I’m challenging myself to write more. Or, more honestly, to write at all. Writing is what stops my head from exploding, but too often (most of the time) it gets pushed to the side in favour of other stuff – work (editing), work (school), family, domestic stuff, general over-commitment and lack of ability to say “Actually, thank you for asking, but no, I’m not going to do that/go there”. I struggle to work on extended writing projects because I lose my thread, and I have a large number of half-finished short pieces which I’ve begun and then abandoned or lost interest in. I know I’m not alone in this – false starts are part of the writer’s craft – but it’s generally accepted to be a good idea to finish the occasional piece, no?
So – tonight I have no editing, and a while ago I found a weekly writing challenge at Mama’s Losin’ It, and – well, here’s the result. Great literature it ain’t, but it’s nearly 700 words, and it’s mine.
Being alone? Well, there’s a novel concept. I haven’t properly done alone since I went back to work nearly three years ago – and before that I had the children milling around when they weren’t at school, and an out-of-work partner when they were. I was at home with the children when they were small, and only went back to work when they were all settled at school (and when my partner was suddenly made redundant).
Now I work in a school for high-dependency students with behavioural, emotional and learning disabilities, and when I’m not there I also work from home as a freelance editor and proofreader. I still have my own children and partner (no longer out of work, but working from home, which amounts to the same thing in terms of on-my-own-time). Alone is a concept I don’t really understand any more.
So – the things I miss. In no particular order:
- Singing, loudly and probably out of tune, and NOT CARING.
- Being able to work inside my own head – by which I mean staring out of the window for minutes on end, plotting or working out dialogue or whatever. These days, if Mum’s staring out of the window it means she’s bored and she really needs someone to ask her to do something, or pay someone, or find something. No head space whatsoever with three children in the house. No sir.
- Taking a run up and skidding across the tiled kitchen floor in my socks.*
- Knowing what’s in my freezer. As part of our gradual role reversal my work-from-home partner is now largely responsible for food shopping and cooking. This means that when I do cook it’s an exciting and sometimes dangerous voyage of discovery, and I’m often in trouble for using the special items he had earmarked for Sunday lunch.**
- BBC Radio 4.
- The silence of my house. I generally get up ten or fifteen minutes earlier than everyone else merely to experience quiet for a short time before the day revs up, but I do miss those long hours of simply being able to hear the house breathing.
- Phoning my sister just because I fancied a chat. When I had home-alone-time she did too, and we used to talk regularly – at least once a week, often more frequently. Now we both work during the day, and evenings are chaotic, and I’m lucky if I talk to her once a month. I miss her.***
I found this a difficult list to write, because it became clear as I was thinking about it that I’m in mourning for some of these things. Silence, headspace, my sisters – my need for these things that I lack makes me emotional, but I rarely allow myself to give in to these emotions. Taking back time for myself seems self-indulgent because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for all the commitments I take on – my own, my children’s, my partner’s, domestic, at work (school or home), blah blah… How could I possibly justify half an hour’s quiet reading time when there’s washing to fold, a manuscript to edit for a client, the lawn to mow, a pile of sandwiches to make, an orchestra rehearsal to get to, homework to supervise, washing up to do, the stairs to vacuum and the cat to brush?
And as for writing – well, let’s just say that these days I have many more stories in my head than I do on paper. However, that will change, or my head really may explode. And that won’t be pretty – think of the mess I’ll have to clean up…
* I still sometimes do this when no one is looking.
** It also means we rarely have enough washing powder or bleach. For some reason he can buy sausages and breakfast cereal, but not cleaning products.
*** Ironically my other sister, who worked full time when I was a hausfrau, is now at home running her own textile craft business. I miss her, too.