The Siren Song.

I have been trying to formulate a post for awhile now about what it feels to be in the throes of early parenthood, where any and all free time seems to go to maintenance of the body, mind, general household or inadvertently catching up on sleep (ie; every time I pick up one of the eight books I have been inching my way through in the last 6 months) and yet the creative mind yearning for hours of interrupted space, to allow finally, the muse to emerge from her dusty hiding place. It makes my bones ache how she calls to me with her siren song.

I whisper, “I know, I know.”

A good friend and I reflect upon the irony that here we are – well into our thirties – having had all of this time while we were younger, so much more freedom to explore – and only now as we become mothers have discovered through the alchemical fire more than ever who and what we are called to do, to create, to birth creatively into the larger world. And now when it feels like we have less time than ever to explore these avenues that call to us…

Another friend and I just yesterday lamented yet again the pervasive feeling that aside from motherhood we should be doing something. Contributing. Living up to our professional or creative potential. And even if we know that the job we are doing is the “most important job in the whole world” and even though we would not choose to be doing anything else, somehow … that idea, reflecting the greater societal ideals, sort of starts seeping in to our thinking anyway. “I used to be so good at (fill in the blank)…I have a really great resume!.. Remember when I had that idea to do that amazing project? Whatever happened to that?” 

Though I have been working 25-35 hours a week since my son was 12 weeks old I still feel like I have been in a sense “checked out” of larger society for the last 2 1/2 years.  I count myself incredibly fortunate that my circumstances have allowed me to have worked from home much of this time while my son is young. I would not have traded it. And yet…I think maybe the isolation of being out of the traditional workplace and having to compartmentalize my time and energy into distinct categories 1) family/home and 2) work (what I need to do to keep my family and home functioning) makes me feel out of touch, like I am just not living up to my fullest potential.  

My social world has gotten a lot smaller. I’ve been on sabbatical from local volunteer/community work. I struggle even to keep up generally what is going on nationwide, globally. When friends (without kids) ask, “So what have you been up to lately?” I suddenly feel like I should come up with something different than, “Um, well  – working, and you know, raising a kid.” As if that was just not enough, or at least interesting enough.

Despite the little daydreams I have throughout the day about what I am going to do at nap time or after 8pm when the little Acorn Scout is finally in bed, when the time arrives there are always other things. The inspiration gives way to the more pressing activities, the family/home and leftover work responsibilities or just plain exhaustion.  And then…halfway through the night, I am lying awake with my heart beating fast and a head spinning full of all the creative projects I am not doing because instead I am doing the mundane, daunting, boring, incredibly profound and sacred work of raising a toddler. And these dreams and visions of my creative contributions to the world dissolve with the morning light as I say yes again instead to the alchemical process unfolding unseen between potty training and bug-hunting, answering emails, detailed spreadsheets, snacks, tantrums, flagging patience, clean up and long evening hours before bed when finally, I can grab a few moments of stillness for myself, breathing into the place of faith that all things come to fruition in their own time and the day closes again.

I am wholly enjoying parenthood right now. Two and a half is the best ever, so far. I am loving it and it’s wearing me out. Often, there is very little left over at the end of the day. But I know that somehow, on levels I cannot even determine, this work too is indispensable to whatever comes next for me. Whether or not I receive world-wide accolades for it (and I won’t) this day in and day out stuff is the seed bed of the soul’s work, the essential part of the creative process and my own growth and development as a creative being. I have changed indescribably in the last two and half years; in some ways I do not even recognize myself. It’s awesome. And irreplaceable.

Yesterday, I came across this article in Lenka Clayton: An artist in residence in motherhood: “…Some of the work she produced as part of An Artist Residency in Motherhood was just her working by herself as an artist and focusing on her materials, what she calls the “ephemeral stuff of parenthood,” and part of it was a collective endeavor examining what it is to be a parent and work as an artist at the same time.” One of her projects is called, “Another project was “63 Objects Taken from my Son’s Mouth.” Seriously, so fucking inspirational!

Then, this morning I opened my inbox this morning and saw one of my favorite blog authors, Laura Kelly Fanucci: the essay I never wrote. She has a way – needless to say, a gift – of speaking the crux of things that I haven’t yet found the right words for and when I see them typed out my heart cries silently “YES! Yes, That’s exactly it!”  Like a string of pearls she’s dropped into my hand, like precious gemstones I roll over in my palm to carry with me for strength, are Laura’s words.

All of that stuff swirling around in you, in me — it will be there when it’s time has come to be shared with the world. This is what I am telling myself while I pull over on the side of the road on the way home from the grocery store to scribble down a thought I want to write more about later – will I remember what that scribble meant when I look at it a week later? I don’t know. But I keep scribbling. I don’t give up.

From A Room of One’s One, Virginia Woolf:

“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister… She died young – alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite Elephant and Castle. Now it is my belief that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity , I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so … and have each of us rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves… then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.”

My sisters, keep listening to that siren song with me. When you hear her, smile. Amidst the laundry piles, the grocery list, the bills and the snotty noses, maybe you’ll even start to hum along.

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5 thoughts on “The Siren Song.

  1. Oh wow. I actually laughed when I read the first couple of paragraphs. Not because I thought it was funny, because oh no, there’s nothing funny about it, but because it is so. True. I often think back to those days before motherhood, when I had so much time…and how little I did with it creatively. And now, 11 years after the fire of motherhood as you call it, how much I fit into a day now. I didn’t even discover my creative voice or passions until I became a mother! So. Yes, as you so rightly intuit, you are incubating right now. All good things take time. Also: A Room of My Own literally inspired me to claim a room of my own, which changed everything. Thank you Virginia!

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    • “See!” (thinking to myself) “It’s true, she says! She’s on the other side and she says it’s all true!”
      Amazing, the metamorphosis of motherhood. I gave birth to my son and motherhood has given birth to me, in a way. Neither or these labors did I think I would survive. And yet here I am, standing on the precipice of middle age thinking, “Oh, oh! There is not enough time to do all of the things that burn within my heart to do! Why did it take me so long to learn them?”
      There is a quote by Tangore, scotch-taped to my computer keyboard. It reads, “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.” There will be other labors of love.

      Ah…I am envious of your room! One day, me too. For now, I have a garden. And of course, the woods know me by name. (:

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      • I don’t think you ever make it through to the other side of motherhood – even in death you are still a mother. But I know what you mean. Those first 3 years, oh my. And yes, beautifully put, motherhood gives birth to us. And yes, like all births it is longer and more painful than we ever thought. Is this blog part of your creative expression?

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  2. Yes of course, you are never done being a mom! It is hard for me to imagine, that the early stage is actually such a small fraction actually of all the stages of motherhood – it keeps unfolding indefinitely! Wow. What will I be learning/writing about when he’s six? Fourteen? Thirty-two? Fifty-five??

    And YES (: this blog is me practicing courage to write (again) and write honestly, about the metamorphosis I’ve undergone in the last two years. Perhaps it is the desire to create or build something as a monument to the whole painful, beautiful, process; perhaps to hope to be encouraging to someone else or maybe just to see how far I’ve come. But not to discount the deep fulfillment that comes from contributing my voice to the larger artistic community, even if no one ever read a word – but I so appreciate that you do. (:

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