Wed 24 Nov 2010
last night i was at yoga with my mom.
(the above sentence entertains the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. part of me wants to wrap it up in shiny paper and turn it this way and that, like a spaceship that fell from the sky, because yoga with my mom sounds so pleasantly suburban and banal and normal and first-world problem-y, and i feel like i should follow it with charming antics about our trip to Starbucks after and our little shopping escapades and pedicures. which i can’t. my mother drinks tea. she sometimes buys us diapers. we have a storied history, my mama and i, but it has never involved exercise or girlfriend hobbies or shopping as therapy. and so we are rather imposters in this story. and yet, there we were, at yoga.)
we show up a little late because yoga starts at the awkward hour of 7pm and getting outta my house at 6:50pm is akin to extricating oneself from the grasp of a slightly hysterical octopus. we grab mats from the bin. my mother has not yet committed to purchasing one: after waiting 62 years to try an exercise class, she is not prepared to marry the first novelty that happens along. i just haven’t gotten to a store this crazy fall.
every week at yoga, my mother and i have set our mats down beside each other along the wall of the little pine-panelled room. at first, she was nervous, careful and defensive and controlled, uncertain whether she was doing it right. i watched her out of the corner of my eye, whispered little encouragements or explanations. mostly i just watched. i listened to her breathe beside me, took in the shape of her back as we lay on our sides. i am like her, i thought. tiny wrists, short waist, legs that prefer to be curled under.
it is a strange thing, to watch someone and marvel that body was where i began. it has never occurred to me before. we have never spent much time, my mother and i, just being, taking each other in. or if we did, i have forgotten. children betray their mothers’ care, oblivious.
but i catch sight of her hands beside me as we stretch. her winter hands, rough and cracking with the drop in temperature. for a moment, the 38 year old grunting through downward dog disappears. i am a child in bed, those hands on my hair.
forgotten is not the same as gone.
last night, though, when we walked in the room, there was no space for two mats beside each other. and so we ended up at opposite corners of the classroom.
and i missed her.
i was LESS CALM without her. that sentence is almost as funny as the first. when i was in labour with Oscar, and panicking, my poor mother hid behind Dave’s shoulder, hands raised to God, hyperventilating. i did not find this calming. i have found little about my mother calming in at least twenty-five years, in spite of her earnest efforts.
yet there it is. perhaps if we breathed more, talked less.
i know that my children will forget most of these days, this brutal frog-march into winter where i feel like i am failing everyone and everything around me. i feel powerless and inept and uncertain. too many essays churned out, sourced and tidied, sentences cropped into submission. now the words stutter from me, hesitant, timid.
in class later today, i will stand up and talk about blogging, and identity, and how digital technologies have made it possible for whole worlds of conversation about mothering and motherhood and being mothered to exist and to be shared.
i thought it would be the easiest thing in the world to research. what do i know better than blogging and mothering? what am i doing here if not trying to write myself into some kind of coherent existence?
today in class i will them that i started to write two weeks before Oscar was born. almost a year after Finn died. i will tell them i was afraid to speak the open wound of my once and future motherhood, and so i wrote it down, that in-between place of uncertainty and hope and fear that was all that i knew.
i kept writing because that place of uncertainty and hope and fear has never gone away, only changed.
i keep writing because i have no other place to tell my mother that i missed her last night.
but i am afraid.
my life as a student this fall has been a drop down a rabbit hole of half-remembered existence. blogging has spoiled me. i have built a place here where i have grown steadily less afraid to speak. i have unlearned a lifetime of being careful and defensive and controlled, uncertain whether i was doing it right…whatever “it” was. i have grown accustomed to being in a shared conversation.
what i say and write as a student, on the other hand, is graded, judged.
and to stand up and talk about writing my motherhood to a room of mostly childless people, while i swallow the guilt of yet again missing supper with my kids, is to get naked. to expose myself. to judgement that does not come from being inside the conversation of the messiness of motherhood and identity.
i hope they understand. i hope they judge with the same generosity i’ve found out here.
i hope these stories matter, these stories of writing ourselves into some kind of coherence. i hope i can find that coherence again, by opening this life to that other one.
do you open the Pandora’s Box of your online life with people who know you in the flesh?