A Secretly Real Identity

The paunchy gal here is a figurine brought to me years ago from Mexico by a friend. He must have seen a resemblance, but in all fairness, she’s actually a little less paunchy than I am. She’s taken up residence on our new deck. Before the deck, our weedy patio hid her exposed body, but I like that she’s now shamelessly sunning herself, embracing life and the world, not hiding in fear among the weeds, and definitely not worrying if society will disapprove of her brazenness.

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than a few months at a time, knows I have a penchant for redecorating. I change banners and colors. Sometimes it focuses more on painting and then on cartoons and back again to writing with pictures. So, you won’t be too surprised to read that I’m thinking about a new banner.

What may be surprising is that, unlike previous PickingMyBattles banners, this one may include my brazen friend and also may not have more than a tiny a tip of the hat to the bad parenting and even worse housekeeping that have driven so many posts over the years.

Thing1 was still nursing when he started toddling. He went through the crawling stage and the pulling-himself-up stages. Then he’d reach out for our hands and walks with us for guidance.

And then he didn’t reach out. He figured it out, and our help was no longer needed.

For that.

And then he didn’t need to nurse, and he took another step away.

And now he’s getting ready to take a giant step away. Thing2 is taking some of the same steps as he starts middle school and finds his own identity.

And I’m questioning mine.

‘Mom’ was, for a long time, the primary (and sometime only) way I identified myself, and I was happy about it. I didn’t like myself before Thing1 was born. Being his mom, meeting his needs changed my perceptions about boys, about the world and about myself.

But there was a person there before he was born. That person evolved, but she’s still there.

She’s still bi-polar as hell, still eating too much and the owner of a bleeding heart. She’s no longer afraid of hard work or committing to others. She’s a techie, an artist and a writer. And she’s demanding to be as much a part of my identity as the person my kids know just as ‘Mom’.

There is no such thing as ‘just a mom.’ That phrase strips motherhood of the depth of its responsibility and meaning as thoroughly as it reduces women to one of the other popular one-dimensional labels of angels or whores. I’m a bit of all of them and more.

There are still battles to be fought on behalf of Thing1 and Thing2. Thing1’s hair trigger colon still threatens his independence while Thing2’s creativity combined with his pack-rat sensibility could give new meaning to Vermont’s image as ‘the Green Mountain state’ with more of a green glow. I’m grateful to be the one fighting along side them. They’ve helped me see how much stories about family do matter as much as – maybe even more than – the stories about politicians and generals. I will always write those because they are the stories about people coming together, they are ultimately stories about hope.

But there are otherbattles, my battles, to fight as well – battles for creativity and a life of contribution and meaning beyond the laundry pile. They are just as important, and all of those battles can only be won by embracing every aspect of my identity – the loving mom, the bleeding-heart angel and even what the world may see as the bi-polar whore.

They are what combine to make what any seasoned veteran truly is — a fighter.

Creative Blocks and Rocks

5 8Dweezil

Back in April, just about the time I was trying to untie my creativity from a paralysis of over-analysis and get the last few pages of The Truth about Trolls laid out, Thing2 was exploring his and putting my resolve not to limit it to the test. 

His spring time creative effort led to a rock pile in the middle of his room, the fruits of a “quarry” he and a couple friends had started near the kids’ Lord of the Flies training ground in the woods behind our house.

That was three weeks ago. The rock pile is still there.

He’s cleaned his room. I have cleaned his room-a bit. Laundry has been done. Baths have been had. But that rock pile is still there.

At first thing to wanted to hang onto it. Then he was afraid he wouldn’t clean it up the right way. 

It was a story writing itself (Élly has been very understanding, as long as her pages keep developing). 

Thing2, aware that the rock pile and the absurdities of our undeclared battle are serving as inspiration, is more determined than ever that it should stay. To his credit, however, he has moved it out of the center of the room so the rest of us can get from point a to point B without breaking or next.

I’ve decided to exercise my mom authority and remove the “inspiration” as soon as he goes to camp or I finish his story, whichever comes first.

 

Small World

Kitchen table

I don’t have a career.  I have a job.  It’s not a bad job at all, but it’s not the kind of work that changes people’s lives (for good or for ill) or – like a doctor’s or lawyer’s or reporter’s – is filled with action or big issues.  It is the kind of work that lets me work from home and put food on the round pedestal table in our open-floorplan kitchen.

It’s 5:00 AM and an hour and a half from now, there will be scrambling and a mad rush out the door to meet the school bus at the end of our dirt road.  Then there will be a brief calm before the workday begins.  Except for the days I go to the country store, I won’t see another human being until the Big Guy rolls in with our two boys after the school bus brings them home.   It’s literally a very small life.

But somewhere among the eat-your-peanut-butter-sandwich and passing-the-potatoes, at some point during the how-was-your-day’s and even on nights when the Big Guy or I might be licking a wound from a careless comment or Thirteen-year-old Thing1 is barely speaking to us because of a lost privilege, we each know our small life is pretty good.  

There aren’t any late model cars in the driveway.  I can’t remember the last time we sat down to dinner with 4 matching plates.  There’s always dust spontaneously generating around furniture, and the next big bill is always just waiting around the corner.  

But there’s also always safety.  There’s always food on the table.  There’s always a fire in the wood stove warming us when we need it and when we don’t, we’re still at the kitchen table making our own magic.

So, this morning, even though it’s not cold outside and even though I have a room designated as an office down the hall,  at 5am, I’m already settled at the kitchen table near the wood stove.  It’s not just the heat that draws me here.  For me, the kitchen table is where the action – valuable and small – happens.