Finding Balance: When Life is Out of Control

How do you write when commitments are pulling you in a half dozen directions? That’s the question I have this week. Not the answer, mind you. Only the question.

I work for money, write novels for love and joy, and am my mom’s primary caregiver. That’s a full plate most days, when everything is going well. When it’s not, it gets kind of crazy. This year, my mother’s health has taken several hits with illnessses and hospitalizations. The older she gets the harder it is to recover. She’s been unwell more days than well.

Last week’s issue was a case of acute pancreatitis, which is a brutal illness. So first there was the fear of her condition and the ER visit, then hospitalization and everything that entails: paperwork, insurance, meetings with doctors, alerting family members, and then time spent at the hospital monitoring her progress, advocating with nurses, and trying to boost her spirits. Once she was released, there’s aftercare: meds, cooking, cleaning, personal care, and setting up doctor’s appointments, one of which we’re doing later on today.

You get the drill. If you’ve got children or are a caregiver for an adult parent or grandparent, what you’ve just read is nothing new. You’ve been there.

So where does writing fit in?

It didn’t for me. I took my computer to the hospital every day, promising myself I’d write when she dozed off. It was impossible to concentrate–not only because of the hospital activity, but because my mind would not make the shift to any of the three WIPs I’ve got going right now.

Instead, I played computer games while she slept. I got a little reading done. Tried to meditate. When I drove home each evening, I handled only the necessities before passing out in bed. No work done there either.

Guilt set in on day two–guilt that I hadn’t written a word, that I couldn’t manage my life better, and finally, guilt about the resentment I felt at the situation, which is the worst kind of guilt there is. It’s not easy being a caregiver but I feel strongly it is a privilege. My mother has been a fantastic mom. I love her and want to help her.

Bottom Line: Sometimes the writing won’t get done

And I have to accept that. I wish there was some magic advice, but if there is I haven’t found it. Tried getting up an hour earlier in the morning. (Didn’t work, but I got some cleaning and bill-paying in.) Attempted writing sprints for 5 or 10 minutes, but the well was dry. Nada.

I saw an interview with Jodi Picoult once, and she told the interviewer that she wrote one of her books 20 minutes at a time, while her son was at swim meets. The general thought there was, “If you want to write, you have to make time to write.” I get that. But I’m not Jodi Picoult, and setting her up as my standard didn’t do me any favors last week. All the extra self-imposed pressure didn’t make things better.

So sometimes the writing doesn’t get done. The manuscripts will be there, ready and waiting, for us to return to them. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax and be grateful for every day you have with the people you love.

The good news is…

This is the first piece of coherent writing I’ve done in eight days–whoo-hoo! Hopefully, that bodes well for my writing schedule this week. (If you’ve gotten to the end, sorry if this blog sounds like a rant. My blog, like my writing, and like me, is an always-messy work in progress.)

It’s Monday morning. I wish you a fabulous writing week!

If you have any thoughts about balancing work and life and writing when things get kind of crazy, I would love to hear them. Please share in the comments below.