I, on the other hand, was fortunate. My friend Jenn Lalime broke the news to me over my first drink on my first night out at my first literary event since giving birth: “Don’t expect to accomplish much at work for the next six months. And expect the quality of what you do accomplish to be about 40 percent of what you were previously capable.”
I was just emerging from my three-month maternity leave where I was (supposedly) not working (but had proofed and polished my book in layout and secured permissions for nearly 40 poems), and getting ready to face my desk and my clients again. I was sleeping two, maybe three hours at a pop, for a total of five, maybe six hours in any given 24-hour period, which transformed my daily existence into a perpetual out-of-body experience.
Grateful to be leaving my son downstairs in the care of an endearing and trustworthy nanny, yet wrenched at being more than a few feet away from him, I trudged up to my office intent on establishing a sustainable rhythm for my three, full-time jobs: mother, writer/business owner and author/book promoter.
My office was not exempt from the baby bomb that had exploded through our house. The pristine calm and order I had cultivated for more than a decade was papered over with stacks of bills, hospital propaganda, health insurance documentation and all manner of outgrown or not-yet-needed baby paraphernalia. In three short months, my office had become a holding pen for my rapidly expanding life.
As I sat down at my desk, the elegant evening gown of my mind now plain and staid as a pumpkin, I started small-first sorting and organizing the piles. Then came the five-page to-do list. Next, a schedule detailing how everything was going to get done in far less time than I’d ever done it before. As I went through the old, familiar, getting-things-done motions, the pilot light of “professional Sage” flickered on behind my eyes.
I couldn’t be trusted to know what day or time it was, or to send a single email that made sense. And yet, as they days and weeks went on and my professional paralysis gave way to a slow momentum, my work was getting done. Client deadlines were being met. I was giving lectures and readings some evenings, attending a literary event or two and hosting my reading series once again.
While I felt like a fragmented imposter standing in for the previous, more cohesive version of me, no one seemed to notice that the glass slippers of this former perfectionista had been retired the back of the closet. I plodded along on flat feet, graceless and imprecise, doing the best I could. And remarkably, that seemed to be enough.
Next month: striking a balance between private and public life.