Monday, April 03, 2006

Wrestling with the shadow, and surrendering

Yes, a bad pun.
Wow, that’s a negative post title. But it’s actually a good thing.

I’ve never liked the word "surrender." It always brought to mind waving a white flag on a bloody battlefield, bowing your head with the expectation that a sword would come whistling through the air to chop it off. It sounded defeatist, resigned.

But in this depressive silence I’ve been in, I think I’ve learned to see the positive side of surrender.

I’ve written before about how powerful I find the idea of "choosing all", or adding more "and" into your life, and less "either" and "or." Most of the time, it works. I’d like to think I can keep two disparate ideas strolling around in the boulevards of my mind, but occasionally, two ideas bang and bang away on each other like two silver balls in a pinball machine. And I have to pick one. And I hate that, as it brings up all of my fears of making the wrong choice, and foreclosing myself forever to the right one. So I try to live with the bangs, and not get a headache. It usually doesn’t work, though.

This whole process just gets worse when one of the ideas is something I really DON’T want to know about myself. I pride myself on being all psychologically astute, and on being on at least a friendly basis with my Shadow (nothing special, just an occasional "hello" and distant wave). I suppose that’s a sign that my denial of the Shadow goes deep indeed--I’m perfectly fine with working on acknowledging the good stuff, the "Golden Shadow", and I’ve always got a ready list of faults handy for when I need to don the ceremonial hairshirt and flagellate away. But--the deep, murky, blasted stuff? The kind that wakes you up at 3am in a writhing shame and a sour silvery taste in your mouth? Like most people, I’d rather keep all that at a respectful distance, like, say, in the next life.

So I writhed away from it, pointed at it and said "not me, nope, no way", ran as fast and as far as I could, filling my days with monotonous draining activities, if not with my words.

When I settled down, my Shadow patted the ground next to her and said, "Let’s talk."

I started first, as usual, by trying to out-talk, out-think, out-maneuver her. We were at war, and I decided that the best offense was a good offense. I called out my most trustworthy character witnesses, presented my most compelling evidence, and delivered a stirring closing statement that would have made any Law and Order fan faint with delight.

My Shadow raised her eyebrow, and yawned.

Spent, I slumped, silent now. Bent my head for the sword strike.

Instead, something far worse...the thought I had worked so far to avoid, ignore, sandblast into oblivion. There it was.

And here it is.

I do not like being a mother. I want my old life back.

I clutched Madam closely to my chest as that ugliness loomed in me, hoping she would be able to act as an innocent shield. She stirred, made a small moue with her mouth, and slept on. And I was left alone, feeling so horrible, so small.

But I couldn’t un-know the thought, couldn’t un-think it.

So I had to wrestle with my shadow, try to face it the way someone moves forward into a cold wind. Secure in the knowledge that I am the worst person in the world.

Then a funny thing happened. Once I just sat with the thought for a while, once I stopped squirming and berating myself, I felt at peace. And I felt a sense of possibility again. Because I do not like being a mother...the way that I am doing it, looking over my shoulder at the judges, trying to keep a strangled grip on Right and Wrong, trying to deny myself frolic and fun and time. And then that other word came into play.


I’ve been afraid to surrender to motherhood, afraid to turn into one of those people keener on the price of butter and baby food than music and laughter. Afraid that I’d have to sacrifice myself (because it’s a serious given in both my family and TEG’s family that motherhood = the end of your former self. Forever. And that from now on your every waking thought would be of your child). So I’ve been resisting that, resenting that. I’ve clung to my small self while bobbing in the Great Motherhood Sea. Of course I want my old life, with its carefree pleasures and brunches out and wine soaked evenings wearing velvet! I need to accept that I MISS my time, my late nights and later mornings. Because denying that just makes Ms. Shadow sigh and flash images from that fun time, until I’m forced to be honest. Which is her goal, after all.

So, this is where my silence was leading me--to uncomfortable self-knowledge, and hopefully to a change. I need to commit to this, to allow motherhood to unfold from within me, so I can make it my own. So I can work it into something I love wholly, from the depths of me, an addition to who I am instead of a way to erase me. So I can have fun with my Madam, and push past my own fears of ruining her life, of pushing her too far or not far enough, of not following every instruction ever written. So I can wiggle out of the Perfect Mother Mold. I was oozing out of it anyway.

I’m not sure how this will all work yet--I just know that the groove of my life needs to shift, somehow. There has to be room in this motherhood gig for both Madam AND me, no? Maybe my Shadow will have advice on that too.

Come what may, I’m open now.



Blogger Kat said...

i've added yolu to the contagious creativity list as you requested earlier. if you're no longer interested just let me know!

you're an amazing writer. this post was so fascinating to me, as this is a big concern for me as i think about becoming a mother in the future.

7:51 PM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

you know...Letha and i have had long discussions about this topic: the challenges of maintaining your "whole self" in the wake of motherhood, the importance of a woman not allowing motherhood to define who she is fully, the ability to balance being a mother with being an artist, a writer, etc., etc.

i think it is so brave that you sat long enough with your shadow for this to come up and for you to release those scary emotions, that thought. i love that it has lifted something in you. isn't that what true awareness does? isn't it when we allow ourselves to speak our own truth that growth happens?

thank you for your honesty, for your eloquent way of expressing emotions that so many women feel and are afraid to share.

i think we can all teach one another how to balance motherhood and our own individuality, whether we are current mothers or mothers to be.

you inspire truth speaking and therefore, inspire freedom within.

11:50 PM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger andrea said...

What an incredable post. I am digesting all you wrote and finding I relate on so many levels. As a mother to much older children than your own, I can tell you that you can and must in fact find your own "mother style".

I remember how devestating it was having to go from our small normal sized car to a minivan when I was pregnant with our twins. To me that was NOT who I wanted to be. A soccer mom driving a mini van who wore Mom jeans. It's this image that I had to break through and realize that no one was telling me I had to be this.

I could still be the artist, still go to art gallerys,the theatre and wine tastings. Now granted I don't go nearly as much as I want and there were times when they were really little that it was almost impossible to go. Remember though, I said "almost".

Kids do however, get older, life changes. You mature and your love for your children grows and grows and you find some of the things you miss, aren't that important after all. Some things you will find ARE still important and you make it coexist with motherhood.

This doesnt mean, you loose yourself. It just means your growing and you are better able to define more about yourself and who you are.

10:49 AM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger M said...

YOu can break free of the perfect mother mold and create your own! Thank you so much for sharing all of these thoughts. As I'm sure I've already mentioned, being someone who's thinking about starting to have children, its so wonderful to hear not only the positive thoughts but also the scary thoughts of motherhood. These are the things "they" don't tell you and I want to know them. Glad to hear you had an epiphany and feel you can move forward. I find it's always the things we're fighting the most against that feel the best to let go of. Well done!

11:38 AM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger Yummyteece said...

WOW...once again i am blown away by the things you reveal and the open moments of your soul that you so readily share with us. What a powerful and transformational conversation with your Shadow.

I'm tingling, I'm so excited for you and where this new awareness will take you.

2:32 PM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

This is so beautifully written, honest, thought-provoking -- it gives voice to such fears that I have about having children. I don't want to drown in that motherhood sea. I get bored of other people's babies pretty fast, and cant' imagine spending my days dealing with baby issues instead of creating. And yet... I really want a family, and soon! I'm so confused by it, and this piece of writing is such a relief to read -- I would love to see this published on Salon or somewhere. I don't know if you want to go in that direction with this, but I think it is absolutely a fantastic piece of writing, and important, and I think it should be published!

4:45 PM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger Alexandra G said...

Thank you so much for your honesty, esp so openly on this site. My friend, Laini, told me about your site last night as I am struggling with something huge myself right now and didn't want to write about it on my blog for fear of well, fear, and judgment, and so I've been avoiding the whole blogosphere longer than I needed to lately. I know my sister-in-law, who has three young children, once said that no one talks about the monotony of raising a young child, and how beserk and insanely boring it can be picking up, cleaning, having to be so totally responsible for the care of another, and I think its brave of you to admit what many don't feel they can or should. I do hope you can get some time totally away, to yourself, away from the responsibilities you have, and on a regular basis, oh, and most importantly totally guilt-free. Thank you so much for sharing!

1:24 PM, April 05, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

You are a gifted writer. You have vocalized toughts and feelings that would never crystallize in my mind. It's refreshing to read such honesty. Being a Mom is H.A.R.D. I know exactly what you're talking about. When my first son was born it was like a baptism by fire. I had no idea it would be so hard. After 2 more sons, it's still hard but I try every day to do it better and take care of myself, too. Being a mother is really the ultimate form of creation. You really should submit this to get it published!

2:59 PM, April 06, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

This is an extraordinary essay...striking in its honesty...and searing in its truth. Eleven years ago, as we sat in a booth in a pancake house at 3 am in the first moments of what would be a life built together, I looked at my future mate and said that I truly believe that if we embrace our dark sides, we don't have to live from them. I also learned along the way that "surrender" isn't a dirty word...that it doesn't mean weakness as I'd always thought it did. It simply means to LET GO...and let things unfold as they're meant to.

P.S. Look at the places your "new" life has taken your psyche and in your writing. :)

7:43 AM, April 07, 2006  

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