With a new year again underway, I am going through what is turning out to be a recurring episode of self-loathing and depression I will now call the “New-Years-Guilty-Remembrance”. I can’t help but review the goings-on of the previous year which seems to have been filled with much less constructive creativity and project success and much more with surviving days as a harried mother-of-three who is also barely maintaining a side job or two that involve photographing smiling people and occasionally painting pictures with half-drunk couples on their awkward first dates. I always seem to have big plans and no time, or no money, or no energy, or no creativity, or no sanity… and quickly my big plans and expectations get lost and forgotten in the mess of it all. By the time May comes rolling in I realize that I’ve done almost nothing I had mind to do in January and I end up feeling completely frustrated and guilty. I recommit that I will NOT let more time pass before I get on the ball. A new schedule gets made, new resolve found. Just in time for school to let out and for my kids to come home for 24 hours a day, bogarting even more of my time and leaving me clean OUT of coherent thoughts with which to compile amazing blog posts or create fabulous projects. It is usually around June when it sinks in that this year actually is NOT going to be “The” year.
For the few times I do manage to post on this blog, I typically don’t write much about my personal life or thoughts. Usually posts tend to be simply “here, look what I did” or “here, look what you can do” type posts. I don’t know how or if I should do this now, but I’m going to give the personal thoughts thing a shot. Thats not to say that all of my posts will be this way, actually I doubt many will be about my deep feels at all, but heres to openness mingled with creativity and crossed-fingers in 2016.
So, man, life is super hard and stressful. Kids make it significantly more hard and stressful. Kids with some developmental delays and disorders, and a toddler with a thrill-seeking death wish make it all that much more hard and stressful. Throw in a sprinkling of post-par-tum depression and a feeling of lack of support and loneliness and some days mere survival seems reason enough to celebrate. I often wish I could live every day twice. I’d wake up on day 1A and be mom-maid-cook-tutor-driver-therapist. I’d put all my brain-power and physical energy into that job and do the best I could for my crazy kids. Then, I’d go to sleep and wake up on day 1B, an alternate reality where I would not have to share a brain with day 1A me, and I’d be an organized and motivated creative blogger. I’d spend my day creating things and documenting my progress in tutorials made for blog posts and video. I’d keep up with the insanely nice comments and questions and be uber involved with all those who come across my site. I’d be able to have the time and energy to do all of this and I’d feel fulfilled in being able to flex my creative muscle and teach others how to do the same. No one would come to the baby gate that separates my office from the living room and whine at me while I worked. I wouldn’t have to hurry through a half-assed project for fear a toddler was going to climb to the top of the fireplace mantle and launch themselves off. I wouldn’t have to find the other shoe, fix anyone grilled cheese, play the poop-or-chocolate game, practice speech therapy with marshmallow bribes, wipe snot off the couch, run to the store for the gazillionth time, break up screaming matches, … I’d save all of that for “mom” day. Day 2A. And in this way I could do both. I could be both. But I don’t have an “A” day and a “B” day. I just have today. And today I have to prioritize because I only have time for so much and I only have 1 brain that has a really difficult time switching back and forth between creative-genius and mom. So I wake up and intend on slipping in a couple of hours of blogging, or creating, or editing somewhere between all the rest. But I don’t. Sometimes the time just never shows up. And sometimes it does but all I can do is stare at a blank screen with nothing productive coming into my mind.
Someone who followed the blog once emailed me asking, “How do you do it all?” . I think I literally laughed out loud to myself. “I think you meant to ask me, “How do you BARELY do anything at all?”?” I wrote her back. I told her that what she saw on my blog was a compilation of years of spontaneous moments, not a constant stream of well-managed creative play-time like I wished. And when you total up all that has been done its easy to see how sad and small this thing is. I told her honestly that when those spontaneous moments occurred (often resulting in a slew of posts followed by months of m.i.a.) that I manically embraced the drive to do whatever it was I wanted to get done, at the expense of everything else in my life. Yeah, I’d build a headboard for 2 days and it would turn out pretty friggin good (likely after attempt 2 or 3) , but my kids would survive off of fruit-snacks and macaroni, they’d watch too much TV and play too many video games. The laundry would pile up and I wouldn’t return calls, pick up the house, or do much else that didn’t involve stapling foam padding to plywood. I’ve finally learned that I tend to be an all-or-nothing person. I’ve also learned that I don’t like long drawn-out projects because I can’t focus attention on anything too long before I’m forced to abandon it for the greater good (ie: my kid’s dinner). These are not exactly qualities I appreciate about myself, but they’re the truth. I mentioned to this sweet mama one more truth that I’ve learned about myself over the years. The truth is that I’m a crappy mom when I am not able to accomplish something creative somewhat regularly. I’m also a pessimistic, depressed, and frustrated human when I can’t put my hands into a project and see something come together by my own efforts. So when I feel tired of the neededness, and the ideas are building in my head I end up at a point where I start resenting my motherhood and my family responsibilities and anyone or anything else that is making a demand on me. That is when I drop everything and make something. It might make my husband crazy and my kids might be neglected to a questionable degree for a couple of days, but when the thing has been made, and I have let that creative energy escape, I emerge with pride in my accomplishment and with some vacated space in my mind and soul for my life to fill up again until the process needs repeating. Up to this point, this is the only way I have an operating blog or business of any kind. And I apologize to her or anyone else who may have thought otherwise. Because I post so infrequently, and its often in a rush between nap-times, I slap up the finished project and the how-to, all shiny and done. I don’t think to show you the explosion of chaos behind the creation. But its there. I have witnesses and they’d be willing to testify.
Granted, its not just the kids who steal away my time. I’ve gratefully built a decent photography career on the side as well. Thanks to fantastic families and word-of-mouth marketing. I used to have my “busy seasons” of photo work, but its recently evolved into a year-round gig. Although I love my clients, and I am super flattered by the referrals they’re sending my way, I often feel as though any free moment I have that is not spent on managing our lives, is spent going on shoots and sitting at my computer editing photos. I know that I can always say “no” to a shoot if I feel I should spend that time another way, but its hard to turn down much needed cold-hard cash to pursue something that seems more abstract at the moment. I am in love with photography and I’m obsessed with exploring different editing techniques and styles, but I’m not sure I want to forfeit all of my other creative interests to narrow my focus to just photography alone. I like having “options”. Which is, I now recall, why I started this blog in the first place. It was meant to be a way to put meaning to my madness. I felt relieved to be able to throw all of my interests under one umbrella and continue to follow whatever idea came. It made me feel like it was okay that I wanted to be Everything when I grow up. Although it has gotten more difficult, and seems far less reasonable, I still hold onto this hope.
So, while I’m sitting here, neglecting my life to get these thoughts out of my head, I feel the need to make a list. A list of all the things the new year has forced me to remember to feel guilty for.
1. I vlogged that I would post more videos to my channel every week or so. I think I posted maybe 3 in the entire year.
2. I promised that I would create courses on Curious.com. I didn’t.
3. I committed to posting on the blog at least once a week. I posted only a handful of times within the year.
4. I expected myself to be able to manage my in-person photo clients as well as create an online photo and photo-editing course. I did ok at the managing the in person photoshoots, but didn’t make any headway on the online course.
5. I promised myself that I would answer emails, comments, Facebook messages, and YouTube subscribers in a timely manner. I “apologized for the delay” more than I’d like to acknowledge.
6. I wanted to have guest bloggers on to my site. Nope.
7. I wanted to revamp my site for an up-to-date experience that is more optimized for video and user friendly. I didn’t. Although I was at some point forced to update some things due to a hacking incident that left me inadvertently advertising “male enhancement” pills.
8. I was going to attempt to study up on SEO and YouTube video-making. I still don’t understand either.
9. I planned on selling some of my creations on my Etsy store after I made them into videos or blog posts. I’m not even sure if my store still exists.
10. I wanted to cut out dairy and sugar in 2015. I survived off of cheese sticks and chocolate.
11. I told myself I would not let my baby turn 1 before I lost the rest of the preggo weight. She turned 1 in July and I still can’t fit into my pants.
12. I expected to be able to practice music more often and teach my kids piano and guitar. I bought books, put stickers on the keys… after 15 minutes on a Sunday afternoon we mutually decided it was in our best interest to stop.
13. I was going to send Thank You cards and B’day gifts to friends and family at all/ on time. Sorry everyone. And Thank You.
14. I was going to save money, get healthy, be kinder, take up hiking, pay down debt, grow my business, get happy, find my old-self somewhere where I’d left her…
15. I generally assumed 2015 would be “THE year”. It wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, my life didn’t implode in 2015 and I really don’t have a lot to whine about. My husband and I are super happy with each other, my kids (although substantially difficult in some ways) are great kids who make me laugh and smile daily often more than they make me swallow my own screams. My parents came to visit, we went to Costa Rica on an anniversary trip, we had some really great weekends with good friends, and I maintained a little bit of business on the side. But I still feel so intensely lacking. I don’t exactly know why I thought I’d be able to accomplish so much. There was no indication of being able to over-achieve based on previous year’s performance. I think I just get super down at the New Year and my way of feeling better is to make what seem to be “manageable” goals. The problem does not lie in my ambition, unless its a problem of over-ambition and unrealistic ideas which are certainly possible. My problem lies in my actual life not meeting up with my wishful life. Life A has not seemed to make friends with Life B. It doesn’t matter how much I am willing to do, it matters how much I CAN do. And for years all I’ve been able to do is barely keep afloat, posting haphazardly a few times a year and making empty promises and fruitless attempts to progress. I don’t know how other stay-home moms with little kids can finagle their lives into becoming successful bloggers or businesswomen on the side. If you are one, please tell me? Do you have a pilates body and 3+ kids who eat organic, gluten-free meals daily that you prepare in between blogging and doing contract work for clients in your adorable office inside of your organized and spotless house? If so, I wanna hear from you.
Big sigh. Well, I’m a glutton for disappointment so I feel its only fitting to make a list of what I’d like to accomplish in 2016. I’m going to try really really hard to make it more reasonable so that I don’t have such an awful “New-Years-Guilty-Remembrance” list come 2017.
1. Just post more often.
2. Just make more videos.
3. Respond to a few comments so people know I’m still alive.
4. Only take on as much outside work as I can realistically handle with the knowledge that I have a scary-active toddler at home.
5. Eat well.
6. Buy new pants.
7. Remember who I want to be and make it a priority to act accordingly.
Well friends, there it is. A little vague, but manageable. Keep coming back if you’d like to see how I do as the year progresses.
Also, what do you think about personal thoughts on this thing? Honestly, I’m a little hesitant to send this out into the online world. Hopefully you guys don’t mind getting to know the “Cate” behind the “create” a bit more. Let me know if you relate, or if you’d rather I keep it tutorials and “look at this cool thing” posts only. Either way I so appreciate you reading and supporting me through the screen. Thanks a bunch and don’t forget to be creative. Laundry can wait.