Diligence Due

Despite all the wonderful things in my life, I went through a hard time recently. And that hard time led to a short temper. That hard time blocked out most of the good and made me see much of the bad. Though my hard time had nothing to do with my children, every nose wiped, every question asked, every sandwich made, every milk poured became a “have to.” A burden.

It got to the point when I realized that I had to do something to change it or I would end up a warped, frustrated old (wo)man, in the words of the great George Bailey. I didn’t want to be Mr. Potter.

I, somewhat resistantly, decided to engage the “look on the bright side” theory. I went through the motions–and they were, in the beginning especially, just motions. I told myself that I chose this life. That my children won’t be young forever. That they’ll grow and then I’ll wish they were little. I told myself and told myself. I watched neighbors climb into cold cars in the early morning and basked in the warmth  as I walked back inside with the newspaper. I tried to stay away from shoulds and shouldn’ts—should be happy, shouldn’t be annoyed. I simply thought new, happier thoughts.

It started to work one day, just a little. I compared the time raising little children to the time away at college. Boy, college went fast. It helped that my first child was now five years old, and I could start to see the end of the tunnel of sitting on laps, holding hands, and kiss attacks. Between those two thoughts–the comparison to college and the realization that my first little one was now 5–a thought burst into light. And it grew.

Not every second, but over the next weeks, I’d remind myself of this new notion every so often. I used other metaphors–like a vacation. We savor vacations. We count the days until a vacation. Then we bask in it, at first. Then we start the dreaded countdown to the end of the vacation, clinging to every last second.

I started to compare raising my little ones to a vacation. All the glories that come with the burdens will not last forever. Soon they’ll be in school and have larger groups of friends. Soon all of the questions and giggles and silly phrases will end. Soon they

Image from artazine.org

Image from artazine.org

won’t sit on my lap or let me hold their hands. And I’ll have to imagine what it would be like to attack them with kisses. I might even rejoin the masses who have to get up and truck to work each morning, answering to a much less adorable boss.

Boy, has this worked.

Now, more often than not, I feel like I can’t wait to be around my children. Like I’m the luckiest woman in the world. Like I want to hold on to every last second.

This all might seem trite, but only to those to whom this has never happened. When it happens, it goes from trite to life-changing.

But let me be clear: I’m not one more person telling you that you need savor it all because it goes so fast. I fully believe that we mothers especially have enough to do without adding all the guilt from the “shoulds.” But I was ready. And I needed it. I was spending too much time complaining and not enough time recognizing the life I have–the life my children have given me.

****

Between my recent vacation, the process of reuniting with the computer I left behind in Wales, and currently fixing said computer, which was damaged during shipment, I’ve been forced to take a step back from my previous schedule.

I am nothing if not diligent. It’s the word grade school teachers used most often to describe me on my report cards. I was proud at the time; now that pride is mixed with some wish I’d been a bit less boring.

But diligence has gotten me far. Without it, I wouldn’t have finished a novel. Without it, I won’t finish the editing.

I’ve certainly been diligent about this blog. Two times a week for almost a year, I’ve written essays–almost 90 of them. Often, the essays have involved interviewing other people or editing their stories.

My diligence is ’bout spent.

That’s not true, really. The only thing I love more than writing a novel is communicating with all of you on this blog. I’ll diligent the shit out of it. But, after my trip and these computer shenanigans (that’s a euphamism if I ever heard one), I need to dig in and get these novel edits finished.

So…I’m taking a break from my previous format and making no promises about meetings on Monday or otherwise. I might re-publish old posts, I might inundate you with photos of my recent trip to the United Kingdom. If you email me with your own true stories, I might post them. I will certainly read them diligently.

jessvealitzek [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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26 thoughts on “Diligence Due

  1. I have felt many of those feelings lately, and also have a novel edit to pick up again…! Wishing you all the best! (And sincere thanks for sharing your true story of a journey toward happiness!) Hugs!

  2. Glad to read about your diligence and your “vacation” appreciation moments. And congratulations on finishing your novel. Shame on me that I didn’t seem to know that you had that milestone. Awesome! Now, on to the editing and other things which require your diligence. Way to stick with it, Jessica. And thanks, for encouraging the rest of us. My goodness, how we need it. 🙂

  3. So great to find you today thru THE GIRL WHO READS BOOKS!!! Lovely post. And from a mom who’s babies are all grown up…cherish every moment….laugh a lot, don’t sweat the little stuff….and take LOTS of pics. You are on the perfect track!! paula ♥

  4. Oh, how I remember those days of having lots of little kids at home, who though they’re totally fun and an incredible blessing, also require so much ME as a mom. There’s only so much we can give before we feel worn down. But, I love your foresight and focus to be able to see brighter sides. I think it bears much onto all of life. Without the ability to appreciate where we are in life, the grass is always greener on the other side.

    I’m so so so glad that you’re working hard on your novel. And I’m so so so happy that you’re part of GNB. I love the new structure and how it requires less grind on each of our parts, yet gives so much more to others. I love it. Thanks for being you, diligent and wonderful you. I’m honored to have you as a friend. Happy editing! xo

    • Jennifer – thank you for the lovely comment. (I’ll admit, I’ve read it twice. I mean, who wouldn’t?) I’m incredibly happy you asked me to participate in GNB–I think it’s a fantastic idea and so glad to be part of it with all of you.

  5. Oh, Jessica, nice post.
    When you’re in the midst of your mothering years, the time ticks by in seconds. When it is over, it seems the time went by in years–SO fast and they are gone (the time and the kids). Take a lot of pictures. Find a place to hide away their precious drawings and stories. Keep on breathing but do not blink or you might miss it!
    Now, as a grammy, I am at the other end, watching my daughter as a new mom in the midst of all of the exhaustion and love. I am in awe of her ability to relish every second with her toddler boy. From the grandma perspective, the entire universe has done a magical shift and that boy is the epicenter, about which everything else rotates.
    ‘Shoulds’ come from stepping away from your current self and looking back with a different perspective. It’s important to take a glimpse at your life from over there occassionally because the new view can help you see how to grow. But don’t let the ‘shoulds’ make you doubt your path or your diligent self. They can nudge, but they don’t get to drive the bus.
    Your job as a mother is important. Every second.
    Your job as a writer inspires the rest of us. Stay diligent.

    • OK, I read this one twice, too. (See above.) Thank you so much, Laura. Yes–stepping back and looking from “over there.” This is exactly what has helped me and you put it to words wonderfully. Thank you for being part of this blog.

    • I’m glad to hear you’re taking steps, too. One of the things that has made me smile humbly as I “grow up” (took awhile) is realizing all the cliches are so completely true. Obviously–that’s why they’re cliches. But then when the cliches are applied to your life, they take on so much more meaning. Like Jennifer said above, “The grass is ALWAYS greener.” Knowing that that can be true, and it’s up to make to change it, makes all the difference.

  6. I don’t have children (yet), but I know that feeling of being disconnected with your own world. I went through it recently as well. Glad to know I’m not alone. Also glad to see you’re doing better based on your own efforts (which is very commendable, a lot of people choose to stew in their emotions rather than change their ways of thinking).

    How was Wales? I’ve been there twice. It’s a wonderful (underrated I might add) country.

    • You are so not alone. And I think I did stew in my emotions, for far too long probably. But yes, being able to step back and take stock and try to see the trajectory of where it could all lead helped, and I’m glad I was able to do that.

      LOVED Wales — it was my favorite. We were in Conwy (that’s where I left my laptop), Beaumaris, Llanberis, and Betws y Coed. I would definitely go again; just beautiful.

  7. Pingback: Wordless Thursday « True STORIES.

  8. I’m with you on this post. While I’m not on the whole diligent part (my MWF blog schedule is more like WTF-Whenever The Fuck), I’m with you on appreciating my children more. I’m a stickler for structure and rules and sometimes I am too rigid. I have been trying to slow down and just cuddle. Sit and read with them more. Ask about their days more and really sit and listen (no iPhone in sight). Newtown, CT had a lot to do with my change. I think about how precious each and every second is with the ones we love.

    Hugging you from here.

    P.S. I absolutely love your posts. I feel like I’m sitting right next to you and listening to you talk. Your writing voice is just awesome. Love, love, love.

    • Thank you so much, Hallie. The part of writing a novel that I didn’t foresee was meeting and connecting with so many wonderful, supportive writers like you. It’s almost overtaking actual writing in my favorites column.
      PS. I am stealing your use of WTF from you. Made me snort out loud.

  9. Good for you, Jessica. A beautiful post, and as you’re aware from my last post, I know exactly where you’re coming from (minus the kid part, of course)! We love all your posts, and when they happen, they happen. I myself am grateful to be connected, and will savor the moments (posts) when they do appear. 🙂 Oh, and in the coming weeks, I may just write that piece we discussed and send it your way. In the meantime, good luck on your edits!

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