Recently I spent a couple of weeks in New Mexico, writing. An old friend owns a lodge there, in a small town on the Rio Grande. He makes a room available for us when we visit, and he generously welcomed me for as long as I wanted to stay. He even lent me a car to drive, which, by the way, I liked so much I ended up buying it and driving it home.
While I was there I started my day with the luxury of a hot mineral bath at dawn, then a walk around town. I floated down the river and spent time with friends, cooking and eating delicious green chile concoctions. But mostly I sat alone, and I wrote, in my very own, completely private room.
Almost a century ago, Virginia Woolf published her famous essay about women and writing, in which she said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.” There is certainly tension between making money and having time to write, and men experience the same conflict in their creative endeavors. But for women, the greatest tension is often the pull between family responsibilities and having a time and place free to write without interruption.
I love my life. I love being married to Dempsey, and living with him. I love being a mother and grandmother. I am grateful for the relationships I have with my family, and the opportunity I have to participate in their lives.
I help homeschool my grandsons. I spend lots of time with the kids and grandkids here in Austin, as much as I can with the ones in Houston, and I stay closely in touch with my niece and her family in New York. I am fortunate to have a close group of friends around the world with whom I maintain active relationships.
I also love my work. I love closing myself in my office and writing. I love teaching, and working with my mentoring clients. I’ve always been ambitious about reaching out and making a mark in the world.
And like most of the driven women I know, I am constantly balancing my personal and my professional lives.
After experimenting with various systems over the years, I now block out my time on my Google calendar. My phone reminds me when it’s time to take Donavan and Jared to the library, or go with Dakota to visit his college counselor, pick up Aiden for a swim, or take Valentina to lunch. It tells me I’ve planned coffee with Matt, or my daughter or nieces. It even lets me know when I have a date with my husband.
My smart phone also tells me when I’ve carved out a morning to work on a book, or Skype with clients. Those hours, like the ones with my family, are sacred. I turn off my phone then, and focus on being creative.
Over the years I’ve trained other people, and myself, to regard my work time as important. I started to write “inviolate,” but of course that’s not true. It is frequently violated, by phone calls and knocks on the door and requests, and by my own rescheduling as I juggle my competing – and entirely self-imposed – responsibilities.
Quite a number of my friends chose not to have children. I have to admit I sometimes envy their freedom to create when the spirit moves them – not to mention their freedom to travel and their relative financial freedom. But that is not my life, nor, truthfully, did I ever want it to be.
Please know I am not complaining. I am aware many women long for closer family ties. This is the life I wanted, and the life I have consciously manifested.
But it is a balancing act, and a constant work in progress.