Imperfectly. My friend Nicola asked another friend, mother of five children, how she did it all. How did she manage children, husband, self, sanity? Imperfectly, she answered, as relayed by Nicola. I’ve been coming to terms with that word since. Thinking about its meanings for me.
One the one hand, there’s the baby, spending quality time with her and enjoying it, making sure she eats enough and feels loved and cared for. On the other hand, there is my job and that thing i don’t do enough of, publishing.
of my days, the hours during the week are spent on office life, teaching, emails and who knows what else. the hours during the weekend are all about Zi, folding clothes, tidying and who knows what else. there are no more days nor hours left for writing. I’m a slow writer and i need hours to get my brain spinning and to set a thought in serious motion. I’ve tried to do it in the nights after i put Zi to bed, but there’s a few wake ups between 11pm and 6.30am, and anyway who can write in an exhausted two hours left at the end of the day? Somewhere, some woman can of course do it, and is of course doing it, and i’m here thinking about that standard i wish i could meet.
i’m behind and short on time, over-extended and not where i want to be. i keep thinking back to my ghost wings, dreaming of myself in sci-fi with four arms, each writing the four essays due by year end. my mummy academic friends say that i should accept i’m off the fast track and on the slow train. nicola says, just accept. i’m all about the details and what i make should reflect my capacity. but maybe now i can only do my best imperfectly?
the real wake up came in a conversation with a super-amazing colleague who somehow manages to head a programme, raise two children, organise a weekly newspaper column, supervise students and engage in outreach. she said her daughter, now at adolescence, is entering one of the most demanding periods of her schooling and that its really really really hard.
really? somewhere in mind, i thought that after a few years, it would get easier. i had a weird, linear progression of getting my act together mapped out in my head. it never occurred to me that there could be steps back just as there are ones forward. i never imagined that someone so amazing would still be feeling as i do now.
here is what she wrote to me: “I am so behind with deadlines and getting resentful that people just do not recognise how impossibly hard it is to make everything on time. The thing I am realising is the priority is the family, that’s the constant, and never to compromise on that. I don’t always get it right but I have let go a lot more. second comes my public intellectual work, specially the column and also the community gigs that we organise here. then academia. i am so tired of the grind gabby, and i think and feel that women studies gets caught up in it in ways it does not imaginatively try to renegotiate. u and i are similar this way but the difference may be u do not have tenure as yet. try to put blinkers on, focus on one or two pieces u want to write, do not bite off more than u can chew, don’t develop new courses right now, and try to breathe. the work will be better for it. it is disheartening to hear – though not altogether unsurprising – just how hard it is to do this, in a world that actually does not give a damn about much else beyond the publications…keep a strong head”.
knowing that it’s not only me was heartening, this woman said to me the words i wanted to say to her and her solidarity lifted me from panic to setting my mind on a way through to a resolution. but knowing that her words could still be mine ten years from now was terrifying. what a wake up.
i’ve re-read her words several times, glad beyond belief for women, friends and colleagues who share with me the imperfectness of their reality and who give me perfect advice about how to accept my own. i’m trying to do all these things: accept, focus, prioritize, breathe, let go, keep strong. i’m also trying to make balance, being present and being grateful my foundation because i know that today life is perfect and tomorrow that perfection might just be gone.
so, i’m reaching deep for words and maturity and spirit. and i’m heartened and terrified at the same time because somehow i’m doing it all…imperfectly.