January 6, 2012

Resolution Anxiety

   My New Year's Resolution went like this: "find balance between it [my new part-time job as an english instructor] and the rest of my life: caring for my daughter, carving out couple time, and finishing Amor and Exile; plus some new goals—seriously reviving my garden, gettin' some wheels, and attending not one but two weddings up North." It's been four days, and I might be jumping the gun, but I am a little nervous about how this all is going to pan out. 
   I'm one of those kind of people who sets a really high bar for herself. It's a big reason why adapting to life in Mexico has been so hard at times. Sometimes I wish I was a little more like my husband, or another friend here who's also living in exile, who expect the worst and are pleasantly surprised when something good happens. But although those people might get less disappointed, a reservation I have to taking that approach is, one, it's not quite easy to change your outlook on things once you're mature, and two, if you set your bar too low, you might not shoot for enough achievement to make any progress at all. In any case, my way leads to me having done a lot of things that I'm proud of. But letdowns also abound.
   I might as well quit beating around the bush. My resolution may have been a little too ambitious. I accepted a part-time job to supplement the family coffers with some sorely needed income, and this is my last free Friday before my new full Monday to Friday work schedule starts next week. I'm spending (part of) it blogging because I'll be seriously surprised if I have time to again before April! The fact that I may not have time to do much writing at all (if any) in the near future bums me out for a number of reasons. 
   As I explained it to my therapist, I have time for a family and a part-time job, or a family and an aspiring part-time career as a writer, but I don't have time for all three. Since i can't afford to be an unpaid writer (we still have no contract for the book as of yet), the job is a must. But I  there simply aren't enough hours in the day for everything. I don't want to sacrifice my health (i.e. stay up all night writing  instead of sleeping), or my fairly balanced lifestyle (i.e. write on the weekend instead of hanging out with friends and family), because I've been there, done that, and the stress it creates is not something I want in my life. I have enough as it is not being able to live in my own country.
   I've considered the idea that I might just have yet to refine the art of juggling multiple things as a working mom. But in the first three days of training for my new job, which I don't dislike at all, but also is not my passion (it's teaching English, one of the rare professional opportunities that I'm uniquely qualified for that's ubiquitous here), I haven't found the spare time to do much more than catch my breath. And I'm still plotting when to make time to plan for it—my am hours at home caring for my 15 month old while my husband works are pretty packed. 
   I heard that the author of that teenage vampire series wrote while watching her kids at home, but I'm not sure how she managed to do that. She must have hired a nanny at some point. Even today, our last full day together for who knows how long, the writing for this piece exceeded her bedtime and is competing with help in the coloring book, punctuated by lapses of dancing to childrens' music, and requests for food. But we're not comfortable with the idea of daycare yet (if ever?) and aren't into the TV as nanny idea although it is helpful while I take care of the essentials like meals and housework. She might be able to entertain herself for short periods of time, and she's held up well while I leave her with a sitter to go to swim class for a couple hours twice a week, but I don't want to push it any further. It feels bad enough being away for five hours in the pm and coming home an hour before she goes to bed. I have a sister in-law here who works seven days a week full-time with four kids and another on the way, and it's not a parenting approach that I admire.
   I've had a good run of luck up until now money-wise, that's for sure. When I first got to Mexico and we built our house, I remember sweating it every day that I'd be bankrupt the next. Somehow, we've managed to eke out a modest lifestyle for this long, with my consulting and giving workshops and my husband's jobs in construction. After a while like this, the financial fear factor (the one that everyone in the U.S. who's struggling knows so well) receded and was replaced by a more relaxed, dare I say, Mexican perspective of "it will work out," no matter what happens. This was a welcome change of heart, for even when we had the baby, for the first year, we felt assured that we'd manage to keep our heads above water. But when I had to sell my car to pay the utility and food bills, and more recently, I had to borrow money for hospitalization to have my appendix removed, the safety net suddenly received a very large tear in the middle—a point that I've been anticipating for years—and now we've got to mend it.
   Now that the bottom line has finally been reached, I'm realizing that, until she's old enough to be in school full-time, my husband and I will continue to juggle our schedules between each of our paid jobs and our time with our daughter and chores at home. And when the dust has settled, there isn't any significant amount of time left for my vocation as a writer. If I get lucky, I might find something in my field (ecology)—by the looks of Occupy Wall Street, that's getting hard to do that in the U.S.—but it's even tougher here in Mexico. But even if I were to land a day job as an environmentalist, I'm still scared.
   I'm scared because, in this past year, I've come to love writing and I don't want to let it go as an artistic occupation. As emotionally difficult as it has been to gather up the courage to tell the world our story and actually do it with any style and coherence; as challenging of a process it has been to mature professionally in concert with my coauthor, as we ford the uncharted waters of collaborative journalist/subject writing; as hard as it's been to avoid worrying about my dwindling bank account while praying constantly to the Great Spirit to continue supporting my creative path; I have absolutely loved every second of it. Being inspired to write about something makes me positively bounce out of bed in the morning.
   What I most hoped would happen—that I could find a profession that I enjoy every aspect of—has happened, but at the same time I've discovered the one aspect of it that might be the dealbreaker—not because I want to let it go, but because I have a family to care for—the economic factor of being a writer. And it terrifies me to think that I might lose all the progress I've made in the last year of delivering myself heart and soul to the process, that it may issue forth unbridled and in abundance. It frustrates me to think that I can't conscionably make more time for something that's become so important to me; without sacrificing even more precious time with the loved ones I'm most doing this for in the first place—my husband and daughter.
   I want my daughter to see her mother follow her dreams, and being a creative person in addition to a scientifically trained person, I've realized, is one of those dreams. When I accepted my new job, and made my New Year's resolution, I had told myself that working for a few months to supplement my husband's part-time income and afford to attend two  weddings in the States wouldn't impact my creative goals, that in fact it would carry me closer to them. And in fact, in the long-term, it may still. But since I have a tendency to leap before I look, I am concerned I may have overstated my possibilities for 2012, raised the bar beyond what I can reach. Been practical about my income, but not so practical about all that I could accomplish at once. Yet I really had no choice in the matter. I had to make a change.
   We shall see—luck and timing could play a big role here. My coauthor says we're not taking a break (even though we both have to accept PT jobs), that we're just doing what's necessary for our families. That it's what all writers have to do in order to survive. Maybe, like my initiation into the working-outside of the home-mom club, I just need to accept my initiation into the long-term process of the aspiring writers' club, and this is what they mean when they say it takes years to write a book. If that's the case, I can breathe a little easier. But I just hope I don't have to make finishing our book a 2013 resolution. Because despite the odds, there's a lot of other things I also want to be doing by then, and my inspiration for Amor and Exile is overflowing. I'd like to be able to tell our story, and I'd like for it to not fall on deaf ears. 
   And hell, since the creative spirit has been fairly generous with me when I've asked it nicely,  I'll share one more hope: I'd like to keep doing things like this for the rest of my life.

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