I’ve just spent over an hour trying to solve a dilemma that frustrates me on several different levels. I’m sharing it with you because it truly is a lesson in examining the kind of thought processes I can get stuck in, and maybe it will help you. Or maybe you will think I’m being needlessly annoyed (and annoying). But I’ll go with the former. For one thing, I just really need to get this off my chest.

So, first: great news! I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to teach creative writing to a group of adolescents. The complicated part: it’s a day-time gig. And it’s on a day that I don’t normally have childcare.

My youngest is in daycare/preschool twice a week. The other days I work around her at home, which isn’t easy but we’ve come to an arrangement that works (mostly to her advantage).

Ok, so no problem, I dust off my creative cap and set to work thinking about who could watch my daughter while I am away the entire morning. On consecutive Fridays. And after about 2.5 seconds I realize that the answer is nobody. My siblings are the first people I think of who can watch my kids but it’s Fridays during the day and it’s one of those opportunities that could go on for several weeks on end. And then, here’s that thought that just kills me. I think, “I wish I still had my mom.”

And yes, I’m allowed to think that. I’ve given myself permission to grieve for her for the rest of my life. Some people might say it’s best not to dwell or cry. I say, until I see her again I will miss her and wish she was here. But then I get stuck. And I start thinking of all the ways she would have been a huge help to me and how much my kids would have enjoyed her, and how it’s not fair that my kids’ friends have grandmothers who are involved. And I think about the ones I see at school picking up their grandkids, driving them to wherever, taking them for the weekend. They really are like another set of parents. And if I’m not careful, those thoughts sit like a heavy lead vest on my shoulders, just holding me down.

Ok, so no problem, I have a little cry and then sigh and think, there is always a solution to a problem. A little tired now, I clear my mind for a minute so I can hear the brilliant ideas that I know are just bubbling beneath my surface. And one comes to the top: ask the preschool if you can switch daycare days. Perfect! I’m a genius!

And guess what? Yes! They can switch days so now she will be cared for on Fridays and I can accept this gig. How easy is that?

Except that when I go to enter the day switches in my calendar I realize that I have actually already signed her up for a ballet class on Fridays. During the day. Because she normally does not have preschool. I can’t just cancel her ballet class because she has been waiting for it to start since the last dance class ended in December. And for heaven’s sake, I just bought her new ballet slippers that she will outgrow by the end of the term so I really want her to be in this ballet class!

Back to the negative thought train. It’s like the whole world is conspiring against me taking on this awesome gig. I take one step forward in my career and all my baggage drags me back down another two or three. (Really, these are the things that pop into my head.)

Ok, so no problem, I face palm, grumble and then think, there is ALWAYS a solution to a problem. Even more tired, and now glancing at the time on my computer screen that shows me my precious preschool day during which I am supposed to get a tonne of work done is slowly going down the drain, I clear my mind for some more inspiration. And it comes: see if there’s another ballet class during the week! So I do.

And guess what? Yes, there is! And it’s on a day that is now free with the preschool days being switched. Except it started today and we missed it. But that’s really not a big deal, especially since they prorate the class so I don’t even have to pay for the one I missed. And now I’m actually $5 ahead of the game!

So, I call and make the ballet class switch. And then I go to enter the classes into my calendar and BOOM: two really important online meetings already scheduled for Wednesday mornings next month (literally the same time as the class). By now I’m a bit exhausted by the whole deal – not so much the looking things up, emailing for schedule changes, calling to cancel classes etc, but just from the whole ‘fighting my demons’ part. That part where I am battling the idea that I am always sacrificing for everyone else.

Because I’m not. At least, I’m not anymore. My work is important to me. And contributing to the family pot is important to me. And if that means my daughter misses a couple ballet classes so I can attend these really important meetings, I’m SO OK with that! I’m not changing my meetings and I don’t feel a smidge of guilt. This is new for me. I’ll turn on a T.V. show so I can be guaranteed 45-60 minutes of quiet during my meetings and hope for the best.

It was really important to me to share that with you because I know many of us go through these types of things on the daily. We are constantly being called to be creative and are constantly being tested to prove to ourselves that we matter. That what we think is important matters. I think I passed the test today. I shed some tears, I thought some thoughts. I felt anger, sadness, disappointment…but ultimately, I feel like I did ok.

I hope that whatever you are facing – trivial or something with enormous consequences – you are able to battle your demons, lean on your creativity and know that the Universe always has your back.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative