Coming up for air
I’ve re-read some of the posts I wrote last year, and I’m amazed at how lucid they are, in spite of the severe sleep deprivation. Once I learned to ride the waves of hallucinogenic exhaustion, my mind adjusted. So why can’t I do it now?
One word. Tantrums. Tantrums that leave me frustrated, confused, and guilty. I understand that the severity and frequency of Madam’s freak outs is related to the fact that she cannot speak. But…shouldn’t I be able to do SOMETHING to mitigate their ferocity?
And therein lies the guilt. Why doesn’t she speak? Is something wrong? What am I doing wrong? Because, of course, it must be my fault. So I spend the whole night marinating in recrimination and second-guessing—not exactly fertile states for the would-be novelist. Especially one who still feels so unsure, like I am breaking all of Aristotle’s rules of drama at once. If I am going to spend precious mother-energy writing a novel, I need to justify it by being very, very good at it. And, of course, nothing kills "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" faster than THAT.
The very act of wanting to write the novel makes me anxious, as though I should be spending that time reading parenting books.
Now, a confession, much as I love research and reading, I hate reading parenting books. Inevitably, they suggest changes in our routines that I am not sure we need to make, or they give me solutions that don’t seem to work on Madam. And they contradict each other wildly—console her when her emotions grow overwhelming! No, ignore her, otherwise she’ll learn that tantrums get her what she wants! Try to reason with her! No, distract her! No…
You get the idea.
Not to mention the fact that after a whole day of being Mommy, the last thing I want to do when I’m off-duty is read about all of the mistakes I made while being Mommy that day.
That being said, clearly, something is wrong here. There has to be something I can do. At the very least, I can spend every evening harshly blaming myself over every parenting decision I’ve ever made. Some nights, I even go back to her NICU stay—did we miss some crucial bonding window while she was there? Did I not spend enough time with her? Did she pick up some hint of my fear and uncertainty at the idea of being entrusted with her WHOLE LIFE?
Last night, while talking to a dear friend who suffers from anxiety, I mentioned that worry can feel like it’s giving us some modicum of control—at least we’re CONCERNED and AWARE! Even if that concern is completely depleting us, and the awareness is accomplishing nothing.
I need to take my own advice.
I know that on some level, I am feeling guilty for wanting to work on my writing at all—because I should be tirelessly devoted to Madam. And…is the novel the culprit here? Those times that I spend daydreaming about characters and plots—are those the times that Madam could be learning to speak, but isn’t? I read to her a great deal; should I read more? Different books? Do I talk to her too much? Not enough? Is too much of my speech over her head? Are those moments I steal to write while she is watching television ruining her?
Am I being selfish for believing that I can write a novel and be a good mother at the same time?
So I pay my penance. I have started reading parenting books—gentle ones that don’t imply that you have probably ALREADY ruined your child for life. I get enough of that from my parents.
Someday, I’ll look back on all this and smile, if not quite laugh.
And I’ll spend hours talking with my Madam about my latest book.