I love to write. Words give me a sense of both freedom and control in a way that nothing in my life ever has (or ever will, I suspect). I spend as much time writing inside my head as I do writing on a computer screen or on a page. And when I don’t get those words out and into some written format, they stay in a confused jumble inside my head and drive me crazy.
So the fact that I haven’t been blogging much over the past month or two is making me feel very sad. And incomplete. And lonely. And guilty.
I will admit that my 40 days of Lenten blogging both excited and drained me. I loved the exercise of having to write on a given topic (one not of my own choosing) every single day. I loved the challenge of taking a photograph based on a phrase or concept and then having to write something about it. As an intellectual challenge, I found it thrilling, and exciting, and invigorating. And yet, at the same time, finding time to both write and take an appropriate photograph was a very difficult challenge. I often felt a sense of guilt, as if I were abandoning time spent with my children in favor of time spent writing a blog entry. Every day was a trade-off; every day I had to give something up in order to find the time to write a blog.
For 40 days, I struggled with a sense of guilt, a sense that I was spending time on something frivolous when I should have been focusing on my children. My children, who give me a sense, not of freedom and control, but of purpose and meaning. And the fact that I had been neglecting them in order to write also made me feel very sad. And incomplete. And lonely. And guilty.
But aren’t both writing and parenting a trade-off? Don’t they both require a kind of separation, a kind of breaking away? Writing requires breaking away from the world around you and giving yourself time to get inside your own head. And parenting requires breaking away from all the demands of everyday life (laundry, showers, grocery shopping, making dinner) to focus on your children. Both are continual, constant demands. Neglecting either of those roles, writer or parent, results in a sense of guilt, or lost time, or missing a moment that will never happen again. Both the muse and the childhoods are fleeting.
I spent the 40 days of Lent responding to the muse; I spent the days since responding to the children. And now I am trying to respond once again to the call of the muse, but hopefully without sacrificing too much time with my children. I am trying to let my children be an inspiration rather than an impediment. I am trying to blend both my passions by letting my children serve as my muse and my inspiration.
And that is truly what my children are: an inspiration. They inspire me to be not only a better parent, but also a better human being. In the words of Stephen Sondheim, “Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be…careful before you say, ‘Listen to me.’ Children will listen.” Even when I don’t mean for them to watch me, to imitate me, to learn from me, to listen to me, they do. They say what I say and do what I do. If I mutter a nasty remark about another driver, my son will ask me about it. If I criticize my daughter about something, she will repeat that criticism. I don’t get to pick and choose the behaviors that my children imitate. They imitate everything they see, so I need to be careful – and aware – of what they see.
And because of that, I continue to write. Because I want them to follow their muse. I want them to chase their passion. I want them to do what they love, even if they find that it requires sacrificing something else. I want them to learn – from me, or from anywhere else – that it is worth giving up some things in order to do what you love, what excites you, what you have passion for. I want them to find their own muse, and to follow her. Because wherever she leads them, it will be a wonderful place.