Yes and no

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Woke up early to run this morning, and woke up my eldest girl too. She wasn’t going for a run. Nope: science project due today, with a few finishing touches to complete: framing text and photos and placing them on her backboard. “Herbal Medicine.” She even prepared her own Garlic Tincture for the project. She left for school looking proud and happy and DONE! That is a good feeling.

She didn’t get a nap, but I did. Thankfully. Doing dishes at 10 o’clock at night is not conducive to early morning exercise.

I drifted down into sleep thinking about this article that’s going around called “Creative People Say No.” According to the piece, a signficant proportion of creative people say no to things they consider distractions in order to get their work done. The article irritated me. Why? Do I disagree? Do I just dislike saying no?

I don’t disagree, in fact. I know the time it takes to complete a project. The quality of that time matters, too. If you’re going deep, you need to sink down slowly, stay under, and not be presumptively yanked out. (Being presumptively yanked out seems the very definition of parenting, frankly.) I fight for my time, and resent when it’s taken away. In fact, I probably do say no quite often. When I’m deep inside a project I believe it wise and wholesome and productive to say no to the following major distractions: Facebook, Twitter, email.

But there are many things I cannot say no to.

I can’t say no to the dishes, no to the science fair project, no to the sick child, no to the solo parenting weekend due to Kevin’s work, no to providing meals and clean clothes, no to walking the dogs, at least not all the time. And there are many things I don’t want to say no to, too. I want to see my kids play soccer and swim. I want to help them practice piano. I want to meet friends for lunch and early morning runs. I want to connect and be connected, and therefore I say yes.

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Reading that article gave me a sense of panic, I suspect. Given all these things I can’t say no to, how can I possibly create? But I do! I do create. There is more than a smack of privilege to this whole “saying no” thing, an assumption that a creative person owes to his or her art an aloof and introverted life. 
That actually doesn’t work very well for me.

That said … how different would my life look if I worked in a traditional full-time job, if my office were not in my home? What would I have the privilege of saying no to, under those circumstances? We might have a dishwasher that the kids could load and unload. Kevin might share sick kid duties. Our meals might be less from scratch, or more from the crockpot. Then again, I might not be able to meet friends for lunch quite so easily.

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Kevin and I are thinking about these details quite a lot right now, imagining sharing the roles at home and at work more evenly, imagining our lives shifted slightly, again, to accommodate me stepping even more fully into work, and him stepping even more fully into home. I say yes a lot, but I’ll tell you, I would happily say no to the dishes.

My poetry book club: an interview, with notes
Thursday afternoon, 1:21 p.m., I hang laundry outside

5 Comments

  1. For most of my marriage I have been saying ‘no’ to cleaning the bathroom, but my Kevin is currently working out of town 6 days out of 7 for seven weeks. I could say no to the bathroom, but even tolerance level couldn’t stomach it.

    I agree that the article reeks of privilege. I hate the mythology that to be a true creative force you need to say no to the world around you. Yes, I will write less because I have three kids. Yes, I will write less because I want to enjoy this sunny day. Yes, I will write less because home cooked family meals are important to me. But you know what? Writing isn’t the most important thing in my life and I can’t imagine it ever being that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important, but I would never but it unequivocally first. /rant

    Reply
    • I welcome your rants, Marita!
      And I think one of the reasons that article bothers me is that it sounds very male privilege in tone. Not that it is, necessarily. But that’s what I thought when I was reading it. And seriously, who has secretaries?

      Reply
  2. I love this post. After going to a talk in Toronto about Geez’s PerSisters issue, I’ve been wondering how Jason and I could start sharing domestic and breadwinning roles more evenly. As lucky as I am to be a stay-at-home mom, I’m also hungry for more time and opportunities to write.

    I haven’t read that article yet, but right away my reaction is that I can totally relate to saying no to things. One of the reasons we don’t have a TV is because it would eat up precious time we use to do other things. Even an hour wasted on the computer in the evening makes a huge difference in how much reading I get done.

    But yes… those dishes never seem to go away. I’m impressed you don’t have a dishwasher! There was one in the house we bought 2 years ago, the first I’ve had since leaving my parents’ home, and I must admit it’s glorious. A guilty pleasure.

    Reply
    • One of the things we’re talking about seriously is getting a dishwasher. I could do with a little glorious guilt!

      Reply
  3. I highly recommend paying someone to do the housework you don’t enjoy — it’s really worth the sacrifice. I love cooking big healthy dinners from scratch, but in my opinion, anyone who cleans the bathroom floor should be paid!

    Reply

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