2:00 pm

2:00 pm.

One hour until the bus returns my tired, sweaty, fidgety, hungry children back to me. In the hours since they have left, I’ve made the bed, done the dishes, walked three miles, showered, eaten two meals and attempted some semblance of work.

With the one hour mark comes the pressure. Did I do enough? What else can I get done? Will a cup of coffee or a 15 minute power nap be more effective to get me through the afternoon? More often than not, however, the last hour is filled with the kind of pressure that nearly feels like regret. I think of everything I didn’t get done. I ponder was my day worth it? Did I do enough to justify this at home existence I have? Is the house clean enough (never)? Did I write enough? Did I move the arrow forward on anything? Did I cross off anything on the list? Could I have done more?

A lot of this pressure is born of the fact that I’m currently in a writer’s purgatory. The manuscript has been in the hands of beta readers for the last month. I’ve been purposefully avoiding the manuscript in the hopes of giving it fresh eyes with the fresh perspectives and comments of these readers. Instead, I’ve focused my efforts and time on the busy work of writing – query letters, synopsis writing, agent research, comp research, endless time reading forums and articles and Q&As to help assuage some amount of the anxiety building up as I near a time when I will eventually have to let this baby go out into the world for judgement.

Unfortunately, that leads me to many two o’clocks filled with am I doing enough? angst. I know in my heart what I’ve been doing is not lost work. It’s not pointless. It’s an investment. It’s necessary, mandatory, even. But it’s not writing. And I miss it. The writing. I have a plan that I need to trust. A plan for editing, for querying, for closing the door on this manuscript in order to move into the research for the next. I need to have faith in the process. Faith in myself for creating it. Faith it’s not all for naught.

But the clock ticks. Another minute gone. Another possibility of productivity drifting into the past. I realize I am not a patient person.

And that today, I’ll go with the cup of coffee.

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Doing it Scared

“I just love the way you’ve embraced your fears about doing this…”

These are the words my husband imparted to me during a conversation about where I am in my writing process (editing, mired in the busy work of agent research and query letters, preparing for the inevitable letting go). I laughed. Because embracing my fears? Not at all.

I told him, it’s not so much that I have embraced them or welcomed them or accepted them. It’s more that I have let them sit down next to me like a stranger on a train. I’ve allowed their presence and acknowledge the occasional knee bumping mine. Sometimes they feel small and I can put them in a pocket or a drawer and those times are the best. The rest of the time, they hover like a shadow, over my shoulder, or under the desk. I cross my ankles while sitting in my work chair and half expect to nudge one with my toe. I wonder if I turn around fast enough will I catch one in the act, mimicking me like a bad classroom student imitating their teacher as the rest of the class sniggers and guffaws tacitly siding with the bully’s caricature interpretation while ignoring the sincerity of her words or intent?

Instead, I face front. I keep typing. When the fear starts to breathe against my neck or tap my shoulder more insistently, I focus on my dreamer flower.

Putting myself out there. Doing it scared.

That’s all I can do. All I can ever do. Keep putting myself out there. Keep putting one word after another. Keep compiling lists of agents. Keep finessing that query letter. Keep editing that synopsis. Keep contemplating that manuscript for the next round of edits. Keep putting my butt in the chair every morning. Keep taking it seriously.

The fear is still there. May always be there. But I’ve stopped fighting it. It’s a waste of energy. Let it sit and rest awhile. Maybe it will get bored. Maybe it will leave. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I keep going.

Doing it scared. But doing it.

Milestones

First smiles. First roll over. First time they sleep through the night. First steps. First foods. Firsts rule a mama’s life. And we obsess over them all. We document, photo, share, brag. We take a small (and sometimes large) measure of ourselves in these firsts and what we’ve accomplished as a parent. These firsts are the manifestations of all the love, tears, hugs and healthy snacks we’ve been forcing on our children since they exited the protection of our wombs.

And then they go to Kindergarten.

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My baby, my second, my last confidently stepped on a school bus this morning. It was one small step for a kindergartner, one giant leap for mama. They are both gone. They are now both off living these independent lives that I can’t touch, see and, let’s be honest, control. And I am left here. In my house. Alone. The very thing I have been waiting for and dreading. In equal measure.

Will he get lost on his way to his classroom? Will he drink enough water throughout the day to avoid getting a migraine? Will he be hungry after eating such an early breakfast? Did I pack the right snacks? Will he have time to finish his lunch? Will he like his teacher?

Will he miss me?

The right answer to the last one is no. He’s an independent, confident little boy. And I should be proud of that. And I am. But I still want him to miss me. Like I suddenly miss him.

I know it will get easier. I know tomorrow I will relax into the quiet and the time and the insane list of tasks and work I have. Today? Today will not be easy. Today already has tears and a planned lunch with friends to distract me from the endlessly ticking clock until 3pm when my boys are back and I can find out all the answers to my questions.

We raise them to leave us then wonder how they could do it so easily.

And so I wait. I watch the clock and contemplate how to fill the next seven hours. I know he is in good hands. But I’ll be glad at 3 o’clock when he’s home and back in mine.