I’ve never had a problem with discipline before. I mean, I’m the Gal Gadot who finished her PhD while teaching at a university full-time, expanding and remodeling her house DIY, getting married, getting pregnant, keeping the end result alive, actually having friends (like, three people, don’t get excited), and writing fiction.
I sat in front of a computer for TWENTY-ONE HOURS straight to format my dissertation.
I’ve pulled CONSECUTIVE all-nighters to finish projects.
If there’s a deadline, I’ve met it, and I’ve given it 110%.
I’m like in Armageddon when Ben Affleck looks away, super dramatic-like, and says, “He doesn’t know how to fail.”
THAT’S me. Slightly less bald than Bruce Willis.
Discipline has never been an issue until now. It’s never been a problem to force myself to do things I don’t really want to do in name of the greater good. I mean, God, that’s 90% of marriage.
But I’ve gone weak.
This entire past summer, I couldn’t bring myself to get anything creative done. It’s my kid’s fault. I’ve been powered by discipline and coffee for 29 years, and she’s drained me. I spend every day, all day, with Rin, who 110% thinks she’s an adult in-miniature. She doesn’t nap. She goes to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. She thinks she’s bigger and tougher than anyone else in the room. She carries a big stick. She does not walk softly.
I have no fricking clue what she does all day. I’m with her every second, but I blink, and it’s 8:30 PM. I think she spends the morning playing hardball with the mafia and some of the afternoon taking notes from Napoleon documentaries and Picky and the Brain reruns. Oh, and Sesame Street comes on at 9:30 AM.
I can’t get anything done that requires serious thought because half my attention is constantly watching a toddler drunk-stumble around the splash pad at the park and making sure she’s not in total mortal peril. There’s a scale: running with scissors = okay, shoving other kid on playground to get nuclear launch codes = requires intervention. Point in case, she just got her thunder thigh lodged in between the rungs of my bamboo chair and she’s stuck. I should rescue her, but I’m picking my battles, and I feel like this is a learning experience.
My latest theory is that people who don’t have kids don’t actually age. They’re immortal. They just Nicholas Flamel along while we suckers keep having kids who cause grey hair and put Raisin Bran in my buggy at the grocery store. It’s this giant conspiracy so that we all THINK the childless get old like the rest of us, but it’s all smokescreen and makeup.
So my kid has broken me. I have no feeling around my scar line. I almost pee whenever she kicks my bladder. My daily vocabulary doesn’t go past colors and numbers up to 5, so I don’t even have the words to be witty anymore.
And now, little con-artist, she’s gotten inside my head with her cuteness, textbook psychology, and whatever hormones that keep me from dumping her at the fire station, and rearranged my priorities completely to make me want to snuggle with her in the mornings instead of get up at my 10th alarm and get things done.
In case you were wondering, she pried thunder thigh from the chair. She’s now dragging my purse and J’s left shoe to her hoarder nest like some creep lugging a dead body to the river.
I lack the mental fortitude to get up in the wee morning and write fiction or work on a journal article or research grants. I set 18 alarms to get up in the morning (I’m one of THOSE people). I ignore every single one of them and sleep in. It’s totally a subconscious decision. I don’t even process shutting my alarm off. Kid’s completely rewired my brain.
I’m struggling here because it fuels this annoyingly depressing/depressingly annoying Catch-22: another day feeling unaccomplished makes me unmotivated, and I’m too unmotivated in the mornings to get up and accomplish anything.
It was so much easier writing my dissertation with Rin. Academic writing only takes moderate creativity. It’s more structured. Once you’ve gotten the chapter’s central thesis and an outline, it’s paint-by-numbers. The research is done. It’s just about filling in evidence where it needs to go. I literally use “BLAH” as a placeholder for where I need to pop in additional detail or support.
Fiction is harder to write at-will. You hear all these people who need their happy place or when/where/how they write best. Hum of a coffee shop or sense-deprivation chamber. At home where comfortable or at library that requires pants/seriousness. Mornings or afternoons. Fiction writing is finicky.
I’m at a new place in my career and in motherhood. I guess I’m struggling with where my sense of fulfillment comes from. Does it come from advancing my career, writing, or how my 17 month old can point out her eyes, ears, and nose, the color purple, an owl, and the moon because we practice it a hundred times every day? Is it possible to balance the 24 hours enough to get fulfillment from both, and what’s the sacrifice required by the discipline? Is it time with Rin, her learning another color, or is it just less sleep and more coffee, just like it used to be?
I really don’t know yet, but I know I need to try something new. A new routine.
So I now have 19 alarms set for tomorrow morning. I’ll report back.