A Whole Lot of Nothing

Vincenzo brought home a paper he had done in school that asked what his parents do.

Dad: A  software engineer for cloud storage at Google
Mom: Nothing

Spork to the heart!

Nothing? Nothing? Couldn’t he have come up with something? Anything? Even “takes a shower and eats lunch?” That, at least, is something.

Not to mention WRITES BOOKS.

Is it because I don’t get paid for all the things I do? Are you only worth the amount of money you make? (If so, then he should have written “jury duty,” because I have made some money from that over the years. The expression “lightning never strikes twice” does not apply to jury duty. Jury duty has struck like 7 or 8 times.)

Here’s what NOTHING looked like on Friday:

Got up at 6:20 to make French toast for everyone. Brought Leo to speech therapy at 7:40. Brought him and Rocco to school at 8:30. Came home and cleaned up the morning mess, wrote for an hour, read a writing craft book and took notes. Trimmed the wisteria and old-fashioned rose. Treated resulting wounds. Cleaned up all the summer toys from our yard and covered all the outdoor furniture. Made homemade bread so the boys would come home to the smell of fresh baked bread. Threw in a batch of peanut butter cookies too. Folded laundry. Prepped some scrapbook pages. Read a bit of a middle grade novel. Went to the grocery store to buy things for dinner. Picked up books at the library. Answered a ton of e-mails about soccer games, curriculum nights, PTSA stuff, and birthday parties. And that’s all before the boys came home and things got crazy.

At the end of the day I can’t always remember what I did but I do remember eating lunch standing up because I was too busy to sit down.

I could have paid someone to trim that wisteria (or left it to completely consume our house and then the entire world). I could have just bought cookies that someone else got paid to make and someone else got paid to sell. I could have bought bread, too, and when the boys came home the kitchen would smell like the crusty breakfast dishes that I also could have left piled up on the counter. I could have skipped the grocery store and served cereal for dinner (don’t tell my kids because if they knew that was an option I’d never cook again). I could have skipped the hour spent answering e-mails and forego all the parental involvement and birthday parties, let the soccer games go unscheduled and forgotten.

But now I’m doing it too—trying to evaluate my worth, not with the money I make but with the amount of busy I am. If I crawl into bed and read for an afternoon, does it mean I have less value than if I spend half a day volunteering in school or substitute teaching? Is my value restored if I consider that reading time an essential part of being a writer, does it have more value?

I could hire myself out to cook for someone else’s family and that would “count,” but if I cook for my own family, I do “nothing.”

Oh man, I’m really getting riled up now.

For the past couple years I have evaluated my day exclusively on how much time I spent writing, how good my writing was, and how much progress I made. Every single day I came up short of my expectations. I constantly had a cloud over my head and a sense of failure. Each night I’d cry to Kevin about how I didn’t get anything done. I didn’t have anything to show for the day. Kevin told me again and again that my writing is absolutely good enough—it’s just my attitude and crippling self doubt that need work. He also told me I have to count all the other things I do too.

So this year I am trying to count it all, not just the writing. I’m trying not to feel guilty about the crawling into bed and reading part. (I still feel guilty. But not as much.) When I have a day where I was too busy or too fried to write much, I am trying to look not at what I didn’t do but what I did do, and if that includes a long bath or walking with a friend, these are not things to feel guilty about. These things count too. The errands I run are just as important as the words I write. Even more so, Kevin tells me.

My family is #1. My mental health is #2. There are a whole ton of #3s, and writing is one of them. Writing has been #3 on my list since I started writing and I have given it a #3 amount of time/attention in my day, but I have expected a #1 amount of output.

I’m still figuring things out. I still feel a little guilty about my normal day being like someone else’s day off. But I am also reminding myself that  it’s not just what I do that gives me value, it’s who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a reader, a writer, a listener, an inviter, an errand runner, a gardener, a dish washer, a bath taker, a vacation planner, a TV watcher, a scrapbooker, a storyteller, a good deed doer, and a darn good cookie baker.

Basically, I’m a whole lot of nothing.

And that’s an awful lot.

Rotisserie chicken
Butternut squash risotto
Broccolini in browned butter

3 thoughts on “A Whole Lot of Nothing

  1. I may have tears. They may or may not be related to hormones. I do know for certain that I’ve never thought of the words Rachel and nothing in the same sentence.

  2. Oooh this burns me up too! I want to see V survive 24hours without your help!

    You are everything and more xoxo

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