otherwise known as: Why I haven’t written in a few days…
When I was thirty-eight I worried about concepts like safety and survival for the first time in my heretofore careening up, down and sideways way of life. That was the year my daughter Mairead came into the mix. Up until then I had been happy to wander about, adventuring and learning where the wind took me. For most of my adult life I simply leapt in. I could try new things and go off to distant shores because I had no one to disappoint and no desire to be rooted. This was both by nature and deliberate.
When I met my then-to-be-husband Niall, the same held true. We both lived life the same way and chose each other to continue that roaming existence. Our wedding vows were all about freedom freedom freedom.
Yet, I was not wild. I regularly did my due diligence and asked myself that sagacious question: “If I did this, what would be the worst that could happen?” My answer was that the worst would be to end up with nothing. …But then we could cut our losses and start over, which never seemed very hard for me, and which Niall and I did many times.
That’s not saying the losses weren’t painful. Our life was often painful. We often found ourselves smack in the middle of scary, embarrassing, and confusing piles of blunder. Just like everyone, it stung and it ached when I dove in and didn’t end up where I’d hoped. But it was always worth it, for the ride or for the lessons learned.
After more than twenty years of being my own captain o my captain, motherhood descended upon me and sang through me that it was time to learn about stability. For the first time I remember so well driving on the highway my usual 80mph and thinking: I have a family now. I have to slow down. And I turned into the slow lane. …Now I only take the fast lane if I have to.
Before I was a mom Niall and I moved every year. For eight years we lived in a new house each year. I’m not possessive, and I found it easy to sell off everything and start new. But now we had to keep a roof over our heads, and furniture in the rooms; useful furniture like high chairs and cribs.
I had learned to be afraid.
But dammit… An artist has to be fearless.
Maybe that sounds like a pasted up slogan or a wannabe intellectual’s teahouse cry. But damn if it’s not true. To create art, I’ve got to jam the outside noise and only then can I hear the voices that live in me, just longing for me to tune in to them. Hordes of would-be distractions and concerns loom, ponderous and precarious, over my laptop. That doesn’t even account for the criticism, lethargy, bills, news, and social obligations that pull and pull and sometimes rend.
How can I weigh whether to do a load of laundry so that there are clean socks tomorrow—or to write? How do I know if I should work the weekend or spend time with the family—or write?
Date night or write?
Go food shopping or write?
While my choices are clear, my answers are opaque. Someone cheering me on would say write bllu write! Who cares if your house is a mess? If I could give myself that answer, that would be great. But that answer rarely feels doable or feasible or even right.
I’m not sure why. I’m not sure how much this is an emotional dilemma as opposed to a survival dilemma.
Which brings me to my final thought. One thing I think that I know is that mother as an entity is not compatible with most other roles. Yes, there is much successful co-existence. People juggle every day. …Sometimes this comes easily and with grace. Most of the time it can only be reached with much struggle, guilt, and not being sure what I am doing is right.
I’d love to write a book about how we all need a mother and a wife in our lives. While these are different roles, they both in some way mean: to take care of. Ahhh, doesn’t that sound goooood? Something every single person could use. But, when a mother and wife has no mother or wife to lean on, then what?
Many of us are lucky to have mothers, some even wives. But while the role needs to be filled by a person, I’m describing the role. That one who consoles, gives, hugs, calls, writes, talks to, endures, buys, keeps, carries, wipes, teaches, and of course loves. Many a dad and husband fill this role; many a sister or cousin or aunt or grandfather or best friend. Mother energy is something we all need.
But to be a mother can one be an artist? Can one be anything else and do them both well? This is where I live right now, struggling to hear competing desires and unsure of how to answer. I do I try. I can’t say how often I succeed. Blog entries, you keep score.