Just setting up this Blog, is a major check on my “things to do list” (a bucket list item too) that is either on a yellow note pad (always present in my kitchen) or keeping me awake at night, bumping around in my head. So, Check.
I’ve been mulling over the idea of a blog for ages. I’m a freelance writer, who wants to write more. For a while, I was writing food and travel articles for our local paper. I loved the work and while I had no illusions of greatness there, it was satisfying to write something and have it read by others. To get positive feedback, which happened from time to time, was extra icing. I loved the writing first. Unfortunately, as is often the case, there were some differences of opinion regarding my payment, and I stopped submitting work. While I did it for ethical reasons, it was the classic “cutting off my own nose to spite my face.” I miss the work. I miss the writing.
I’m currently working on a novel. There, I’ve said it… even if no one is reading this. I’ve been writing said novel, on and off (too much time off) for nearly six years now. While it’s taken a while, right now, I’m in a groove and really moving forward, with only a few chapters left to work on. In a nutshell, it’s a work of fiction that looks at the life choices we make in our youth and how we live with those choices as we age. Specifically, it looks at the choices the main character, Maya, who is very similar to me, has made as she looks back on her life and deals with a mid-life crisis of sorts. If you read my bio, you can see the similarities.
I am part of a fantastic, very dynamic writing group, that currently has five members. We submit work as we desire and the other members edit the work and we all discuss it. We meet twice a month, so I am writing or editing every week… a great motivator to keep pressing forward with the novel. These are sharp women with a variety of extensive writing experiences and educations. What they are writing and submitting varies, but they all bring amazing honesty and direct feedback to the other members of the group. I’ve grown so much from their edits and I feel the novel is actually moving toward a completion, that at one time was daunting to even imagine. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a LOT of work to do on the novel, but I feel like I can see the light at the end of the fictional tunnel. While I still have terrible days where I can barely get a paragraph out, other days I am truly in a groove and I feel really good about the story.
In the meantime, I kept coming back to the idea of a blog. Not just any blog… that would be a journal. I find that so many of my conversations, for the past 21 years have been focused on my role as a mother and how it has defined me. That theme has dominated my life for a very long time. If you skip the years where I was raising my sister and brother, and felt like a parent (age 9 on) and look at the years since I gave birth to my daughter EL (to maintain some privacy for them), it seems that 75% of my conscious activity, conversation, motivation, action, non-action, joy, anger, you name it, has been focused on my experiences in the role of mother. The rest would come under wife, woman, survivor, character, bitch, good friend, creative person, you name it. No doubt, those numbers fluctuate, but the truth is, being a mother has defined me for far more than half of my life now, and I have a lot to say about that.
For ease, I’ll give you characters: EL, I’ll call her Principessa here, is my oldest, a daughter. She is 21 and attends an excellent college back East (we live in the Pacific NW, something that brings infinite joy to me). EM, Middle Man, is our middle child. He is 19 and attends an excellent college on the West coast. AJ, Little Man, is our youngest, nearly 15. He will be sophomore in hs next year. B, is my husband. He’s a successful surgeon and will be 50 this year. We met in college and have been married 25 years next February. While I am tempted to give bios of each of the main characters, if I write well, this blog will do that, over time.
So, rather than give a long introductory entry, where I set up the characters, provide back story, etc, I’d like to jump in… start with today: My two college age kids are home for the summer. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I did not set myself up for some wonderful, Hallmark moment, where they would arrive home and we’d all be so happy to see each other, after months (a year in Principessa’s case, as she was in Israel for 11 mths) of separation, I guess I didn’t really understand that it could be this lousy either. Ok, so I am prone to bigger words than I need to use… lousy, may be a bit of an overstatement, but in various moments, it is a gross understatement as well.
After another argument with Middle Man this morning, about how I feel she and her brothers are treating me… went something like this: “Principessa, no matter how I say this it will turn out mean, BUT, I know that you are going to be the strong, successful woman that I’ve always imagined, there is little doubt. So I truly hope that one day, you look back on this time together and, as a women, realize how really shitty you are being. I hope that really hits you right between the eyes and you see that putting another woman in this position of always having to play the bitch/nag/angry person/whiner/etc/name your cliche, really sucks. When it hits you, I hope you feel badly and maybe get it finally. BUT, I’m not your grandmother, and I will not continue to take all this and go down with the ship. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I am not going down.”
Can’t say that there was a whole lot more conversation after that. Apologies come hard in our family. We’re a hard family, no doubt. So, she didn’t offer some made for tv realization that my eloquent words drove home, or say, sorry mom. She sat silently as I drove her to pick up her car, having found a pair of spare keys, that she’d lost the night before…before racing off to a drs appt myself. A less enabling mom might have said, “get on your fucking bike and go get the car yourself. Figure out how you’ll make it to your first day at work today without my help…since you’re being so snotty to me” (after asking you to pick up your stuff before you leave). A really nice mom might have said: “I’m sorry you have to deal with getting the car, worrying about where your set of keys are, and getting your breakfast dishes put away… do you need some help?” I warned, my words can be a bit inflated. Not many moms would use “fucking”… I do. I am also inherently sarcastic. Be warned.
So, after I dropped her off and headed for my appt… I began to chew, again, on this whole issue of being the mom. Being the mom I am. There are 48 years worth of reasons that I’m not good at letting things go, that I let myself get upset by the same old stuff over and over (I am working on that), that I feel resentful of the role I’m playing… but man it sucks to sit there and feel it most days. Having some awareness of what is typical of kids their ages (I do have an Masters of Social Work, I studied psych and child/adolescent development, a hundred years ago), and having some self awareness (years of therapy, years to go), makes it harder I think. I know I should let half the bs my kids toss my way go and focus on the fact that all three appear to be heading in the right direction, overall, in life. They are great people, in young, obnoxious bodies right now. I know they love me. I love them. But, I don’t feel very appreciated and I feel pretty crapped on many days… and I still have not mastered the letting it go thing.
That got me thinking about the crows that have been waking me very early each morning. They’ve clearly built a nest in one of the giant pines just outside my bedroom window. Throughout the day, I can hear them outside my house, squabbling… trying to rob other bird’s nests and make general nuisances of themselves. The sound is a constant. When it’s missing, I wonder why. Crows, generally, are not popular birds. Most of us prefer the lovely robins and finches that come to our feeders. The loud jays and crows are annoying. But man, they sure don’t let other birds maraud their nests. They seem to call the shots around here. I’ve even seen crows go after an eagle in our neighborhood. Crow balls for sure.
Thinking about birds made me think about the whole nest image… empty nest, building a nest, nesting, leaving the nest… we humans seem to gravitate toward bird metaphors. Well, I have one: The reason growing fledglings leave the nest is because when too many big birds share a nest, there’s just too much shit for the nest to survive. Little birds shitting in the nest can be cleaned up after… bigger babies make big doo doo in the nest and mother and father crows say, time to fly. Today, I felt like a crow. I wanted to just shove a few chicks out of my nest and get back to the calmer nest I had a few weeks ago, before school got out.
Don’t quote me, no doubt, if things are nicer tomorrow… I’ll be glad my babes are home. But today, fly babies, fucking fly.