a: the burden of physical or mental distress
b: the constraint of circumstance: the weight of social or economic imposition
I woke up this morning and the word that kept popping into my head was pressure. I couldn’t sleep last night or the past few nights. I even bought some those melatonin gummies, but they didn’t help. So I’ve been sleeping in an extra two hours every morning this week. Sounds glorious to be fortunate enough to not have to wake up to an alarm clock. Yes, I am.
But the pressure I put on myself is enormous. See, I write every morning. I usually wake up around 5 or 6am and write until at least 10am if not 12pm. But yesterday morning I couldn’t peel my body out of bed. So I laid there wanting to get more rest, but wrestling with the mental distress of losing two hours of writing. On top of that, I had committed to writing that first blog post, signed up for an exercise class (I’m a sucker for this 7-day free trial passes) and had a meeting, so if I didn’t write in the morning, it was not going to get done.
The only way I could go back to sleep was to tell myself, it’s okay if I don’t write my screenplay for one day.
All this pressure and I don’t even have a deadline. Only a self imposed one. I want to finish a first draft by Oct. 10th.
I started thinking about all the time pressures I had set on myself. All this guilt and suffering and it’s all my own doing. Or is it?
When I arrived in LA, I was 35. That fall-off-a-cliff age where everyone including my doctor told me that I needed to have a child by. But I had just landed in a new country, a new city, and ostensibly a new industry. I couldn’t have a baby then…
I wanted to have a kid after I directed my next feature. And yes I had told my husband that after I finished my third feature. But I still wanted to pack in one more movie before changing my life irreversibly.
The pressure I put on myself to be successful quickly in this new hard-to-break-into environment was ridiculous and completely unrealistic. But I had a biological clock that was ticking down. Or so society told me.
What I’ve found in LA is that there are a lot of women who have chosen not to have children. And they aren’t ashamed or shamed about it. That was liberating for me to see. I have never been a traditional person. I have never been a person who is drawn to kids. But you should see me melt when I see cats and dogs.
And then one day, in a general meeting with an executive on the Fox Lot, we somehow got talking about wanting to have kids. And she told me that she and her partner have decided not to have kids because while everyone else was asking them “what if you regret not having children”, they asked themselves “what if we regret having them”?
That question never left me. Would I regret having kids? A question I, nor anyone else had ever asked me. I soon realized the answer was yes, I would. And that was the biggest realization of my life. I pushed off having kids… because I didn’t want one. And when I finally let myself admit that, the pressure that had been pushing down on me for the years leading up to my 35th birthday, suddenly lifted.
I’m 37 now, and the last couple of years have been the most pressure-free I have experienced in a while. The only pressures are now self-imposed. I still have to work on that. But at least it’s something I have control over.