Freelancing — or Maybe Just “Lancing”

by Britta on 28 April 2009

in The Freelancing Life,Travels with Grandma

Just this morning, I got up early to go for a quick run before Grandma got up, and before the day got too hot. I rolled out of bed after only one snooze, and threw on my clothes and shoes. As I was fastening my watch and heading out the door, Grandma got up and announced she was ready to eat her oatmeal. And it wasn’t even 8 a.m. Sigh.

If you read my first post, then you’re aware that I’m living with my grandmother, helping to take care of her in her illness. It’s definitely much harder than I anticipated.

For a while when I was living in Hawaii, I tried my hand at freelancing, writing and designing, and those couple of months were absolute bliss. No boss to answer to, no work schedule to keep, no dressing to impress. Unfortunately, the money didn’t flow like the lifestyle, and I had to give it up and get a real job. I never gave up the dream, though, so when my aunts called me at the end of last summer to ask me if I would do this, I tried to see it as an opportunity. Grandma needed me, and perhaps I needed the downtime.

Running the B&B for my dad last summer, though interesting and entertaining, was a lot of hard work that left me with little free time. Some days I barely had time to take a shower, so the writing and design projects got pushed to the back burner. Maybe now was my chance to start the freelance career for real.

Things never really turn out how we expect them to, do they? Caregiving is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had. My job description is pretty straightforward, and the tasks themselves pretty simple. But, this is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: The little things I do for Grandma, plus the responsibility I bear for her and her well-being, plus the simple fact that I need to be here all combine to leave me exhausted and depleted at the end of the day, despite the fact that when bedtime rolls around I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.

I’ve been here now for about six months, and in that time I’ve realized that no matter how great our intentions are, there’s always something that has to be overcome. What I thought might be some great free time has turned out to be some great tv watching or magazine reading time. I don’t lack for no-activity time, but I do lack for productivity-time.

Maybe I’m just lazy, but I have found it difficult to work on my own stuff since I’ve been here. I have my own time when Grandma naps and after she goes to bed, but those times are variable and sometimes unpredictable. It’s only Murphy’s law that seems to be constant.

My experience this morning was about working out (something else I haven’t done much of here) but it translates seamlessly into my work experiences. Starting a new project is easy, but finishing it is another story. I started this blog post a couple of weeks ago, but have only just published it, because I got interrupted every time I worked on it. Photoshop canvases don’t get opened because I won’t have enough time to bring a design together. Essays don’t get started because getting interrupted means I lose my train of thought and have to start over once I finally come back to it. Websites don’t get updated because a redesign can’t be done halfway. I take fast showers and quick runs, and I leave the bathroom door open. I check on her constantly when she’s sleeping or reading or just watching tv. I try to find a good stopping point, but usually the stopping point finds me.

I had some work to do on a big project last night, so I stayed up until I was just too tired to continue. I only logged two hours last night, but I was proud of myself for how much I had finished. That irony was not lost on me, nor was it lost this morning when I wasn’t able to take my early run, despite the effort it took to get up that early after going to bed so late.

So, though I don’t do much, I still don’t get much done. What I do finish is thanks to my aunt, who stays to help Grandma on the weekends so that I can have a little time off to work (and sleep in). My peak productivity time is the weekend, another irony that isn’t lost on me. Though my time is still limited,  and I have to keep reminding myself that the situation is less than ideal and it will improve eventually, at least my business has grown a little, and have proven (to myself and to others) that I can meet deadlines even without time to work on the projects. So, I am actually freelancing. I’m just missing the “free” part. Sigh.

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