Thursday, 31 December 2015

Mother's guilt vs writer's guilt - a full 12 rounds

The fragility of being human

So there’s been a few cups of tea in between blogs for me. The mounting velocity in the lead up to Christmas eventually broke the sound barrier. Then, I made the silly mistake of trying to reconcile myself with everything that had happened in 2015 and my brain imploded. With a little ‘poof’ of resignation I became a shrunken head, crying out to be mounted in a museum for an eternity of gentle observations and soft lighting.

Fortunately thereafter, our family travelled to my mother’s home where children were swiftly handed over to an eager grandparent. I commenced a series of afternoon naps punctuated with interruption-free reading sessions. Eventually, I made the transition from horizontal to vertical again and set about reconstituting my ill-preserved head.

Grabbing hold of the guilt sisters

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how you might try to reinvigorate yourself with energising techniques as previously discussed; there can come a time when you just need to stop. First though; you must grab ‘mother’s guilt’ by the ear with one hand, and ‘writer’s guilt’ by the ear with t'other hand, push them into a cupboard and lock the door.

Why is it so difficult to grant yourself permission to take proper care of your own needs? After all, you spend about 90% of your time ensuring other people's needs are met. Usually you are just grateful if you have brushed your teeth before 9 am. Occasionally we need more than that.

So even though I was due a good writing session with my blog, two articles, a short story and some novel notes, I actually just stopped. I could still hear the muffled cries of the guilt sisters in the cupboard, so I mitigated this by reading books that are relevant to what I am writing. Lying on the sofa in the name of research. I could have signed up for another week of it! Meanwhile I was hoping that the guilt sisters would beat each other unconscious in my absence and be knocked out forever. 

Making sense of guilt

Guilt is such a creepy emotion and serves no one but its own insatiable appetite for discontent. I’m sure that prior to becoming a mother that I felt it mainly in relation to work, but it was never as prominent as it can be now. Like a fungus in warm, moist conditions it grows rapidly. It will spread its fetid mass across all areas of your life unless you make a conscious effort to keep it in check. Left unchecked you can find that you are feeling guilt about the most inane things. A badly balanced ratio of sweet to savoury lunch box items for example is something that has proved a regular, irrational concern. When I really let myself spiral out of control I imagine a crowd of preschool teachers tut-tut-tutting over my child’s lunchbox, hands on hips in the classic ‘sugar bowl’ position, woefully shaking their heads at the yoghurt. Oh god!

Now that I have become so proficient at feeling guilty I’ve allowed it to form a fuzzy growth over my work as well if I let it. But how dare I go about ‘shoulding’ on myself? I don’t let other people ‘should’ on me. So how can you sort out that creepy guilt? (Because you know, you shouldn’t feel guilty, it’s ridiculous.)

Here is how I quash it

When I recognise the familiar fungus, I ask myself if I would begrudge another from making that same decision? Would I begrudge my mother if she were so exhausted she chose to take a nap instead of doing housework? No, I would want her to be rested. Would I begrudge her for sending me to preschool so that she could work? No, I would want her to be nourished and inspired by her work; and besides, I like finger painting. Would I begrudge my sister for taking some time off writing because life was preventing her from working creatively? No, I would want her to take a break and return with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Oh, so I’m not a terrible, horrible person crawling in fungus? Good, and neither are you.