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Exploring & Practicing The Womanly Arts
based on the works of Regena Thomashauer
An Ideal Life -- In Detail 
25th-May-2006 04:54 pm
*Cross-Posted to my journal.

This is long, even if you don't pop behind the cuts. 'Twas fun to do tho'

Some time ago, (okay—FIVE months ago … or nine months ago, depending on how you count), I put together a little lj community for fans of Mama Gena and her “womanly arts”. (It could also be a fine place for women who haven’t read her stuff. I’d like it to be a kind of online ‘girls’ night out’ spot.) Since that time, however, I’ve been pretty caught up in another project (or six) and I’ve been markedly absent. Today, as I wait for the garden to dry out a bit, I have time to catch up a little.

My fantastic co-mod at womanly_arts asked for thoughts regarding a personalized “ideal life”, back in February. I didn’t expect that I’d actually have to build a part of that life before I’d be able to write about it. I don’t know if my life is improved solely due to the coming of spring or if I’ve actually “solved” some nagging problems … but I do know that today is a very good day. And that my near-future looks incredibly promising.

Starting on Tuesday, May 30th, I’m going to take three months in order to learn how to be a writer. Of course I’ve been writing for years, but I’ve always made some other form of responsibility more important than the writing. (First high school, then love affairs, then the resultant marriage and children.) Now that my youngest child is 10, I’ve asked my husband to help me experiment with treating writing like a real job. (Mama says, “Ask for what you want.”)

I’ll be working Monday-Friday for approximately 1500 words / eight hours a day. I will still be in charge of the house, the farm and the boy but I’ve worked out how much time & energy that reasonably requires. (FYI it’s somewhere between 4-7 hours per day, heavy on the fours. Also FYI – getting to a place where that amount of time will support the kind of lifestyle I want took months of planning, organizing and pre-work.) Whatever I can’t get done in the allotted home-work time, will have to wait for the weekend when BOTH my husband and I will be responsible for catching up.

With that information as a back-drop, I think I can finally detail my ideal life. First, there is the vision for the summer:

----------weekday dreams, weekday dreams, weekday dreams----------

On a simple weekday, I wake after about seven hours of good sleep. I spend the next few hours taking care of myself and my home. During that time I do a little yoga, take some vitamins, get cleaned up, tend to my indoor and outdoor pets, keep the house tidy, do a little “heavy” cleaning, plan an easy, nutritious dinner, spend a few minutes on our finances, tend the gardens briefly and get some aerobic exercise. I set my son to his summer enrichment program and some healthy chores. (He is learning to manage his time while I’m doing the same.) After I make a nice environment for myself and my family, I settle in at the keyboard. I write fiction and/or creative non-fiction for 4-5 hours. In the early evening, I take a break from writing to make dinner and spend some social time with my husband and son. That includes a good meal, conversation, a bit of dancing or music making and some snuggling. After the men-folk go to bed, I return to the keyboard for another few hours.

----------weekday dreams, weekday dreams, weekday dreams----------

I realize that not all days can be so straightforward. I will have to taxi my children and my mother to certain appointments. I will have to spend some time doing errands and shopping. I will have to take a few “crisis” phone calls. Things will break. People will get sick or feel lousy for other reasons. It won’t all be smooth sailing but, I think, half the battle is won in the plan.

As for the weekends, they will be quite different from what they have been historically. I’m really looking forward to tackling the larger cleaning and maintenance tasks with a willing partner. That kind of thing goes so much faster when 2-3 people are all working at the same time. There are all sorts of tasks that are better done within a team. I enjoy grocery shopping with my husband, for example. We haven’t done much of that in the last few years because we sort of fell into a trap of keeping the weekends work-free. (It made sense when I was home all week with “unlimited” hours at my disposal.)

I don’t want to give the impression that life will be all about work. In fact the opposite is true. One thing that needed to change to make this ideal possible was my own attitude. I’ve been a perfectionist and a control freak for much of my life. Lately I’ve been directly confronting and (hopefully) overcoming such tendencies so that life can become more about the enjoying and less about the working.

----------weekend dreams, weekend dreams, weekend dreams----------

So. On a Saturday morning I wake, after perhaps a little less sleep, WITH my husband. After some more snuggling, we take some time to get ourselves put together for the day. We find our boy and spend a couple of hours (or, occasionally, most of the day) tackling whatever pre-determined, multi-person, tasks are on the agenda. (Frequently, there is also a young-cousin or two around.) By night-fall, the house/ project/field-trip is completed. We either go out to karaoke or light a fire and have a few beers with some friends or play cribbage (or Empire Earth) and dance in the dining room. We make love. We sleep. When we get up on Sunday morning, we make a real breakfast and share the paper. During the day we either go our separate ways to work/play on our personal projects or take at least one of our kids for an outing or curl up and watch something from Netflix. Later, we make a nice dinner that will supply some leftovers, do the dishes, pick up around the house and move some laundry. After dinner we tuck into bed early and make love again.

----------weekend dreams, weekend dreams, weekend dreams----------


Meanwhile here are some of the features of my ideal life:
The house is clean and neat.
The animals are well-cared-for.
The food is fresh, natural, tasty and abundant.
The boy is busy: intellectually, physically and – to a lesser extent – socially.
My husband is active, confident and effective at work…
…and when he’s not at work.
I’m having frequent, satisfying sex.
I’m in love with my husband.
I’m putting in the time and energy that my body requires for me to stay healthy & fit.
The gardens are low-maintenance and high yield…
… and the produce is perfectly suited to my family’s tastes.
I am living in the most low-impact, sustainable manner possible.
The lawns are defined and mowed often enough to keep it as lush as possible.
I spend a lot of time enjoying comfortable outdoor living spaces…
…often with my husband, the special children and/or my friends.
We go on interesting/unusual outings a few times each month…
…and we visit some of the places we’ve been putting off.
I’m spending high-fun, low-angst, seasonally appropriate time with my friends.
I’m flirting with at least a couple of people on a relatively frequent basis.
Music is taking a more central role in our lives thru singing, dancing & instruments.
Reading is more common than watching television.
Our financial situation is well in hand and our budgeting skills are getting better.
I’m expressing my gratitude and appreciation for the good things…
…and, though I’m taking care of necessary business, I’m not dwelling on the bad.
I’m nurturing artistic endeavors for myself and for my loved ones.
I’m generating a steady flow of pages and I can see the pile grow every week.
Some of what I’m writing is actually good enough to send out the door.
My life is “writerly” in the best possible way.

Our summer projects include:
Creating a workshop for my husband
Creating some comfortable outdoor living spaces
Finishing some of the repairs / improvements we’ve already started
Setting up for another flurry of new, mutually important improvements
Growing, gathering and preserving some natural foods
Developing a routine for keeping our son educated and interested
Continuing to create a supportive environment that suits each family member’s needs


All of this was written as a sort of template for the summer of 2006. The Mama Gena exercise is really about the further future, if I recall properly. I was planning to write another long section describing the PERFECT future life but I've come to the conclusion that is not necessary. For the most part, my plans for the coming summer reflect everything I've ever wanted. I can add a list of my more irrational goals/dreams but I'm not sure that my happiness would be greater if I were to:

[re: writing]
win a major literary prize
write a best seller which makes a TON of money…
…or several best sellers that make an obscene amount of money
or even (slightly more realistically)
write enough to make a reasonable living
get published by a well-know house
get published in major magazines
receive heartfelt fan letters from young people and future writers…
…and from a few of my high school classmates

[re: everything else:]
have a home in the country AND an apartment in the city
…especially in a city like New Orleans
have at least 10 acres of land to situate the country home on
expand my “farm” to include livestock in addition to chickens…
…and the necessity for a good-looking, young, live-in farmhand named Luke or Will :)
travel to: Greece, Italy, Ireland, Australia, England, Mexico and some tropical islands
prove the existence of ghosts, some other paranormal phenomena or a crypto-creature…
…even if only to myself
take an additional lover (preferably female, but exceptional males are welcome to apply)
create a commune/youth hostel type colony
establish the perfect bar & coffee house for artists
learn to scuba dive…
…and then get over my terror of swimming with the most amazing creatures on earth
support my husband in the manner to which he would like to become accustomed
see my children become successful, happy, authentic luminaries
live to see the US government become an honorable system that cares about its citizens
develop a passionate correspondence with Stephen King

I guess that’s it for now. I reserve the right to come back to add to my wild-dreams list.
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