Last night, I kicked my eleven year old daughter out of the office she had converted into her room, making her move back in with her little sister. She was not happy.IMG_20130309_191824

I needed the space.

Until yesterday, I’ve worked in the kitchen on a round table around which Paul and the girls must navigate to get to the door to the garage or the laundry room. This “crossing” also acts as an invitation to ask me a question, which probably stems from different motivations: it’s convenient, I want Mom’s attention, I want my wife’s attention, I want to make fun of her incoherent answers and noncommittal uh-huhs, I want to get a quick yes to something that might bring a no if she were to fully concentrate on what I’m asking, etc.

What I’ve finally concluded is my family does not respect my work and neither do I. I’ve failed to set boundaries about it or to them. They’re cute. I love them. But they’re interfering.

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I don’t know if I’m putting the cart before the horse because I don’t make a lot of money in writing (as if money is the only way to assign value). But … I know I will continue to make very little money in writing if I accept interruptions during work time. Each interruption takes far more time away from the work than the time it takes to ask. I don’t switch gears easily. This is how it goes —

They ask a question. I ignore it. They repeat it along with some jokes about my intense focus. When that gets no response, they repeat it with a “Mom!” cutting across the air or dry, sarcastic remarks from Paul including the term “your mother” which always clues me into his annoyance. I reluctantly pull my mind from my work and turn to the questioner without being able to focus. The questioner mistakes eye contact for coherence. I give a non-coherent answer. The questioner laughs and repeats the question. I give a blank stare. Eventually I tell the questioner I am unquestionably listening this time. I take in the question and quell the anger stemming from realizing they interrupted me to answer an unnecessary or unimportant question. I answer the question. I unreasonably hope the questioner will see how ridiculous it is to interrupt me for such a question. I return to my work. I quell frustration that I have lost my thoughts. I try to gather the thoughts I was thinking, and return to my work.

Total time of the actual question (when I listened) and answer period: ten seconds. Total loss of time at work: three minutes. Multiply this event by three or four times and the pointlessness of trying to work becomes clear in which I stand up, exit out, and do  the tasks which are clearly more important to my family — folding their laundry and cleaning up after them. This is much more agreeable to all of them because I can fully interact with them while doing these tasks and they won’t called upon to do them.

The martyr in me tells me my work can wait. It is not that important. Being at my family’s mercy is more important. And… after insisting on declining full-time work so I full time mother, there is some fairness in demanding my full attention. Yet, I am beginning to wonder. Is this really fair, right, and good? Is this the best way to be fully me? I believe mothers should give their family the very best of themselves. I’m not so sure they should give them everything. Surely, I can reserve some of it for other callings? Do I not owe it to them to not extinguish any part of myself? Shouldn’t I allow them to solve things for themselves?

Setting boundaries is creation. All of us are creating a life. Our lives are a sum of our choices — what we choose to do and not to do — we are where we are now because of boundaries that have or haven’t been set.

God divided the light from the dark. He divided the sky from the water. He gathered the waters in places to show the land. A painter picks a canvas — a limit of space on which to paint. A writer chooses a word and not another word. A musician plays a note … or doesn’t. Without division, separation, boundaries, things are without form and void.

When my family comes to interrupt my work, I want to quote from Job with a voice like God and with the power to control the great seas:

I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’

Truly, it would take a voice like God to halt them. Yesterday, as I worked in my new studio with the curtains drawn, Paul was also drawn to the quiet and fell asleep on the floor in front of my chair so I couldn’t sit at my desk. Twice, Elsa opened the door to ask advice about something. And Ingrid grumbled incessantly about why I needed to kick her out — she didn’t like the bunk bed, she was cold, and Dagne talks too much.

Hmmm. What does it take to consecrate a place and make it sacred? How can I and my work get some respect?

I can see Paul rubbing his fingers together and saying, “Show me the money.” (He wouldn’t ever actually do this; I’m projecting this attitude on him. It’s how I wrestle with my writing).

But is there value in what I do even if I never get paid? I believe so. If no one reads my words or gains from them, I gain from writing them. This faith in what I do must increase. And the family must learn to respect it.

This hard, settling knot of knowing who I am and who I am not is at the very core of living the simple life. Being able to say ‘yes’ to the best things and ‘no’ to good things is what it’s all about. I must know myself and have courage in it — even if it means being a little at odds with my family. I believe that following my path will help them to discover theirs. It is a gift to all of us, though sometimes we have trouble recognizing it.

What do you think?

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