Sunday, October 12, 2008


I think I have figured out what my problem is. I don't value my roles anymore, and yet I am over identified with them.

For example, when Madam was small, I was still reeling from this newfound role as her mother, A mother. So I was fascinated by motherhood itself, reading all sorts of books about the politics of motherhood, the price of motherhood, staying at home vs working outside, how to shape the young baby mind. It was a familiar way for me to be, studying for some exam in the hazy future.

Perhaps I thought that if I crammed hard enough and passed the final, I would move up to the next grade. Where, presumably, someone would take on the actual, well, WORK of parenting, and I could remain on board as a sort of educated consultant.

You can stop laughing now.

It's actually become harder, for me, rather than easier—and I am far less fascinated by the whole thing. Maybe because she's become so much less of a baby, and so much more...all-encompassing. Her opinions are often and loudly stated. I can't just babble to her about everything anymore, unless I want it parroted back to me with frightening accuracy. Maybe I'm just really tired of hearing imperious little demands all day.

But now I feel like I've lost that deep commitment to be Mother, and have just become another mommy.

The same with writing—I feel disconnected from the creative blogging community (totally my own fault—I have all but stopped blogging and reading blogs), and the voices that fed my little vignettes and short short stories have stopped crooning in my ears.

So. Not a writer. Not particularly invested in being a stay at home mother. I feel like I have no more value if I can't find a niche to inhabit—some way to say “this is me.” I cling to my old names—mother, writer, feminist, Latina. I try to poke my former self awake with insults, treats, punishments. But it remains frustratingly, frightening, asleep.

But maybe that's not the point at all. Maybe the point is to remember that I am so much more than any labels I can hang around my neck. That I still have value as a human being, beyond my various roles. That I can learn to hold them lightly, with a sense of humor, even as I wait for the next consuming inspiration to give shape to my days once again.

That's what I am trying to do, anyway.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


(from here)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about pleasure. Or, more accurately, the absence of it.

It hasn’t snuck up on me all at once. It’s been more like a slow fading, like the color slowly draining from a once vibrant dress washed over and over. It’s so easy to ignore; pretend the dress is still as new as ever. But, soon, you have to face reality. It’s a completely different dress.

I think I have belabored that poor metaphor enough.

The old pleasures no longer please, and new ones have not made an appearance.

The time has come to try something new. No discipline.

Now, usually, being too disciplined isn’t a problem; quite the opposite. And I recognize that enthusiasm tempered with discipline is the way to accomplish my goals. But…I don’t even know what those are anymore. This goes beyond my writing life—this has corroded every aspect of my day.

The other day I was forcing myself to slog through a book, because it was due at the library soon, because someone said it would be good for me. Like cod liver oil, or an enema. My mind was everywhere but on the page, and the Watcher voice cracked the whip, reminding me of my many failures and faults and attempting to drag my unwilling attention back to the words.

No dice.

In frustration and guilt, I put the book away, and snuck a longing look at what I really wanted to read. A book I had actually just bought, putting it much lower on the “to be read” list than a book I needed to return. No, this had to wait.

And then another, kinder voice asked me something that gave me pause.

Why did I have to march through a list of books in steel toed books just because I had to return them? Why, indeed, did I even have to finish a book just because I had started it? Why couldn’t I just read whatever I wanted?

I know it might sound like I am over dramatizing this moment, but it was one of those moments where something larger came into focus for me. Why do I turn things that should be pleasurable into work? Because I feel guilty that I am not working for money, and feel the need to account for my time? Because I should hurry up and get started on my “real” writing? I recognize now that part of the reason that life feels so drained lately is that only unpleasant tasks feel legitimate and worthy. If it’s fun, it’s immediately suspect and moved to the bottom of the pile.

Well, no more. Starting this weekend, I've allowed myself to read whatever I wanted, to start when I wanted to (within reason, I still have a boisterous Madam at home) and stop whenever I grew disinterested. I gave in to my natural inclination to have several books going at once, each one informing the others. I know this won’t work forever; eventually I’ll get some immersed in something that I won’t be able to rest until I finish it. And what a wonderful, familiar experience that will be!

I need to allow myself to play again, to find whatever gives my life vibrancy and pleasure, in order to stop running away from it (and by extension, my writing, which forces me to look deeply at my life).

And next, I’ll put my faded dress away and buy a new one. In fire engine red.


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