Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peeling Back The Layers

Note: I discovered this one in the bottom of a mixed up folder of writing, something I was working on over the summer. It's a tough piece of writing, perhaps part of my endless mama book, perhaps just a snapshot in time. Although some of it feels dated, and at times desperate, I was amazed at how spot on it felt as a journey through the private inner landscape of balancing motherhood in my life. I invite you to linger, sit back, and enjoy the ride. -T

(insert gorgeous, thought-provoking photo here)

It's not as if anything ever really falls away. It's more like it's put aside, stuffed, buried under immediate obligations despite best intentions, as impassioned as they may be. And so, as the endless pile gets worked through, completed and released, unremembered things return once again to the surface in some ever shape-shifting dune of sand. Created. Released. Re-created. Does anything ever really leave us?

Peeling back the layers of sauce and cheese on some giant lasagne of my life, I come to the first slippery noodle: roadwork. Never-ending roadwork up ahead.

"Don't think so much. Allow it."

"All things, in the end, return."

"Nothing wasted."

Hard to see that point, especially after all the tedious hours, but perhaps it's true. I can never gain perspective at the time. Only afterward, looking through the prism of life, through the layers, the years, the experiences long dropped and almost forgotten, refracted in a gem-like view, multi-dimensional in retrospect, do things start to get clearer and make sense.

We are, each of us, gems, continually faceting, deepening, reflecting, and hopefully as a result, gaining even more sparkle with our growing depth. What disparate experience, skill, or relationship seemingly long-abandoned, will come back this time, never quite lost or fully buried?

I am so not-current at the moment. I am back-logged, drowned in forgotten moments. Oh, that'd be good to write about. Ooh, must document that!

As the sliver of time narrows increasingly, her needs above mine, I remind myself my time will come. Be present. Be here. It's the greatest gift a parent can give her child. The gift I didn't get. The gift I keep giving….and giving…

Still, as the waves of emotion tumble and crash upon my insides, I don't have the luxury to delve down in her presence. The bottomless sad pit. Can't afford it now. Got to keep a lid on it. Things are tight. Money, time, hands, resources. I am hungry, but I cannot eat.

Not yet.

"Soon. Soon," I tell myself.

(I've been telling myself that for years now.)

I can't complain. I have everything I need, though my wishlist is growing.

And I refuse to become one of those miserable women--fully staffed-out and shopping to appease the vaguely nagging cloud that feels like self-loathing, depression. You know the ones, the ones who cannot be grateful for so much abundance, the ones who have everything yet insist they have nothing, who cling desperately to pain instead of joy, who anxiety-ridden drain their swelled bank accounts on therapy and Botox, nannies and dogwalkers, power yoga and trainers and consumerism and glittery status social events.

I see these women everywhere in this town. I see these women around me and refuse to step into that pity-party, though at times I might like to. There's so much possibility all around me. So much to be grateful for. Always want to see the abundance, not the scarcity. Not the lack.

OK, I'll call a spade a spade.

We've been pretty broke here. Yet to what degree, I'm not certain. This town certainly gives off a warped perspective. It's hard to tell. We don't live in a war-torn country or in a shack with no running water. We're not fighting off diseases, clinging to our very survival.

We DO live in an expensive town with no health or retirement benefits except the ones you create for yourself. I guess we like it this way. Wouldn't choose anything else at the moment. But this brand of "freedom" comes with a hefty price tag. The stress of it all is slowly killing me. Not a sudden, "you're out!," but a slow, agonizing, drip by drip depletion met with surges of optimism and determination not to fall prey and secede.

Scanning the bullet points, I guess I've covered my goal of being a present, hands-on mom. Check.

I've defiantly dug in my heels, refusing to break up our family when things got dicey a bit back. That wave, thankfully, has crashed and rolled back out to sea.

I've given of myself to the preschool, the elementary school, the community when they've asked for allegiance, communion, sacrifice. Double, triple, quadruple check.

I've given to the cause. I'm a civically-minded individual…all for one and one for all and all that jazz…but sometimes at the expense of my self-preservation it seems.

I am anchored and solid, and learning to be patient. It's quite a hat trick, let me tell you. Sleight of hand, really, to still be here. My impression is that I've been here all along, and perhaps I have but it doesn't always feel like it. At times, though I'm right here, I too feel I've gone missing.

If anyone's still out there reading, checking in…thank you. I may not be as prolific as before, but I'm here. I'm still here…moving along, finding my way, though mostly it feels like I'm doggy-paddling in circles, trying to stay afloat, looking for shore.

So now what?

I'm pretty sure my child-bearing capabilities are over, or at least severely limited, though crazily I'd like to have one more despite the rocky terrain I've already traveled. My daughter's entering Kinder in the fall and she still feels like a baby to me. I know she's not. And I'm kidding myself about the other thing….so…

The camera slowly pans back to me and asks, now what? Who AM I? What can I do? What do I WANT to do? What's next?

I know I have to get paid. I have to bring in more income. And I know I can do it, I just can't make a choice how. This "stay-at-home" thing isn't me, literally and figuratively.

But I've given away the store for so long. I've side-stepped for so long. I've shape-shifted, delayed my creative impulses, plying myself instead with other gratification, (caffeine, cocktails, volunteerism for instance), in the name of "being the glue," the capable "I can handle it" one, that I am just FULL. And empty at the same time. Does that make sense? Is this the woman's place? To be empty-full, in some sacrificial, beautiful, zen-like way? Full of empty?

Who am I kidding!

I know I must move on from this place. I have high expectations for myself. I always do. I am exhausted yet demand full productivity. Results. Accomplishment. Must do, do, do.

It's stated in my survival manual: in order to feel fully activated, you must accomplish big things. Nothing minor. Big things. BIG, BIG things. Limits exist only in your mind and all that kind of BIG things. (Probably to mimic how small I actually feel.)

I've got this crazy post-feminist "I can bring home the bacon and mind the home store and be a present involved mother and throw down a gourmet meal while giving you a blow job on a daily basis" kind of womanly ideal to live up to. Oh yeah, while also maintaining my sparkling divinity and sense of inner-peace, never getting opinionated or "edgey," while staying downright youthful and thin. Yeah Ms. Over-achiever, let me get right on THAT.

I give myself 4 weeks of 4 days per week camp coverage to be creative and productive and finish my book (haha), which I haven't even started really, unless you count the years of scattered notes and half-thought-out pages, rejected outlines and snippets of thus. But it's all in here I insist, tapping my brain. Or is it here, in my heart? Or that 3-ring binder buried under "I love you Mommy" rainbows and crayon-scribbled flowers? I lived it, I know it, dammit. Doesn't that count for something?!

(The first week was spent unburying after a long absence. The 2nd week is nearly over, somehow. I just want to sleep. Vacate. Rejuvenate. But the 3rd week is looming so the pressure is on…)

I have been so productive, all along, but my bank account remains depleted. So does my inner gas tank. I've got to start charging for my labor, yet I've been giving it away for free. Now it's my turn to get paid. Work and get paid…what a concept... but really I just want to lie on a beach somewhere and sip mai tais, or mojitos, or margaritas, or martinis… (pretty much anything that's magnificent that's got alcohol and starts with an "m")… as I imagine my size 12 body the old 6 it used to be, with the chiseled abs and pretty little smile. Sigh.

I've never worked so hard in my life. Yet I FEEL LIKE I'M NOWHERE.

And why is it that every thing that I do feels so INVISIBLE?

I don't even know what the hell I'm doing, and if that's true, how can anyone else?

Bills glare at me from their untidy stack next to the disheveled receipt pile and medical bills that need attention. Damn insurance. With all those self-employed premiums we pay, couldn't they pay out something?

That snaps me back into focus...self-absorbed naval-gazer that I am, we're just lucky to still be parents for God's sake. How can I write about my mama angst when we could have lost her a few months back? (insert harrowing story of near-fatal accident.)

I adore her, my girl. She's my world. That's a good thing. Such a good thing. An amazing gift of creation she is, especially for me, for where I've come from, particularly for how many slings and arrows I've had to survive to get to her, to get to here.

And still….

For a time I have nothing to say. I am completely silenced. Leveled.

* * *

I realize I'm nothing if I'm not doing. I can bleed to death doing. I'm a no-boundary-aholic. I'm a helper, a doer looking for validation, it's as if my very existence depends upon it.

Quick, get me some "Nos," or better yet, if I'm going to work this hard then let me at least get paid for my work.

It's pathetic, this need to prove myself, this need to be useful, valuable, a problem-solver. This need to bleed for acceptance and love. Pathetic really. Transparent and pathetic.

So within this timeframe, knowing I'm setting myself up for failure, I tell myself, easy. Baby steps. It'll come, honey. Trust it'll come. You have everything you need. You have SO MUCH.

I do. I know I do.

I anchor myself down into the universe of abundance, abating another wave of fear in this crazy rollercoaster freelance life we've chosen.

I scan my choices, but my brain is limited. It can't see what it doesn't know. It's really not that helpful, the brain, after all.

Surrendering to something other, something higher, I wait to be shown.

This is where I am. This is me, right now. I surrender. Not where I want to be, but where I am. Open and willing to take on the next thing.

I know there have been moments. I've seen them. Brief glimpses down a path…

...and then, just as enthusiasm swells, anticipation running high, the immediacy of obligation thrusts its demands in my face like some party-crashing vibe-wrecker disturbing the vision, a stone smashed in the glassy smooth surface of water.

Fuck. Times up.

I feel the clock ticking. For her and for me.

I've already danced through half the keys on the piano, and you get less agile with age.

Wiser, but less agile.

The pressure is on.

Might be easier to just say, "I love you baby."

"I love you too Mommy."

And smiling and nodding, leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

Your writing is amazing....really. I had to go back and re-read it a few times, it gave me chills with how dead on so much of what you said was. Please finish your book(but no self imposed timelines)!! This is a book that has to be written, it is compelling, honest and despite the sadness/frustrations there is an overwhelming feeling of triumph because of the deep love you have for your daughter (and the type of mother you learned how NOT to be). Thanks for sharing this with us, I really appreciated your words.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

How did it feel to write that? I know how it felt to read it, it felt UNIVERSAL. The more personal, the more universal! You just have the guts to say what most won't admit, mostly to themselves, but we ALL feel, at least at times.

It feels to me like you are right on the edge of a big shift in life, in thinking, in behaving, in being. Being on the edge is BRUTAL, but that's where things happen. Take the plunge, go over, it's easier on the other side. At least that's been my experience.


riversgrace said...

God I love that you just say what is, cover all the territory and let it be out there on the page. Carrie's right - SO UNIVERSAL. And, you bring healing when you have the courage to be seen, to remain open, to allow the places that feel small to take center stage. In that light, the transformation in reading is that we see nothing is small. It's human. The whole conversation with yourself, your life, your world. Existential. And in this way, beautiful.

The conversation and the process that you describe is, itself, a vocation. There are ways to use it in service and ways to offer it as medicine and ways to be paid well for it.

If writing is your interest, that's a beautiful thing!

Jess said...

Yes, feels very very universal. Glad I came back by here (thanks Prem), reading this feels very nourishing to me right now. I'm not a mother (yet), but I still relate to pretty much all of this. Including your taste in drinks.

I don't know your whole story (yet), but please do write it, keep at it, trust yourself to move forward in the right direction.

And would you email me? I want to send you something. jess@shiningcitymusic.com