Thursday, September 5, 2013

Julia Child Rule No. 3: Learn to Be Amused

Here it is Sept. 5 and I’m already running behind with blogging about #Live Like Julia*. I am also running behind on:

·     Writing the 2015 Inner Bitch calendar

·     Revising my novel
Working on an essay or two that I have in progress

·     Getting all the “administrative” tasks related to teaching done

·     Reading for work and pleasure

·     And a few other things that have slipped my mind at the moment, but which I will probably remember as I’m trying to fall asleep tonight.

How am I ever going to make anything of myself?

This is the question I’ve been asking for, oh, a couple of decades or so. Actually, it’s the question I’ve been asking since I first became aware that I was not living up to my potential—a point made clear in the comments section of my fourth grade report card. There were, of course, what I’ll call “extenuating circumstances” that made it difficult to live up to whatever potential I may have had—my mother’s mental illness left me too confused and angry and alone to really concentrate on school work. Yet I felt ashamed when I handed that report card over to my father, whose position was that, since all I had to do was school, it was my job to get straight A’s. He looked at the grades, read the comment, and said, “Remember this: Perfection is acceptable.”

I won’t bore you with the gory details (that’s what the unpublished memoir is for) but things went downhill from there. And I find myself at 57 (57!) still grappling, as Julia did, with “the stark choice of whether to be a wallflower or a myth.”

As the new semester begins, I am once again aware of the tenuous nature of my “career.” I teach as an adjunct at three Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) and am once again juggling the considerable demands of too many classes and what feels like 1,000 students for earnings that are embarrassingly paltry, allegedly so I don’t have to take a full-time job that would get in the way of my writing. Because writing is what I really “do”—or so I claim. Yet there is no time to write during the semester. 

So I am, once again, wondering how I am ever going to make something of myself? It’s too late to even dream of a tenure-track position that would provide a reasonable course load and a salary I could live on  (trust me on this). Though I’m more than proud of the Inner Bitch books (Still in print after nearly 20 years! Life-changing for women around the world!), I believe that the writing I’m doing now—“serious” writing a/k/a literary writing—is what I’m really meant to do, but the struggle to simply make financial ends meet gets in the way. But I’m afraid I’m running out of time.

Yet there is this: joy. And there is this: pleasure. As Karen Karbo writes in Rule # 3 of Julia Child Rules, Lessons on Savoring Life: “…learn to be amused and find things that bring you pleasure. Each day I have the choice to recognize joy and to find things that bring me pleasure. So even on The Longest Day of the Week (out of the house at 8 a.m., back home at 9 p.m.), I took the time to be amused by:

·     The endless enthusiasm of the Wondergrandson (who, at 2, finds delight in so many “small” things)

·     The sheer joy of being in the presence of the Wondergranddaughter (who, at 18, is just awesome) and the Wonderdaughter (who is equally awesome)
The comfort of the Total Package
My students—who I look forward to getting to know

I made sure to find pleasure, too. Look at this adorable breakfast I packed:
Greek yogurt and granola in the sweetest Mason jar ever. Plus grapes, iced green tea, and a little light reading. 
And I take comfort in remembering that Julia—who was a lifeline for the lost little girl I was in the fourth grade—didn’t become a myth until she was 51.

* Check out more about Live Like Julia here.


Ioanna said...

This is such a great post. And by the way, the "trust me on this" really spoke to me--literally--as I was about to protest the "too late to even dream of a tenure-track position" line. ;)

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thank you, Ioanna!

Karen said...

Elizabeth, I love this. "Yet there is this: joy. And there is this: pleasure. Each day I have the choice to recognize joy and to find things that bring me pleasure." Simply lovely. xKaren

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thank you, Karen!

Christine Shaffer said...

This was great! Julia Child is such a comfort.

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

I'm also finding that last bit so comforting -- "didn’t become a myth until she was 51."

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

Oh, and that breakfast looks amazing!

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Oh, yes, the many comforts of Julia!
The breakfast was amazing.

Anonymous said...

my name is Alessia Bottone. I am a young italian writer and almost a journalist.
I have discovered your books because I’m going to publish mine with Kowalski, which is also your publishing house.
I would like to interview you and to write an article on “The bitch at work”.
Would you mind to dedicate ten minutes of your time to do it?
It will be so helpful!
I look forward to hear from you (Enclosed my email address)
Best regards,
Alessia Bottone