Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You Aren't What You Like, You Are What You Do

My husband and I had a revelation a few years ago, when our daughter was around preschool/kindergarten age. Without intending to do so, we had become small talk liars.

Whenever we were asked, in pleasant "getting to know you" conversations, "What do you like to do for fun?" we recited lists that included things like "going to movies," "singing and playing oboe," (me), "reading science fiction," (Mike), and "traveling."

And while, technically, all those things were true—we did love those activities, and still do—at the moment of our revelation, we couldn't even remember the last movie we had seen, as paying for a film, parking, and babysitting was a $150 outing, something we simply couldn't afford. Travel consisted only of occasional trips for grad school conferences, road trips to visit our friends in our old stomping grounds, Northern Virginia/DC, and of course, moments with grandparents both in our hometown and (when we were really lucky) Florida and Arizona.  I hadn't been in a singing performance group, sadly, in ages, and my oboe playing and singing were now reserved for the music classes I taught babies and toddlers, as well as an occasional gig at a wedding or funeral. As for fiction, Mike was so swamped in PhD work, surrounded by scientific papers in almost every room in our home, the idea of reading fiction was actually comical to him. On those occasional plane trips to visit relatives, he packed bulky computing or neuroscience texts, in lieu of light sci fi reading for fun.

Had we been really reflective, when asked, "What do you like to do for fun?" our answer would have been, "We like to crash like exhausted heaps on the couch and watch television together until we can't stay awake, roughly one hour later. We like to have conversations with each other when possible. We like to have occasional moments entirely to ourselves, with no responsibility—no kid to watch, no chores to do, just an hour or two to ourselves. We like playing with our kid. We like to read funny things on the internet. We like going out to parties or dinner at a restaurant when we can get free babysitting, but we don't like going out too late, because we are too tired. Mike likes to go to the gym and I like to cook, and both of those things can be done every day, so we are grateful."

I really admire people who are dedicated to their hobbies and passions, who always find a way to make them work, even at their most stretched—their most poor, their most time-pinched, their most stressed. It can only be a good thing to keep yourself happy and motivated by pursuing the things that most matter to you, especially in lean times, in order to stay the person you want to be.

We aren't really good at that, the hubby and me. We tend to let work/daily life/family life snuff out our interests, and we have to thoughtfully practice finding ways to keep doing the things that delight us. Last year, I bought Mike an art class as a present, and it was a big hit. He thought he would keep at it, but then admin snafus and enrollment weirdness at the art center nixed the next section of the class, and it fell off the radar. A few years ago, I took up improv classes again, having stopped when I was roughly 38 weeks pregnant with EJ; the first section was fun, but the second was so difficult to get to with traffic crossing town, I was so stressed I couldn't loosen up to enjoy it.

Mike still loves to go to the gym, I still like cooking, too. We're working on the rest.

So it was interesting to me when, yesterday afternoon, I was asked about this blog. "Why are you writing the blog? Is it for work? For fun? What are you writing about, really?"

I found myself rather tongue-tied. This blog is structured for everything, but also not directly for anything, either. It's a commitment I made to myself at my birthday, and I earnestly hope that it leads to more writing and consulting work; at the same time, I am not writing it strictly for work purposes. I write about things that are funny, that happen to me in real life; I write about things that are troubling, sometimes worries or anxieties, other times straight-up difficulties. I write about being a mom, but this isn't a mom blog; I write about my work, but this isn't a work blog; I write about my experiences with the city and the weather and the schools and the weird wonderfulness of living, but I wouldn't be able to put myself in any category based on any one post.

How does one describe that?

When I got home, I realized the answer is simple: I write this blog, because writers write.

I am a writer, not because when I'm asked "What do you like to do?" I respond, "I like to write!" I am a writer because I am writing, each day, writing, practicing, writing, then writing some more. It takes a decision, dedicated time, and a commitment to write even when I struggle to find a subject, and what I think I'm producing isn't great. I'm just going to do it, anyway, every single work day. Why?

Because writers write.

1 comment:

  1. You have described my life to a T. I love to do all sorts of things. But 99% of them will not fit into the few minutes of time I have, beyond kids, work, chores and such. So I have tried to shift my focus—to make all the crap I have to do—fun. I started making bento-style lunches for the kids. If I have to make lunches, why not make them fun! That lasted for about 6 months.
    If I have to help the kiddos with homework, why not make the homework area FUN! I organized, salvaged bins/boxes/whatnots to store all provisions. And generally made the area pretty to motivate us all to work on homework. But it became one more thing to maintain.
    I hate deciding what to make for dinner. So I got the family involved in menu planning. I thought maybe I could publish free downloadable worksheets for other families. Make fun laminated cards so the kids know what food groups have to be in every meal. And I wouldn't have to decide. Lasted about 6 months, then it became more work to maintain the system.
    It can be pretty depressing, truth be told.