I sent my older daughter off to school after I’d woken her up only 20 minutes earlier, walking around the kitchen with my hair all crazy, my mind foggy, holding a 26-pound little human to my bare chest who refused to stop nursing.
When I dropped that baby off at daycare nearly an hour later, bucking and screaming when I handed her over to the woman I felt empathy for, I ran away before she could say “No, not like this. Not screaming like this.”
I got home, made myself some food and a second pot of coffee. The dog curled up on the couch, then at my feet, thankful I’d returned home and hadn’t abandoned her like she’d assumed.
A lot of being a writer is not writing. Much of it is reading. I see these as two separate but vital things. The not writing comes in waves of piecing together, and for me it’s self-reflection; looking at parts of my life from all different angles, looking for the most vulnerable, tender spot for the truth. Sometimes it’s an act of chewing, or going through a piece I’ve researched to death and still don’t know how to talk about. Sometimes, when I am most lucky (which hasn’t happened in years until just recently), it’s in someone else’s bed, staring up at someone else’s ceiling, intertwined completely, listening to their contented sleepy noises, my nose buried in their hair.
Things find you. People. Words. Whole entire essays that sit down with you and see you. “We—mothers who write, solo mothers who write and create—often, if not most of the time or all of the time, write for our lives. Being a mother often makes the act of writing even more urgent, more sanity-saving, more necessary. We can get lost in routine and duty, obviously, but getting lost in the love part—love of our children, love of writing—might prevent that. Part of that is self-love. Part of that is creative output. All of it meant to keep us connected to who we are, as creative beings, when external forces might sever or corrupt such connection.” Khadijah Queen’s essay on “Mothering Solo” touched on so many aspects of being a sole caregiver without explaining, it came at almost a relief or sigh. Because I’ve felt the need to explain my situation for so many years. I think a lot of my writing in the last few months has been just that.
Since finding out about Coraline, I’ve fought-and sometimes lost-a horrible battle with a part of myself that slut-shames me. I don’t know how else to describe it. I feel people’s questions burning. The whens, whys, wheres, and hows. I have no explanation anymore. We just are. Us three.
Much of my social life is online. It’s where I share most of myself. Even now, in writing this, it will be my one chance to talk about my day. I never expect responses, or even that many readers. Writers are a special sort of breed that need to share their stories by writing them down for others to see. Even when I kept journals as a child, locking them up before hiding them so no one would find them, I hoped someone would. As a kid, I wanted to be like Anne Frank, with my diaries found and published years after my death so I wouldn’t have to experience the horror of people reading my thoughts. I think, even as a kid, I knew that part of it’d be hard.
My last post got picked up and shared by WordPress, and has since been read over a thousand times. Yesterday I watched, a little stunned, as the comments of love and support came in, and continued to this morning. “From the still quiet voice, that shouts in my mind, I am letting you know, that it does get better,” one said. “It won’t ever be perfect, but better. Please feel free to reach out to me should you ever need a friend or listening ear that simply understands.”
I started this blog years ago, before mommy blogs were popular, as a way to pick out pieces of my often lonely days with Mia that I wanted to remember. I needed to do that in order to stay sane, but also to be a present parent for her. If I spent even ten minutes remembering, and writing, later that night when she screamed and fought me over eating or going to bed, I could go back to that place where I meditated on the way her hands looked as she carefully picked up a crab with a yellow plastic shovel.
I called it, this website, “Still Life with Mia” then. Most of the entries have been set to private. I want to tell the stories in a different way, in an older writing voice. I want people to read about our life then, but not in the near-desperation of how I wrote about it then.
When I decided to be a “real” writer, I stopped blogging and refused to say the word. Almost a year ago, I started, slowly, taking selected past entries out of hiding and creating new ones. I never imagined I’d have many followers. I wanted to be a freelancer, and in order to get clients, I needed some kind of writing sample. I never thought I’d consider my own website as a true platform, or anything people would seek out. Now that it is, I can’t help but get emotional over the support people so freely offer.
Because it’s still just me, sitting alone, at a computer, staring at a wall of photos and grabbing a mug to take a drink of coffee that is long-since gone. I have to remind myself to get up, to eat, to stop staring, and walk around a bit.
I dropped my baby off at daycare this morning when she was upset and needing her mom so badly, running away from her neediness, so I could sit and listen to the still quiet voice.
What’s it going to say today?
When I used to have regular panic attacks, ones that’d come for no reason, ones that would cripple me into feeling like I was suffocating, ones that curled me up into a ball in a jacuzzi bathtub of a house I’d been cleaning, I found a mantra:
“I love you, I’m here for you.”
The further I got into this journey as a single parent, and found myself further and further estranged from my family, it became my mantra for life. I’d learned I couldn’t depend on anyone else, and fell back into myself as my only source of support.
Maybe that’s where I got my strength from. Reaching out became an action of weakness. Writing blog posts about my hardest moments were showing humility, admitting faults, in an action that is going against the grain of only displaying perfection. It feels necessary to me now.
Where we are raw is where we are alive.