4.5 hours. This is how much time I have between dropping off my three lovely boys at school and picking them up. For the first time in my life, I am not employed, though I would argue that home management and child rearing without any supports is perhaps the most difficult, important, and under-appreciated career of all. 4.5 hours. I feel an immense pressure to use this time wisely. To write that book, to paint those canvases, to compose new music, to chase those photos, to do all the things that make my heart sing. I have so much in me that needs to get out, yet most of my time is spent doing food shops, meal planning, cooking, organizing, cleaning, budgeting, running errands, meetings and appointments, exercising, visiting friends, making all the annoying phone calls (I completely loathe phone calls), tending to children, and trying to stay awake whilst my partner and I watch a program on Netflix in the evening once the children are in bed- but rarely asleep. These are not unworthy pursuits, I enjoy all of them in a way (except for the phone calls), but they take up a day. They take up a life. 4.5 hours.
Being an artist is difficult. Not all artists are creating art. Some are working unrelated jobs due to needing to purchase food to survive. I have been this person. Some struggle to find validation to practice their art when it seems that there are so many other pressing matters. I have also been this person. If you are wondering, as you read this, if you have the soul of an artist? Then you probably do not. Artists know what they are and have a deep need to be creative. It doesn't ever go away, although it can be silenced or squashed. Life is anything but easy, and I do believe that most of us are doing our best most of the time. I believe that people are good, that people want the human race to continue. In our hearts, we want everyone to succeed. Even the dreamers. Or especially the dreamers? What is the world without them?
So now, less than 3 weeks into my new found 4.5 hours, I am often asked, "what will you do with your time?" I don't even know how to answer this question. How do you tell people that between the mundane you hope to create the sublime? Is that an appropriate answer for the parent you meet at the school gates? Do you tell them that you are struggling to fit everything that you want to do into that 4.5 hours? That you are both grateful for this new found freedom and terrified that you will squander it by letting life's details take over? That you celebrate simplicity and doing less and spending less in the pursuit of the creative? That your quiet house fills your introvert heart with inexpressible joy? Is there really an honest answer that I could give that doesn't make me sound like a nonsensical person? I didn't think so.
This is a temporary season in my life. I will be back to full time teaching soon enough, and I know that I will miss those 4.5 hours, or I will just stop sleeping so that I can keep them. I can sleep when I am dead. For now I will continue to torture myself (gently) by trying to find balance between my everyday jobs and my life goals, because they are definitely not the same thing. I will celebrate the journey of expression through creating, I will celebrate the chaos of life surrounded by 4 males. I will hug my boys more and look into their eyes and really listen to what they have to say. I will enjoy all the stages of parenthood. I will continue to find humour, I will relearn how to date my partner. Most importantly, I will forgive myself when I get it all wrong. Now, if will you excuse me, I have some really annoying phone calls to make.