Learning To Love Myself

Last week, I finished a major novel revision. The kind of revision that takes 6 months to complete. This is far from the end of the process, but still, it’s a big milestone, and one I’ve been working toward with increasing intensity as the months have passed and it took so.much.longer than I wanted it to take. Since the first of January, I’ve holed up in my house: Jazzercise in my bedroom and revise, revise, revise.

Throughout it all, I told myself: When I’m done, an evening celebration with a mixed drink and some TV. When I realized when this was going to fall on the calendar, I thought: margarita and Olympic figure skating!

I sent my manuscript to my agents on Thursday afternoon.

I finally managed to have that drink on Saturday night. After:

1) a snow day
2) grocery shopping
3) logistics-ing Jazzercise for one kid at the same time as another kid had a long-delayed outing with friends
4) a jazz festival for the third kid
5) volunteering at the Courtwarming dance

And let’s be honest, there’s also this:
6) we have one TV in the house and six people jockeying for position. Sacrificing is what parents DO.

As I surveyed my situation with deep, existential aggravation—I mean, how hard is it to carve out time for ONE DRINK with some ICE SKATING?—I saw a pattern emerging.

I promised myself a week off work when I finished the last revision of A SONG FOR THE ROAD. I had a long list of “me” projects I was going to undertake—outdoor stuff, scrapbooking, a photography Great Course, etc. But the weather was bad and the kids were busy and soon I had a hundred work projects again.

I promised myself a day-long bike ride in the fall, with a mid-point lunch in a charming little town near me, where there are shops that do jewelry making. I saved my birthday gift money for this purpose. Then I got Covid EXACTLY the week I had targeted for the ride. And on top of that I discovered that those shops had gone out of business during the shutdown.

I kept my birthday money in my wallet, vowing not to touch it until I could do something for me, but of course, you know how that goes. And now, 6 months out, there’s $20 left, and virtually none of what went out was spent on me. (Not that I’m bitter.) (Yes, I know there is no one to blame here but myself.)

My husband promised me that on publication day last May (LAST MAY!!!!) we would have a celebration dinner anywhere I wanted. But–Covid. Our most vulnerable child was still not quite vaccine eligible, and we didn’t want to accidentally bring it home with only a few weeks to go. So we put it off, and suddenly it’s been 9 months and we still haven’t done it.

There is a pattern here.

I often say that growing up on a farm in the 1980s shaped my whole approach to life. We didn’t have money for things other kids took for granted. I was mocked the other night by my husband & some friends because I didn’t know what Funions were. (Incidentally: gluten free.) 🙂 I told them we didn’t go into gas stations and browse the shelves, because we couldn’t buy anything. It was a huge deal on a road trip to get to buy a candy bar. In college, when I went to TIGF with a boyfriend’s family, I discovered I didn’t know how to order off a menu at a sit-down restaurant.

I’ve learned the lessons of self-discipline and delayed gratification pretty well. Perhaps too much so.

Generally, I would say I’ve learned to moderate this character trait, but clearly not universally. I need to figure out how to love myself a little better. Because I am old enough to recognize that life is fleeting and you really need to love yourself enough to enjoy it while you have it.