Transitions, however abrupt, have layers of subtleties. The subtleties are the surprising bits. This is what I wrote in a notebook yesterday when I was called away from my comfy computer chair.
Just as I am struggling to get used to the idea of no children living in my house while my daughter Abby moves through her last summer at home before college, and contemplate what it means to have my schedule be more about me than someone else, I find myself sitting in a waiting area at my granddaughter’s pediatrician’s office.
Camille is two years old. My son Shawn and his wife Beka are learning that childhood, and the parenthood that oversees it, is rife with doctor visits, laundry, sleepless nights, early mornings. And they are only at the beginning of their journeys as parents.
The reason I’m here is because Shawn and Beka only have one car seat for Camille. That car seat is, at this moment, in Beka’s car. This morning, Beka drove her car to her mandatory training session for her summer job. Shawn, who doesn’t work on Mondays, was surprised to find Camille’s eyes swollen nearly shut when she woke up a few hours ago. He called me. Yes, I have a car seat.
Allergies run in our family. Beka’s, too. So swollen eyes accompanied by hives is something to take seriously. After Shawn’s call, I checked my email, threw the laundry I need clean for tomorrow into the washing machine, and tossed a notebook in my bag. Experience told me I could be waiting for a while.
Camille doesn’t seem bothered by the swelling and the hives. She was far more interested in the waiting area’s fish tanks and child activities than anything else when we walked in. Whoever designed this office knew what they were doing. And, now, I am waiting and thinking about how this transition I’ve been dreading is still busy enough to keep me from moping in my self-perceived drop on the ladder of importance. Or maybe it’s relevance. My flexibility is important. What I’m doing today is important and relevant. Maybe this phase of life will be rich and satisfying because there are more people in our family now, more opportunities to be generous, to be helpful.
I really don’t want my time to be all about me. It is much happier when it’s all about an “us” of some sort – partner, kids, friends. All the alone time a writer needs to do the work, for me, must be balanced with time with others or else there really isn’t anything important to talk about. Or write about.
And that’s the end of what I wrote in my notebook. All the years of juggling kids with writing, juggling the school calendar with my own creative process, has come to this point of understanding that juggling is exactly what I’m good at. That writers and artists and photographers cannot produce anything worth sharing if they live in a vacuum, no matter how appealing that may be some days.
So, the next time you crave alone time and wish for your life to be different so that you can do your work, consider what it is you really need. And who celebrates with you when you succeed.