired of pretending I’m not special.
So many of us walk around pretending we’re not special. Or that other people are more special than we are. What happens then?
We end up sacrificing our lives to other people’s schedules.
Other people’s needs.
Other people’s desires.
Other people’s whims.
We pretend we don’t need anything when inside, we know that’s a lie.
But peeps, there is nothing more expensive than regret. (Yes, that’s from a Van Halen video.)
It’s been a busy week. Just like they all are. I got derailed on a few important things I wanted to do earlier in the week. Like I often do. Life happened.
Then, yesterday morning, I blocked out some time to write.
Not for work.
Not for a freelance job.
Just for me.
Because I need to do it. It’s part of me. If you’re a writerly type, or artistic in any way, you know what I mean. It’s the itch that has to be scratched. You can ignore those urges but that doesn’t mean that they go away.
And then what happens to them?
They drive you nuts.
I imagine this is the same for anyone who has a thing they need to do, whether it’s running, gardening, playing music, etc.
These things make you whole. They inspire you. You’re a better person after you’ve done them.
They’re not necessities. Spending time doing them isn’t going to make you any money or make your house any cleaner or get dinner on the table or drive your kids to whatever it is they need a ride to.
So they get backburnered. Maybe there will be time tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Or on the weekend. Or maybe the week after …
You know how this goes.
So what happened yesterday was this: I got kid #1 off to school. I was taking kid #2 to school. I looked like complete dross but I didn’t care because I was going to drop the munchkin off, then come home and write before going to some appointments. I was excited to have the time. I couldn’t wait to dig in.
As I was pulling out of my parking space, who did I see pulling into my parking lot?
He pulled up next to me. “Hey babe! Let me park my car and I’ll ride along with you.”
He had some time to kill before an eye doctor appt right around the corner. He had a few business calls to take care of so he thought he’d just come and hang at my place. OK.
We came back to the Single Momma Townhouse. He had things to do. I had things to do. But the man was in my space.
My writing space.
He got on the phone and began a loud, heated conversation.
I sat at my desk and wilted.
Not again, I thought. I can’t lose my writing time again. I love this man and I’m always happy to see him but he was in my space and I needed him to be out of it.
I put on headphones. I could still hear him. I couldn’t think. I had a silent freakout. This situation was representative of so many of my concerns right now about our relationship — which pretty much all boil down to this: How can I be in a relationship and still have my own space and my own life and pursue my own dreams? How can I be in love and actively participate in someone else’s life without completely losing my own?
This has been a problem in the past.
It is, perhaps, my greatest fear in the present. It is, perhaps, the greatest reason why I keep looking for excuses to BOLT from what is probably the happiest relationship of my life and just instead live the life of a potty-mouthed single-momma nun for the rest of my days.
And then I looked at this man. He was on the phone dealing with something difficult and complicated. He was stressed. I was stressed for him, to be honest. But there was nothing that I could contribute to that phone call. I didn’t need to hear it. And I know this: He loves me. He doesn’t want to stress me out. He genuinely wants me to be happy. And he had NO IDEA that him being on the phone in my kitchen at that particular time was bothering me at all. And he would feel awful if I later confessed to him that I had blocked out that time for writing and he plowed in on it without realizing it.
I got his attention with a little wave and pointed to the back door. “Would you mind?” I mouthed. “Sure,” he said. And then he went out on the deck.
And then it was quiet. And then all was well.
It was a small step. But also a big step for me. We talked later and I also told him that my best writing time is first thing in the morning before everyone else is up, when the world is quiet and my head is full of joyous freshness. But getting up early requires going to bed at some sort of time that is reasonable — not often our strong suit. “Then let’s go to bed earlier,” he said.
Can it possibly be that easy?
You mean, all I have to do is ask for what I need?
You mean, perhaps, I could just apply that to my entire life? You mean, perhaps, I could just stake a claim for myself in my own life and ask other people to respect it — even if they don’t always understand it?
You mean, I could state out loud that my writing is a priority and something I’m no longer willing to relegate to whatever time is left over?
What a concept.
Who’s a genius?
And right now, what I need is for you to go back and watch that Van Halen video.
Then move through your day asking for what you need — even if you’re only asking yourself (it’s a good place to start). Maybe sometimes what you need to be happy is to be there for other people. So do that. It’s OK to give to other people and take care of other people and sometimes even go out of your way for other people.
Just make sure you do it for yourself, too.