Keep Fronting Up

We had a visit from the fourth little traveller at 1.00am this morning.

“Can I hop in?” a little voice said in my ear.

“I was just dreaming about you” and I had been. We were at swimming lessons together. Not his swimming, mine, the swimming I do with other adult women where I often feel I may drown with exhaustion. The swimming where our instructor sometimes makes us race and I refuse to get involved. Swimming at the same pace I breathe to the left and the right with the same mantra in my head ‘I hate competitions, I hate competitions’.

We all drifted back to sleep. It was about thirty minutes after that that I woke to sound of the fourth traveller throwing up in our bed. Right in between G and I. As G walked him to the en-suite I carried our quilt with great caution to the kids bathroom and proceeded to use the shower hose to jet the perfectly formed beef stroganoff down the drain. I caught sight of myself in the mirror and it wasn’t pretty. Mismatched pyjamas, pale skin, and puffy eyes. I looked and felt terrible. I’m tired at the moment, really tired.

I could hear G trying to convince our little guy to stay by the toilet “just stay there mate, just kneel down on the floor, I’m holding onto you incase you get dizzy, just stay there”. The fourth little traveller wasn’t having any of it, he wanted to go back to bed. “Mate, I’m trying to help you out here, I want you to kneel incase you get dizzy. Just relax, just stay here.”

While we re-made the bed he sat on the bathroom floor. “It was strange Mummy. I woke up and I thought I might have been hungry.”  He had a look of complete surprise. “But I wasn’t! I realised I wasn’t when the throw up started to come out of my mouth.” He looked stumped. How did this happen?

I looked at the clock, it was nearly 2am. “They’re going to announce who won the blogging competition today”. And then, before either G or the fourth little traveller could say anything I followed it up with a quick “I don’t have a chance.”

I walked our youngest traveller back to bed, put a towel on the ground next to him and filled his water cup. “Thanks for looking after me Mummy”. As I leant to kiss his cheek he turned to look me in the eye and said “why don’t you have any confidence in yourself?”

That damn American school.

“Oh, I do, I really do. I just don’t think I have a chance with this one.”

When we woke up later for breakfast I discovered what I already knew. I didn’t win. A woman whose writing I really enjoy did. When I sent her a note to say it was well deserved I couldn’t have been more sincere.

As G left for the office he gave me kiss with a quick goodbye. “You can add loser to that goodbye” I said with a smile. He didn’t smile, he did quite the opposite. There was an exasperated eye roll. Actually it was worse than exasperated, it was a disappointed I’m-over-this-bullshit eye roll “oh for God’s sake, you’re not a loser, I’ll see you later” and he was gone. And in that moment I realised that sometimes being married to me and my lack of self confidence must be an exhausting experience. I’d somehow turned an “Oh my God they chose me as a finalist” deliriously happy moment into an “I’m a complete loser” moment. I’d also managed to share my self doubt and misery with my children. Why I hadn’t celebrated it, loved it, milked it for an entire week and then shrugged at the loss is beyond me. I’d wasted it.

Writing isn’t a competition, unless you make it one.  I know that last week when the Australian Writers Centre listed their finalists there would have been thousands of people who died a little on the inside. I know, because I’ve been there. Me and my blog standing in line, out in the cold on the school oval with all the other bloggers, waiting for the cool kids to choose us, see us, ask us to join their team. It’s crazy, but it has to be done. You have to keep fronting up, showing your work, asking to be on the team. I have to keep going to swimming lessons, it’s good for me, I hate the competitions, but there are moments when I cruise through that crystal blue water with the sunshine on my back and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Sometimes I wonder why a writer keeps writing, why they keep going through the self doubt and the crippling anxiety. I think it’s for those moments, the crystal blue waters with the sunshine on your back and a clear mind. As a blogger I began because I had a sneaking suspicion that you were out there. I knew you felt like I did, and I knew if I could just learn how to say what I was thinking about this geographically schizophrenic life of mine we’d make a connection. That’s what blogging is about. It’s about community and sharing. Keep fronting up, keep showing your work, keep asking to be on the team.

And to G, thanks for continuing to hold me up incase I get dizzy. I won’t call myself a loser again, well, not out loud.

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