Maki asked me what I do all day. “It’s not like you have a job,” he added. I shook my head and realized I had no nutshell of an answer for him….so I said, ” I just go back to bed after school drop off and tune out till its time to pick you up again. My whole existence revolves around driving you kids around.” In their minds, that’s probably pretty accurate.
Last week my sister Cambria and I had a discussion about our chosen roles as women. Let me clarify: we didn’t chose to be women, but we get to chose different roles AS women. She manages really well as a full time working boss AND amazing mother of three. But she admitted sometimes some of the other things she always though she would do well in had to go by the wayside of priorities. “I felt really bad for awhile about not making my own baby cereal, even though I knew it would be the best for my boys, but I just couldn’t do it all.” she said, as an example.
She gave me other more personal and heavy examples as well. But I mention that one because it seems so silly of a thing to judge oneself for (from the outside) but also such a big deal when one is in the thick of one’s own life happening in real time. We want to be the best we think we can be all the time, even if its impossible.
As modern women, most of us (the ones I hang out with anyway) want to do it all, to have it all. We are multi-taskers by nature, so why SHOULDN’T we be able to do it all? If we have a degree, we have even more pressure, because we feel we are supposed to prove something with it.
Anyway…I bring this up because this conversation with my sister made me realize even the people who you think have it all together are usually only able to do a few areas of their life at full-power at any given time. Some things have to give.
I WANT to be the artist I set out to be…I find that professionally, it comes and goes, depending on what else is happening in life. Even though I call myself an artist, I have to admit that in this season, it isn’t the priority it used to be. I would love to be able to support my family by myself (firstly through art-making, and next, through any full-time regular job) but every time I try to organize my website and get some marketing down, something happens with Vernon and my priorities shift again. But just like my sister is doing at least two major things very well…I realize I can do a couple of things as best as I can. I can take care of the kids (which I love doing.) I can somewhat maintain the household (not my gift, but it hasn’t fallen apart yet.) I can help maintain Vernon’s care.
I guess I should have told Maki that is what I do during the day: I do MAINTENANCE.
This is not what I got a degree for. Quite the opposite. I got a BFA in Acting, which I have come to regard as a degree in pretending to know what you are doing. I guess its served me well because I have no idea what I am doing. But the house hasn’t burnt down. We aren’t bankrupt…yet. Or homeless.
The past couple of days, my quality time has been spent changing auto insurance, following up on errors at the bank and the phone company, trying to find a sitter for Vernon as he isn’t handling himself well in dialysis (more on that soon, I’m sure) working on finances, editing photos from recent shoots, renewing passports, calling doctors/nurses, selling a car, dealing with attorneys. Blah Blah Blah… sooo boring. For someone like me, extremely distractible, this stuff takes 3x as long as it must for the average person. And still…I’m doing it! (Or pretending to.) Like my sister, and every other woman I know (I can’t speak for the men, but I bet its similar) I can’t always do everything I want. But I’m doing the things that take top spot at the moment, and I will refuse to resent that I’m not doing all the things I WANT to do instead.
Excuse me for the personal pat on the back that this blog seems to be. It wasn’t my initial intention, but sometimes we have to pull ourselves out of the proverbial muck with handmade ropes.
If I’m going to put myself in the unglamorous role of Maintenance Person, I will say that it’s not nothing. Bills and phone calls and basic household maintenance really are just part of every day life for most of us. Still, I offer this video (from a tv show I saw years ago…that has actually stayed in my leaky-memory) to anyone else who thinks that simply being a Maintainer of the Normal is not important. Just think if we weren’t here to keep on top of things, all kinds of catastrophes could happen. Watch this and feel heroic (even if your realm of importance is currently making sure the water isn’t turned off.)
PS After all this venting about the role of maintenance person…I can’t sign off without remembering my gratitude. What a great problem to have, right? It’s true…somehow, even though I never thought we’d get this far without my going back to work, I’ve been able to take care of these things and life has not fallen apart. We have totally been provided for at every level. Though I get tired, getting used to our new normal, this is never lost on me. So my documenting/venting is real…but so is my gratitude.