Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Day I Quit All My Jobs

As I type, my husband and son are in Oregon visiting extended family for 5 days. The trip came up somewhat suddenly and since one of my jobs is scheduled at least a month in advance, I wasn't able to go with them. I wasn't hugely bummed about this because the list of projects that I don't have time to do is mind-bogglingly long, so much so that when I get an hour of free time here and there, all I can do is sit dazedly looking at the list and do nothing. I have so been looking forward to actually getting stuff done and was anticipating being a bit lonely because I've only spent one night away from Jonas in our whole marriage and I've never been apart from Ishmael overnight, so of course I planned to hang out with every friend I have in California, paint several pieces of furniture, and solve the Syrian crisis.

As it turns out, I only have 3 days at home, sandwiched in between driving to and from LA to drop off and pick up the boys, and 75% of the waking hours of these days is spent at work. I finally got to spend 4 glorious hours last night in a Grimes trance, working on a painting that has been languishing away as nothing but a 5% complete preliminary sketch for a year or more.

I was in heaven. My thumb and wrist feel murdered today, but I'm sad to say I'd completely forgotten my first love of falling into a pit of art and angst. I let myself be led through that perilous process of panic at thinking the result of the first hour of work was all I had left in me art-wise (sh*t), working through it, working through it some more, and beginning to see something I'm proud of. I could fall in love with oil pastels every day, forever [image].Then, waking up the next morning, being less impressed with myself, and plotting what to try next. You'll never know the luxury of a solid block of time to do that until you don't have the option anymore.

This morning I was unexpectedly scheduled for some extra hours at my second job for a large chunk of tomorrow, and I could have cried. I work the jobs I do for the amount of hours that I do because I want the security of a financial cushion as we wait for the painfully slow ladder climbing at my husband's job and in preparation for growing our family, when I anticipate my ability to work declining even further. Saving while I can, you know? I'm responsible like that. Sometimes I even get excited about working more. The thought of giving my all to something is tantalizing. And eons out of reach. 

Surprisingly to me, I don't usually feel too stressed out by my motherhood duties, and my jobs are easy,
if time consuming and disruptive to any sort of consistent schedule. But when I got that call, it hit me all of a sudden: I need ME time. Not veg out on the computer time, growth time. Like, using my talents to do something I enjoy time. I have long been bothered that I couldn't honestly say I have any hobbies besides blogging and cooking, which are great, but the first includes a lot of computer vegging and the second also fulfills a basic function of household togetherness. How could I have let myself get so lost? Me, the girl who once famously scored as a 10-0 introvert during a hiring process, the first in the company history. 

Do you know what being an introvert means? It means you get refueled by being alone. I have been running on empty without clearly realizing it for a long time. Like, literally driving my car with no oil for who-knows-how-long and forgetting to pay rent. One of the pillars of my code of life practices is to de-glorify the busyness of the American lifestyle, at least as much as it's up to me in my own life. I am a quitter of things, a dispensary of frequent "no"s, and still, I've totally messed this up. Sorry, I'm getting hysterical here. 

A lot of moms wish they could have an identity outside of or on top of being a mom, but we feel guilty for wanting that, especially for those of us who have deliberately chosen to give up a career for the sake of being there for our kids. That is an extremely noble pursuit, and one that I stand by even when I'm feeling quite downtrodden about lack of me time, but that doesn't negate the truth that my identity is meant to be something grounded in something greater than mamahood or errand running. I'm by no means ungrateful for my wonderful boss who lets me work my schedule around my husband's, my family who watches Ishmael so that I don't have to put him in daycare, or my friends who pump me up when I'm feeling down. But I feel okay saying that all of that is not always enough. I may not have more time to offer, but I have more of me to offer than fits into those roles. I know it's so cliche to talk about needing to be personally healthy or fulfilled or what have you before reaching your full potential in the world around you, but seriously, would we not be better parents, spouses, church-members, employees, etc. if we were happy individuals? (The answer is yes). [image]

Sometimes I can't help but feel that my 20s are going down the drain, spent arguing with my husband, trying to block out crying babies, and generally getting nowhere in life. In the moments when that realization stings the most, I try and think about what is holding me back from buying a plot of dirt and opening an art theater, becoming a diplomat, or moving to a city that excites me. Well, several hundreds of thousands dollars, for one thing, but mostly, the answer is "stability." I'm responsible for other people's lives. The idea of taking serious risks is usually more scary than the idea of doing something I love is exhilarating. But the scales are tipping, and I know my boys are on board and ultimately that my husband wants to live fully as well. It sucks to get upset with him for taking advantage of any free time he gets because I can only see that time as free time that I'm not getting. Lame. Totally lame.

I adore my boys, but I have been ecstatic to be alone for a few days, and having more work piled on my head was so frustrating. I was able to shuffle things around a bit so that I still get some time to paint (and write), but the juggling act and a momentary feeling of drowning made me remember something I heard at a bridal shower for my dear friend several years ago. Two things, actually. I thought a few of her relatives were a little uptight, but I'll be darned, they gave the only two pieces of advice for marriage that I can remember from anyone's shower/wedding that I know. Thanks for the kick in the pants, ladies. The first was that always having a smart comeback or witty jab for one another, in a marriage, is much less clever and funny than it is divisive. That rings more and more true to me, as one half of a couple who can never let a tiny mispronounced word or misquoted fact go unlaughed at or corrected. WHO THE HELL CARES?! It only breeds resentment and competitiveness, when we should be focused on building each other up. That's kind of unrelated to this current blog rant, but you're welcome anyway.

The other advice just seemed weird to me at the time. Seriously, I should make "someone told me this, I didn't believe them, it didn't happen at first, then it did happen, now I am humbled" its own category on the blog. This elderly lady said that her mother locked herself in her room one day a month and did her own thing, no interrupting allowed. Like I said, at the time (and many times since then when I've thought back to that advice) I thought it was strange, and kind of selfish. I heard another story about a mom who used Mother's Day all to herself and didn't hang out with her kids or anything. Again, I thought that was selfish and sad. Today, I finally realize those women were geniuses and I imagine those practices are a large key to being married for 75 years. [I have long loved this illustration by Marcos Chin].

I don't plan to spend Mother's Day alone, but I do plan to implement the one day a month where I quit all my jobs for the day and recharge. No internet (well, maybe some writing or graphics editing), no jobs, no phone calls, no cooking or cleaning, no children, no husband. It may not always be the same day each month, though I think I'm going to make the 25th my goal, because that's my birthday day in August. Jonas and I go on a date on the 14th of each month, or as close to that day as we can get, because our anniversary is January 14th. Maybe I'll implement a date day with Ishmael on the 29th of each month, his birthday day. This is the kind of calendar obligation that I like. Of course, it's only fair that Jonas also gets a day to himself to surf, or whatever he wants, once a month. 

This may not solve every problem I'm feeling weighed down by, but I think it could start to solve some little bits of little problems, and that makes me psyched. So go on. If this strikes a chord with you, go ahead. Go tell people someone gave you permission to quit for a day. 


  1. I started a similar blog post the other night..I had a melt down two nights ago about this. It's exactly that--I have so much more to offer than cleaning and changing dirty diapers. I've lost myself. I'm totally going to take one day off a month. That's reasonable. 12 days a year to myself. YES.

    1. You GO, girl! I thought the same thing - 12 days out of 365 seems tiny, frankly, but I hope it makes a big difference.


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