After my first child was born, a funny thing started happening. Older women, friends and strangers alike, would stop me and say, “Enjoy this time. It goes so fast.” At first it was sweet, but after several months of sleep deprivation, I started to get annoyed. First of all, how did they know I wasn’t enjoying it? Did the bags under my eyes and my lovely eau de spit up give away that it’s not party time at our house? And secondly, there is nothing worse than being on that desperate knife-edge of exhaustion only to have someone tell you you’re not mothering with a big enough smile.
But here’s the thing, now that my kids are a little older, I get what they were trying to say. (Although, I will never stop a new mom in the grocery store and tell her to “enjoy this time” without offering to watch her baby while she takes a shower and a nap). The time does go fast. And at the end of it, you do wish that you had savored it more—the knee dimples, the smiles, the delicious smell right where a baby’s neck meets his shoulder.
I think a lot of life is like that—wishing away the “during” parts of life in order to get to a finish line that doesn’t exist. When my husband was in medical school, I treated those four years as “during.” I didn’t really consider where we lived home—it was a temporary stop while we waited for “real life” to begin. But after medical school, we stayed in the same location for internship. And then for residency. And then for fellowship too. We were in the same town for nine years and it was the only home our children had ever known. Somewhere along the way, I realized that this was real life and that there wasn’t some magical starting line that I was picturing.
Life is made up of the “during” parts.
Now as I’ve started on the journey to publication, I can feel myself doing the same thing—waiting patiently (or not so patiently) at the starting line for my life as a real writer to begin. I thought I would feel it when I finished my first book. Nope. Or maybe when I got my first offer of representation? No, not then. Maybe when I’d accepted an offer and signed with an agent? Still, no. And then I realized I’m in the “during.” This, right now, is the real life of a writer. The writing. The doing. A book deal or two or ten will be wonderful, but I’m already on the path and there isn’t a finish line. There will always be more to accomplish, more to reach for, more to do.
So, this time, I’m going to try my hardest to savor all the “during” parts on this weird and wonderful journey. But if you see me and I look like I need a nap, maybe don’t remind me I said so.