This post is inspired by three people today. First, Susannah Conway (and I should say, my brave fellow bloggers in class who’ve been blowing me away with their writing this past week) and her style of personal blogging. This week she proclaimed to those of us currently taking Blogging From The Heart, that she belongs to the “Blog When I Have Something To Say” camp and I felt like shouting with joy. I feel like someone took the shackles off of my blogging brain. I’m inspired to find someone who makes a living writing about her life, because that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in the first place.
Second, Christina Rosalie who writes My Topography. Her book to be published in September is titled, fittingly, A Field Guide to Now. I was surprised, but then again, not at all surprised, to find Christina featured the first week of Blogging From the Heart. I have been reading Christina’s blog for at least five years, if not more, and that is what she excels at: the here and now. She directly inspired the very last paragraph of this piece.
And finally, Christine Mason Miller. I’ve long admired her short snippets of emotional genius. Her art and her phrases inspire so many of us. But I was surprised when I first began reading her blog, which wasn’t even that long ago, to read about how vulnerable her current moving situation makes her. That vulnerability instantly ripped the cloak of stranger off and made her another soul sister, one who I could even impart words of wisdom to without fear or nerves (having moved oh, once or twice in my life ). I’ve really enjoyed her new category of posts, which are writings about the very present tense as she lives it. And this post in particular seemed like a beautiful place to be.
Dear Little Boy of Mine. I hardly know where or how to start this letter to you. You are two months shy of your third birthday. I don’t know how old you were the last time I wrote you one of these, and I don’t want to look. It disappoints me and saddens me that I let these letters go. Here’s the thing. As you became more of a little boy, less of a baby, and I began exploring my “self” as a person again, it brought up a lot of questions. With limited time, which projects on my list should get cut? How driven should I be in trying to sell my art? What kind of day to day life would make me the happiest? Or the healthiest? Ironically, when you were a baby and so very demanding and needy, I never had to answer these questions! I never even had to ASK these questions. You dictated my days and I simply followed along. Now, left to my own adult ways again? I’m a bit lost.
In the first two years of your life, as happens to many parents, I was highly motivated to capture you in photos and I rarely, rarely missed a monthly milestone of writing you a letter full of updates on your growth and the emotions I had tied to it. You turned two last July, began you third year, and the inevitable happened: photo taking grew frustrating, as you were too frequently a blurry mess jetting across the screen. I couldn’t capture your face anymore, or the exquisitely adorable details that I wanted to memorialize. More often than not, if you saw me with camera in hand, you scooted right out of the viewfinder’s frame and up to my side, informing me that you wanted to take a picture of Liam! This is of course a treat, to watch my son finagling my camera at such a tender age, and to think of what creative pursuits you might venture into each year you grow. I indulge you and let you photograph dark corners of the couch, blurry blinds, the increasingly dusty floor. It’s a precious activity to share with you, but it does leave the archives of your third year a bit barren.
Another reason that the act of recording your life diminished, besides how infrequently you stop moving, is that you’ve passed the tender, fragile stages of babydom and entered this “little boy” stage. And in doing so, you’ve brought me through two years of identifying myself really only as a mother, into a new place where your self sufficiency allows my own personal identity to resurface. And when it began to, some of my personal-to-me projects began to take precedence over other projects, like these monthly letters. Or my yearly scrapbook project. I realize that these both sound like “personal” projects, but in fact, they were about documenting our lives. What I craved was to do work that was just about ME. And so I put those projects on the shelf and focused on taking an online business class, and painting, and trying to make web presences for all of my small money making endeavors.
A funny thing happened though. I tried running with the “I am business woman” mentality, and found I lacked an incredible amount of motivation.I wasn’t motivated to learn about Facebook Business Pages, or Book-Keeping. Or even putting together an online portfolio of my paintings. It all felt like tedious, soulless WORK. So guess what? I treated it like work! I found ways to procrastinate and do various OTHER projects so that at the end of the day, nothing had been really accomplished! I also found that people around me complained a lot that I wasn’t giving quality time. You yourself can’t yet ellicit such complex thoughts, so instead you acted out by completley ignoring me and getting into things you know you shouldn’t because you’d learned quickly that I was going to be on the computer another four rounds of “I’ll be right there.”So where did that get me, nearly a year later? Right here, not having really done any of the “me” projects and also having dropped the documenting and tending to the memories of our family life and your childhood.
And I am not happy about this.
But here’s the thing. I am constantly battling the voice in my head that says: “Writing letters to your son and creating yearbooks of his photos does not make money!” I hear that voice and that’s the very voice that convinced me to stop doing these activities, and to try and promote my different endeavors. My money-making endeavors feel like the only ones justifiable now that I’m split from your father. I need to speak that truth: that when we were married and I had “permission” to not make money because I was staying home with you, I made your books, had the pride of holding them in my hands once completed, and felt thankful that I had this collection of letters. But I didn’t do anything to grow myself, and I felt dull and pointless in ways, even while I mothered you. But now, now that we are split and I “make a living” by living rent free with my mother and taking in alimony and rounding it out with small checks for my portrait photography and custom collages, I feel full of passion and ideas and creativity, but I don’t feel I have permission to sit back and “be lazy,” making time-consuming scrapbooks or writing letters to you at 3p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon.
I don’t know what the answer to those dueling voices is yet. And yet, here I am, writing you this letter. You are my number one priority. The joy I feel when I know I’m going to see you. The pride I feel when I think of you, and how you are mine and no one else has a Liam. Even when meeting men, who might potentially become dates, and they ask me if I have a son. I never get wounded or even bothered by those that say “oh” or tell me they don’t want to date someone with kids. I think, man, you don’t even know how good I have it. You’re the real catch, baby boy, not me.
I can’t go back and recap all the ways that you’ve changed and grown in the last year. I can’t and I won’t. I’ll just start with this month. In fact, I’ll start with the here and now.
I had much trouble sleeping in my room last night due to allergies, and so I moved down to Mema’s bed. Oddly, you woke up just after I did, crying for me. Three years later and I still feel my irritation at having to rouse myself subside within seconds at the thought of you. Not the thought of helping you, or maybe pulling you into bed with me, but just the mere thought of seeing you: a tiny boy, in unbearably adorable PJs, curled up among stuffed friends in the dark. I told myself, climbing the stairs, “He doesn’t need to sleep with you, it’s a bad habit to start!” And then I pulled you out of your bed and into mine. We talked about how great we were both going to sleep. You picked up my hand, placed it on your back and said “Do you want to rub my back?” I did until we both fell asleep, who knows who first. When I woke up, you were sideways in the bed, your head heavy on my belly. You were taking long, deep breaths, sucking on your thumb, which you still do when only in your deep sleep. I saw the bright blue tee-shirt that says boyhood to me. I saw the pale white skin that just will not tan, that speaks to me, everyday, of your Swiss roots. I saw my father in your brown locks and wide forehead. And I laid and stared at you, left arm painfully asleep underneath you, bladder bursting, in awe.