Week before last, I was on a roll. I was writing so much, I could barely stand to come up for air at the end of the school day. I carried my notebook with me everywhere, desperate to capture every one of the thoughts that followed me around like a cloud of gnats.
It doesn't seem possible that was just over a week ago.
Then ... midwinter break happened. Three days of Sweetpea out of school, a long weekend, and a sick day for Sprout tacked on the tail end. In the meantime, I also dealt with two teeth that needed pulling (Sweetpea's), four shots that needed shooting (Sprout's), two testicles that needed removing (the dog's -- relax, Hubby's are fine, thanks for asking), and one nasty sinus infection (all mine).
Now here I am, finally with a bit of energy and a few hours of free time, wondering where, oh where all those creative juices have gone. This balance is still so fragile.
While I wasn't writing last week, I was doing a lot of research about allergies, looking for tips that might help me clear up the sinuses for good. I learned that our bodies can tolerate a certain level of environmental allergens without overreacting. For the last few years I'd apparently been staying within that limit and feeling fine. Then (because life around here was getting a little dull), we got a puppy. In my case, dog dander was the drop that made my personal allergy bucket overflow.
Since we're not keen on getting rid of the dog (and breaking my children's tender young hearts) (OK, my heart), I need to look for ways to limit my exposure to dander and other allergens until I reach that healthy threshold again -- by closing doors, covering mattresses, filtering air, etc.
The creative balance seems to work roughly the same way. Everyone who writes has to deal with at least some other responsibilities, I know. But at some point, the bucket just gets too full. Beyond that invisible line, if you do happen upon a spare hour, you're probably not going to spend it writing sonnets. In fact, you're far more likely to spend it on auto-pilot, nervously wiping counters and waiting for the next child to cry. Or maybe that's just me.
The tipping-point is different for everyone. I know this, because I have friends who managed to continue writing even when their kids were babies. Several years after sterilizing my last bottle, I still can't fathom how they did it. I remember most days having just enough free time to eat or shower, but not both. Where would I have fit in writing the Great American Novel, exactly?
An inch or two of room has finally opened up. But even now, I need to be diligent in managing all of the other demands on my mind and time, if I am to maintain this creative space. Last week, the bucket just plain overflowed.
It looks like tomorrow I might get back on track. To do that, I'm going to have to scale back demands on my energy to a healthier level. By closing some doors. Maintaining boundaries. Filtering requests.
So, please don't be offended if it takes me a few days to respond to an email or return your call. With any luck, it just means I found an inch or two of breathing room, and I'm hanging on to it for all I'm worth.