Friday, October 06, 2006

On the shelf

Today I learned that I feel guilty—Madam is moving well into toddlerhood, i.e. thoroughly out of control—and I feel myself split into two, with both selves pulled inexorably towards words and writing and my beloved books. Meanwhile, the maintenance of the house gets far beyond me—the carpet gritty with pebbles that crunch under Madam’s tender bare feet, the kitchen floor sandy with crumbs and scatterings that she’ll gleefully put in her mouth. I spend every moment I can (and many I can’t, technically) reading, or planning what I am going to write, or feeling despair as I watch a barely gelled new idea sink back into formlessness, growing indistinct, weary, fluttering dead before I can get to paper or the keyboard. And many times lately, no ideas come at all—I sit, staring at nothing, trying to swivel my pupils back towards an inner life, but concentration and ideas never come.

Writing always needs to come after; after bedtime, after the house, after dinner, after, after, after. And when I get to after, there's nothing there--no energy, no imaginative power, nothing. And yet, trying to ignore all of the things, to lose myself in my writer's mind...well, that's not working either. I'm always acutely aware of my sink of dirty dishes and my tottering baskets of laundry, and they loom larger than anything I can concoct in my imagination. So I try everything, and end up with nothing but a howling toddler, a room that should be condemned, ideas that flutter away, and a constriction of resentment at my throat, choking utterance.

I feel jealous of other writers who can accomplish so much more that I can lately; feel rebellious at the piecings of my time. I want to gobble my books, not nibble with constant half-starts and half-stops and crash, bang, keep the baby’s finger out of the drawer. I want to pound away at a longer, more ambitious story instead of my little wisps. I want to see my writing form under my hands, get better. And I can’t, right now. That's not my life right now, regardless of how much I wish it could be.

She’s napping so little and night sleep is a topic best left unexplored. I want so much to take courage from the past—those women who have somehow managed to create beauty and meaning even as they chase toddlers around and around a small room. But it’s difficult when all I can see are the impossible summits being scaled by the nimble childfree.

I’m just tired of it—tired of feeling tension before I write, so sure I’ll be interrupted just when it starts to loosen and flow. Tired of feeling resentful of my Madam, who can’t help needing me, after all. Feeling vaguely disgusted by my unkempt house, overwhelmed by tasks which are constantly shunted aside to gain me five more minutes of writing time. Writing which comes with a stifled scream of haste and an aftertaste of guilt, writing which feels so very important and yet emerges with only a whimper of mediocrity.

I wish I could treat it lightly, an amusing hobby, perhaps like building elaborate train sets. But that’s a lie—I am full of unseemly ambition—I want to be not only a good writer (which I think I do manage on occasion) but a great one, famous, acknowledged. And that feels impossible right now, because I can’t seem to produce anything while in this life situation.

This sneaking and stealing time doesn’t satisfy—I’m endlessly frustrated, hungry, gulping at air. It only reinforces my feeling of being on the outside, looking in. I feel breathless before my day even begins, knowing that I'm behind before even leaving the bed.

I need to choose, but there is no choice, is there. I need to be a good mother. I need to take better care of my house. We can’t afford help right now, or rather I can’t quite justify it. I'm a stay at home mother, after all, why should I need housekeeping? TEG is very busy with building his company, working long hours into the night himself. We have no family around to share the burden. I say this not to arouse your pity (although I have a sizable amount of self-pity already) but to try to really SHOW you where I’m at. I know that other mothers manage; I don’t know why I cannot, except to admit that I am no great planner, no organizer. And thus everything teeters until it falls down.

Like the fox from the old story, I rationalize—what is the great loss, anyway? I do like certain, isolated sentences; certain skeletons of stories I’ve written—I do see possibilities for growth. But there is just no time.

So I have to lay it aside for a bit, hope that this silent time adds layers and richness to my imagination until I have time to concentrate on it more fully. But I just can’t keep up this half-life, everything scattered in pieces around me. I need to concentrate on Madam now, and not so much on my writing or myself. This is not the time to be selfish. I wish I could say that the mother role is a light cloak, a second skin, but it’s not. I’m struggling to raise another over myself. It’s not easy for me. I’m still absorbed with me, with my own zealous literary dreams. And that’s not fair to Madam—I can’t do it all, I’m barely holding one of my roles together with outstretched arms.

So I’m putting it on the shelf for a time, and hoping that I'll soon have the means and the desire will still burn when I get back to it.

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10 Comments:

Blogger sophie said...

all these afters give you
the "living' from which to
write:)

8:37 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Letha Sandison said...

Oh my goodness darling!! Reading this brings back memories of being in art school while my husband was in his medical residency and we had a one year old with no family around. It is so hard at times and you feel like you are going to loose it!!

Hang in there sweet lady, it gets better. I promise! I know I have written this before to you.

One thing that really struck me while reading your post was that you deserve time for YOURSELF. You do not need to feel guilty about Madame for wanting/needing time for yourself. You will be a better mom if you take time for you, keep yourself balanced and WHOLE.

Some people need more than motherhood in their lives. There is nothing better than parenthood and I know we all love our kids more than anything or anyone else but….
Having ambitions, dreams, and needs is ok, it is better than ok. You have a gift to share my dear. You were meant to write, you have things to say, to put into the world. Madame will learn that her mom is gifted and respect you for it!!

If you ever want to chat about this I am a phone call away and a great listener ☺. Email me and I’ll send you my phone number. I know how hard it is to be a perfectionist housewife and mother, have a busy hard working husband and a burning desire for a successful creative career. We need to stick together!!

Hoping your spirits are soothed and your ideas are flowing!!

XOXOXO

11:06 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Jessie said...

you know when we met for coffee and i talked about how i've been thinking that maybe i'm ready to have children, but... yes, this is what i'm afraid of. i'm afraid that i won't be able to stretch myself thin enough. i'm afraid of what happens "after"...and since i don't have a child of my own i don't think it is fair of me to say that i know exactly what you mean. but there is something about what you have written that i understand deeply.

i would offer suggestions, but i'm not sure that is what you need right now. so instead i just want you to know that i am acknowledging your struggles and the pain that it brings. i think sophie said it well though...these struggles are the things that great writing is made out of.

i love you, didi...and i'm here for you if you need me.

9:41 PM, October 07, 2006  
Anonymous Fern said...

I can only imagine how overwhelming it is to try to be a great mother and a complete person.

I have no idea what it's like to have a toddler, but I think you need to take a bit of time to nourish yourself. Madam won't benefit from a mom who's burned out and unfufilled.

You're being so selfless, wanting to give up your ambition to make HER life better, when I think one of the best things you can do for her is to take care of YOURSELF and do what it takes to make you happy.

9:44 PM, October 07, 2006  
Blogger Rach said...

I get everything you are saying, with bells on. Keep the faith honey

9:15 AM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

Most mothers can relate to your situation, and have longed for time, time, time when their children were young - to do whatever would feed their souls. This may sound like mundane advice, but I believe you need to find a way to carve out time that is yours. Is there a church near that has Mother's Day Out? Generally, they are very inexpensive, and the facilities and care are excellent. Giving your all for your child can mean that your "all" shrinks from no filling. It sounds, too, that you are in the house an inordinate amount of time. The walls close, everything looks dingy, everything begins to look hopeless. Fresh air and a new view helps. It really does.
Just a little advice from someone who's lived through it, and can look back from the other side.

2:12 PM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger wendy said...

Long ago, about where you are now,I went to a therapist..Darius..a 60'ish tall Sidney Poitier look alike...who told me calmly..."You will have your time." Somehow it helped. This is just NOW. Not forever. Just keep observing. Sneak it in when you can. DO NOT demand pefection. Ambition is a great thing..being heard is important. But you are heard. We will listem..even to a whisper...Become good and famous...one reader at a time. Just take a pause...then start again.

11:42 AM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oh yes I do understand. It is such a challenge.

I am trying to remember I will have my down time and probably will miss these times when baby is a toddler.

One thing I am going to try is getting up an hour early to work on art no matter what it feels like-whether I have motivation or not-just to do it.

I always feel like I need a huge chunk oftime-but I just don't so I guess I have to tr to work with what I do have right?

Hugs and empathy

2:50 PM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

...i think you're right...you can't choose...you are both a writer and a mother...both roles will pull at you...

and you're not alone...i know many mothers (including myself) who have these same thougths and feelings. i know there are times i feel myself pull away from my family because i don't feel like i'm getting what i need for me, i feel like something in me is dying and all they can think about is whether the laundry is done. and yes, that does lead to resentment which i think is really all based on fear...fear that i'm lossing myself, my gifts, my individuality, my time to all the roles in my life. i remember several years ago reading sylvia plath's journals and she dealt with this same issue.

i know what you said about your husband and his long working hours but i'll tell you one thing that did help me. i requested one evening to myself. trey picks britt up from daycare and they go home and do their thing. i leave work at 5:00 and head to a coffee shop and read and/or write until i decide to go home. is it enough? no...but it helps...

3:16 PM, October 09, 2006  
Anonymous cheryn said...

as said by all- we hear ya! days go by and i feel as though all i've done is gone in circles, and the day's over with those exact same crumbs still left all over the floor. it's OK though!!

i'll say though- if you visit my blog, you can see that i'm very short-worded, just photos and little blurbs and babbles. I wish I could be as descript and well worded as you are in your posts. Your post here is an excellent bit of writing in itself, so even if it may not be exactly what you are looking to accomplish, your blog is an outlet and know that you ARE ackowledged!

4:17 PM, October 09, 2006  

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