Monday, November 30, 2015

All the Figs.

Well, this started a whole thing this morning, this tweet from fellow writer, fellow mom, fellow weirdo, Cari Luna:

Billy just went upstairs to be alone, as if that's actually an option as a parent.

I think about this a lot. Not because I don't love my family, but because mothers are so rarely alone.

I am, by nature, a loner. If you've hung out with me, you might think otherwise. I'm social. I'm not an introvert. I like a party. But an essential part of me being able to think or create is being alone. I hike alone, or with my dogs. I've always gone on long walks alone. I'm fine eating a meal alone, or sitting at a bar alone, even when I don't appear to be trying to do something else, like reading, or texting on my phone. If I'm just sitting there, I'm ok. I'm listening.

When I was a kid, my mother was always doing something. The thrum of the sewing machine was ever-present in our house. She sewed, she painted, she made crafts. A lot of the things she worked on she also sold, so there was a money-making element to it. She was working. 

But I know it bothered her. I know, from her frustration, her irritation, that she wanted time to work alone. Sometimes, just our presence -- coming into the kitchen where she painted, or wrote, to get food or run the sink, or go out to the garage -- bugged her.

We're probably not supposed to be bugged, as mothers. It's not in our list of virtues, our best attributes.

So how are we supposed to get anything done?

Last week, I saw this comment from Miranda July, about her husband's work schedule, and their three-year-old son. No one asks the dads -- what are you doing with the children while you work? How are you managing to work your job and get everything done -- with the children?

Years ago, after a graduate workshop, when I had a then two-year-old and an eight-year-old, my professor asked me how I was getting anything done.

I ignore them, I said.

He answered: That's an excellent way to raise children. And he meant it.

I wish there was a typewriter in front of her.
I'm lucky. I get time away. I have places I can go for retreat. I take the train into the city. I am not working another job (although a lot of the time, this doesn't feel terribly lucky; it feels rather broke). I have a partner who shoulders a lot of the chores, makes lunches, walks dogs, does dishes. But that doesn't mean that I don't often feel like a possum with her children attached.

Because what I'm talking about is a feeling, not a list of chores. Look at the differences between Mother's Day and Father's Day: Fathers get the day to spend with their children, at a barbecue, at the lake. Mothers want a spa day to themselves.

I never wanted to be selfless. I never wanted to be that mother who gives up everything, who exists only to fulfill her children's needs. I cringe at mothers who identify only as "Someone's Mommy." And while I admire the fuck out of Julianna Baggott -- who manages to write in a scrum of children and dogs -- I never wanted to be that either.

I just want to be left alone.

Maybe this has something to do with queer motherhood -- with lying outside the bounds of good and godly heteronormativity where the mother, in her patience, wisdom, and thrift, is "worth more than rubies."*

Or maybe it has to do with my own peculiar artistic temperament, a need to create in a silent storm and then emerge to pack that's loud and laughing, and loves hard. A lot of it is about being good enough, about having enough, and doing enough. It's about guilt, and fear, and perception (both self and other). About having a made bed, a roast in the pot, and a manuscript underway.

It's about the fullness of agreeing to more than one fig at a time.

*Proverbs 31:10, obvi

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