Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Hannah Vanderpool’s literary reflections essay, “Making a Life.” We invited readers to: “Make a list of the many different roles you play in your life. How does writing fit in with these other selves? In what way does being a mother, a partner, an employee, etc. help or hinder your writing process? If you could alter one of these other roles to make it more conducive to a writing life, which one would you change and how?” Read on to see how reader Gargi Mehra manages the many different roles in her life, and how those roles feed each other.
Jill of All Trades
By Gargi Mehra
On some days, I am a grumpy manager, impatient at myself and my team, expecting them to outperform themselves at all times. They, in turn, sense my seething impatience and devil’s mood that day, and do well to stay away.
Other days, I’m a diligent daughter, running errands for my sister, accompanying my father on his hour-long morning walk in the park and setting up my mother’s iPhone. At all times I am available to help my mother recall names of Bond villains at will, names that have slipped from her aging memory.
Some days, I am a reasonably good daughter-in-law, calling my husband’s parents and sharing with them the little joys my daughter’s antics bring to our dreary lives.
Most days, I am a good wife who listens while her husband explains the latest breakthroughs in his field. The words meld into one another and their meanings barely permeate my consciousness, but I pull off a convincing therapist role, and he is satisfied that I’ve absorbed every bit of his story, even if I’ve understood little and questioned nothing.
Most days, I am a conscientious employee, careful to tick off items from my to-do list before embarking on my writing, fearful of letting deadlines slip through my fingers and beyond my control.
But every day, I am a doting mother, standing at the doorstep with my arms outstretched, waiting to envelop my daughter in a tight hug until she squeals and complains that I am going to “break her.” The role of mother started seven years ago, and that is the one I am most grateful for, for that was a gift of God.
Every day, I am a writer who is obsessed with getting five hundred words down before the madness that has seized her dies a premature death. The worry that those precious words, ideas, images will lose themselves in the labyrinth that is the brain takes hold, and I scramble to note down those ever-so-ephemeral nuggets of beauty.
Every day, I am a woman who peeks in the mirror, afraid of what she might see, and realizes her reflection will never resemble a magazine cover, no matter how she puckers her lips and poses.
Have I perfected any of these roles? Probably not. Aiming for perfection is futile, and perfection, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. Yet, I would not give up any of these roles, for I have learned each role feeds the others. My day job inspires my writing, my husband inspires my day job, and my daughter inspires me to live my life to the fullest, without worrying about anything.
Being a mother has given me the gift of empathy, a hitherto undiscovered quality that rose to the fore at her birth seven years ago. This empathy is one of the most useful gifts for a writer, and it helps me realize: I am not perfect at any one role, but just good enough at each of them to keep everyone happy.
Gargi Mehra writes fiction and essays that have appeared in numerous literary magazines. She blogs at gargimehra.wordpress.com and tweets as @gargimehra.