The Summer of Menace Has Passed
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
“If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”
~from Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
It's a hot Tuesday, the second-to-last day of my kids' summer vacation, and I'm trying to write an Instagram post. I have asked for three minutes of no talking near me. I'm being featured on a podcast (@controlledchaos) and I have to let people know. I'm trying to be both clever and accurate (Autocorrect does bad things to hashtags, man), and I'm typing with letters that are one eighth the size of my thumb.
When I've been interrupted for the third time in three minutes, and had to erase and retype three times, I finally yell at the kid.
The kid's response is, "Geez, why do you have to be so edgy?"
My response -- in high volume -- is something like, "Why don't you go to your dad's office and ask him questions while he's emailing a client and see if HE gets edgy?"
Ah, summer for the working mother. And I don't work even close to full time, so sing it even louder, you sisters who do. I am, in fact, still in the business-building stage of my second career: an author who has just released her first book, and a speaker looking to expand her territory. Ask anyone who has done what I'm doing. It's super fun. It's a crazy blessing. It does not pay great. And it's a lot of seed sewing and waiting and emailing and cold calling and editing and writing and trying desperately to be present while some brilliant thought you just had just went through your head and if you don't write it down now you will lose it and sometimes that happens while your daughter is telling you the plot of a show on the Disney channel and she's going to quiz you on if you were listening after.
There's the guilt that I'm not working hard enough and doing my part to build my ministry. There's the guilt that I'm not trusting God enough to do his part to grow it. And there's the mom guilt. I'm afraid if I'm not 100% focused and present with them, that they will have an anxiety disorder, an addiction, bad grades, bad boyfriends, and never come home for Thanksgiving once they go off to college.
I can see no way around this. I love my kids desperately, and I have to be there for them. I also HAVE to create. I need to write, to teach, to share what God speaks to me.
I'm called to this life with one foot in both places.
If you really want to see me get edgy, make me live through a week in which I don't create something. If I don't put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or needle and thread to fabric, I am not a nice person to be around. I need the sense of accomplishment that comes from completely a thought, a blog, a lesson, a sewing project. Mothering ain't never gonna be done. The kitchen stays clean for about 45 seconds. So I need to take the pieces floating around in my mind and put them together into something solid and sane.
I need to create because I am created in the image of Creator God, who spoke into darkness and chaos and brought beauty and order, and who holds things together still. I'm a problem solver, an artist, and a thinker. I am closer to God in spirit and more like him in character when I am making something.
One of my favorite books in the past few years was Where'd You Go, Bernadette? a hilarious satire of suburban life, but also the story of a mother and daughter. I just saw the movie this weekend, and it was great. The mother is a brilliant architect, but after a tragic event in her career, she gives it up and has a baby. She decides her daughter is her greatest work of art and she can stop creating.
But she's dead wrong. Her former colleague writes her an email, and tells her: “If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” And she does. The book is a story of a woman finding her way back to herself, doing the thing she was born to do. In doing so, she becomes a much better mother.
I didn't manage this summer well. I tried to be Super Mom, super present, and didn't carve out the time to retreat and create. And in doing so, I became rather menacing. I was less present than I would have been if I'd left the kids home for a couple of hours every couple of days -- they are plenty old enough -- and taken care of business.
So lesson learned. The summer of menace has passed. My daughters went back to school today. I betook myself to Target to visit my book on the shelf (It just was released in Target on Tuesday. I cried in the aisle.) I bought deodorant, sandwich bags, and air freshener because my car smells like wet beach towels. And then I betook myself home to my laptop, on which I have created this post.
Now a charge to you, reader: You too need to create. Working with your hands is good for your health. Problem solving is good for your brain. So make something. Maybe not a quilt or a book. Hang a picture. Plant something. Paint something. Write a saying on the chalkboard in your entry way. Cook a weeknight dinner that's a little more exciting than usual. Make a bad-ass Excel spreadsheet and solve a problem. Make a relationship -- ask someone new out for coffee or a walk. If we don't make things, we aren't living out our purpose; we're just slogging along, and possibly becoming a little edgier. The world needs what you can make, and you need to make it.