You Have to Have Something for YourSelf


I had been in a state of ennui lately. Unhappy and feeling unfulfilled with myself.

There are some amongst us who love to be homemakers, and bake and sweep like Giselle in “Enchanted” or the eponymous Snow White.

I am not that person.

Phyllis Diller has a great quote: “Why bother cleaning the floor? You’re just gonna have to do it six months later anyway.” And that describes my interest (although not my involvement, I do do housework) in … well, the domestic arts. I write checks when other people paint their own walls. I garden, but that’s outside…

I do love to cook, this is true and I’m pretty good at it; it’s creative and I think that’s why I do it. But I hate planning the menus. So I set up my calendar on my computer with a menu that rotates every 29 days, yes, like a menstrual cycle (I’m coming out of my shell here, due to the post I wrote last week, and I’m not gonna talk like a sailor, but c’mon… loosen up). To counter the efficiency and forward thinking of that menu planner, I completely ignore it.

We have a vacuum somewhere. We have other things: chip clips, ziploc bags, a dustbuster somewhere. I have cleaning ladies every two weeks come to my home because I hate to clean the microwave and I hate to clean the bathrooms. (Click on that link if you want to laugh a lot.)

So it has been 13 years since I worked in an office. For a while after I left the office to stay home with Thing 1, I owned my own consulting business and wrote corporate and employee and strategic communications for several large, well-known multinational firms. Then I had another kid. Then another. That is awesome. I love my boys more than I ever dreamed I could possibly love anything. Their father is an amazing individual: patient, grounded, innovative, steady, calm and normal. In other words, he’s everything I’m not.  Well, I’m innovative too.

The thing is, I’ve been feeling lost. Purposeless and down about my situation of lacking a situation. I’ve thought openly and out loud: “This can’t be all there is… I’ve got a college degree, a proven career in communications but I have nothing but my yoga pants and some running gear and a bundt pan, no make that two bundt pans and that special brownie pan where all the brownies are corners or edges, to show for myself now.”

I’ve thought this so many times, it’s embarrassing. And I’ve overlooked the most important thing I have ever chosen to do with my life: be a mother. I didn’t place much value on my motherhood and mothering because I was so wrapped up in it for so long (I changed diapers every day for eight years) until I watched my 3-y.o. niece and her 9-month-old baby brother along with Things 1 and 3 for probably five hours last weekend. The loaners, they are the same age difference as my own first two kids and whooo-buuuoy, I totally appreciate now what I did then. I haven’t done any of those baby type things in six-and-half years. I caught myself chopping a cheese stick into pea-sized bites and making the same faces that the baby would to eat the yogurt and strained prunes I was feeding him. I cleaned his little chin with the spoon edge. I wiped him and his sister off with a warm paper towel — I haven’t had to do that in three days.

But the fact is that even with the sincerely awesome reminder of how valued we are to our children, the reality for me is that it’s damned hard,  unglamorous work. And now that my own children are in school seven hours a day and they don’t need me as much anymore, I have become, slowly without paying much attention to it, or maybe noticing but denying it (yeah, that’s more like it) a purposeless-feeling (not being, because I know I’m not purposeless) and sorta aimless woman.

Until last week. Until something cracked, like a beak pecking at a shell, I’ve come out and have discovered myself and in that discovery, I am allowing myself to Have Something For Myself: which is to really write; like tear-the-lid-off write, and to express and to be through that writing or probably more accurately: to allow that writing to BE through ME (yeah, that’s right). I’m just telling it like it is. It’s MY Something. I can volunteer for all the PTAs and bake sales and neighborhood activism I want. I can do that until I pass out, and these are important things to do, but they don’t light MY fire. And it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but what I’m doing appeals to me. On top of this realization is the most wonderful challenge my brain has faced in a long time: Camp NaNoWriMo which stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The June session is underway as I type and they have another one in August. Camp NaNoWriMo makes me work my right side of my brain; the side that has been atrophying and gasping for life.

And it’s not lightly that I use that word, “woman.” I have seldom considered myself a “woman.” I considered myself a female person, I feel young and act young and do things that young people do, so when I hear sometimes in the news or read in an article that a “44-year-old Virginia woman recently . . . .” I absorb all the words, but I don’t consider myself within that reference. I usually think, “Forty-four, my God that’s OLD.”  Until recently, again.

Just a smidge of my bulletin board. I realize now that it says so much more about me than I realize. What does your bulletin board say about you? Is it a bulletin board about what you want to do or about what you need to do?

When I look back on that deep and heavy post, “real,” I wrote last week, I feel it’s appropriate to consider it as the shedding of my cocoon. I am starting to flap my wings. And it doesn’t bother me, that I’m not 26 anymore. Because I feel I have a purpose that does something other than giving to others; I have a purpose that gives to ME*. I have a purpose that feeds my soul, my intellect, my Self. I don’t care, really I don’t if the book I’m writing flops like a giant blueberry pancake. I am enjoying the process; and the process is part of the journey. And the journey is what matters.

It’s because of this purpose, this deadline at the end of the month, that I feel a part of something that is truly and uniquely and completely MINE. No one can write the words I do in the way I’m choosing to write them.

So I propose to you, my cherished reader (and I don’t do this a lot, probably because it was a symptom of my self-preservation and lack of pride that anyone would actually read what I write): if you have Something that you want to do, do it. Have Something For YourSelf. Tempus fugit. Go and Do It.

Oh, and if you’re doing it already: LUCKY YOU. Don’t stop. *Because when you give something to yourSelf, you automatically want to give to others. It’s just the way the universe works. We aren’t meant to be unhappy givers; we are meant to be happy givers who also feel free to be happy “have-rs.” When you have happily, you give happily.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

10 responses »

  1. Goosebumps. Oh yeah. This is GOOD stuff … good stuff, in deed. Each day I am thankful I found what “lights my fire” (love that phrase) and when I took time to nurture it, I came to life again. Thank you for reminding me why it is so important to find my own unique, life-fullfilling purpose that NO one can ever take away.

    Thank you!!!

    Hands Free Mama

    • Thank you Scott and René. You’re so right about not trusting in the future too much. So much of my life has been spent waiting for the other shoe to drop when I realized shortly after 9/11, that the waiting is often worse than the shoe actually dropping. Slowly, I have been granted better “vision” and loosened my futile grip on “control.” I am grateful for your enthusiasm. 🙂 -Molly

  2. You sound SO much better! YAY!!!
    I’ve been pondering your thoughts since I last replied to a post and had an AHA! when I read this. I turn 40 this year and have had to read numerous posts from my high school peers about: I’m going to run a 5k “because I’m turning 40” or I’m going sprout wings and fly “because I’m turning 40”. I’ve alternated between being annoyed that these people feel they’ve apparently wasted the last 39 years, and being afraid that I’m missing something by not picking some huge feat to accomplish “because I’m turning 40”. I reassure myself that raising three kids who aren’t “those kids” is a huge feat, and that still being married after almost 10 years is a huge feat, but I’ve also noticed that, over the last year, I’ve stopped doing the things that allowed “me” time. Not the Leave me alone I’m on the phone me-time, but the Go out to a bar and play trivia me-time.
    Thanks for the reminder that fading into the background is not how I want to live.

    • CB – bar trivia?! i’ve seen it, i’ve played it and i’ve sorta failed at it miserably, but it’s fun. after a while, i start making shit up because i have no clue anyway, so i might as well sound like i know what i’m talking about.

      yes: doing something BEcause of something else impelling it is completely (for me) the wrong reason to do anything, unless of course it’s an illness or something. “40” came and went with me; I was so relieved to have it done with.

      i am better, thank you. taking that huge step has opened my wings, so to speak and i’m not so worried anymore. i don’t know if my parents have read it. i don’t know if my brothers have read it; i don’t care. there’s an underlying question: vanity. i.e., why did i bother saying all this if i didn’t want attention? and i really didn’t want attention. i have what, 15 followers? tha’ts cool and i’m grateful but i did it because i had to get it out and if one person listened, then i had an audience. sometimes talking to yourself feels like the only option: it’s not. thanks for keeping up with me. let’s go to lunch… we have 7 more days… xo

      • You had a conversation recently with the hausfrau (? – forgive my certain misspelling) about writing for attention vs. writing that gets attention. I look at it as the difference between someone who talks and is all “look at me look at me” [high pitched voice-hands waving next to face] vs. “look at me [said in a normal voice that is trying to be the voice of empathetic understanding]. I see you as the latter. You may write to be funny, to be sad, to be serious, but always clearly to be you. That’s why your followers feel you what you write. There’s an audience for both types of writers; I appreciate that you’re the former!

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