Thursday, April 30, 2009

My After the Ecstasy, the Laundry moment

April has been a whirlwind, or maybe I should say that last year, since I started revising Mojo Mom, has felt like an extended spin cycle. Now that the new book is out, my mind is insisting on coming to a full stop.

This doesn't feel good. In fact, it feels a lot like losing my mojo. But I think it's important to listen to my mind and body. The past three weeks have felt like sprinting a marathon. I've done 26 radio interviews, one bookstore event, and co-led a 40-woman retreat. The radio tour was a wonderful opportunity to reach people across the country, and it was a singularly exhausting experience. I called in to more than 20 interviews in a three-day span, so it felt like the world's longest cocktail party, having between 5 and 50 minutes to discuss my work over and over again. I drew upon all my extrovert powers to keep going (and I tackled the interviews one at a time rather thank thinking about how many I had to do), but by the end of that week my brain was fried.
The daylong Recharging Your Mojo Retreat on April 18 was fantastic--the realization of a plan that the ten women in my own Mojo Mom Advisory Circle had been working on for over a year. During the retreat I felt energized and honored to share the room with 40 amazing women. But as soon as everybody left, my energy level crashed, and it has not yet recharged. I had spent the whole week leading up to the retreat sweating the details, poring over my to-do list, trying to figure out everything from how many sandwiches we needed, to what kind of sign to make to help people find the retreat center. That was all on top of figuring out what to say during the parts I led! Thankfully, my assistant Patty was in town and she helped out a lot, (saving my sanity, in fact) but even so, my mind was consumed for about a week ahead of time. It will be easier for the next retreat, now that we have had our successful pilot event.

But still, the fact is that since then I've been trying to decide whether to rest, or to fight my inertia. I am definitely having an After the Ecstasy, the Laundry kind of week, literally and metaphorically. This is a book by Jack Kornfield that talks about getting back to reality after having an intense spiritual experience. I've also been thinking a lot about Momma Zen and her "Hand Wash Cold" themes in her Cheerio Road blog, and I was turned on to the book A Broom of One's Own by Nancy Peacock, a memoir of a critically-acclaimed, North Carolinian writer who still has a day job cleaning houses. I resisted reading this book for a long time because when my husband Michael recommended it, saying "it's about writing and cleaning," I heard "writing and CLEANING, hint hint." But the good news is that this week I picked it up (borrowing it from our piano teacher, reading during Mojo Girl's lesson) and discovered that it's about WRITING and cleaning. This is the perfect time for me to read it, because Nancy Peacock talks about the writer's life, and how three hours a day writing and keeping a day job can be more effective than writing "full time." Cleaning allows her mind time to rest and wander, so that her characters are more willing to show up when she sits down to write. Plus, it's steady work that gets the bills paid, which helps because even a successful writer's paydays often come in irregular chunks.

Writing Mojo Mom required a lot of enlightened thought plus putting in the hours at the keyboard. In the process of focusing intensely to meet my deadline, I left a lot of real-life details undone.

So Michael and I have talked about the need to get back to the tasks in front of me. I aam open to this discussion and agree with his point, but I also said "this can't just mean that Amy does a ton of housework now!" So I need to find other nourishing things to do as well. I am loving cooking, still hating organizing and cleaning, and tennis is saving my sanity. I am spending more time with my family and really looking forward to a mellow summer. I will have a week by a lake in July all by myself for the first time in years. I am probably addicted to stress and rushing, because my biggest fear is that if I relax too much, I won't be able to get my creative engines revving again when I need to. But I know I do need to relearn how to relax, and trust that it will be good for my writing in the long run.

But I have realized that the laws of physics do apply to me, and it's time to take my own basic Mojo Mom advice--back to square one almost like I am back in those early days of motherhood. The other day I was literally doing laundry, piling it higher than the top of the laundry basket, and the whole thing toppled over. I didn't get mad or frustrated, I just realized, "Hmmm, if you pile it that high, it falls over." It was so basic and elemental. Then I realized that if I don't eat, I'll be hungry, if I don't sleep, I'll be tired, and maybe I should be patient with myself and accept the fact that my mind is spinning, and it will take a little while to figure out what's next for me.

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Blogger Lori LeVar Pierce said...

Funny your post is about this today. I had this exact kind of "ah-ha" moment last night while cleaning up the kitchen. I just plain didn't want to do it. I wanted to do something else. I haven't been nearly as swamped as you, but busier lately with advocating for sidewalks and talking with city officials, planning for school transitions in the fall and working on my own new blog.

It's not that I dislike housework, I really don't. I just like other things a lot better. For me, though, the thought was when my husband gets busy, I just step up to the plate and do more of the household chores (I even broke down and mowed the lawn last week). Why can't I do that when my life gets busy?

So, I really enjoy my outside interests (which really still improve life for my family - just on a big picture scale), but I feel guilty because it means I'm leaving household things undone.

It's a hard balancing act.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's even more good news. You don't have to figure out what's next. It's what you find at the top, or bottom, of the pile.

I know, the houseworking is never ending. But when you realize there's no "after" laundry, then there is no "after" ecstasy either. It's all one thing: life. And somebody's got to do it!

12:33 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Good point, Karen. We needed to hear from a Momma Zen master on this one!

I think you'd really like the book A Broom of One's Own, by the way.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I would too. I think it is my life. I think I'll try to like my life.

2:56 PM  
Blogger WordyDoodles said...

Congratulations on the retreat! It must have been amazing. And congrats on your whirlwind book tour. More moms should know about MojoMom!

I love the concept of "after the ecstasy, the laundry," and Karen's sage comment as well.

4:30 PM  
Blogger adena said...

It's not surprising that you are at this point after all that has happened this year! Take some time to chill out.

I bought your book recently and am enjoying it SO MUCH! Congratulations! It's wonderful!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Simmons said...

I think a resource guide to life transitions would be a great next book! There are so many deeply important transitions that lack ceremonies or rituals to help us understand them, and for those of us on a non-institutional path, the tunnel of having to reinvent ourselves pretty regularly can be lonely, fraught, and mojo-sucking. But also exciting and full of possibility.

I saw the "I Don't Know How She Does It" film and it was brilliant. Definitely intimately connected to this theme. Worth scheduling a screening (with your friends).

6:14 AM  

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