1. The Predicament
Does the title of this blog post sound familiar? Most parents feel this way, most of the time, but it is especially true if you have a child with special needs, ongoing health issues or some combination of these. Perhaps you have more than one child, or more than one who has special needs. Your days are often filled with just getting them dressed, fed, to school, or doctor’s appointments, home again, fed, to bed. On top of that, with ongoing health issues often comes a battery of medicines (this is one of the dozen my child was on for 4.5 years)
that need to be kept track of, administered with or without food, multiple times a day. There are refills that need to be ordered, notes to be kept about daily behaviors, experiences that a doctor might need to know about (that, you say is the writing you do) or multiple kids schedules to keep track of. This is just a slice of what a day might include. And at the end of the day you fall into bed yourself, and maybe, sleep through the night. Then, get up and do it all again.
2. The 5-minute Fix
I have lived this. But without being able to write I would never have made it through the more than 5 years I spent caring for my child when she was ill. (She is in remission now, but with an autoimmune disease, one never knows if it will return.)
Writing saved me and helped me deal with the overwhelming emotions that came with care for my child and not knowing if or when she might attain remission. As a result of my experiences I now teach a writing workshop for parents who have kids with a chronic illness.
I begin my workshop with a 5 minute writing exercise. I think everyone can carve out 5 minutes a day to do this and it may just help you cope with the rest of your day. Or help you sleep at night. Of course, you are welcome to go over the allotted 5 minutes, but not at first.
3. The Exercise
Write down 3 words that come to you from your day. These words can be about your day with your child(ren) or in general. They can be any words (try not to censor yourself).
Set the timer for 5 minutes.
Then, write for 5 minutes using these 3 words as often as possible. You can write full sentences or fragments of sentences. You can write a paragraph or a poem. Try not to think about the form but let the words come out. If you get stuck for words in that 5 minutes, just keep writing the same words over and over until something else emerges.
Stop when the timer goes off. Read it to yourself. Put it away. Repeat this exercise the next day. And again as often as you can, but limit it to 5 minutes at a time.
4. Now What? The Intermediate Approach
After you’ve done this exercise 5 times, the next time you are about to do it, sit for a few seconds before setting the timer, close your eyes and check in with yourself. Notice your breathing. Notice where your body feels tight and relaxed. Notice your jaw, your neck ,your abdomen, etc. Take a mental inventory.
Then do the writing exercise. After the timer goes off, again close your eyes and go through this same internal checklist. Notice any changes. Open your eyes and look at what you’ve written. Jot down anything you notice from before and after the exercise.
Repeat as many times as you wish. See if this little time out changes anything for you, helps you think better, feel calmer, understand something in a different way. If nothing seems different that is OK. There is no right or wrong here, just this simple practice. Let me know what you think.