Disclaimer: I wrote this 3 years ago, and I've been sitting on this piece along with the broken heart that eventually accompanied it for a lonnnng time:
First off, let me tell you about my daughter. Here I am, a person who never ever thought she would be a mother or really even wanted to be a mother, and as it turns out, I’ve got this. Being a mother is an essential part of my being. I actually possess the commonsense momming gene, and I use it. I breathe, eat, and sleep the crazy little Goddess-type person I made with my body. Yeah, I still can barely wrap my brain around that one. I made a person with some leftovers I had sitting around and a couple of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. I wasn’t working for a large part of my pregnancy, and people would ask me scornfully, “Gawd, what do you DO all day?” To which I would reply, “I made a fucking PERSON all day long. Today I did lungs; tomorrow it’s eyes. What did you do ALL DAY that was so motherfucking special?” The whole experience has undeniably made me a better person; I can never go back to the way I was before, and why would I even want to anyway? I mean, yes, that person lived and loved fiercely but stupidly. That person I used to be tried to fill the hole inside my heart and soul with drugs and drinking and parties and travel and art and hedonistic experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things, and, you know, I had my share of fun and possibly someone else’s share too, but essentially, they are empty illusions trying desperately to fill up the spaces between the unbearable lightness of being and the grave. I used to say humanity is useless and dangerous. I would wave my tiny fists and gesticulate and pledge to press the button and blow it all up if I ever had the chance. Slouching around with about two tons of disaffected ennui digging into each shoulder, I’m surprised my head didn’t simply implode from the very gravity of taking myself too seriously.
When you have children and if you have a FUCKING SOUL, all of that shit goes away. Poof. In a rush of hormones and instinct, suddenly you are emphatically on the side of life and not death. Even romanticizing death makes you queasy. Movies or books about children in danger are torturous and possibly panic attack inducing. Your Grinch-shaped heart grows 8 sizes, you start driving like a granny and thinking about life insurance. Given that old moral saw about if you could kill Hitler as a baby would you; the answer suddenly becomes NO, NEVER because babies are pure and innocent and filled with endless potential, and you will fight anyone who tries to tell you otherwise to the DEATH with your bare teeth. Or maybe that’s just me.
Regardless, now, I have a daughter, and she is perfection itself. She is love made manifest in human form, and I tell her every single day that she is the best thing that ever happened to me, and get this…it is entirely and utterly true. My life before? I can barely remember it. It’s like a hazy dream. It had its moments I’m sure, but I remember being very unhappy a lot of the time, and I don’t want to go back to being the person that I was even as I start to really embrace and own the bullshit that makes me me.
It amazes me to watch my daughter and see myself in her, to see the family traits she has like my obsession with textures or the Clark mule-headedness. Even at 2 months she struggled all day, every day, until she could stubbornly hold her own head up all by herself thank you very much. At 6 months, she bats my hand away and only lets me “help” with her first feeding from a spoon. I know I will be hearing a whole lot of, “No Mama; Maeve do,” for the rest of my life. My daughter is stubborn and independent and a total sweetheart trying desperately to hide it. She puffs out her little chest and blows air out huffily from between her little lips. She tightens and shrugs her little shoulders with her arms rigid at her sides and her hands balled into minute fists. We actually call it her “tough guy” look because that is exactly what it is. My adorable beautiful tenderhearted little woman playing it tough, acting like she doesn’t need anyone else’s help. I look at her do this, and I simultaneously laugh and cry. Because I know, I know deep inside myself what it means to be a sweetheart in this world. I know intimately how us girls have to pretend to be hard while our very hearts are breaking. I know it because this is the precursor to the front I feel the need to present to the world, so I won’t collapse into a blubbering puddle every day. Full of extremes and contradictions my pretty little head has never been empty or vacuous enough for life to not be agonizing in the disparities between its unending bullshit and the infinitely fragile state of human hearts. It’s not safe to be beautiful and broken and present in the moment. We’ve been fed this idea that you need a white knight to ride up and save you. I mean, after all, who doesn’t want someone you can trust and rely on to just take over the reins and make it all better? We want with our hearts, but we KNOW with our heads that the very concept is impossible. Only you can take care of yourself, only you are ultimately responsible for your own actions, and no amount of religion or Disney movies or romantic comedies or cultural programming can really distract you from that truth, or maybe, again, that’s just me. I strive for something different. And yet, I still have this yawning need for other people. How to balance those two things? How to love with your heart wide open yet still at arm’s length, and is it even possible? The more open your heart the more vulnerable it is to being smashed, and let’s be honest here; no one else is responsible for putting those pieces back together. That burden rests solely and squarely on your own shoulders, but close yourself off completely and you die. To be alive is to be open to both pleasure and pain. I’d rather feel something…even if it hurts, maybe especially if it hurts, because the pain is designed to make you pay attention. That is its purpose. Pay attention. I don’t want to turn off my pain. I’d rather be human than be a zombie, and I play tough guy and hide behind my sunglasses and mutter “hormones” and try my damnedest not to let you close enough to see my vulnerabilities because it is in my nature to toughen up buttercup and keep soldiering on. Yes, I have to survive the experience, but I will be damned before I let myself miss out on a transcendent moment because I might get hurt.
I recently had a love affair or maybe I should say a love affair had me. This encounter was the culmination of at least 3 solid years of yearning and flirting and texting and emails; it was the thread woven underneath and between the spaces of other relationships. It was a fond dream, a secret for the heart, that little extra spark or spring in your step. Even more dangerously, it was with a friend I’ve known for more than 10 years. Think about that. How terrifying it is to offer yourself up to someone who knows you, really knows you: the bad, the good, and the crazy. You can present a good face but they have a lot of the back-story already. You can’t successfully hide behind your meticulously engineered constructions of self. For me there was a very real sense of dread, the possibility that this could kill the friendship you both rely so much on is more than a little terrifying. What happens if it goes well is another equally nerve-wracking set of questions. What then? Nothing? Everything? Is anything possible? Or more properly I should say feasible? Can this be accomplished logistically? Over a time span of years? So many questions pounding through the corridors of both our minds made for some high-strung ponies on both sides of the fence, and I’m not really big on the kissing and the telling, but this one moment I am going to share. Just one, and then, jealously, the box gets locked and put up on a private shelf for me to sift through ritualistically and construct a cathedral upon.
Here it is. It was awkward, but just a teensy bit for me. I’d been so nervy before that the reality couldn’t possibly be as tense as the prison I’d built for myself in my mind, so I dropped all of my bullshit and went for it. I figured you’ve got to just rip the band-aid off, right? Band-aid, panties, whatever you’ve got at hand, baby, just take that shit off. And he went from rock hard and able to get hard simply by thinking my name or hearing my voice over the phone to the saddest little soldier that couldn’t salute. Every guy reading this now is wincing. Because OHMYGOD they make pills and commercials about that because it’s SUCH A BIG DEAL except for the part where it’s totally not until you make a big deal about it, and now the ladies are wincing too because you know that nagging voice in your head would be thinking OHMYGODWHATSWRONGWITHME, why doesn’t he desire me? I paid attention to neither of those voices and put on my big girl panties instead because 3 YEARS OF YEARNING does not bow down to temporary erectile dysfunctions. However, no amount of kissing or caressing could make him salute until I was held down -awww, let’s be real thrown down (I love rough trade)- and looked in the eye and told very firmly and definitively that I was loved, and that was all it took. The cock was blocked no more. I know ladies, we’re all told to believe that the penis and the heart can and constantly do operate completely independently of each other that the engaging of one is not necessary for the operation of the other, but his cock refused to function until he told me he loved me. Excuse me, but that’s the most romantic fucking thing (LITERALLY) that maybe has ever happened to me. There were no further problems of that sort either. Once the head was in synch with the flesh, there was nothing but two hearts beating together as it should be. No matter what happens now, I walk away knowing that for a moment or maybe three I was loved exactly as I am for what I am, and in those moments it was enough for me.
***I'm just now getting over this whole experience. It's just so easy for me to let shit go. Not really. But I'm learning. Really, I am.***