Creating My Own Path

Photo by  Stephen Leonardi

In those final December weeks of 2018, it felt as if I was almost physically limping into the holiday break (and, in some ways, I was). Izzy and I spent the first couple weeks of the month fighting through the latest version of Toddler Plague and, through it, I steeled myself to finish writing one final book, due before Christmas break. I was mentally and physically exhausted by that point. I had written more books than I can count in the previous year. Izzy and I were constantly in a run as each day began before dawn and seemed to whiz by. In the midst of this, we were often battling through the various whack illnesses that the world’s cutest germ incubators (a.k.a. babies and toddlers) bring with them. No one warns you about the physicality of motherhood. I’m in pretty good shape, but the daily grind of waking up before dawn and proceeding to haul a toddler/monkey up and down stairs with all of her accoutrements and a 60-pound dog in tow and shoving us all in and out of a two-door Rabbit multiple times a day is a lot of very physical work that requires extreme endurance.

When the morning of the first day of Christmas break arrived, I might as well have been a little kid going to Disneyland. I had plans for us—not big plans, but plans that made me happy. These plans had served as my touchstone and finish line for the past several weeks. Meeting Santa. A magical Christmas. Time to just chill with Iz. And yoga and writing time for me. I woke up so excited about sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with Izzy and taking her to see Santa Clause. And, then, as I sat there on my couch watching Izzy play as I drank my coffee, she projectile vomited. Twice.

To say I was devastated isn’t really an overstatement. But also, I had the irrational reaction of anger at the universe. Really? I thought. Really?? As the rest of the break unfolded, with both of us sick, one word kept popping into my mind: Relentless. For me, 2018 feels like it has been relentless. In the end, none of the things I had planned for us over break came to fruition (with the exception of a magical Christmas day—an oasis in the midst of a pretty backbreaking break).

To be sure, there has been plenty of magic sprinkled into 2018 as well. Izzy is the great joy of my life. Seeing her face feels like a little miracle every single day. She takes my breath away.

But none of that takes away the fact that in many ways 2018 has felt like a test. Being a mom has come pretty naturally to me, but there is still the matter of learning to balance and prioritize life in a different way. On top of this, I began working for a company after being freelance for the past ten years. That, in and of itself, would have been an adjustment. Then there were the add-ons: finding myself in a pretty desperate living situation and having to move myself and my seven-month-old on the spur of the moment; my grandma’s death, followed by having to miss her funeral (which I was slated to give the eulogy at) due to sickness; getting the house broken into and the air conditioner taken out in the process at the height of California wildfires in August; and then a second attempted break-in. This was resolved by rescuing Scout, the world’s sweetest dog, who I am incredibly grateful for; however, I also probably wasn’t in a prime position to take in a dog with separation anxiety and who is scared of the cats at that particular juncture of life. On top of all of this is the buzzing financial stress that comes with being a single parent solely supporting a child. I’m lucky—as writers go, I make great money. But when you figure in high rent, health insurance, daycare, and groceries, we are still living paycheck to paycheck. It’s frustrating to work really hard and still find yourself in this position. I know that many people can relate to this—it’s a problem in America today, and one that we need to figure out a solution for.

With all of that said, on the balance, things worked out—Izzy and I live in a beautiful home; we have an incredible and irreplaceable new furry family member; and I constantly count myself as lucky to be a working writer.

What I came to realize as break wore on and my irrational anger simmered is that the problem with this past year is that I lived in a state of reaction. Ironically, everything that transpired was a trickle-down impact of the sewer line breaking in my old house on New Year’s Eve 2018. I moved because my hand was forced by horrible management that allowed a house to crumble down around me and my daughter; I got a job because my hand was forced by the move and subsequent increased cost of living; and I got a dog because my sense of safety was encroached upon.

Once I realized this, I felt a sense of relief. This mode of reaction—this is something I can shift.

As 2017 gave way to 2018, I was all about processes. I thought I could set myself up for a wonderful year by putting a variety of systems in place. I’m sure this had something to do with reestablishing the sense of control I had lost in the previous years. That’s all well and good, but what it didn’t account for is, you know, life. Life doesn’t always love systems and processes. Sometimes life just happens. So, my intention for 2019 is much more overarching—to get back to a place of creation in life, rather than reaction. Even in those moments when I am required to fly by the seat of my pants or reach a sudden split in the road.

In the end, there was some good that came out of this holiday break. I didn’t get the rest and rejuvenation I had hoped for; however, I had a realization that allowed me to seize life by the reins and make some decisions. I have projects in the early stages of development, creative control over them, and a new understanding of how I want to live my life. Of course, there is always going to be uncertainty and there will always be last-minute turns in life that aren’t always under our control. But if I determine the direction I want my life to go in, then I can continue steering along my intended path—even if there are some detours along the way.

Let’s be friends, 2019.