Zen...

Posted on September 3, 2013
Zen Pencils posted a cartoon by Bill Watterson on life and happiness. It really spoke to me as a mother who worked nights and weekends, as a professional who spent years "climbing" the ladder and hating the politics up on top, and as someone who struggles everyday with the decision to stay home with my kids and keep writing. This decision did not come lightly almost three years ago, and it's a decision I make almost every day. Bill summarizes it ever too perfectly in this strip.

http://zenpencils.com/comic/128-bill-watterson-a-cartoonists-advice/

I know that sometimes the decision looks foolish in a time where a lot of people are out of work. Hell, I feel guilty knowing I chose to leave my career unlike some who were booted out. Recruiters call me often (though, not as often as a year ago) and I receive their calls politely, but they always end the conversation with a not-to-subtle suggestion that time is fleeting and I should go back to work soon in order to receive similar compensation as my last job.

Compensation was never the issue. The culture was the issue...and my inability to manage time with my family because of it. As I moved up I had to deal with people other than the worker bees. The worker bees are the life source of a company, the people who know how things work. As I moved up I dealt with the schemers, the cheaters, and the pretenders that made all the decisions. I tried to do my best to keep my team, my worker bees, away from all the ugly politics in upper management of corporate america. Once I became the leader, things got ugly, then it interfered with my life. Upper management politics wasn't for me.

At first, my husband supported me completely to take a few months off between jobs. The plan was to leave at the start of the new year and return to work at the end of the summer. I had to spend some quality time with my two kids. Too many nights and weekends were wasted on work, and too many times did I catch my daughter say, "Mom, you're not paying attention," when in fact I was actually trying to pay attention to what she had to say. I had, somehow, programmed myself to NOT shut off, to work around the clock without actually working around the clock. I was missing out on my own family life. I needed a serious break.

Then, something totally unexpected happened: I loved being home with my kids. I actually paid attention to what my kids had to say, and I was feeling rested and healthy. I started exercising, running, and playing sports with my children. Even my relationship with my husband was better. 

This is when I started writing again. I had been writing since I was a teenager, maybe earlier (I vaguely remember participating in a poetry contest in 4th grade, but I have no proof of it), but I had stopped to focus on my career. Sadly, my last journal entry was in my late twenties. My last piece of writing was shortly after my daughter was born.

My life changed. I had regained a sense tranquility during those first few months off and it lead me back to writing. After a few short stories, the idea of Dramani was born. It took almost a year to finish the first ugly draft, and I was severely out of practice in the art, but I knew in my heart that I could do it. It was my first attempt at writing a full novel. This was something I had wanted to do my entire life. 

As I saw our bank account balance take a dive month after month, I started worrying about finding another job. It wasn't the actual "finding" I was worried about. I knew I could get a job easily. The recruiters were emailing me almost daily back then, and I had built relationships with co-workers and vendors that proved to be fruitful. I was worried about going back to the same old routine as before. And the worst part...my daughter was old enough to be aware of my decision. She will remember me choosing to go back to work, to go back to that life, instead of being with her and her baby brother. This was heartbreaking to me.

I didn't want to go back to the workaholic lifestyle, to being an absentee mother, to sleepless nights and horrible nightmares about abandoning my kids in random places to run to a meeting.  I loved time with my children. I loved writing. I loved being fit and healthy. My husband saw the change in me and he loved it too. Everything was better this way. Why would I chose that life over Zen? For money? For more trendy clothes, shoes and purses? For expensive restaurants and vacations? For bragging rights? To reach a certain status? Who was I trying to make happy then? Not me. 

My husband and I made the decision to adjust our lives (a.k.a our finances) in order to give me another few years at home before unforeseen forces pull me back to work. We want to stretch out this Zen period as much as we can, as long as the world around us allows. People always say they would take time off if they could afford it - my husband and I were one of those people. Now, we travel a lot less, wait for bargains, eat home more often, and just save money wherever we can so that we can continue to swim in this great big pool of Zen. It may not be fashionable, and may be frowned upon, but we, as a family, are happy. 

Those recruiters were right...time is fleeting. My kids will be young for only a few more years and I don't want to miss out. Today, and possibly every day this week, I choose to stay home, be with my kids, and write.



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