Once upon a time, not that long ago... there was a girl who was, among other things, a storyteller. Every day, all the time, life was an adventure full of meaning and magic and characters and unseen miracles.
That girl faced adolescence and it was hard - because the real and gritty world of school curriculums and expectations and long days at hard metal desks and tired, overworked parents began to suffocate her free-spirit. Life was not an enchanted forest, after all, it would seem. There was pain and deceit and betrayals and crime to reckon with.
That girl adapted, though she always longed for her secret garden. She dug into life and figured out the methods to their madness - these very much the same kind of people.
Keep your truth inside, memorize things, repeat them, and be polite. Do as you’re told.
That girl became a young woman and broke free, for a time. She adventured and experimented and tried things and laughed and lived hard and broke hearts and walked early morning hallways and nursed hangovers and sang her heart out, or so she tried. For a good long while.
That young woman was sick and tired of being broke and desperate and she changed. Intentionally.
She read. She moved back home. She put herself through college, on her own dime. She worked retail, thanklessly, for years. She excelled in school, because she wanted to be there, because she had earned a truer voice, because she had some things to say about life. And being here. Because she had been to the bottom and Knew that the climb was worth it. She’d seen both.
So got a 4.0 and writing awards, despite doubt all around her. She went further. She earned a Master’s Degree in Information Sciences and Archives/Records Mgmt. She ate Wonderbread sandwiches, did laundry for money, ate her share of ramen, and shot cheap pool on the weekends... earning a chance to qualify at regionals for 9 ball. She never went. She chose studying and caution and keeping on task. But it was nice to be recognized for her skill.
Soon, she finally found work in her field: at a local historic site. Not long after she found herself at home in her career: full-time, full benefits, easy commute, fulfilling work - helping people to make the world a better place. Surrounded by stories, every day.
Not long after, she felt the call of the creative bubbling up, again. By now, she was settled deeply into work life, favorite TV shows, Take-out food, motherhood... and she reached out, one lonely 3 am, on Twitter.
Claire Cook, who wrote one of her favorite books, Must Love Dogs, had kids. And she wrote books, too.
“How do you you do it?” The woman asked, with sour breast milk staining her shirt, cracked and bleeding nipples, a snoring as-of-then-husband, her eyes now dry from crying frustrations out, a baby finally sleeping, and a chest full of journals - a past life, now so far away - filled with magic and wonder and stories and songs. Wondering if she’d ever feel free again, yet knowing she had dreamt of being a mother for her entire life, and wept at the gratitude that she was finally there.
And Claire Cook said, “I write when they’re at swimming lessons. Sports. Anytime I’m in the car, waiting...I write. It’s possible. You can do it!”
And somewhere in the suburbs of Long Island, at 3 am, a woman sighed. And began to believe. in more, again.
And so, that girl was me. And there’s so much more to this story. So much more beneath, that hasn’t been shared yet. I’ve written two books, and I’ve barely begun.
And I type out this update, on my iPhone, as my head bobs up and down, watching my incredible kid doing the backstroke...at his swimming lesson.
He’s six now. More independent now. He likes his time to play and imagine, and guess what? So do I. And it’s good for both of us.
I spew this all out for the tired mothers: who know that they are more than bleeding nipples and stretch marks and delirious feedings and working half-asleep and feeling unsexy and exhausted and numb from being milked and poked and worked and judged and snickered at and condescended to... for simply knowing that there is more.
Motherhood is a blessing, a gift, and our children teach us beautiful and life-changing things. Like sacrifice. Devotion. Unconditional love. Awareness. Time management. Budgeting. Survival instincts. The importance of health and wellness. The importance of compassion and humility.
When you become a mother, you become a world - for a tiny human being that is completely dependent on you to survive. And it rocks your world, it turns you upside-down, it changes everything. It should, it’s supposed to.
But the baby years aren’t forever. And you’ll get yourself back again. I promise you will. Let the baby years have you, and put everything else into Next. It all comes back around.
I breathe in the chlorinated water and roll my shoulders back. I watch how far my boy has come in his skill, his practice. And I know that he is a person, with his own story, and his own lessons to learn. And I can be here. Listen, intensely. Love him, profusely. Comfort him when it’s scary and encourage him when he’s shaky. And I can marvel at his life - his choices and how life will teach him and hurt him and help him and show him how things are. And I can’t prevent or control all of that, but I can be his home. And I can give him the space and time to explore his emotional experience, his creative output, however he wants to. He has a beautiful lens, and it’s a bit different than mine. He’s a science kid.
And I love that. I just can’t wait to see what he does. And I also know I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for all of it, even as I make room - for those deeper parts of me to keep coming up for air - to see the light. Again.
Today in the car, my son said that, “if Earth was any closer to the Sun, we’d burn up. Any farther, and we’d freeze! But we’re right here at the perfect place!”
We sure are, babe. We sure are. What a ride so far.
Life, I’m in. Just happy to be here. ❤️
Mother. Librarian. Storyteller.