Motherhood: The One Sure Way to Cure Self-Absorption
I was always one to indulge in the malaise of youth.
I can't get out of bed. I hate Sundays. Why am I in this dressing room? Why am I trying on plaid shorts? Why is it winter? Why does no one ever call me? Why is everyone calling me? I can't pick up the phone. Am I calling too often? I'm calling in sick. I can't RSVP. He doesn't like me because of my "Boys Don't Cry" haircut. Now called the "Boys Make Me Cry" haircut.
I wrote lots of poetry. Jammed to Nina Simone. Practiced the art of mulling. Stage-managed an off-Broadway play. Co-hosted a Comedy Night (there was a dearth of Darkly Emotional Nights). Pondered quitting my job and becoming a lounge singer. Of Darkly Emotional Songs.
I was the Ricola Man on top of Mt. Ego, blowing the alpenhorn, "MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
And then I met my husband. So if I was on a linear graph, he became a deterrent in the Lounge Singer Trajectory, which was okay seeing as how I was nervous about wearing tight sequined dresses and sitting on top of pianos.
The coordinates suffered a major shift.
Dark and artsy were hard to pull off when you were light and frothy. I was an uninspired latte listening to Michael Fucking Buble. My mull-motor stalled. My poetry suffered. Happy poetry is extremely difficult to write (the sun it shines! my heart doth burst! today I will cook my love pot roast!). It took the misery of an ACL surgery years later to finally produce something with an ounce of depth.
Although I bypassed the coordinates of Fashionably Morose and Bonjour Tristesse, I was still completely enamored with ME. And especially ME with HIM. I mean, how do I look wearing this Little Ray of Sunshine? And did you catch us dining romantically together over Eat It Suckers I'm Blindingly Happy, Look At My Strappy Sandals?
Then I had children.
Suddenly I became a cipher. The person that I had to buy wrinkle cream and go to the gym and avoid dessert for (what an idiot) was absent. Which isn't to say that I lost myself but that I lost time for self-reflection.
And it felt liberating.
I didn't hate Sundays anymore BECAUSE I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT WAS SUNDAY. Shopping? Dressing rooms? Analyzing the richters of the scale and the earthquakes of cellulite didn't matter as much because I didn't have time for showers, much less shopping and self-critique.
If someone asks, "how does that make you feel?" I have to really stop and think because I HAVE NO IDEA. Feelings and emotions require time, marination. Children don't let you marinate. They make you microwave.
That being said, I'm not completely emotionally barren. It's just that now, for the moment, the emotions are in primary colors. (RED: ANGER! YELLOW: HAPPINESS! ALSO, CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! GREEN: ENERGY! ALSO, WE'RE LATE! AGAIN! BLACK: DON'T GO THERE. YOU DON'T WANT TO GO TO BLACK.)
If I find myself with a moment of free time (I'm sorry, honey, I really need to sterilize these sippy cups. In the bedroom. With the door locked.), it is not spent googling the assholes of past lives who never called me or nostalgically pondering the what-ifs and might-have-beens or even moaning WHY and WOA IS MOI and DOES THIS RECLINED POSE MAKE ME LOOK AS TIRED AS I FEEL?
No. When the dragons are resting in their caves, the knight takes off her fire-retardent equipment and (1) writes, (2) calls her mother and (3) eats chocolate chip cookies.
Children, if nothing else, force action. Days are attacked. Vittles are portioned into tiny compartments which are portioned into tiny lunch boxes. Naps are fought and sometimes won. Playdates are scheduled with the zeal of the desperate. Tantrums are approached with a zen-like calm. Except when they're approached with a zen-like rage.
Bad days no longer hinge on my emotional unhinging. In fact, bad days have nothing to do with me at all. Each day is filled with so many moments, both good and bad, that at the end of that day, I can do nothing but collapse (children are an insomniac's dream: for a ruffies black out, take one toddler-infant pill right before bed).
While I miss self-thought, the weight of narcissism was exhausting. Now I'm exhausted in an entirely different kind of way. A tenant-farmer kind of way. Plowing the fields of young minds. Or something.
I'll find my ego again, plumb the emotional depths once more, file my nails, write a poem. But this time, I look forward to creating a new relationship with myself.
One that's firmly grounded by two little anti-self-absorptions.
The Flying Chalupa
Photo Credit: ecokaren.