Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, April 16, 2012
I have missed this – this beautiful and direct line to so many readers each Monday. I have been away, but have tried on a few occasions to get back here.
For four weeks I took an official break, letting editors know I needed some time.
When my break was over, I did send along a few things. One column was too late, one was too long, and one couldn’t be printed. I got discouraged, and took another break. I tried to write again, but there were weeks I was just too tired to write; sometimes I couldn’t come up with a clear focus, and other weeks I was just too busy.
I think this is the longest I’ve been away from the paper in the five-and-a-half years I’ve penned a piece here.
I am not sure I am able to write here as regularly as I used to.
I have come to the realization I cannot do everything I want to do.
My mother was right.
Like most kids growing up, I had a long list of “I wannas.”
I clearly remember I wanted to do so much and be so many things. The list, especially in my pre-teen years, was endless.
I was one of the first generations to see my future as something I could choose. Society began to tell me I could do anything I wanted to do if I tried hard enough.
I’d verbalize my dreams to my parents and many times my mom would tell me that sometimes you can’t do everything you want to do. Sometimes I understood her thinking, but other times I reasoned with inexperienced kid logic, believing her explanations were about what she could not do because she was a parent. I saw her as a woman with responsibilities, which meant she couldn’t always sit back, and read a novel when she wanted, or have a night out with the girls if she felt like it, or serve us potato chips for supper.
I didn’t realize that her warnings were about making choices – sometimes-hard choices – about what you have to leave behind in pursuit of a dream.
I am beginning to worry that this column may be something I have to choose to leave behind.
Many of you know I’ve been working on a new venture – a magazine about the people, places and history of New Brunswick. (www.agelessnb.ca) agelessNB has consumed all of my free time lately. My Big Fat Life has always been big and full.
My plate used to include my regular home responsibilities with my husband and children, my job teaching journalism at the college, my role on Woodstock town council and my writing. Now my plate also has heaping spoonfuls of busy lunch hours filled with phone calls and planning, early mornings where I rise before everyone else so I can write, evenings where, after kids are in bed, invoices are filled out and paperwork is completed, and weekends where hockey, church and cadet activities are intertwined with interviews, advertiser meetings and more writing.
That plate has also been filled with a lot of wonderful feedback. People like what I’m trying to achieve, and I really believe agelessNB can make a difference.
Peggy Martin of Woodstock called me last week. She had been wondering where my column had gone and discussed my possible whereabouts with friends. A neighbour dropped by with a copy of the magazine over Easter and it was only then she understood why I wasn’t in the paper.
She loved the magazine and missed the column. She called me her “Monday morning friend.” I felt elated and saddened all at once. I was happy that she loved agelessNB, but sad that I missed out on being with her each Monday.
Another ball dropped. I took a hiatus from the column and failed to let readers know.
Sometimes I wonder what kind of example I’m setting for my kids.
What my children see lately is a mom consumed. Some evenings I’ve missed bedtime tuck-ins, I’ve been absent at more than a few supper hours leading up to the printing of each issue, and I’ve missed spending simple, basic downtime with their dad.
I try and remind them this will (God willing) get better. Once the magazine is established further, once we cultivate contacts, once the word gets out, the hard work of distribution, advertising, and getting freelancers will be something that happens with little effort.
I really believe the goal of connecting people, of telling important stories and sharing our journey is something that will become important to many – not just this crazy, stressed, tired mom. But until then, the dream of success in this venture is far-off.
My father always told me that things worth doing are things worth doing well. But doing some things well comes at a cost, I’m discovering. What costs I’m willing to pay are obvious.
My kids and husband are the most important parts of my quality-of-life equation. My students are a secondary part, with the community and the magazine coming a close third. What gets ‘dropped’ in the future to achieve the goals I feel are important for my personal happiness and fulfillment will need to come down to what I can afford to lose and what I can’t.
As I struggle to find balance this spring, I hope that My Big Fat Life gets to be a part of my quality-of-life equation. If it isn’t, I am thankful that many of you – my beautiful readers – will understand and support me.
Sadly, that won’t make it any easier if I have to say goodbye.
Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her group, My Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE