Back in the day, if you will, even if that means only a year ago, reaching January was like walking to the edge of the Grand Canyon. At night. With no flashlight.
Although the month represents new beginnings, to me it signified a crash to the depths—a plunge from the highs of Christmas vacation as a kid—the plummet off the edge of “time-with-my-family” as an adult. As a working mom, January was a sinkhole I stepped into with an anvil tied to my foot. Unexpected school cancellations due to inclement weather were regular occurrences, on top of which, it was the month our daughter seemed to get sick most often. For years, this combination provoked panicked “Oh gosh, I need be home with my girl, but I was just off from work, what do I do?” mutterings. There are four letter words that best describe the anxiety stirred up by these situations. I knew in my heart that the right thing to do, the one I wanted to do, was to care for my child. But, even though I worked for an “understanding” employer, there was no kidding myself. Somehow the work still had to get done. Deadlines didn’t change. Meetings weren’t cancelled.
So, most years, January delivered a wallop of guilt, not to mention an occasional sore finger caused by dialing around trying to find coverage for my girl, when all the while I’d rather be the one “covering.” It was like balancing on a razor thin ridge, knowing that to fall on one side, toward work, meant I was a lousy mother, if I leaned toward caring for my child, I wasn’t a responsible employee—a tug-of-war, of course, that was not singular to me.
However, as with so many things in this eleven-month “journey of self-discovery," (and tell me, does the trip end when I’ve reach a year?) January 2010 dawned differently. I spent this past Sunday without the churning pit in my stomach that used to arrive around noon on the day before I was scheduled to go back to work. My shoulders are a thousand times lighter now that my daughter can ask: “I need to stay late at school today. Can you pick me up?” responding “Yes,” with out fretting how she’ll get home with no late bus. When she asks, “Mom, I need to get a new agenda book, can we go to Staples?” I no longer sigh because I know that, due to my work schedule, there will be no agenda book until Saturday. I'm not cramming errands into the weekend, or, squeezing them in after work, only to fly home and realize that I forgot to thaw something for dinner. Our girl is sixteen now and able to care for herself. But still, if she gets sick, I’ll whip out the thermometer and put her back to bed. Life is much more manageable now.
And yet, yesterday, I sat down at the computer as I do at 7:30 every morning, feeling odd, incomplete, and worth, well, less somehow, because there’s no paying work on the horizon. Oh yes, I have Middle Passages and I’m trying to write each day in addition to that. In a perfect world, (meaning, no college tuition looming in 2011) this would be enough. Yet, for so long, I have contributed to the family financially and there’s a mental struggle when I’m not. Writing professionally, at home, is an almost perfect balance--working at what I love, while being home with whom I love—so, naturally folks, I want more of it.
This January, there is no looming chasm, just a thoughtful puddle really. One I step into gladly, though it would help if I had some boots. The first writing job I completed this fall occurred because an experienced writer referred me when she was so busy she had to decline the request. Statistics say it can take three years to get a small business up and running. Here’s to January 2011, or 2012, or 2013. Cross your fingers that by then I’ll be the one giving the jobs away.
When that happens, I’ll know I’ll be standing on firm ground.