I’ve been wanting to write a memoir about my father’s suicide since 2009. But, like everyone, I’ve had millions of other things to do instead.
If you are a writer then you know about what Sylvia Plath called, “the sense of nothing written.” It’s that little beetle of dread that sits on your shoulder or moves along your spine. An underneath-y reminder that you’re not doing what you really know that you should be doing.
Would my day-to-day enjoyment of life be different if I didn’t have that sense, the sense of the unwritten? What does life feel like if you’re free from that little bug?
I don’t know. Because I’ve always had something that I wanted to be writing.
And I have produced writing. A gob-smacking ton of the stuff. But “finished” never really feels finished. And here’s the real rub about that, and it is intertwined with my children.
They have each made me, especially when they were babies, prolific and ambitious. Get this: Dash was 16 months old when I presented my Master’s thesis. (He’s 16 now). Phineas was 17 months when I defended my dissertation. (Now he’s 6.) And Darianna just turned 21 months. But I’ve only known her for the last 3 of them. She’s our adopted daughter. And she’s doing awesome. And I am feeling that familiar stamina again. It’s time to get some writing done. And I know that I can do it. And it’s raising her (through an adoption) and loving her (at this age) that makes me know.
So what is it about taking care of babies that gets me up and running? First off, I was up and running anyway. Especially at the beginning. A newborn brings a surreal level of fatigue. And when I thought I was a zombie shuffling from the diaper bin to the exer-saucer and back to the couch, I was actually amazing. I was meeting the enormous needs of a helpless human. That’s badass. But I was too tired to note it at the time.
But when they crawl and walk, my head clears. I’m confident. And, I start to feel amazing.
It’s not just that taking care of babies is so dull that I’m in love with the idea of doing something else. I’m sure there’s something to that. Except, it’s not like the one replaces the other. I’m still taking care of the babies AND I’m doing the writing. In the past, the two have become simultaneous and interwoven. The typing and the tending intermix. I feel a rhythm and a force, and I shoot along, in spite of myself. Consider the way that when your infant cries at 4:38 am, you rise from the dead nook of some lost dream and you walk over and you pick him up. And you comfort him. You just do it. There is no try.
And I write what I want to write, and what needs to be written in the same way. I just arise, out of the fog, and I walk over to the computer and I do it.
It really is not so simple as wanting to escape from babies. It is more so that babies make me brave. And toddlers make me formidable.
The work of mothers and caregivers has historically been woefully underrated. People have considered it routine and basic. As if it doesn’t require talent or ambition to get it done. I think that mistake has been one of our world’s most crucial errors. That we do not value children enough, and therefore, we have devalued the raising of them. As if it were something easy, that happens on its own.
And perhaps we have not realized the real gist about care-giving. Or we have only realized it in the dark. Or we have never talked about it. So we don’t acknowledge how mind-bending and awesome it is to handle, raise, coddle and love little tiny children. It is also fantastic to raise the older ones. But the babies. The chubsters. The bubblies. The angels. Your little monster-ballers. If you have caregiven for one of these particular kids, then absolutely, hats-off. You know that you are amazing and also that you know what’s up. That you finally know what’s up about love.
And love is the driving force of any book or writing. Even writing like theses and dissertations are about love. And that’s why I get so driven when I’m close with a toddler.
Your children, at every age, have you constantly tuned in to your heart. But you are never so vigilant as when they are toddlers. Toddlers are not quite the little slug-babies who only eat, crap and stare. Nor are they “finished” enough to avoid trouble. They are still waking up themselves. And when my children are not yet two, I’m finally awake enough to clearly see the bright itch of every love that I feel.
Including the love of the little bug of the unwritten. And I’m fierce enough to know that I can do anything. And that’s why it’s time to write my memoir. And that’s why I’m doing it now.
I’m not going to wait until conditions clear. I’m going to do it right now in the midst of toddler weather. Teenager weather. And kindergarten weather.
This blog is going to explain the process along the way. How to be a mom while writing a book. I’m not sure how. But I’m going to keep track of the knowing and the not-knowing