You know how when you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer often asks the generic trap-door question “What is your greatest weakness?” And you are meant to actually provide a “streakness” — a strength couched as a weakness?
“I’m too detail-oriented,” you trot out, with a look of benign concern.
“I care too much,” you sigh, earnestly.
I’ve been thinking about a streakness of mine a lot lately, though — one that is authentic rather than manufactured to optimize my chances at job procurement. And one that has been giving me trouble of late. Focus. I have incredible focus. I’ve known this since I was about thirteen, when I first discovered not only my capacity but my aptitude for studying for long stretches of time in an effort to memorize every minute detail of say, the timeline of the French Revolution, or the vocabulary list handed down to me by my freshman year English teacher (“apostrophe,” “litotes,” “sonnet” will forever be etched into my memory) the night before an exam. I remember classmates marveling over my seemingly uncanny ability to memorize everything, and my parents proudly tut-tutting over my scholarly commitment, but it always felt natural — even enjoyable — to me.
In more recent years, especially while we were running a business together, Mr. Magpie has often commented on my “laser-like focus” — the way I can burrow into a task to the exclusion of all else — and sometimes with the slightest hint of reproach, as I can be difficult to interrupt when I am in The Zone. This is particularly true when I am writing: don’t come a-knocking. (Sorry, Mr. Magpie.) You see, I find it jarring to snap into and out of The Creative Space. I am either all in, fingers flying across the keyboard, or I am not. It kind of feels like “clipping in” to a bike. I’m either strapped in, cycling wildly as I coast down an incline, hair streaming in the wind, and you haven’t the faintest of chances of catching up to me — or I am not. There are two modes, on and off, and no in-between.
But parenthood has disarmed my skill, transforming it into something unseemly and inconvenient. There simply aren’t enough long stretches of time to “clip in” anymore, and if I do by chance find myself in a groove, I’m only frustrated by interruptions, no matter how worthy and necessary they are.
And so I see I’ve been nurturing a serious streakness all my life, one that is, it turns out, conducive to writing and ill-disposed to parenthood. How unfortunate, in a sense, that this attribute of mine makes balancing two of my chief roles in life — mother and writer — a rocky proposition. Professionally powerful but personally painful.
Instead of sending myself into a daily tailspin attempting to reconcile the two, I’ve been coaching myself to adapt. I’ve been attempting to direct and curtail my intensity of focus into little burrows of time that I carve out for myself throughout the day. Whereas I used to love a long path and a clear desk and an empty agenda to accommodate four or five hours of unfettered writing, I now spend more time strategizing about my writing and fitting it into small pockets of time. If I feel compelled to write and know that micro will need feeding or mini will need bathing in ten or twenty minutes, I’ll often force myself to jot down the bones of what I would like to write along with any intact phrases tumbling through my mind (expressions and turns of phrase tend to arrive fully-formed just before I sit down to write, and I pluck them out of the ether and arrange them in my prose rather like a pastry chef studding a cake with rosettes) instead of permitting myself to sit down and write, long-form, the way I’d like to.
I find that this makes for a happier “me” in the long run, or a less frustrated one anyhow.
And it also makes me grateful for the little burrows I do have to myself, those small parcels of unclaimed time where I can let my thoughts roam free and lose myself for a few minutes in writing about something that’s heavy on my heart or elusively skittering through my mind, just waiting to be pinned down by the pen (er, keyboard).
I write to know what I think.
So today I’m grateful for those little pockets for keeping me clear-headed, even though it’s taking me time to reconstruct my writing process to accommodate them.
+Smitten with these star-print jammies from Andalusia-based Thelma & Leah.
+I love this dramatic and racy velvet column dress. Considering buying it while it’s on sale for a holiday party. Va va voom!
+ICYMI: really really good deals.
+Ordering one of these for mini while on sale.
+The verdict is in: LOVE these $30 water-friendly slides (I snagged them in the coral, which is a fantastic neon color). They are much lighter-weight than I expected (sort of a foam material?) but perfection for traipsing around the splash pads with mini. I’m keeping mine in the basket of the stroller!
+Mini’s school does not permit peanuts/peanut butter and DRAT. PBJs are a staple around here these days. Going to try this nut-free granola butter instead, which gets decent reviews.
+Does anyone else spend a small fortune on freeze-dried fruits for her toddler? Mini loves that stuff! I was thrilled to find this ginormous tin at a good price.
+Must-have sweatshirt for fall. Love the black in particular paired with white jeans.
+I have a wedding in late August and my top contenders are: this caped floral (80% off), this tiered Self-Portrait (the silhouette is SO me), and this slightly more informal Agua by Agua Bendita. I’m leaning towards the latter two as it will be a small, outdoor wedding at the home of the groom…
+These sunnies are SO fun.