When you see a cliff, put on the brakes
But there are times that this just doesn't work anymore. I hate pruning back, and I have resisted it, but right now I have to face the fact that this is what I need to do. Both of my parents have had health challenges over the past couple of years. They are divorced, both live nearby, and I am their only child. Last week my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went in for a routine mammogram and the next thing we knew the whole process of testing and diagnosing was underway, like a whirlwind. We went from follow-up screening to biopsy to meeting with the surgeon in the course of three days. We are grateful to have access to such speedy medical care, but it's a shock to the system even in the best of circumstances. There is so much to internalize and process, from medical information to emotional turmoil. I wandered around for a week, feeling like someone had hit me on the head with a two by four. You know those cartoon characters who have googly eyes and planets and stars floating over their heads? That was me.
I started to come out of it a couple of days ago. My Mom's prognosis is likely to be pretty good, but she does need surgery, scheduled for next week. So I am reorganizing my priorities. A couple of days ago I had a major epiphany, which is that it is actually easier to keep it together than it is to fall apart. I have too many people who are depending on me, and falling apart takes a lot of energy and explaining. So my strategy is to pare back to the absolute essentials, get them done, and let everything else go for now.
My three priorities are: 1. Family, 2. Writing, and 3. Friends, fun and self-care. Everything else has to go on the back burner.
It's going to be an interesting discipline to stick to these, because I am usually very open to doing things for other people, and I am going to have to turn down some kind and worthy requests. I am mentally checking out of my office until mid-January. I do plan to keep writing here and on (parent.thesis) but I can't predict exactly how regularly I'll be able to blog.
One more thought to rattling around my head right now: As Mojo Mom I have struggled so hard to reconcile feminist ideals with my reality and the outlook for mothers at large. I see huge structural issues with motherhood, and I know it's not all about individual choice. But at the same time, I feel like we need something beyond feminism to help us as mothers cope with our reality. I've worked hard to build up my work identity as a writer, and now I have to lay it down. I don't know HOW I would fill a 9 to 5 job right now, and yet that's exactly what the majority of women in my situation need to do.
The feminist wave that began in the 1970's gave us the right to compete on the male playing field but we have so much unfinished business to address. Adopting the male model isn't working for me, and by the way, the Third Wave of feminism is speaking to me even less than the Second. I need a Caregiving Society to help me out. We have a quadruple-decker sandwich going on in my family--my parents each have a parent living. I need a society that allows me to work and take care of my family, and one that won't put the burden of caregiving only on the daughters and wives. Is it feminism, or something else, that will make this possible?
I am glad I've been involved with MomsRising because it is the one movement that offers me hope right now.