Three Times Around the Retrograde
Issue #3: Momentum
One of the bigger challenges I’m feeling lately as a self-employed creative is figuring out some kind of daily routine that is flexible enough for family life, and that is also productive for my writing and business life.
I try to plan my weeks around my coaching calls and client work, and I am up at 5:00 am every day to get my kids to school. But after the kids are gone, and I’ve been on Zoom calls and answered emails, after the errands are run, the chores are done, the laundry is started, and the evening dinner is planned - settling in to write - to do my work - can take a bit of effort.
I tend to get caught up in a “busy mom” loop and literally can’t seem to sit the eff down. I rotate around the house, kind of like my dog does in her bed when she’s scratching and circling 3 or 4 times to settle in.
I’ll sit for a minute - then I need water or coffee - or both. Ok. So I’ll sit down again - laundry buzzer. I sit down again - I have to pee.
And then - shoot, I forgot to pull the chicken out of the freezer. Trash needs to go out. Feed the pets, but daggone it, I need to refill the pet food containers. You know how it goes on those days where one simple chore leads to all the bigger chores? I feel like that happens a lot.
And finally, when I sit down again - my dog is at the back door, ringing the bell to go out, or scratching to come in. The back door is right behind me.
We have a small house - which is great for keeping our expenses low, but my workspace is out in the middle of the house, so I can’t shut myself away from anything or anyone. Dirty dishes wink at me from the sink if I leave them to sit there.
And so, I circle around and around, and some days I find a comfy spot right away and have it all worked out, and some days I keep scratching at the blankets, trying to get settled.
Of course, at 2:00pm, I’m on Mom time again when I go get the kids - which involves an entirely different part of my brain. Waiting in traffic, having long conversations about black holes, Friends, multiverses, Star Wars, or Mr. Beast, or LEGO, then we come home, make snacks, talk about school, tests, projects, friends, games, books, chores...I love every minute of it.
AND if I play it just right, I’ll have another few hours to myself while they do homework. I try to make the most of it as I pull dinner together.
I AM NOT COMPLAINING about any of this. Not at all. I am supremely grateful that this is my biggest challenge in life right now, trying to find my groove with my new schedule and trying to find my momentum with creative projects. I also know that I’m not the only parent that struggles to balance their creative life, business, children, spouse, and other daily responsibilities along with their own self-care.
And maybe ‘balance’ isn’t even the thing I’m looking for.
I struggled to balance it all when I had a full-time job, and I’m struggling to balance it all now. So, in my experience, balance is a myth, a fallacy.
When I actually think of balance, I picture myself on a high-wire over a great chasm. It looks cool - like when you spin a top and it appears to float - but when it loses momentum, it collapses. When you stop walking the tightrope, you get shaky and fall into the pit. It’s an illusion. That is not what I want.
Even when I stop and audit how my body reacts to the word 'balance', it feels STRESSFUL to me. My blood pressure goes up. Balance feels tenuous. Not sustainable. Risky, even.
So no, not balance.
I’m looking for FLOW and EASE so that I can rely on habits and routine to guide me through my days, instead of a distracted brain fueled by fear of not getting it all done. That’s like, an old trauma and stress response, you know? I’m looking for my natural rhythm, an intuitive schedule of how my days should comfortably unfold and what my priorities are.
Of course that Mom Guilt creeps in, but I’m learning to live with it and actively negotiate my terms.
And honestly - it’s just part of the deal of being a mom. It’s getting easier to set that guilt trigger lower, especially as my kids get older.
When I worked full time and I had a big paycheck, I could outsource childcare, meals, laundry, housekeeping - and I did, and I’d feel guilty for it because I thought that I should be able to do it all, but I couldn’t. I was exhausted. I missed my kids. I hated my job.
And I wanted to do it all. I actually like ‘keeping house’ and I enjoy cooking - but you know, ‘muh career.’ They didn’t tell our generation of women that it would be a struggle to do all of it - to have kids, a career, and to manage our household, as well as our sleep, health, and stress.
Instead, I had the smug, smiling face of Sheryl Sandberg on the shelves at my library telling me to Lean In during some of the darkest, unhappiest days of my Mom Guilt. I had to learn alot of this the hard way - by actually going through it.
Now I’m at home - finally! - working for myself. I am off that hamster wheel. Do I really need to feel guilty if I don’t get it all done today, or perfectly? No. No I don’t need to feel guilty at all.
Can this load of laundry wait until Wednesday? Yes. Yes it can wait.
Can I just enjoy my children, bake the bread, write the book? Yes. Yes, I will.
I’m learning to think about my home life and my creative time in a different way. I think I’ll always keep circling back, though, scratching at the blankets, trying to find that sweet spot. But for right now, I’m settling in.
Starting a writing project is the same way. I’ve been scratching around Library Confidential for far too long and haven’t been able to settle in to it.
But…I am happy to report that finally, last Thursday, as the kitchen was spotless for a few moments, all the laundry caught up, the fridge full and dinner planned - I had about three whole hours to myself, and I knew it was time.
It’s like I could feel the book’s presence there as a shadow, waiting on me. Lurking.
You know, like when you ignore the dog at the back door for an extra 90 seconds to finish a sentence and they just stare at you the entire time and you feel bad? Like that. You can only keep the pup waiting so long. And honestly, I’ve kept this book waiting so long I was starting to feel like a jerk.
So, I settled in quick. Water, coffee, earbuds, pee-pee, comfy pants - check! Over the weekend, I’ve been able to get a few thousand words down on a shitty first draft, and it feels FABULOUS.
Like really, really good. A relief. I knew she’d show up.
Funny thing about it, too - within a couple of hours of me starting the book, I got a message from a former co-worker (you know, the people I haven’t heard from in three months? But I can’t blame them because I haven’t reached out to them, either? But I love them and wish them the best? Those people) to tell me that a book I had been looking for was waiting for me in the bookstore.
So, wow. Of all days to hear from my old job. Right as I start the book about it - I get a message. Y’all know I’m woo-woo about this stuff.
And so, as we change seasons and with the start of our third and final Mercury Retrograde of 2021, I went in yesterday to revisit my old library, the place I worked for almost 18 years, and that I’d been avoiding since I resigned on June 3. I felt a bit sick and shaky, and my heart rate was elevated as I drove in, but I thought, hey - I should finally face this, right?
It’s just research for the book.
I tried to be curious, but when I walked through the front doors, I really just wanted to make it QUICK.
I HAD to make it quick.
And yes, it was nice to see a few old friends. Visited for 15 minutes. Nothing had changed. Everyone was the same. It was weird. Like a time warp.
I picked up the book I’d gone in for, and browsed and bought a few others at the bookstore. That took me 15 minutes.
Then I was gone, and fast.
I didn’t check out any books from the library - mostly because I don’t want to have to go back to return them.
I don’t want to ever have to go back there again. I think I’m good.
I know if for sure now - I have everything I need to write this book.
I tell my coaching clients about memoir - you really have to be ready to do this work. You’ll know when you’re ready - you won’t be able to deny the urge.
I had the urge. I obeyed. The universe sent me a message. The planets aligned. And then I confronted and confirmed what I already knew.
Mercury retrogrades are a perfect period of time to close old loops and to start the work on a memoir. These retrogrades escort you energetically to the past, but are just long enough, like 3-4 weeks, so that you can gain a little momentum as you move forward into your memoir. It’s like shooting a rubber band - you pull back on it to make it spring forward.
Like I write about in my book The Magic Key - this stuff, this magic, these signs, these alignments - will appear if you listen to your intution and take action toward your dreams. You trust that everything you need will show up for you, and it does.
And so now that I’ve circled three times around the retrogrades this year, I think I’m finally ready - really ready - to settle in and get comfortable tucking into this memoir.
But - before I sit down again, does anyone need anything?