I read a great parenting post this morning, on the inspirational Orange Rhino blog, about Parenting on Empty. Not run down or depleted reserves but down deep, nothing left, red light empty. The author described the effects of running on empty:
Running on empty means I am shorter, snappier, moodier, grumpier, everything “-er” except calmer, friendlier, and happier.
It struck a chord. I’m not there yet (well, actually, looking at the above list of adjectives, I probably am!) but my fuel warning light is on.
With the extra work of editing Baby Blues, on top of the daily blog and social media (not to mention childcare and household duties!), I’m feeling stretched to my limits. I go to bed exhausted, I wake up exhausted, I cry over the smallest things (like getting locked out of my iTunes account and losing an hour’s editing time trying to fix it) and my children have stared using, “I’m just tired,” as their excuse for everything, I wonder where they learned that?
I can’t take a complete break, because of the daily blog challenge, but I think I can cut it down a bit. I’m forty pages from finishing this draft of Baby Blues and, even though the proofread has forced me to line edit at a level I haven’t done before and has revealed weaknesses in the novel I would dearly love to fix, I’m going to let it go. If I don’t I’ll either burn out or I will never finish it. Come what may, when I reach page 230 I will format for kindle and Create Space and hit approve.
So, I’ve marked September as my month off. With my daughter starting school oh so gradually and my son on a new schedule at preschool I won’t get much writing time.
I intend to continue with Claire, but I suspect the top half of my blog might diminish. I’m thinking of opening it to short (500-700 words), relevant, guest posts: if anyone is interested drop me a line.
I may also dig out some old poems and stories, maybe even some paintings, and give them an airing, get some feedback. It might work. It might not. All I know is I need to spend my dog walking time on Claire. So, this is a head’s up.
Hopefully October will be business as usual, although my sister is over from the States for two weeks, so maybe not! I ask for your patience! I’m off to the petrol station to fill up.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire looked at the man opposite her, and searched her brain for a topic of conversation. A week’s travelling had told her precisely nothing about him apart from his name. She couldn’t guess his age or occupation and only assumed London was his city of origin by his accent.
She glanced down at the menu, then turned her gaze across the road to the lake. The water had shone like blue silk when they first reached the restaurant, but storm clouds had piled overhead since their arrival, and now the surface was as leaden as the sky above. Claire shivered and pulled on her cardigan, glad of the activity.
The menu might as well have been written in Greek for all she could focus on it. Neal’s proximity pulled at her gut and set her nerves tingling. She’d never met someone with so much animal magnetism. If asked, she would have said the phrase was only for romance novels of a certain ilk.
Topics of conversation drifted into her head only to be dismissed. Opening lines such as, “So, how do you like New Zealand,” or “Where do you call home,” or even, “What activity are you doing tomorrow?” sounded too lame to be uttered. Opting to leave the opener to him, given that he had driven forward all their other encounters, Claire turned her attention back to the menu and searched for something easy to eat in public.
At last their meals were ordered – Neal had chosen the most expensive dishes on the menu – and they were left with the task of making small talk. Claire sipped at her gin and tonic and watched Neal with an indifferent expression. This was his bet, let him earn his dinner.
“So, Claire, how do you like New Zealand?”
Claire sniggered at Neal’s question and he frowned.
“What’s so funny?”
“That was going to be my opening gambit but I assumed you’d have some sarcastic response at its lack of originality.”
“It’s as good a place to start as any.” His face glowered darker than the storm clouds and Claire worried she had offended him. His reaction seemed out of character compared with the Neal she thought she knew.
“I like New Zealand very much,” she responded with as much sincerity as she could manage. “It’s a beautiful country, the weather is mostly gorgeous and the locals friendly.”
“Why, thank you.”
His response made her choke on her drink. After coughing for several moments, she furrowed her brow. “You’re a local?”
“That’s right. I’m on a VIP. Didn’t you know?”
“Well, no. From the accent I assumed you were a fellow Brit on holiday.”
“Well, one out of two ’aint bad. I am a Brit, as you put it, but I’ve been over here for four or five years now. I used to work for Magic.”
The waiter brought their starters; goats cheese for her, some form of seafood chowder for him. It was the most expensive starter. Now she knew he was a bus driver, rather than a GP or a City Trader, it made more sense.
“And now you work for Kiwi? Isn’t a bit of a busman’s holiday – literally – to come round on the tour?”
“Officially I’m here to learn the new route, although I know it already. I get to travel for free and I know people at every stop. It’s more like an extended family trip.” He forked a steaming heap of fish into his mouth and Claire looked away while he devoured it.
Before his mouth was entirely empty, he continued. “And there’s usually something to add a piquancy to the trip.” He raised his eyebrows in the way that normally sent her heart jumping. It didn’t have its usual effect.
A memory drifted into Claire’s mind from her conversation with Mitch, back in the UK. As well as having a rude name for the ‘other’ bus tour, he’d mentioned an acronym to watch out for, something to make sure she didn’t become. It had been a friendly warning and she had laughed it off. He’d said “Don’t be a DAF”. When she’d asked what it meant, he’d responded, “Driver’s Available …” and had winked suggestively. No need to ask what the F stood for.
She watched Neal, as he finished his starter with a look of smug self-satisfaction on his face, and she understood. Her appeal, over that of the youngsters, was presumably an ability to buy dinner. He must have seen her iPad, phone, clothing, and figured she was loaded.
That would be nice.
Just buying her flights and bus pass had maxed-out her credit card. Paying for extras like the expensive tours, the pricey meals, was eating into her current account faster than she felt comfortable with. Mitch’s throwaway remark that she could get work in a backpacker’s bar was looking like less and less of a joke.
Something clicked as the thoughts ran through her mind, one after another.
I don’t want to be a DAF. I don’t even want to finish dinner.
Coming to a sudden decision, Claire stood up and dropped her napkin on the table.
“Thank you for your company, Neal, and for the compliment, but I don’t want to be your DAF or your little piquancy on this freebie jolly. Nice to have met you.”
Taking a bundle of dollars from her purse, Claire dropped them on the table and left the restaurant, taking the wonderful image of Neal, slack-jawed and lost for words, with her.