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Tiah Beautement

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Write Life: Part 1

This is part 1 of a mini series on getting myself back to the Write Life.

I was bursting into tears at odd moments. I was finding myself angry over things that normally wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Yes, 2015 got off to a rocky start, and our hearts have yet to recover. But this was something else. I watched myself writing vents on Facebook that friends would – kindly, nicely, gently – tell me to delete. And after a few deep breaths (and hastily following their advice) I would gradually see that what I was complaining about was not, actually, the problem. But what, exactly, was the problem?

A month ago I vented to a friend. When I was done, she – kind, nicely, gently – said, ‘Tiah, when’s the last time you’ve taken a break? A real break from work.’ I blinked a few times, considered the last few months. I said, ‘That day you took me for the op. That day. Well, actually, I don’t remember much about that morning. But I certainly didn’t do any work after we got to the hospital.’ My friend put her mug of coffee down. ‘Tiah, that’s not healthy. That’s not healthy for anyone.

It has been four years since my health plunged and altered permanently. Four years from the dark days I feared I couldn’t cope, was useless, had nothing left to offer the world. Somehow, in four years, while learning to live with two chronic conditions, I have managed to refill my life to such an extent that my work hours exceed what is considered wise even for a physically healthy individual.

The difficult part is, I don’t have a terrible life. My days are blessed with wonderful things. I have – at last – come to the realisation that being a work-at-home parent is a good thing for me and my family.  It is a pleasure watching my children take part in their after-school activities. I enjoy having dogs around. I find the chickens a hoot. It is a delight to have a book published. It is a privilege to be part of Short Story Day Africa. I still giggle at the idea that I get paid to read books. I want to do reader reports, and have enjoyed the work. And even with all of this, there is still more out there that I want to do.

Everyone has exactly the same amount of time, the same twenty-four hours. – Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

I have been known to talk about ice cream. How ice cream is delicious, but you shouldn’t eat it for every meal. Perhaps I’ve created a life with too much ice cream. Some have suggested whole parts of my life should be cut, like going on a brutal diet. But what would go? And is it really about cutting, or more a matter of portion size?

About a month ago, I began to address these questions. Things have to change, before I alienate my friends, family and the people I work with. Because it is never good to be exhausted. But perhaps a more realistic balance can be achieved without a slash and burn. This isn’t about quitting. This is about finding the Write Life.

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