The Struggle is Real

Do Andriods Dream

The alarm is screaming.

Its tiny beep, the most hated feature on the otherwise beloved smartphone is a playing the song of its hated people. To add to the chorus, my phone catches up, opens Pandora and starts streaming alternative rock music to prompt me from my bed.

He turns off his alarm, the hated beeping, the screaming in the near darkness of the early morning, finally stops. He isn’t even awake, not through the screaming, not through the music. He just settles back into bed throwing one heavy arm over my side as if it’s Sunday morning.

It’s not.

It’s some weekday, it doesn’t matter which, I have to get up and go to work. I try to force my stinging and heavy lidded eyes open and manage to create slits just enough to reach for the phone and turn down the music.

Leave it play and the loud sounds give me a headache but turn it off and I’ll drift back off in the warm comfort of my bed.

Still, I have not reached a point where I can move. My brain, more functional than the rest of me is yelling orders that my limbs refuse to answer. We continue this silent battle, my brain that knows that we have somewhere to be vs my body that just wants “five more minutes” but has no concept of time.

Finally, he wakes turning and sleepy, he picks up his phone that he had silenced so casually. Sometimes 15 minutes after it sounds. Sometimes 40. But never anywhere close to when he stopped it.

“Baby,” he mumbles, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Yes,” I reply, grumpy and more awake than he, “Get up, we’re late.”

I always know what time it is. I’ve been half keeping time by music, half by the quickly rising sun. He pulls himself out of bed and throws on clothes sourced from a pile on the floor. He doesn’t have much to do but drop people off and some chores.

I follow, my body heavy and tired as I struggle to place my feet one in front of the other, to make it around the bed and down the hall, half blind. Under my feet cats twist and children fly past me on their way to waste time in their bedroom.

I don’t care. I just want to pee.

On the toilet my eyesight begins to clear, shapes matching with their names in my mind. Cat. Bath. Kid. Book.

Toothpaste to brush. Brush teeth. Rinse. Spit.

I dry my hands on my husband’s towel as I return to my bedroom. He’s yelling at me from the kitchen. His voice echoes, beating at the back of my brain. My brain that is painfully aware that we need to hurry but the early morning adrenaline has worn off and I’m so sleepy.

It doesn’t matter what morning it is, I’m always sleepy.

“Babe!” he yells as I round the bed.

“Babe!” he yells again, “Are you up?”

“Yes! I’m getting dressed,” I holler back. He never hears me.

“What?” his voice echoes from downstairs.

“She said she’s getting dressed,” one of my children relays as I quickly decide if their outfit is appropriate to wear outside of the house.

The child leaves and there is a moment of silence before he calls again. “Babe! What do you want for lunch?”

I grit my teeth at my dresser and decide to ignore him. He can’t hear me and I have to hurry. I pull out clothes to the sound of his yelling.

“Mike wants to know what you want for lunch,” the other child asks.

I inspect her outfit and give her a pass before answering, “I don’t know, I’m not in the kitchen. Tell him to stop calling me!”

She nods and skips out of the kitchen. I know she’ll only give him half of the message. It’s fine. The clock is already rounding into the red. I’ve been keeping time by the music. I know that it’s already too late.

I pull on my clothes and hustle down the stairs. He’s already in the car, a recent change in routine. It took me years to instill in him the practice of going out to the car to wait instead of on the couch, watching TV with his shoes off.

My husband doesn’t hurry over anything. It takes him five minutes to put his shoes on. Another five to find his keys in the same place he leaves them every night. Once in the car it takes him four minutes to start it, find his sunglasses, put on his seat belt and pull out of the spot. I’ve timed him.

So this is better.

Today I am lucky and notice that he’s left my breakfast for me on the bookcase by the door. I pick it up in my hurry. Some mornings I rush out and then have to convince him to just start the car, secretly fuming that I’ll be hungry until lunch.

He’s still not very good at taking it to the car with him.

Finally in the car we pull out into the road and drive the three miles to my job. It’s funny that when you’re in a hurry traffic moves at a crawl. He yells at drivers that can’t hear him until I point out that he’s just giving me a headache.

I jump out the car as we pull up in front of my building, kissing my husband who yells, “Try to have a good day!” out of the rolled down window to my departing back. I make some noncommittal noise that could be ok or I love you.

I scurry down the path and into my building, flashing my badge at a disinterested guard. I wait for the elevator, hoping that the employee I don’t like is either already at her desk or later than me. Anything but the same time. Anything but the small talk. It’s too early.

Some days I get lucky. Some days I don’t.

Finally the elevator stops at my floor and I step off, passing through the security doors into my office. I pass by my coworkers who cheerfully say good morning even though I never say it back. I’m not being rude. I just don’t register they’ve spoken or what my reaction should be until I’ve already passed them.

So maybe I am rude.

I pass my employees and finally settle into my desk, quickly turning on my computer, setting up my station.

Stop. Breathe. Ok.

I open my email and there, marked urgent from my boss, sent 8 minutes after my start time, “Come see me as soon as you arrive.”

Fuck. Game over.

This post inspired by “The Five Essential Story Ingredients” from Writer’s Digest. To be honest, I just sort of skimmed the article but my reaction was, “Fuck you getting up in the morning isn’t a story. The struggle is REAL!”

Twilight to Twilight

I See the Moon One of the most important part of juggling freelancing and a full time job plus, you know, life, is scheduling. Which is pretty elementary. Anything you read will probably say that that. I’m not a time management guru, I take three hour long naps after work and wake up 15 minutes before I’m supposed to be at my day job.

Which is pretty contrary to what most writing advice usually supports. A lot of what is out there is always suggesting that writers set aside time to work in the wee hours of morning before children and spouses wake. Before cows need milking and eggs need plucked from chicken nests. Or I assume that’s what happens that early. I don’t know. I live in the city. The idea is to make that time, those early morning predawn hours, your time. Own it. Fill it with the work.

Which is all fine and good but I’m not a morning person. Mid-morning, maybe sometimes, but early morning, that’s a big never.

Also I’m not, generally speaking, very creative or productive just after waking up. I’m just a night owl.

So rather than restructure my entire biorhythm, I just structure my life around the fact that my brain functions best between 8PM and 3AM.

I come home, I nap for a few hours and then I talk to my children about their day, settle in at my computer and get to work until I pass feel sleepy again and go back to bed.
And that’s ok.

Mornings are not everyone’s best time. It’s not my time. I fill my nights with the work. There are hours long stretches of uninterrupted time there where I can fall into things, take breaks, do edits and rewrites. I can lose myself to the work.

Mornings, that’s just me trying to squeeze in time before I have to drop everything and handle the business of life. Night time is for creation. There is no other business. There is nothing else coming that will take precedence over the work.

There is only the work and I.

Mornings are for hobbies and for things you can drop. Nighttime is for things that matter. Things that keep you up. Not things you wake up for.

It’s semantics. Everyone is different. Some people are morning birds and do well in those wee hours, snatching time from other obligations. I prefer to set out a time when there are no other obligations and in a 9-5 world, that time is nighttime.

From twilight to twilight, the world is mine.  When others are rising to begin, I’m shutting down, a night well spent. Too few hours of rest, tasks that don’t matter, and we start the process over again.   

Shame Pizza is Our Daily Bread

I have made a decision today that I am far too busy to clean the kitchen. My kitchen is a mess. The Leaning Tower of Plates has been created on my counter. The Church of Crusty Pots is on my stove top. It’s a bad scene. It’s like culinary homicide has been committed in my kitchen. “Someone take the children! Avert your eyes gentle souls! Hell is here!”

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but it’s pretty bad.

I’m not cleaning it though. My husband is supposed to take care of it, make sure that it doesn’t become a cesspool of neglect and shame filled pizza boxes that build up because the kitchen is too gross to cook in and everyone is hungry. He is not good at avoiding the cesspool.

When I do clean, it pushes back carefully plotted deadlines. I do not have much of any free time and I generally use that to sleep so the hour and a half to two hours it takes to clean the kitchens or the bathrooms is sort of a big deal. That’s like four quick articles right there.
Needless to say the transition from me cleaning to him cleaning has not gone well. Which is why shame pizza has become a major staple in our diet. I feel really guilty about that.

I have tried various ways to help him get used to taking care of the house on more than just a casual basis (put your socks in the hamper. Run the dryer now and then) but it hasn’t done much. He’s just not very good at the whole house keeping thing. Or paying bills. Or just anything that has to do with the house in general. He’s bad at all of it.

I’m good it however, I can’t pawn off illustration jobs and articles on him for a few hours a week so I can clean the kitchen. He can’t swap with me at my day job and handle my staff so that I can knock out the bathroom and a couple loads of laundry. I only have so much time in my day and I’m already pulled pretty thin.

So at this point, I have no idea what to do. The dishes are beyond piled up. My children are running around like wild things. I am filled with shame and guilt but I have to get the work done. So that still leaves a ton of work on the house.

Sigh. I imagine that many people working freelance and full time with families encounter this problem with the person who generally did the house work just can’t anymore.

I have no advice for this. I wish I did but there doesn’t seem to be any right answer since you know, everyone else is content to live this way. My mom’s favorite story was the Little Red Hen and I never really understood that until I became a mother and a partner.

I guess I’ll just get to bread making then.