I am a writer.
I am also a mother.
Sometimes these two soulful, vast and difficult trades I have chosen for myself seem to be symbiotic; one job perfectly complements the other, lending strength and metaphorical beauty to each experience.
Other times, not so much.
The constant struggle for time, the slow, painful growing of patience, monotony’s strain on creativity, the constant fight to finish tasks and reach goals (i.e. finding self realization) seems to pit one purpose against the other almost indefinitely, and I am left wondering why on Earth any human would ever choose to be both.
And then one night, having driven myself crazy, and (literally….. I drove myself literally) far away from both of these trades, I figured out why.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
No, never mind, I don’t have time to go back to the beginning, I’m a mother. Let me summarize.
As a mother, there are certain days when it seems everything points to the fact that you just aren’t enough. You’re falling short. Not stacking up. You can’t be what anyone needs. Between your children’s constantly growing, changing list of needs and your own exhausted, (though well-intended) inability to possibly meet them all, sometimes a mother asks herself, inevitably:
“What is the point?”
This phenomenon is not unlike being a writer in many ways, but I’m going to leave it to you to draw your own parallels there. Let’s just say for all intents and purposes, I was having one of those days, in both regards. Whenever I have a day like that, whether it’s parenting-related, crazy-writer self-talk or both, I tend to naturally want to give myself some distance from the situation; an instinctive need for Perspective.
So I got in my car and I just drove. I passed the outlying farms and suburban communities, I passed the adjacent towns. I kept driving. I passed the further towns and suburbs and cities. I nearly took an exit, but I still didn’t really have answers or peace of mind, so I kept driving. Eventually I ended up nearly 50 miles from home, in the city. I took an exit and simply followed the path of least resistance, which led me up to a mountainside community of quaint, historic homes. It seemed to me like I had driven a thousand miles; the quiet neighborhoods a different realm.
I was beckoned to exist inside of it. I wanted to live there, if only for a couple hours. I pulled into a church parking lot and took out walking.
The annoying voice in my head was confused.
Why? You should be home tucking your kids into bed or folding laundry. You should be cranking out that new scene, or finishing up that review, or submitting that article. What do you think you’re doing, walking around in the city at night, so far away from your chosen responsibilities?
I kept walking. The luminescent yellow glow of kitchen lights and living room lamps cast a lovely peach-colored light out onto the sidewalk, and a bone-colored Gibbous moon hung like a rounded spotlight in the early evening sky.
I sat down on a patch of grass in a common area to consider it.
A hummingbird buzzed across my peripheral, pausing in mid-air to consider me.
A few weeks ago my daughters and I, faced with the long weeks of summer vacation ahead, decided to pick four subjects to learn about, every other week over the course of June and July. It gave us something to do together, some things to gather and plan, and a few activities and outings to look forward to. For our first subject, we chose to learn about the moon. In the days leading up to my strange excursion, we had learned together about the moon’s surface, how it was (theoretically) formed, its phases, and how it affects the ocean tides.
As I sat there gazing at it through a clearing in the tall trees lining the street, somewhere in the confines of my writerly, motherly heart, a strange connection was made.
I was the moon.
Mothers, everywhere are the moon.
We are quiet, radiating forces orbiting around these strange and precious spheres of life, we are transformations of other forces from long ago, held there by a strange gravitational pull. (Did you know scientists recently discovered both ice and evidence of volcanic activity on the moon? Yes, we did in fact exist as other forces before we were mothers.)
We have our influences over these strange slightly off-spinning entities. We illuminate their darkest nights. We bring forth life onto their shores and then quietly recede. We are a powerful, glowing force for our strange, beautiful, violent and perfect little globes.
The moon brings to Earth a quiet, powerful presence that the sun simply cannot.
And yet, we are limited in our affects on that which we orbit. Other things come into their atmospheres over which we have no control. For certain events, we can only hang stationary in their peripheral and offer our light when the darkness comes.
We are often frustrated because we can simply not meet all of our children’s needs.
But you see, sometimes, we simply aren’t meant to.
Thanks once again to my weirdly innate metaphorical thinking, I began to feel slightly better about my mothering ability. And then I thought about my other job. Why was I given (cursed with?) the strange, gravitational pull to write?
Earlier that week, before my feeling inadequate, before my literal drive for perspective, I knew there was something I wanted us to learn: What would the Earth be like without the moon?
Here’s what I found:
The moon helps keep the Earth balanced in a stable rotation. Without it, our axis would vary tremendously, sometimes wobbling in instability.
The ocean tides would rise and fall less than half of what they currently do. Much of tidepool life would likely cease to exist.
Days would be shorter.
Nights would be longer.
The sky would be darker.
Technically, one could exist without the other. But at what cost?
I could stay in this strange neighborhood and begin living out another life entirely. My children would survive, evolve even, without me in their orbit. But who would hold them steady in their axis? Who would bring strange and beauty onto their shores? Who would cast a soft light into their darkest nights?
I could also abandon writing for motherhood.
But then, what strange symbiotic presence would lead me back home on my darkest nights?
What other outside force would make me stop to consider my purpose, To ask of me what I can bring into my children’s world, simply by being what I am?
What gravitational pull would keep their orbit (and mine) in balance?
But I think I’ll keep them both.
Till next time,