I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately and this story I heard about Lin Maneul Miranda always pops into my head when I’m trying to get focused. He was riding the subway into New York City for a friend’s birthday party. He had fully planned on spending the evening celebrating, however, during the trip, an idea for a new song struck him and continued to grow. By the time he arrived at the party it was all he could think about. He walked up to the door, said “Happy birthday! I’m sorry, I can’t stay.” And he left!
Now that is having a strong sense of self. He really put his need to create above everything else. When I heard the story I thought two things. 1) I could not have done that. The guilt of putting myself first and blowing off my friends would have killed my creativity. And 2) So that’s what it takes to be successful! Because he put himself first, he was able to leave while the idea was still percolating and actually finished the song “Wait for It” for the musical Hamilton on the ride home.
While I truly aspire to that level of dedication, there are trade-offs. If you always put yourself first you may stop getting those party invites, be labeled a flaky artist or a raging narcissist. I’m trying for some sort of middle ground and like others that have come before me with “A Year of….” saying Yes or No or Having Gratitude or Living Dangerously…I’m starting a The Year of ME! I mean, let’s face it narcissism is kind of “in” these days. Just open Instagram!
I kid, sort of. Besides, I’m a mom and as all parents know…you can try to put yourself first or make a list of things to do, but if your kid needs you, all bets are off! And in the entertainment industry a schedule is really just a wish list, because an audition or important phone call will turn your plans upside down!
Here’s where Yoda and I disagree. I mean, yes if you can DO it then by all means DO it. But there is always TRY! Everyday I wake up trying, it gives me hope! I’ve even succeeded here and there. I’ve said “No” to a few volunteer commitments; taken my first acting class in almost a year; and applied to short film competition. I also did a gazillion loads of laundry, I mean clothes gots to be washed, am I right? There is definitely not enough time in the day to get to all my creative pursuits but I will not be derailed by logic or complications!
This morning I woke up full of energy and ready to tackle my list of things to do. Almost immediately I was derailed. My sons cycling shorts weren’t in the clean laundry, my husband didn’t have time to walk the dog, and the oatmeal had turned to cement in the pot on the stove. I ignored most of it, but couldn’t ignore the pets.
On my way to the computer I spied my daughter doing her usual weekend routine… sit very quietly (so I’ll think she’s still sleeping since it is 7 a.m. on a Saturday) playing video games without sound in the living room so as not to draw attention to herself as she lay cuddled up in a blanket and her PJ’s. The rules are, she has to have her bed made, the laundry off the floor and in the hamper and the night light turned off before any screen time, pretty reasonable chores for an 11-year-old. Not one of those things had happened and her desk was covered in about 30 (no exaggeration) books that she’d inexplicably pulled off the shelves and there were Legos covering the floor.
Normally, I’m the mom who would immediately turn off the TV and enforce the rules even if that meant tears from her and me standing warden style at the doorway watching her snail around as I point to each object that is out of place. But I just really wanted to get in 1 hour of writing! So I had to decide which direction I wanted my morning to go. I glanced over at my desk and my clutter and decided to pretend I didn’t notice her. I got some writing done and at some point she pulled herself away from the TV long enough to take the dog out to potty and then even helped me fold and put away some clothes. While I prefer to enforce the rules, it was an incredibly pleasant morning.
While we sat there folding I realized this was the only quiet time we’d have to work on the script for her audition that would need to be taped by Sunday night. It was 4 scenes with a LOT of dialogue and there were a few things that made me think she’s probably not the girl for the job, but we still needed to send in a strong audition because maybe she’s right for a different part. There was a lot to wade through and we spent about 3 hours on it, including a lunch break and it would still need more work.
It was 1:30 p.m. and the boys were back, cue 30 minutes of disruption. When I finally sat down to open the script writing software on my computer I saw an email alert. I told myself to ignore it but then clicked on it anyway. It was news about a project I had auditioned for. It was bittersweet, I didn’t get the part but the incredibly kind director took the time to let me know that it had gotten down to me and another person. This information started a domino of emailing, letting my agent know etc., and then a full landslide into the email abyss which included updating my kids work permits and voting for a local theatre to win an award. Whew. Now it was almost 5 p.m. and I’d managed to scrape together a full hour of work. Everyone was rallying to go out for dinner and to be honest, I needed to get out of the house. It was the weekend after all.
Maybe that attitude is why I haven’t written a Broadway musical, but instead of focusing on all the things I didn’t get to, I’ve decided to be happy that I did find some time to focus on my projects. Maybe that is what the “Year of Me” looks like, keeping the intention strong so when pockets of time open up I can pounce but still enjoy the time with my kids and sweetheart. I’ll just keep trying! I’ll let you know if I can keep it up till next January, but I have to say, so far it’s a huge improvement from last year.
What are you doing to balance your goals with your family commitments? Let me know at @ErinNeumeyer on twitter!