Finding My Balance

I’ve made it through to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA for short). Of course I’m thrilled. Look for my entry, Rock Solid, in the Young Adult category.

I’m also knocked off-balance.

This small step forward makes me happy. But it also means that, instead of writing my thousand words this morning, I’ve spent a chunk of it obsessively following the ABNA discussion boards, emailing with my writing group (Four of them also made it through. Yay!), and rereading the pitch that got me through.

Which means this afternoon I’ll have to choose between writing and fulfilling my other responsibilities. We just got our dental insurance; I need to find a good dentist and make appointments. There’s shopping to be done. Meals to be made. Prescriptions to pick up. Grades to check. And always, always the laundry.

Every time something either good or bad occurs in my pursuit of published authorship, I let it knock me off the beam. I end up wasting precious writing time, and worse, ruining precious family time. Two years ago when I made the quarterfinalist round in this contest, I got so wrapped up in it that I forgot to attend my daughter’s new school’s open house. (And that’s just the lapse I’m willing to record here in my blog. There have been others.)

When I signed with my agent last spring, thrilling as it was, for weeks I staggered around like a drunk, completely off-balance. Missing this, forgetting that, not even hearing my kids talk because the voices in my head were so much more interesting.

This has prompted some soul-searching.

Writing has always been my dream, but I spent a lot of years NOT writing. For a long time, I didn’t have the discipline to sit and write. Then I was busy with very young kids, moving from place to place and immersed in being mommy. With a husband who was away A LOT, I struggled to find some balance between pursuing my dreams and caring for my family.

During his third deployment and facing another move, I made an active decision to put my personal goals away. Something had to give, and it was that. Just getting through all the days on my own – dealing with sick kids, fixing the broken dishwasher/car/roof, preparing for yet another move, staying sane – often felt like trying to walk a high-wire with a kid in each arm and no safety net. It was them or me. I chose them. As you do.

My favourite saying during that time was “This too shall pass.” It did. Things eased off. I’ve been walking a wide and sturdy low beam for a few years now. Once my kids were all in school, a beautiful chunk of time opened up for me. I’m so happy to have reached a point where I have the time AND the discipline to (mostly) use it well.

I’m living my dream. Day by day, I’m putting words on the page and making stories come together. Published or not, paid or not, I get to do something I love. How lucky is that??

So now, I’m choosing me. This year I’ve been letting myself say no a lot. No to the PTA. No to volunteering in my daughter’s classroom. No to playing Scrabble Junior when I don’t want to. I bid a fond fuck-off to the laundry pile.

I’m getting all too good at saying no.

But they still need me. It’s a struggle to put away the writing and give my family my full attention.To remember the damned open houses. To chaperone a field trip or two. To pick family game night over editing time. Showing up and being there are harder than they sound.

I may be on the low beam now, but all too frequently I still lose my balance.

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