Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Cost of Sacrifice

The other day, my daughter was talking enviably about a girl who'd made it big as a performer. She's been on TV, in music videos, commercials. We've had these conversations before - nearly every time she watches the Olympics or sees someone break big on America's Got Talent, or hears a story of a teen who publishes a book. It is always the sort of wistful, why-can't-that-happen-to-me kind of talk that leads to me talking about discipline and hard work and commitment.

This time, though, the conversation was ripe to talk about sacrifice. This kid who is now famous, I told her, gave up pretty much everything in her normal life years ago. She stopped going to school and having friends so she could spend all of her time in a studio and at lessons and traveling. She gave up free time on weekends to work. She gave up eating whatever she wanted. She gave up privacy. Just a few years ago, her parents divorced because one supported (pushed?) this fame agenda and the other just wanted her to grow up a bit more like other kids.

Would you be willing to give up all of that to be in her place, I asked. Would you give up your friends, your swim team, your band, your sleepovers with friends and Pinterest cooking parties and vacations? Would you give up Dad or me?

It's a discussion we've had in our house a lot lately, this cost of achieving a dream. How much are we willing to give up to get what we really want?

Going after what I want is something I've been wrestling with in particular over the past year. This week's question - how much are we willing to give up - has put a good perspective on it for me.

I want to write. I want to be able to do that much more than I've been doing it lately, which is not enough. It always seems that life is crowding in on me, and in the back of my head, I've thought, if I really wanted this, wouldn't I make it happen?

But the fact is, there are only so many hours in a day, and there is a lot that fills those hours.

What would I be willing to give up to get what I want?

I know a writer who realized she couldn't be a full-time writer if she had a mortgage hanging over her head. So she doesn't have a big house with modern luxuries. She lives a very minimalistic life so that she doesn't need another job. I know a writer who knew if she had kids, she would never have time to write, so she chose not to marry and have kids. I know people who have married and had kids, and still walked away from them to pursue their own dreams.

Am I willing to give up my family and house? Absolutely not.

When I think about what takes up my time, it is this. My kids. My husband. My home.

I am forever doing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning floors, cooking and packing meals, running errands so there is food in the fridge, clothes that fit, band instruments that work. I carpool kids. Endlessly carpooling kids.

I do a Bible study. I pray. That gets me through each day like breathing.

I work. I work now because my oldest is looking at colleges and we need to pay those looming bills so that he has the opportunity to live out his dreams.

What is there in my day that I could trade for a few hours of writing?

Not even sleep. There's not enough of that as it is.

It was good this week to look at what fills my hours and realize that there is hardly anything there I can sacrifice. Would want to sacrifice.

For now, what steals the hours from writing are those things even more valuable to me than writing. My kids. My husband. My home.

That realization gave me a few moments of peace. And then, I wrote a few lines in my novel, and went to bed.


  1. The art of life is figuring out what's truly most important to us - not just endeavours but people.

  2. Sometimes you have to wait until the time is right. I'm still waiting. Just like you life seems to get in the way, but I wouldn't trade anything for fame.

    1. Amen, Sharon! I don't actually have any desire at all for fame. I am very happy being totally anonymous. On the other hand, I do want to get to do what I love (write) and get paid a decent wage for it. Maybe one day.... :)

  3. What makes it even worse is all that writing advice out there that says, "Write every day! Write no matter what! You must sacrifice to write!" and on and on. But you can't write about life if you don't EXPERIENCE life.

    I think you're exactly right on this point, Heidi, that your family and your kids come before the writing. Same for me.

    1. I hate that pressure, Melissa, and that view that something is only important to you if you lose the rest of the world to pursue it. Frankly, a little balance in life is a good thing. And, like you say, the reason i have something to write about is because I am in the world with my eyes wide open.

  4. Doing what we value is what gives us peace! Sounds like you got it right Heidi. And with the peace of priorities, you still have energy to write those lines or any of those extras that fall below number three priority.