I have been a writer basically for as long as I knew my letters. I remember being four or five and asking my mother how to spell word after word as I wrote notes and letters to. . . someone. I don’t really remember who. In second or third grade, the school librarian helped me create a small book that she “published” in the library. I found out years later that my brother had seen it and checked it out to read it.
Basically, I write. Not always consistently, and not always on paper, but that’s how my brain works. It’s part of my makeup. It’s in my soul.
But I haven’t written in a while. Not in my blog. Not anything fictional
beyond a few roleplaying posts here and there. And it took me a while to figure out why.
After my daughter was born, I suffered from what I called Disappearing Mommy Syndrome. At the time, I was only talking about the way I suddenly ceased to exist in pictures. That happened to my husband and the cats, too, so it didn’t seem all that terrible. Plus, babies make for cuter pictures. But I realize now that it was more than that. I wasn’t just disappearing from pictures. I was losing myself. When my daughter was two months old, I did NaNoWriMo for my second year. And for the first time, I won. I was thoroughly exhausted, and I’d had to learn to type one-handed while breastfeeding, but I’d done it. I’ve won every year since, but the next year was a whole different story.
By the time my daughter was a year old, several things had happened. Our debts (mostly medical) had reached such levels that I had to get a job. And I’d completely lost track of who I was. I didn’t write. I didn’t have friends. I barely made time to read. And even the job I ended up with was one that I hated (though that’s been a trend for most of my working life). When I attempted NaNoWriMo that year, it led to major arguments and resistance from my husband.
I had a job, which meant I was working on my novel during times when he was home. I was ignoring him in favor of some stupid novel. I was asking him to help with things like dishes and laundry. Things that I normally do. And things I definitely hadn’t been asking him to do.
The conflict caused by that NaNoWriMo was another symptom of Disappearing Mommy Syndrome. I didn’t take time for myself, so when I suddenly was doing something that was taking my time, my family resisted. It wasn’t pretty.
After that NaNoWriMo, I knew something had to change. Because the thing about losing yourself is that you’re miserable after a while. When you give everything to other people, you get tired, but they’re used to the status quo, so they don’t stop demanding things. Within two months of that NaNoWriMo, I had found a therapist. I didn’t know how to get back to myself and I’d said some things to my husband that were terrifying to me. I needed help if I was going to make it.
Thankfully, the therapist was helpful. Bit by bit, I realized that it was okay to take time for me. I started writing more regularly. I was working out. I was developing friendships. And while my husband did continue to be unsupportive of NaNoWriMo, I was better able to handle it and I finished my novel before Thanksgiving. But after NaNo 2009, something weird happened. I stopped writing.
At first, I felt guilty. I would still like to one day be published and I certainly won’t achieve that if I never write. But this time feels different. I don’t have some story trying to burn its way out of me. I don’t have characters keeping me up at night. I just. . . don’t feel like writing. And I’ve decided that’s okay.
Part of remembering myself was giving myself permission to do things that interest me. Just for me. Writing has generally been that thing, and it was important to teach myself that it was okay to take time for that. But I’ve also learned that it’s okay to not take time for it too. I have a job now where I’m always busy and it’s never the same thing. I joined a group for mom’s and I take Elisebeth to playgroups. Or to the zoo. Or just to the store (she’s easy to please). I keep better track of community events. I took over the newsletter for my writers group. I went back to school. All these things take time that I could be writing. But I choose to do them. I enjoy doing them. They don’t feel like something I do only for y family. And that makes a difference.
So I don’t feel guilty about not writing anymore. When a story needs to be told, I’ll find the time to write it. In the meantime, I’m perfectly okay with finding other things that make me happy. I’m perfectly happy with finding myself.