God damn her.
My hands throw her book onto the bathroom floor, over the high wall of my tub. It lands, losing my place; pages filled with Italian Garamond font splay themselves out on the cold tiles. I turn my head away in denial (and shame) that I just threw a book. I stretch my leg out and reach my toes for the facet, which I use to turn off the hot stream, a combination of my big toe and the one that comes next, works perfectly. I look down at my wide pregnant thighs. My round belly lays heavy on top of them. My breasts lay heavy on my belly, the underside crease, sweaty and wet. I take my hands and wipe away the moisture. My nipples are not peach and small anymore; they are impassioned with brick-redness and large, preparing to feed another mouth, the third one. I take a deep breath. I pathetically sigh, a helpless sigh of surrender to loss.
God damn her.
She wrote my book.
Or the book I should have written. By now.
Not that we have a ton in common and not that the content would even be remotely the same. For instance, the demise of her marriage seemed to be catalyst for her search for self and belonging. My marriage on the other hand only has only seasonal failure that, if I have recorded correctly, happens between November 12th (my husband’s birthday) and ends around the beginning of the Judeo-Christian New Year. This is the time when my husband loses his mind just a bit and settles in a murky and moody funk, self-doubt invades him and he undergoes contemplation about his entire fucking life This drives me mad, yet at the same time, I sympathize, I get it. Although during this time we fail at being a truly “good partnership” and we become “let’s not touch or really talk for a while because we just piss each other off”. But I get through it. We both do. He retreats to books of various types: esoteric to epic fiction. I usually dive into hyper-attentive motherhood, so many arts and crafts projects that never actually get done and at night bottles of wine and copious amounts of pot (this year I am pregnant so minus the booze and drugs. This is unfortunate). By doing this I blur out our temporary marital failure. I finally figured out a few years back trying to help or sitting by and watching does nobody any good. His metamorphosis is complete by January 5th at the latest. We join back forces and take on the world, connecting again. This is how it works. Or how we let it not work, until it works again. So far it always has.
And unlike her I have dreamed of procreating and living in motherhood since I knew it was a choice I had, age four, maybe even younger. It was never something I felt pressure over, never thought it was role I had to take on. Quite the contrary. I waited and waited patiently until my life opened up to my first girl, the one I thought of and saw for years before she became a person. I know that my longing for children and bringing them into this world was not done in vein but in following my heart.
And unlike her God my God isn’t magnificent. My God is familiar and ordinary. I never talk to my God in my mother-tongue, in request, asking for help or guidance (perhaps I should). For some reason this feels wrong to me, like I am giving authority elsewhere. I don’t believe in authority anywhere, especially when it comes to divinity. My God today has been a piece of toast from a local baker, warm butter, and spread lavishly with raw honey, all melty along side cup filled to the brim with a pacific northwest latte. Whole milk.
Like her, the power of Sanskrit mantra and use of mala vibrates under the imprint of my skin energetically connecting our souls. Repetition becomes tangible magic for me. I become intoxicated with gratitude and blessings when I chant in ancient tongue, fingering beads, 108, a mystic number, the same number of the chapters in her book. And like her, I could very well find great pleasure in pressing my naked body up against Hot Italian Men, preferably two of them at a time, unrelated, of course. And how I am most like her, where her and I are bonded at the thick yet spacious marrow of our bones is in the pilgrimage; it carries my nomadic self much needed clarity, risks and discovery, the venture and movement fill me with vibrancy of owning both mine and world love, merging them as the same. I can feel myself in her feet, imprinting the global soil, eyes burning with observation and throat chakra illuminating with storytelling. Like her, this is my selfish desire. To move. Watch. Listen. Write.
My arms grab at the side of the tub and I lift myself up with a big grunt. The water has gone away now and my body is covered with the small bumps of shiver. There are only speckles of lavender seed from my face scrub scattered over the porcelain. No doubt they will end up in the drain; eventually the accumulation will clog them. B, now that we are in our time of seasonal marital crisis, will react gruff and annoyed that he has to get out the snake to unclog the old plumbing (any other time of course, he snakes drains with a smile, laughing at my ability to clog regardless if it’s because of my shit or herbal facial scrubs). I step out of the tub wrap myself in the canary yellow towel that I stole from a hotel poolside last autumn. I am glad I did since it’s the only one that covers my now 160 (or more) pounds of flesh. I step right on the book, the one I threw and press it deeper into the floor, like I am pressing out a cigarette onto concrete. How could she? How could she do this so well, so witty, so loveable and kind. Honest.
Almost thirty-four and I have no choice but to contemplate why I haven’t. My mind should be on why I still haven’t unpacked half our boxes from the move, but instead I search my entire body on why I haven’t been able to really write anything in this life yet, something more than bits and pieces, scraps of memory or mirror. The only reason I can come up with is also the greatest gift I have ever been given. Motherhood.
Motherhood. The initiation into a world of love so profound and exhaustion so heavy it covers me like the largest wave and there is no such thing as head above the water for a breather. There is only finding comfort under all the weight, becoming weightless, learning to breathe with no oxygen and to function with the sleep still crusted in my eyes and my mind still scanning my dreams from the night before.
And at the same time it is the same thing that gives me powerful permission. Permission to uncover my confidence, taller than anything I have seen stand on this earth and stronger than I ever was before I become a mom. Motherhood has given me permission to always walk with my confidence wherever I go, not just to take it out here and there, in places of comfort, but to become my massive esteem at all times, everywhere. I made life, birthed it and now keep it alive with love. So do I give a shit what anybody really thinks me? Am I intimidated by any situation? Does it bother me that my clothes don’t match or there is food smudged on my face or that I may not be as pretty, or skinny or witty or smart or rich as the next person? Not in the least, not since I have become a mother. Motherhood gives me the permission to truly know myself, which sometimes is hard to see as the self gets so lost in the process of mothering, but I am almost forced to be myself; how could I be any other with my bloodline watching every move I make? They examine me and copy me and at times think they are just mere extensions of me, not seeing they are totally their own yet. I want my children to know me and know that I reveal authenticity and seek my own truth at all times and possess who I am in every situation, never giving that power away. Being witness to this; hopefully they will choose to try the same.
And yet, simultaneously, motherhood has stolen the other thing I need to truly be myself: Time. I have no time to exercise my nomadic legs that ache for movement, alone, without my family. It has ripped up any passport or writing assignment or publishing contract to roam the earth while it rotates and I get devour the decadence of long-distance experience. It has erased hours each day to sit and think, to walk and breath alone, following the pattern of my steps, and then to light my candle in my red room of creativity and write. Write. Write until something good and true and right comes out of me. This is at the center of my life’s comfort level, this lifestyle I speak of, and so my center remains uncomfortable, in a state of unease and waiting, a clock ticking. It makes me jealous of those who get to live the writing life fully and with abandon to all else. I will admit that envy. Because it’s about me, not them, at least I know that to be true. It is about me. And I am uncomfortable with the way things are. Or aren’t.
My writing is squeezed into cramped and dusty corners of my days or nights, with little to no breathing space. For instance, these 2 pages of words have taken two evenings to write. Not because I sit and ponder on how to arrange them. There is no revision or edits, there is no spell check. Quite the contrary. I am throwing them up, heaving them like they are the last words I will ever have time to share. Tonight alone I have been interrupted at least 10 times and it is 11pm. Granted, I began writing after the first attempt to bed them at 7:30pm, which is early for me to switch on this screen. Usually my writing time is a post midnight after thought, like the backwash from the day. And tonight, I needed to write before one eye closed and half my mouth began to drool in a sleep induced state. When it happens like that, my writing is never valid or solid, and to put bluntly, it sucks. At least it’s not what I crave it to be or what a reader might feel deeply. Sometimes I succumb to being a mother who sits behind a computer during the day when I am awake (not the kind of mother I want to be) and I try to get it all out there while I have a smidgen of energy, while the kids are running and yelping around me. Jumping on me. Tickling me. Begging me for things like help with pulling on socks or cutting apples or to read books or to smother them with kisses deserved attention. And this is my life, how I want it to be, filled with them; and I am blessed. But it does not make for a good writer.
At when I get angry and I feel sorry for my lack of time or my situation I like to think of Raymond Carver. I read once somewhere that he wrote his first book of short stories, locked in his car, while his abusive and drunken first wife threw empty whiskey bottles at him out the window of their trailer. He wrote under those circumstances, not pleasant or easy. And what about that other one? Julia Cameron or Natalie Goldberg? Single mom, unemployed and figured out how to write her first book, broke, while her small baby cried on her lap? She did it.
Perhaps my life is too easy. I have no tragedy to pull through to the other side, no real pressing to say: FUCK, I MUST DO THIS RIGHT NOW, or I CAN’T LIVE. Right now all I need is to get through each day with gentleness and consciousness, keeping my kids at peace with this world, connecting them to it through ritual experience and trying to live in love with food in the refrigerator and a house full of whimsy and play. There is no tragedy here. Nothing has failed or is desperate, no painful falling to pieces and no serious need to lie on a bathroom floor and cry out to God for mercy and guidance, begging to please tell me what to do. Like what she had to. The one that wrote my book.
I don’t bother to comb my wet hair or brush my teeth. My body feels soft after the hot bath and I smother is in shea butter, wishing away any spread of stretch mark with oily massage. I pick up the book under my foot and go out to the couch and read. And read more.
Courtney is my dear soul mate, my friend from before kids and husbands. She is a mother, writer, photographer, lawyer. She is from when we chopped off our own hair and died it different colors and took hits of ecstasy and wandered and traveled by ourselves to foreign land and danced endless evenings on crooked wooden floors in West Hollywood bungalows that barely stood erect on that tiny street behind the 4900 building on Sunset. She was from the time I would write and bind my own books and read what was inside them all over the city wearing thrift store skirts and doc marten boots. Back in the days when I sat in small writing classes on living room floors and drank wine while Cathy Bates laughed at my piece about my feet, how they were beginning to look like my mothers. Courtney knew me then, and knows me better now.
So she must have known that the past 100 times the kids and I have went to the bookstore or the library in search of something to read, looking for the exact words, perfect in story and rhythm, beat and meter, so I could shot them up into my blood and change my life forever (because books do that to me) that I have left with none except another Dr. Seuss or Where The Wild Things Are or a new Harold and his purple crayon adventures. By the time we are done lying around the floor of the kid’s section reading and playing, picking out my girls bound gifts, we are out of time. Someone needs to sleep. Or eat. Or poop. Or have a meltdown. So we leave.
So the other day I came home from the market, balancing a coffee in one hand and a bag in the other. And on my step is a package. And in that package was a gift from Courtney. A book. To be exact Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love was in the package. And a note from Courtney: I think you’ll appreciate this book. Thinking of you warmly. Much love.
She has no idea how much love I received from her. Her intuition and gesture went deeper than just a mailed gift. She sent me a muse. This book made me angry at myself for seeing my limitation. It angered me because I don’t explored my voice more, that I don’t always write with authenticity or raw truth, I skim details and hide from my dark side. It made me angry that I don’t allow pain or failure enter my literary domain when it needs to. Those things can bring movement and pleasure; to me and others. This book made me angry for neglecting my talent, for accepting that I have no time and not insisting that time shift for me, change, expand limitlessly. It has forced me to make the time, to demand it, to own it. It is mine and I deserve it.
This book represents the echo of my inner voice. And though these words are hers and the experience will never be mine nor do I want it to be, I close my eyes upon myself and find inspiration and guidance. It’s about a certain flow. I am not there yet. But now that time will be on my side, experience will be born (or my eyes will open to it) and words will find that flow with my new and improved consistent practice. I am slowly changing my life story so that is becomes this. A mother life. Yet a writing life. It is what always has meant to be.
I don’t damn Elizabeth Gilbert. But it was fun to get so pissed off at a stranger. I don’t long for my marriage to fail (as a matter of fact, I bet after reading this to my husband our seasonal failure will lift a bit early). I don’t need to consciously invite dark and tight valleys, or regret, soul torture or sickness, in order to find my muse, I am lucky right now that my life is healthy and well. I don’t ever want to flee motherhood to become something else or be somewhere else. I can fly around for now as an armchair traveler, yet I won’t I cannot live a moment longer without allowing myself the time for words, the real movement will come later, when responsibility loosens as it always does. Although I will say my pregnancy hormones do take me to Italy, often, in grand fantasy, with Hot Italian men, definitely two at a time, bodies pressing. But I always come back home.