Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My new skill: JUGGLING

I got my hands full.

I've got the majority of the running this house/ family/ life, I do three days each week at the barn, and the weekly shopping trip, which I try to do all in one shot because I have such a hate for shopping. If it's not done by Tuesday, we live without it.

I'm trying to study for my upcoming Riding Instructor Examinations. Yes, there is actual paper studying involved. There's a written test but I also have to be able to come up with a lesson plan to hand my examiners (examinators??) and I have to do a lot of reading to get the terminology right.

I'm trawling the intermittent net for useful info on the publishing industry, and for more useful info on the horse industry- and let me tell you, just going through the Ontario Equestrian Federation site can take a good chunk of time! Then there's blogging, which I'm doing less of because of time constraints, unfortunately.

I'm poking at my husband's office because it's getting to be tax time and there's a lot of loose paper in there.

Reading. One joyful aspect of being a writer is that I must read. I have to. So let me read. Thank you. And, writing. Yes, writing. This includes, especially lately, editing and rewriting. Lots of it.

On top of that, I'm fighting and wrestling and succumbing to a nasty little depression that's been dogging me for a few weeks. I know it's not permanent and I'm enduring, I'm keeping my work going, but it's hard to shake.

And what does it all boil down to? Me, lying in bed in the dark with a skinny old cat under my arm, thinking.

Last night I was thinking about my writers group meeting. It was a very interesting meeting, in which we discussed writing chronologically vs plotting the story with time jumps, and the potential of our stories to offend people we know and love, and the problem of working for a living while writing.

AHA. There it is. Notice that in my list of metaphorical flaming chainsaws that I juggle, there is no "Job." There's no earning of an income.

Here's something I shared with my group last night: It was 2003, I hadn't gone totally mental yet and was doing a pretty good job of holding it together and faking some form of sanity. Not normality, just functionality. I had a part time job at the local department store. I held down the cafeteria cash register, which was silly because I went into the job interview begging not to be counting money or doing any form of math. I occupied my time by flirting with the cute young stock boys who seemed to be hungry a lot over my three hour shift, and flirting with the lovely grey haired fellas who came in on Senior's Day for a cheap lunch. (Digression: the old fellas know how to flirt.) I made it clear to the HR department that I couldn't work earlier than 9 am or later than 3 pm because I had to get my kids back and forth to school. I couldn't work Mondays because that was the day I did the invoicing for my husband's business. I couldn't work weekends, obviously. They knew all this, but they still tried to schedule me at the wrong times because they were the great minds that put me on cash after I failed the math portion of the interview test.

It was a minimum wage job. I sometimes only brought home $50 a week, but it was a very necessary amount. Every little drop counts. I was driving my cherished, gorgeous '87 Pontiac Station Wagon to work. I loved that big car, but it was such a gas guzzler I hardly had any money left over once I dribbled some fuel into the tank. Meanwhile, Jethro was driving a '92 Dodge Spirit with no muffler and a license plate sticker that was about two months expired. He'd just started renting a studio and the expenses were piling up on us. We felt like we were drowning.

We kind of still do.

June rolled around, and I announced that I would be quitting. The stock boys wailed and I consoled them. (There had to be some benefits to that job.) The other employees heard that I was leaving and asked why. I explained that I had to be there for my kids. "Why don't you just get a babysitter?" This really stunned me, especially after I explained, me, who is so bad with numbers, that if I made $7 an hour and the babysitter cost $6 an hour, I'd have to borrow money from my husband to gas up the car so I could work for free. Duh. Blank stares. I have no idea how some of these people get through life.

I did have a burst of panic before my last shift. How would we get through summer without that drip of money I'd been getting? I'd have to go back in September. We were going to starve/ die/ get kicked out of our house.

Jethro laid a giant hand on my arm and said, very calmly, "If you keep working at Zellers, you'll never finish writing your book."

What could I say to that? "Writing novels is not a good financial plan." I think I said something like that.

"Yeah but you have to do it." That was his reply. "Things will get better. Write that book."

Things have gotten better and worse since then. Financially we have the kind of magnificent debt that I used to think only rich people were allowed to have. I went completely droolingly nuts a year and a half later. I'm feeling a bit better now, thank you. The book is written, and I stopped denying myself a place in the horse business too.

I decided to do it all. I decided to make a goal of getting paid for it.

Last night one of my writer friends asked me if I thought the riding lessons could get in the way of the writing. I had to be honest- Yes. I do worry about that. Jethro doesn't. He figures the best thing for me would be to get out of the house during a frustrating page, head out to the barn, and put somebody on a horse for an hour. It's a different kind of brain activity, plus it gets my butt out of the chair and gets me moving. He knows that I have a serious need to write that can't even be clearly explained, but that if I go too long without horse contact, I'm miserable. I need to write and I need horses. I'd like to think the two can compliment each other, but I don't know if I can do both careers. Maybe one will have to make room for the other at some point. I won't know until I get there.

I don't know... maybe I could just lay down some of those flaming chainsaws for a short break before I pick it all up again...

Back to work. I just figured out who one of my main characters is, a kid who isn't even alive anymore by the time the book starts, and all this time he haunted me. I finally know what he was all about and must write it down. Plus I have to photocopy some arena diagrams for my lesson plan and I might even wash a dish or two. And the juggling is ON...


Anita said...

I think Jethro is right... The horse business will enhance your mental capacity, not that it isn't brilliant already! :)

(I actually listed you for this little tiny meme that takes, like, 5 minutes, but if you're too busy just skip it! :)

dilling said...

You could be a circus performer TOO now! woot woot!
You know, there's gonna be room for both...there just is.

coffeypot said...

Honey, even if you publish your book and you sell a zillion copies, you will still have the same problems, just on a bigger scale. Just do your living thing and let the other stuff take care of itself. It always does. The bills will get paid, though sometimes a little late. The food will be there. The horses will get ridden and the test taken and passed. The laundry will get done, the kids fed and the barn mucked out. Just stop every now and then to take a deep breath and look at the wonder around you. We all juggle.

This mental health pubic service announcement was brought to you by Coffeypot!

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh Coffeypot, you are so right. (Do you do this professionally?) Everything just gets bigger!

Must remember to breathe.

Dilling, I want Tim Burton to direct my circus.

Anita... mental capacity.... woooooo!!!!!!!

Biddie said...

As if you aren't juggling enough already, didn't you offer to be ring bearer????

dilling said...

Ring bearer? Will you dress as a duck?

Biddie said...

LOL at Dilling. Maybe that is the compromise that Shawn needs. HEIDI as a duck!

Heidi the Hick said...


I wonder if Bjork still has her swan dress?????

Heidi the Hick said...

I could juggle duck eggs.

Biddie said...

OMG! The swan dress! You TOTALLY have to find one like it! You could pull it off..Well, you or Kayla. Nobody else. You and Kayla could pull it off better than Bjork!
Juggling duck eggs? What a grand idea!

Lynn Sinclair said...

How lucky you are to have two dreams to follow--some people go through life without goals, or ignoring the goals they've set for themselves.

Heidi the Hick said...

Lynn, the beautiful thing is that I finally allowed myself to have these two dreams. I spent so much of my life talking myself out of both things! I'm glad it only took me 30+ years to figure it out.

Heidi said...

I think you are amazing.

Most people don't even know what their dreams are. You know, and you are doing it, even though it is sometimes difficult.

Let living the dreams be enough for now. The success will come when it comes. Enjoy writing and riding, simply because you love them and you get to do it.

And the mental health stuff: Sometimes that hits hard, and sometimes it lingers around the edges of my life. But always now I say, "This too will pass." Because it does.

And I try not to listen to music that makes me sad!

Heidi the Hick said...

Amazing??? That, and you have a beautiful name too!

I am pretty darn blessed to have this chance to do what I love, no matter how much I have to give up/ do without for it.

You're right-- Every variety of difficulty will pass and this is something I know now. I didn't a few years back. I keep telling myself it's not permanent and that I won't be so frickin sad forever.

Olly said...

It's good to juggle and be really busy. Keeps the brain occupied. I find myself getting lost and in ruts when I don't have at least three things on the go and a big list as well. Also, always accept the dark moods and know that they are TEMPORARY.

LadyBronco said...


Juggling is the glue by which we hold our lives together, isn't it?

Write on, babe...

And drool if you have to.

Tod said...

I am sure you have room in your life for two dreams... go for it!

Nicole said...

Yeah, I hear ya. I also know from experience that, while a job may conflict with writing, it doesn't do so nearly as much as abject poverty does (contrary to the artsy fantasy of the starving writer). Jethro's right about the physical escape from the writing chair, too.