The Glue That Holds My Sanity Together

The Glue That Holds My Sanity Together

Being out of work offers a person an abundance of time for introspection. The first couple weeks after I lost my job I spent feeling sorry for myself. It’s easy for someone like me (a die-hard pessimist) to wallow in self-pity. Luckily, I still had health insurance through my husband’s employer and a good therapist, so I was able to break out of my slump relatively quickly.

When the fog lifted, I decided that I would not waste the time I’d gained from losing my job–I’d use it to focus on my writing. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. While I love to write, with two young kids, making time for writing (or anything) has always been a challenge. The fact that this blog exists is the gentle nudge I need to keep up the habit. Caffeine also helps. (You know how a cup of coffee can trigger a smoker’s desire for a cigarette? For me, it triggers a desire to write.)

Most of the short stories I post here will eventually, if they haven’t already, become longer stories and essays. Hopefully, one day I’ll have enough to fill a book. That’s the goal anyway.

So although I’m still looking for a job, I’m also dedicating an hour or so each day to writing. And not because it’s easy or even because I enjoy it, but because I need it. For me, writing is a lot like exercise. I don’t look forward to it. I usually have to force myself to do it. But when it’s over, I feel fantastic. No matter what else happens during the course of the day, at least I’ve taken care of this one thing that’s so important. It’s a way of centering.

The difference between “should” and “must”

It’s only taken me 40 years, but I’ve finally stopped focusing on “should” and started focusing on “must.”  What does that mean exactly? Well, there’s a great book about it, but the basic premise is this: “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, the thing we love most. In short, a “must” is anything that feeds your soul.

My “shoulds” include:

  • Volunteer for the PTA
  • Clean out the closets
  • Stop saying “fuck” in front of the kids
  • Go to church every Sunday
  • Make art with Gwen
  • Learn a new language
  • Organize the 5,000 photos on my laptop
  • Put up the Christmas lights
  • Cook something with kale

My “musts” list is shorter:

  • Hug and kiss my kids
  • Write 300 words a day
  • Bake cookies

I know what you’re thinking. Who has time to do what they love? Well, I don’t recommend losing or quitting your job, but I do recommend MAKING the time. You may have to get up at 5 a.m., or stay up past your bedtime, but there is always a way. I imagine that once I find a full-time job I’m going to struggle with getting up earlier than I’d like to write. I’m hopeful that I can make it happen.

Letting go of the “should haves”

I used to waste a lot of time worrying about all the things I should have done with my life career-wise, all the missed opportunities: If only I’d majored in creative writing in college instead of marketing. (I could have had a New York Times best seller by now!) If only I hadn’t spent my 20s in New York City waiting tables and trying to be the next Meryl Streep when I SUCKED at acting. If only I hadn’t wasted so much time and energy during that same period, on Barry (not his real name). If only I hadn’t eaten all those Little Debbie snack cakes, I’d be super skinny right now. (I still wish that.)

Then I realized, if I hadn’t had all those experiences, all the odd jobs and wrong turns and bad boyfriends and bouts of binge eating, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And worse, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

I blog because writing, like pretending I don’t see my 3-year-old drinking out of the parmesan cheese shaker at Applebee’s, is the glue that holds my sanity together. And since having kids, I need a shitload of glue.


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