I am nearly always thinking about motherhood and careers and the ordering of such things, even though I have made my decision and am perfectly content with it. Still, I continue to think about how seriously I should pursue my writing right now, if I should try harder to get things published, if I should try to find some sort of gig that pays real money, or if I should cool my jets, focus on the kids and keep the writing as a hobby.
Today I came across this essay/beginning of an essay after I realized that I’d spent most of the week taking care of sick children and not thinking about what I was going to post today. I thought I had written it for oliofolio (if anybody remembers that . . . ) but I couldn’t find it there, so maybe it is something I never shared before.
I like the analogy I came up with, even though it isn’t perfect, but mostly I like the reminder it is to me about where my priorities lie and why. Because I need to be reminded on a regular basis.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.
It’s like we’re all sitting around the tree on Christmas morning, taking turns opening gifts. There are so many that it will probably take all day to open them, but that doesn’t matter. We take turns anyway. During the down time I look at the gifts I’ve already opened and think about how I will use them. There are some that I knew were coming, and I’ve prepared myself as best I could so that I would be ready to make the most of them. There are others that were surprises. I tinker with them a little bit, knowing that it will take much longer to learn to use them well, but grateful for the unexpected opportunities and small distractions. Through it all, my mind is still on one package, one that I have put a lot of time and effort into preparing for, one that I imagine will bring me great happiness, one that I am saving for later.
This gift that I am saving is not necessarily the best gift. No, it is at least a few down on that list. There are a few others that I have already opened that claim that label — “best.” I opened them early because I wanted to have the energy I knew they would need. I wanted to be fresh for them so that I could give them my best efforts and make the most of them. I know that they will still be there for the rest of the day, the rest of my life (I hope), and maybe I could have waited and opened the other gift first. But I didn’t and I am happy with my decision.
Sometimes someone asks me about the gift that I am saving, wonders why I haven’t opened it yet. I am not always sure what to tell them. I point out the other gifts that I have opened, I try to explain that I am still figuring out how to use them, and I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many things all at once. Some people understand, others suggest that maybe I should go ahead and open it and see what happens. And again, I point to the other gifts and say that I want to give these my best effort before I move on to something else.
I am right to want to focus my efforts, I think, but the others are right, too. It doesn’t take all of my time and energy to appreciate these gifts. I could, perhaps, use some of that time on the gift that I am saving. And so I do. I practice and prepare myself to use what is inside, as I have been doing for a long time. But still, I do not open it because I do not want to spread myself too thin trying to make the most of all that I have been given. If I did, something would be neglected, something would not be done or not be done well. And right now, the “best” gifts take a lot of time and effort and patience.
When I see those gifts, I think that I couldn’t be more happy: they are the only gifts I want. They are new gifts every time I look at them. They continue to change and surprise and thrill me with unexpected abilities and it is all I can do to notice and appreciate and enjoy them before they change again and I need to adapt to use them better and to continue to get the most joy out of them. I take my time with them because I know that later, they will not need so much of it. And I will still be able to enjoy them even while I fully partake of the gift that I’m saving. If my guess is right, the patience that I have put into savoring the gifts I chose to open first, will make the one that is sitting, waiting, even better.
I do not need to have everything all at once. The gift will still be there tonight, or tomorrow, or next year, or in five years. And by the time the “best” gifts are grown and going to school and involved in their own interests and their own gifts, I may be a better writer than I would otherwise have been, and my writing will evolve and surprise me in ways that it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t saved it for later.