Say hi to Amy Wilson, our Life Lessons subject for today. Amy and I (and a bunch of other really talented people) are working together on the New York Performance of Listen To Your Mother, a play that will highlight the big, bad, bold, wonderful and downright scary parts of motherhood. Along with all of the other things on her very full plate, Amy will be directing Listen To Your Mother. Read on about what makes Amy tick and remember, we’d love to hear from you too. Drop us a line here if you’d like to be part of our Life Lessons feature!
Are you happy at the moment?
YES. Gosh yes. I just got back from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference, which put me back in touch with why I write and for whom I write and what a privilege it is to be part of the community of women who write to make other women’s lives happier (and maybe a bit easier). And then I came home to three children and a husband who really missed me. So I’m pretty happy.
If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?
I would tell her to spend less time with her boyfriends and more time with her female friends—far more likely to be with you in the long run.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown talks about the perils of tying your self-esteem to what you have achieved. I’ve spent too much of my life thinking I had to be exceptional in order to be loved. After reading Brown’s book, I’m learning to value myself, and my daily happiness, apart from what I’m-Getting-Done in the larger world.
What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?
Whoops! Here I go right back to the overachieving side of myself. In the next 12 months I want to complete a screenplay and a novel. Writing that down, however, it sounds just a tad unrealistic. Let’s say I want to complete one of the above and make a dent in the other, and I want to do that work with joy instead of stress and dread and beating myself up that it’s not more or better.
What’s your secret to happiness?
Being with my kids. And I mean really being with them, not checking my phone or cooking dinner at the same time. Really sitting with them and playing or talking or reading to them. I resist giving them my full attention sometimes because I’m “so busy.” Then I do it anyway, and I realize that nothing fills me up more.
What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?
When I really want to shut out the world and focus on my work, I turn on Freedom, the software that prevents you from getting on the Internet. But when I really want to feel connected, I go ON the Internet, and check in with my blogging friends. Both are essential to my feeling grounded.
What’s your biggest regret?
Not entitling myself to deserve some of the big chances I was given as an actor. I met Woody Allen once for one of his movies, it was my third or fourth callback, and I remember thinking, “Well, of course I’m not going to GET the part, but this is an honor in itself.” You’ll never get the part if you think that way! There are a lot of times I wish I had run right through first base instead of pulling myself up short, and saying this is as far as I deserve to go.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?
Be kind, even when it’s hard. Dance with the dorky kid if he asks you. Don’t let the bullied kid sit alone on the school bus. Be brave enough to ease someone else’s path.
What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?
Shutting down for the night after the kids go to bed with a glass of wine and bad TV, instead of reading great fiction, or writing it myself. (Working on that.)
Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?
My book, and going on tour with my one-woman show Mother Load. I’m so proud that I found a way to combine my motherhood and my creativity, and through that make other mothers’ lives better. I didn’t know when I set out to write about mothering that I was creating a whole new chapter in my life, but that’s what’s happened.
When were you happiest?
I’ll leave aside the obvious wedding day, and the days my three children came into the world, and mention another, younger moment that comes to mind: the summer that I had just finished a job as an actor, and had a huge job waiting for me that fall, but had two months off to enjoy first. I LOVED that summer because I didn’t have that what-am-I-doing-with-my-life cloud hanging over me. I drove cross country and laughed and hung out and felt absolutely no need to prove anything to anyone. Of course, I never need to feel that way; that’s up to me. Working on that too.
What ten words best describe you?
Driven, silly, sensitive, organized, shy, loyal, fierce, insightful, dreaming, brave.
Amy Wilson is the author of When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be. She has an essay included in the new anthology Wedding Cake for Breakfast: Essays on the First Year of Marriage. She is also the creator and performer of the one-woman show Mother Load, which toured to sixteen cities across the United States after its hit engagement off-Broadway in 2007. She is so proud to be the director of NYC’s first Listen To Your Mother, coming up on May 6th , and she blogs at whendidigetlikethis.com. Amy and her husband raise their three young children in New York City.
Listen to Your Mother (LTYM) is a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish online, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities. This year LTYM will appear in 10 places around the USA. Visit the LTYM National site to see if there is a performance near you!