Time has been blazing by this Summer. Ever since I agreed to teach during this semester, my desk has been piled with papers full of writing--not my own...My calendar is full of planning to-do lists and reminders about emails and phone calls to return...And, I suddenly look up to realize the garden is going brown with the late-July wilt of the season. The season that will be over just as I'm finally ready to sink into it.
Last week, I turned another year older--fell into a blue mood by evening because I wondered if I'd done "enough". Have I accomplished all I should have by now? Is this the question that birthdays prompt in adulthood? By the time I sank into bed, I had already worked my way out of this trail of thoughts...life isn't a clear, linear progression. It is all about wandering, getting lost, and realizing that the misdirection was, in fact, the only one worth taking.
The latter part of the week passed in a blur...my college offered me several classes for the Fall Semester. So, I finally admitted to myself--yes, you really are teaching again. It has been almost three years since I settled into the old English adjunct faculty room with the sweetly bitter scent of spilled coffee and shredded photocopies lingering like a strange perfume. When I left, I had recently given birth to my youngest and was thinking of applying to study with Natalie Goldberg. One month in New Mexico, several publications, an editorial post, and an entire (as of yet unpublished) novel manuscript later--and I am back. Now, I will have to learn how to balance things. Teaching is a creative outlet for me, but--in many ways--it is a drain on my time. So, I am learning...still the student.
Three years ago also marked my descent and slow rise to full mental-health following the vicious post-partum depression/psychosis I fell into immediately following Rosie's birth. On Saturday during my regular morning cafe writing session, I browsed the magazine rack for random bits of inspiration and saw this:
My article, "Almost Yellow" has now officially made its way to a bookstore near you and I and anyone who cares to read it...family, friends, students, bosses, strangers, and the "Mommy-Moms" lounging poolside who already think I'm a few degrees off-center. I'd been nervous about how I'd feel, seeing my experience dissected in quite a public way. But, I ordered my tea, sat down by the window seat, and read it straight through without flinching. They paired my words with some beautiful artwork, made a few edits, and excerpted my words: "How often we fail to admit a crack until the floor is littered with shards of glass; we are surprised by the darkness even as we watch the sun go down." in a sidebar. I didn't cry. I felt oddly electric...not because of the publication, but because I was revealing myself.
My-SELF. I am revealing myself...taking a risk as an intensely private person to share what happened to me. I am shattering my own personal myth of ideal motherhood. It isn't all hearts and flowers, hand-knitted bonnets and impossibly tiny diapers. Women at baby showers should be prepared like warriors--should be honored for the rite of birth and new motherhood. There is a shroud of silence here that I've held myself to "look like a good mother" to others. Now, I'm naked...it is complicated...but I don't feel a bit ashamed.
I hope my daughter will someday feel proud of her mother for opening up in this way. I hope she understands that, even in my darkest moments, my love for her was luminescent. There is a true sorrow in me for "missing" her early infancy...for not being able to breastfeed her for very long because of the heavy cocktail of medication prescribed by my doctors. When she is having a difficult day or acting out--a part of me wonders if her anger is from our initially shaky relationship. When she occasionally cries for her Daddy, disappointed when it is me who comes into the room--I feel my heart catch just a bit on the jagged edges of what our love is. But...I remind myself, every day now we laugh together. We chase butterflies and investigate pill-bugs in the yard. We hide out and then surprise her brother or sister with our loud voices. We read books and drip paint on the floor in our enthusiastic creativity. She sleeps with a clutch of silk in her hands, or one of my satin nightgowns, because even in her dreams she reaches out for me. And, what matters most...I am here now.