By Guy Kawasaki’s Swimming Pool I Sat Down And Wept

July 19, 2008

Dear Internets: my name is Catherine Connors and I am a writer. I am also a mother.

Maybe it’s the other way around: mother, writer. This weekend, I’m not sure. This weekend, I am trying to be both, and more: mother, writer, friend, acquaintance, business woman, community advocate, self-promoter, thinker, drinker, writer-mother, mother-writer, woman, self. I am trying to be all things, and I am struggling.

I’ve struggled before. I struggle everyday. Everyday I wake up and immediately put tit to the mouth of a tiny human being whose survival, whose well-being, whose flourishing depends entirely upon me, and I throw my arms around a slightly larger human being whose heart is my own, and as I nurse and hug and love I gaze at my laptop and wonder when the moment will come that I will open it and record this love, this work, this love and craft it into words. And my heart strains in those moments because I know that I cannot have both immediately at once, my motherhood and my writerhood, just as I know in those moments when I share love with my husband or sisterhood with my friends or writerly solidarity with my peers (who are also, so many of them, my friends) that I am doing so as my self but not practicing my whole self – I am not being a mother in those moments, or a writer, or what-have-you – and that’s fine, that’s totally fine and that’s good because that’s life, even if it sometimes feels hard because you so often want to be or feel you need to be all your selves at once. You can’t be everything at once.

But ordinarily, the moments that I struggle with wanting to be all or some my selves at once are private ones. This weekend, they are public – they are public because they are exposed, because I am exposed, because I am wearing my heart on my sleeve, because I am carrying my heart around in a red-and-white polka dot sling and sometimes he cries and sometimes he shits and always I want, I need, to protect him, and that want, that need, that him makes me vulnerable because it puts my fears, my love, my anxiety, my hope all on full display and demands that I deal with those here, now, NOW, while I am surrounded by people, my people, my peers and role models and friends and sisters, while I am trying to be so many parts of myself all at once, and that. leaves. me. raw. It leaves me feeling exposed, it leaves me feeling vulnerable to every flutter of emotion that moves through the room – the triumphs of others, the hurts of others, the vulnerabilities of others, the love of others – because I am carrying all those things of my own, in my arms, and I am doing so in a three-day long moment that demands many other things of me – things that I want to give, want to share – and so I am tired, vulnerable.

And so the other night, I sat down by Guy Kawasaki’s swimming pool, heart in my arms, and I wept, and as the crowd – my peers, my idols, my friends – buzzed around me I tried to close in on myself and shield myself – my mother self, my weepy self, my stressed-and-scared self – from exposure so that I could keep these selves detached, keep these selves from muddying the water of my other selves – my writer-self, my friend-self, my woman-selves, the selves with hopes and ambitions that have nothing or very little to do with the little heart cradled in my arms, head damp with my tears. Those selves, my public selves, the selves through I distill and present my messier selves in my craft as a writer/blogger, those selves fell away and I was left with all the messiness – no words, no screen to hide behind – and I cried. As my heart squirmed in my arms and my soul ached in my gut, I cried.

I have cried, again, many times since then, in moments of inspiration and love (so many of these, here) and anxiety (can I cope, here? should I even be here? am I brave to be here, or am I stupid?) and fear (oh the fear). I will cry many times more. I will be the girl – the woman, the writer, the mother – in the corner, crying, yearning to be seen, and yearning to be invisible. Yearning to feel comfortable in my wholeness, in my love and hope and ambition and fear and tears and baby-shits and all.

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    { 59 comments }

    Dondi Tiples July 23, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I’ve become more aware of the great deal of information that’s been cropping up about this mother-writer conundrum, and about how “neither the twain shall meet”. I never realized it had become such a big deal these days. I noticed it only started gaining ground when mom-blogging became popular.

    jen July 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    You are so brave to even try to be all the “selves”. Most people never even try and then live a life full of regrets. It is hard to feel like we are having to choose between ourselves. We feel torn and in a loose-loose situation. Congratulations on choosing to try and figure out how to make it work. It might be hard today but some day you will give courage to that little bundle in your arms as you share this experience with them. You will be able to say that it was hard but you tried and you were successful. They will find strength and courage from having you as their mother. Congratulations!

    Michelle July 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Sadly, we can not always be all things to all people. You do more than most people ever do. You try. And even though you may feel like a personal failure at times (we all do) because you are not able to keep all those balls in the air at once, it is okay. You are a writer when you need to be one. A friend when you need to be one. A drinker when you need to be one. (is there ever a time not to be one?) And so on…. I have never posted a comment on here before. Truthfully, I never felt like I had anything to connect to you with. I’ve liked a lot of things that you’ve written, but never felt that emotional component that might make me comment on someone’s blog. But this is something that I go through all the time. You rock as a writer. I am sure you rock as a mother. And it seems to me that you rock as a person too.

    Babybloomr July 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    “..yearning to be seen, and yearning to be invisible.”

    Yep. That sums up in one well-written phrase my entire BlogHer experience.

    And I had NO ONE latched onto my boobs, baby or otherwise. Sadly.

    (I loved it, I’m going next year, thank you for saying it all so beautifully.)

    Jenny, the Bloggess July 25, 2008 at 8:23 am

    If I’d been there I would have so hugged you and told you how truly visible you are. You are a spotlight in the room and you have no idea how bright you shine.

    Joy! July 27, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    So eloquently honest.
    I love this!

    Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 12:43 am

    What Michelle 2:43 said. Gosh she said that well.

    And, “The Three Questions” based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, Written and Illustrated by Jon J Muth.

    You cannot be all things to all people all the time…even trying will exhaust you. Prioritize, one thing at a time. Adults can understand, (true) friends will understand, children can learn and isn’t this one of the many important things we need to role model to them. That said, I don’t think you can really teach something to a person without telling them that you are teaching it to them, so some education/information on the topic in manageable age appropriate amounts is also needed.

    Read the book. Know you are doing your best. Ask for help when you need it (from those around you and the professionals). And lighten up on yourself. Why are we always our own worst enemies.

    Amy M. July 31, 2008 at 12:58 am

    You are such a lovely person and I’m glad to have met you in person this year. What an overwhelming experience this world of writer/mothers, mother/writers can be. You are such a big part of it and we appreciate that. Very inspirational, indeed. Until next time…hold your babies close and keep typing…because we’ll keep reading.

    feather nester August 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    That was beautiful and moving. And thank you.

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