“Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Gift From The Sea
I read these words and recognise within them my own self, as it is perpetually dribbled away into a million different needs and deeds. I feel sharply the sliver of resentment belonging to my wild gypsy self, who longs to give herself fully to the dance, to the work of art, to the concerto, to life. And is instead taught to be happy with creating only small wonders who may go on to become great masters in time. Is this all a mother is? A spinner of the threads of a future miracle? If so, that’s not a bad thing to be. And yet, surely beyond the sculpting and tender nurturance of these warm and splendid mini-selves, there must be something that belongs only to us? Something deeper and more profound than spilling ourselves away, droplet by droplet into others?
As I ponder my hubble’s suggestion to take a sabbatical, to retreat in the face of current difficulties in order to find my equilibrium again, I wonder if I know what peace is. Would I know peace if it came up and greeted me with flowers? Hell would I know it if it bit me on the ass? Probably not. I know what peace is not. It is not waking up with a tight jaw and aching eyes after a night of restless sleep. It is not this knot in my stomach or the nausea that comes from living with my shoulders as ear- muffs. It is not hearing myself laugh and being shocked at how alien it sounds. No. That is not peace. Peace slips in under the coat of solitude, holding quiet by the hand.
The Attraction of Distraction
Many of us spend a good deal of our time disappearing into different distractions so as not to find ourselves alone in a room with silence. Or worse – ourselves. There is tv, movies, books and music and all of these are noble and enjoyable distractions. We can pick up the phone, get online, text or message each other in an instant. If we don’t have someone actually with us, we have something in our ears or our hands or our mouths. We are contactable at every moment and we are available to each other instantly. And therein lies the problem. There are so many opportunities to be busy, to be distracted, to be involved but there are few opportunities to be quiet. Few opportunities for stillness. In fact, given half an hour of quiet we will fill it with a hundred necessary and important things and never even notice the glass of ourselves slowly emptying until it reaches the bottom and we are still required to give.
I love a good distraction as much as the next girl. I can easily lose myself in books or movies or even music. And yet, despite the almost constant thread of resentment at the level of sacrifice required of me as a mother, I spend my time looking at yet more ways that I can give to this little being. It’s as if I am searching for any hole in my psyche through which the ‘perfect mother’ can slip out. Surely, if I can bake the bread, or offer the milk or cookies, or make the doll, then I am one step closer to digging out this recalcitrant mother within. If only I can become the nurturer, the creative playmate, the laughing, relaxed mamma I know I can be, this depleted, worn out soul will be renewed. And so I continue to seek avenues of nourishment for this little soul I love so much. Is it martyrdom? It certainly can be. But it can also be simply what mothering requires. A slow disintegration of the self in order to have room to birth and hold and shelter these precious little beings. No wonder many new mothers are shell shocked in those first few months. Or, if you are me, few years.
I realise that I am not a natural nurturer. I have resisted domestication like a feral cat. I have chaffed at the bit of commitment until my mouth is bloody. Yet all the answers I seek, all the avenues I am currently exploring to find wellness again, are not for myself primarily. They are for her. For my beautiful, golden-haired Beanie girl. So that I may give freely and not feel poorer for it. So that I may lose myself and not care so very much about what is gone. So that I will stop trying to find and stick together all the little coloured pieces of my beautiful confetti heart.
I know she will be a masterpiece. I know, on all the levels that truly matter, she is my greatest work.
Yet I still hold dark dreams of a self that lives only for itself. That creates purely for the joy of creation. That follows the wind with a glad heart and a radiant smile. And who knows peace as a good friend.
Who’s with me?