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Brittany: I Like the Me that Doesn’t Write

I like the me that doesn’t write, that isn’t annoyed with toddler tears and poopy diapers. Whose mornings are filled with muffins and snuggles instead of character development on page 275. I like evenings of leisurely splashy toddler bathtime and seven or eight stories before bed. I don’t miss the nights where I wish the boys would sleep already so I could perfect the dialogue in chapter 4.

I am enjoying *not* writing. But I feel a compulsion to do it anyway.

I’ll admit, I struggle with balance. I’m the kind of writer who putters a little here and a little there for months, followed by a gigantic burst of writing over the course of a day or two, where I forget where I am, forget to eat, forget I’m on planet Earth and have two small children in need of dinner. And after three years of feverish writing, it’s nice to be in my own head again  without the characters I created crowding me out, interrupting playtime and Thomas videos with their insistence on some plot resolution.

Monday, while pumping gas, I heard a train whistle off in the distance and knew it was headed our way. Sam wants nothing more in life than to look at trains, and in downtown Simpsonville, it is possible to drive alongside the track, along a side road, a few feet from the train itself. Because I wasn’t writing, and had the whole day in front of me, I wasn’t in a rush to get home, feed Sam lunch, and put him down for his nap. Instead of heading home, I drove down Main Street, pulled up at an intersection, watched the train go by, and then followed the train all the way down the side road until it ended. Sam was totally blissed out, and I knew the way you just know these things, that this was a moment where I was filling Sam’s emotional well.

Then yesterday, after my chiropractor appointment, I decided to take John to the library for Mother Goose on the Loose. It’s a program from children up to age two with music and books, rhymes and rhythm. I took Sam for almost two years, every week, unfailingly. He was not a huge fan of the crowd of people and nervously clung to me for almost every session. He did not like to participate. And he didn’t interact with the other children much. But he loved to come home and do the activities one-on-one with me, so I would go to learn the activities and somehow Sam endured it. During Mother Goose time, the leader, Donna, takes out  a drum and sings, “My name is Donna. What’s your name?” On “Donna,” she hits the drum twice, one for each syllable. The point of the activity is to create phonemic awareness, but most kids just like to take their turn with the drum. Not Sam. In two years–two years of gentle encouragement and mommy assistance–he hit the drum exactly once. The last day we ever went to Mother Goose on the Loose. The day he spent most of the time crawling under the chairs and trying to run outside the room and activate the automatic library doors. At drum time, he joined the group briefly, long enough to smack out his one-syllable name.

John, as much a I try not to make comparisons, is a completely different child temperament-wise. He is a social butterfly and loves to watch the world, the more stimuli the better. And since most of my free time of late was spent writing, and my one-on-one time was usually reserved for his needier older brother, I felt a little mommy guilt that I wasn’t doing anything yet just for him.

You can probably see where I’m about to go with this story. John loved Mother Goose on the Loose. He was attentive and happy and played with the other children, was deliriously happy, and hit the drum–on the first try. Again, I felt an enormous sense of pleasure at being able to tap into what my child needed and give it to him.

Now to diverge for a moment…I have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test quite possibly a hundred times, through all stages of my life, from high school on. No matter when I’ve taken it, I’ve been an I/E NTJ. You know how you hear something about yourself and shrug and say, “If you say so…” That’s where I was at.

Lately, I’ve been having a mini-crisis of self. For more of the gory details, you can read my personal blog. But the amazing thing about it is that as soon as I said I was looking for more joy in my life, a better sense of self, and more satisfaction with my life, the universe has literally flooded me with it.

I was on Facebook last night after the kids were in bed, and spur of the moment decided to take the Myers-Briggs again. Now I am an ISFJ. Somewhere down the line, my personality changed. That, or I’ve become more honest with myself over time. The ISFJ  is described as The Nurturer:  quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings.

That sounds about right.

So in other words, focusing on my book has prevented me from nurturing anything but my laptop. Since I haven’t been writing, I’ve been happier this week than I’ve been in a long time. I’m no longer focused on myself and my projects. Instead, I’m opening up new worlds for my boys. Truly that’s where I’m happiest.

I loved the movie Finding Neverland and the way the filmmakers showed Barrie stepping into and out of his imagination and using his real-life experiences within his creative writing. It was a realization that writers/artists do hop back and forth between worlds. And just like Barrie, I think my adventures with my boys will inspire my writing, too. Isn’t it a wonderful thing when one world sustains the other?

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    Brittany, this is a wonderful perspective. i was afraid i was going to read about giving up on writing in the end, but was pleasantly surprised. prior to 6 months ago, i had been in the more mom than writer space for years. a lot was great about focussing on the boys during that time, but my pendulum had definitely gotten stuck over there.

    i think you you found the ability to be open to what the moment has to offer. following the train for sam, taking drum time for john is also taking time to fill your emotional well. you didn’t want to become a mother just to be annoyed they were getting in the way of your writing. if that were the case, you wouldn’t have become a parent, i believe. i know that’s true for me.

    as for meyers-briggs, pheh. i believe that ‘core personality’ thing does change as we change and grow and change our focus. i’ve taken those tests a zillion times, too. mostly i just end up confusing the initials meanings after i read the assessments.

    January 12, 2009
  2. Brittany, I love this post. I can so relate. I tend to be a major procrastinator, and in those times when I have shows looming and have to cram in lots of time on the jewelry bench, I’m really not a happy person, but at least I get it done. Sure, if I stretched things out a bit more it probably wouldn’t be so painfull, but during the times when I don’t have shows looming and I just forget about that stuff for a while, I too, like me much better. I enjoy spending much more time with my girls, my husband, my dog, even just sitting in a big bubble bath reading a book. I think it’s the living in the moment part that really comes out.

    Just for kicks I just went into Facebook and took the MBTI again as well. Nothing’s changed for me:

    Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want alot of affirmation from others and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.

    January 12, 2009
  3. Liz #

    Love this. I have been struggling with filling my kids “wells” as of late verses creative projects, business maneuvers and a push to get my writing together… for REAL this time.

    I guess all I can do is take it day by day, stop surfing the net so much and tune in to what’s going on around me a bit more. Maybe that is really what I need, instead of standing around and wringing my hands and not doing anything about either.

    Glad you’re getting healthy again, by the way!

    January 12, 2009
  4. Kristine #

    Great, great post. I also was worried that you were going to abandon your writing, but I’m glad to see that isn’t the case. It sounds like you have found the true meaning of the word “balance.” Good for you. You will become a stronger mom–and a stronger writer–for it.

    I’m also an “all or nothing” kind of writer. When I’m really focused on my manuscript, everything else sort of disappears. I have to keep reminding myself that while my writing will always be there, these precious years with my little girl aren’t going to be. So I now spend a little more time with her at night instead of rushing her into bed so I can get on the laptop and crank out pages.

    Thanks for teaching us the importance of living LIFE.

    January 12, 2009
  5. I really love this post. It’s hard to admit that the person I am when I am making art isn’t exactly the model mother. I hate that I rely on videos to entertain my non-napping 3 yr old daughter so I can get work done. But, I know that if I didn’t take that time for my creative pursuits, I would not be much of a mom either. I really need that solitude and introspection to feel present with her when we are doing things together.

    January 17, 2009
  6. I just touched on this issue last night at my book group — you cannot be a full-on, fabulous, wonderful Mom, 24/7. It’s terrific to figure out how to be both — fabulous Mom part of the time, artist part of the time. The more those two things can overlap, the better. But it won’t always feel “even” and I think we need to feel OK about that, striving for covering all bases in the longer term. Bursts of concentrated effort in one area or the other may work for many, as it does for Brittany.

    January 18, 2009

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