When my son was four months old I started a podcast.
"Can motherhood and creativity coexist?" was the catchy sub-title. I set out to talk to the most creative moms I had access to and ask them how they made it happen. I would be able to talk about the business of creativity, the secret of productivity and learn how these smart women found time to do their creative work while being an awesome mom.
It was a project that felt very glamourous. I remember the feeling of seeing the icon I had designed pop up in the iTunes window the first time and felt a surge of pride and excitement that was invigorating. I quickly racked up a list of women who's title and accomplishments were, without doubt, impressive. I landed on the iTunes "New and Noteworthy" list and cheers went up throughout social media.
Backstage of all this glamor? Almost constant feelings of fear (for my son, for myself,for my marriage, for my extended family) as well as feelings of inadequacy and angst that were fueling this drive to create this show. I was a woman who not only worried about the loss of her creativity (which I showcased via the podcast) but, underneath it all, was also struggling to come to terms with the brevity and beauty, the seriousness and the sillyness of life.
As I explained in a recent Instagram post, I didn't "feel sad". Yes, I would find excuses to get out of my house around 5:30 every day because I didn't want my husband or mom to see me cry. But I blamed this on the upcoming night - Would I sleep? Would Sam sleep? Would my husband see me as a good mom?
More than anything, I just felt like a mess.
I couldn't tell the difference between my son's "hungry cry" and his "wet cry"; wasn't this a skill all good moms' possessed? Yes, I took an inordinate number of pictures of my sweet child but other than that I didn't really know what to "do" with him; his disinterest in books as a newborn was infinitely disheartening. I took on the weird reality of being simultaneously bored (no interaction from the baby) but busy (because, except when he napped, he kept me busy).
So I became a closet work-a-holic.
"Closet" in the figurative "no one knows" sense and in the literal "I have a podcast space in my guest bedroom closet" sense.
I recently read an article that stated, "Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement," and I cried out in recognition. Having exhausted myself of asking hundreds of unanswerable questions during the first few months of my child's life (Is my son going to be smart? Is my son going to be successful? Is my son going to be a good human being? Is my son going to be healthy? What if he has a learning disorder? What if he has a life-threatening illness? What if he gets put in jail? *You know, the most negative thoughts I could possibly find.*), I was only too happy to disconnect from the weight of the unknown. Instead, I plunged into the inevitable consternation that comes from learning a new process from the beginning. And in that consternation I found bits of accomplishment, moments filled with an energy and light that continued to evade me in the seeming non-stop drudgery of newborn-ness.
Reading over this sounds like the most pitiful tale, doesn't it?
A new mom who doesn't enjoy her (according to the outside world) enviable position as a stay-at-home-mom so she gets lost in the lonely abyss of audio editing. (Because podcasting is 8 parts technical prowess, 1.5 parts logistics worked out through an endless stream of email, and .5 parts actaully talking to cool people.)
However, I have come to realize that the podcast was my own personal life vest. It was the thing that kept my head above water so I could continue swimming through what was a mentally and emotionally challenging period of my life.
And now, thankfully, that high water has begun to recede.
There are still bad days: Nights where no one in the house is able to sleep or meals where hardly anything is consumed and everyone is cranky as a result. But the majority of this "bad" is in the moment. A temporary cloud in an otherwise sunny forecast. The existential angst and innumerable unanswerable questions? They're still there. Mostly because that's how I'm stitched up and will forever be working toward silencing. However, the volume of that negativity no longer pushes me to keep my mind and hands as busy as they were a few short months ago.
So this is a thank you note.
To all of the podcast guests who graciously said, "Yes." : Thank you for allowing me to take up your time and inbox space with a process and procedure I am still working to perfect. I wanted to talk to you because you have a strength and tenacity that I admire and hope to replicate.
To all of the listeners who choose to plug in those earbuds and press the play button : Thank you for giving me an external reason for working through the rough times.
And to myself : Thanks for fighting even when it felt like flailing.
I'm publishing this on Tuesday, May 24 and I hope to have a new episode up with Marissa Huber of Carve Out Time for Art this coming Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st. (The business / marketing side of my brain is screaming in protest right now because "every knows" that launching something on a holiday is stupid. But oh well.) I work best on public deadlines so there it is.