Over the course of living with my mother for three months, dealing with unemployment twice in six months, getting a sixth manager in three years without having changed positions at the DDJ once, traveling for three weeks as a single mom, buying a house, setting aside 80K in one novel and navel-gazing my way through 20K of another, and juggling part-time hours from home with the Drew Monster, I think I managed to put my sense of self into an appropriate perspective. I no longer have an inner twelve-year-old strutting around in my head, yelling, "I'm destined for greatness! Greatness, I tell you!" Instead, the inner voice has aged and developed some kind of wisdom and now says, "Greatness may be in the cards for me. It may not be. I'm just living my life, taking care of myself and those I love to the best of my ability day by day. What happens, happens."
This way, I can still dream big and spin scenarios that have me winning Hugos for my first novel and short story the same year I win the Campbell--and then I can laugh myself silly, shake my head, add a dose of reality to the scenario (God, can you imagine the sophomore slump after such a freshman effort? Talk about pressure for the rest of your career.), and get back to slogging through the draft that feels like shit.
I'm also not holding my past pains as close to my heart as I did before. Cloaking even the smallest part of my self-image in victimhood and pity just made consistent happiness all the more unreachable. That's not to say I'm going to ignore the bumps and bruises life's given me. They are a part of me, they've shaped me (in ways I may not fully understand still). I will continue to examine them insofar as I can learn from them. I'm not going to wear them like a badge of honor anymore.
Being a stay-at-home Mom who also works from home has finally allowed some of my perfectionism and control-freak tendencies to lessen, too. This is something that writing started five years ago, that career changes continued, that the first year of Andrew's life furthered. But it wasn't really until this month that I finally understood that I'm going to have moments and days and maybe even weeks when I can't seem to get anything right with Drewbie. I'm going to pick the wrong battles. I'm going to have moments when the TV will have to serve as a sitter because my brain won't respond to even the lightest prodding. I used to worry about every inconsistency, every failure, every second I wasn't engaging Andrew in an activity that would enrich his mind and develop his skills. I've got one smart, tough kid. He's working as hard at figuring this world out as I am at trying to help him through it. We're going to stumble as we learn--and learn something then as well.
Accepting that, destined for greatness or not, I've got a life to live as richly as possible each moment, puts the pressure of perfection neatly aside for the most part. Tomorrow's another day, and all that jazz.
That all sounds great, and between a lovely drive through the valley between the Dragoons and the Chiracahuas at the beginning of the month and a drive around the Catalinas just over a week ago, I think I managed to really accept this knowledge, absorb it, and understand it after years of gathering it. Because somewhere in there I realized that the DDJ isn't ideal, but it allows me to have the lifestyle I want (stay at home with Drewbie, extra time and energy to write). Because somewhere in there I fully accepted that I don't really care if I ever get published or not--I'm writing for me. Because somewhere in there I stopped seeing Andrew in light of all the ways I've screwed up and started seeing him in all the ways he's succeeding, sometimes despite me.
But it all breaks down when I get to my physical self-image. I am beginning to loathe my body, to hate my smile. I think it's because I've finally come to appreciate how I looked when I was in college and see how much I've changed in appearance since then. Also, while my weight is just fine for my height (though I wouldn't mind slimming my tummy and thighs a bit more), I want better tone in my body particularly in my abdomen so I don't have to stare at the flab hanging over my c-section scar for the rest of my life. The big problem with the State of the Bod is that I am literally covered in stretch marks from my belly button to my knees because of the weight I gained during pregnancy. Because I scar easily and keep the scars I do get, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get rid of those stretch marks. And they are ugly and impossible to ignore.
How do you accept the way you look, embrace it, and ignore the inner twelve-year-old who thinks you should be the most attractive creature to wander the face of the earth?