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A woman’s right to morning pages

One morning I listened to the podcast of my friend Amel, an amazing entrepreneur and coach. She was talking about “how to break the glass ceiling without being broken”, a talk she was invited to give at the New York Local UN Spouse Association. She makes the point that women take on too much mental load, which crowds out their energy to spend on themselves.

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Mental load – that is exactly what it is. It is me thinking three steps ahead, anticipating what others might need in the next minute, hour, day or even longer ahead. My 5-year-old is going to grow out of his hiking shoes soon; I need to order a size up for our summer vacation.

Then there is the mental load of worrying. When my kids were younger, I often found myself holding my breath or having a knot in my stomach. I was in a constant state of heightened attention, of alert really. I was making sure the kids were not hungry, that they wouldn’t hurt themselves or each other. For me, mental load means living in a state of anticipation.

My husband is not like that at all. He is so absorbed by the task at hand that he doesn’t notice what is going on around him. A thirsty kid asking him for a glass of water?; he doesn’t notice. A child asking him six times when dinner is ready?; he doesn’t answer. Our place being neat and clean is a high priority for him. I have internalized his need for tidiness and am using every moment between tasks to clean the kitchen.

That morning when I listened to Amel’s voice I was unloading the dishwasher, like most mornings. While my husband spends almost one hour in the morning getting ready, I spend 10 minutes, maximum, on getting showered and dressed. In the remaining 50 minutes I unload the dishwasher, tidy the kitchen, pack lunch for the kids, and read my work emails. Prioritize yourself, Amel says. What I want to do for myself is to sit down and write my morning pages

Julia Cameron coined the word and the concept of morning pages: 

“Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included.”

I am a creative writing coach as well as an author, because according to Julia the question is: 

"Did you write today? Yes? Then you are an author today”.

Writing my morning pages is part of my business, it makes me a better writer and a better person, for that matter. 

Writing whatever comes to my mind in the morning helps me sort through the clouds in my head, helps me dig out issues that I didn’t know bothered me. But they do bother me and if I ignore them, they have the tendency to grow and become blocks down the road. “Can you come down and put a clean tape on my back?”, my husband shouts from the bathroom. “No, I can’t. You come upstairs”, I reply and continue unloading the dishwasher. Not only am I doing something that is keeping me away from writing, but by going downstairs and back up again it will take me even longer.

Thank you Amel for that insight and for sharing Susan Hyatt’s chili metaphor Instagram post: a woman asks her husband what he needs from the grocery store, and he replies: chili for dinner would be nice. She suddenly has three new tasks besides her grocery list: looking up the ingredients for chili, checking out what’s already in the pantry or fridge, and cooking the chili. 

I finish unloading and start filling the dishwasher with the plates from last night. My husband comes upstairs in jeans and a bare top. I put the tape on his back and hand him a fresh smoothie. 

Then I go downstairs. My 10 minutes are running…

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