Friday, December 9, 2016

the post in which I write whatever I want, because I am a writer

Each of our personal stories seems so commonplace and average when we view it ourselves. I suppose this is because it is all that we know, and so that is the baseline with which we judge. If you’ve spent your life using indoor plumbing, that is your standard. When wash your hands in the Target bathroom you don’t luxuriate in the cleanliness of the water, the amazing fact that it is streaming out from a faucet with only a twist of the handle, that you have the godlike power to control the temperature. And I apologize for any first worlders that are feeling guilt at this example, but please hold on for a moment longer. I don’t say this to make you hate yourself again, and cringe at your privilege. I only say that a truth so extraordinary to a young woman who travels 3 miles a day to haul her water back to her house, is over in a moment and forgotten before it’s even done for us. Her three extraordinary miles to us? Ordinary, commonplace, hardly thought of to her. We disregard our lives details with impunity, every one of us, most of the day.

I read somewhere that we come to this Earth as blank slates--we are beginning fresh with no experiences, no expectations, no personalities. We are untouched. Vacant and empty. For those that believe in God, they believe we might come with our souls already intact for whatever helpful meaning that gives them. Me? Well, I’m a mother. I’m 36 years old--I think. I’ve had two children, a boy and a girl. Two makes you more of an expert than only having one, but less of an expert to just about anyone else (including the parenting experts who have never had children, but are obviously excellent observers). But it’s two that I’ve got, and I can’t tell you what expertise I’m missing. With the birth, and subsequent intense care of only those two babies, I still think I might get away with speaking for every mother I’ve ever met when I say: Babies are not blank slates at all.

Those babies, they can be deceiving, with their wide eyes and innocently gassy smiles. But there isn’t a mother I’ve met who doesn’t know within a few hours of acquaintance with her baby the truth behind the newness. The truth that their baby came with their own pre-programmed ideas and desires and temperaments. And that you will spend the next however-long-it-takes-them-to-speak-coherently trying to figure out what on god's green earth those adorable not-blank-slates want from you. And I hate to tell any new mothers out there that the answer to what it is that they want from you and the world is summed up aptly in a Tootsie Roll lollipop commercial that was popular some time ago: The world may never know.

So I hope, if you’ve never had a child, you will trust me on just this one little point--you were already something different and new when you got here. Whether you call it your intact soul, or you consider it the result of biology and womb conditions, or maybe for you it comes down to whether your mother placed headphones playing mozart on her belly before you were born, the fact remains that you came here, and you were you. And not just that. You, my friend, were amazing.

Amazing? Amazing you say? I do. I stick to that gun most fiercely.

I know that to the untrained eye babies can seem and are...well catatonic half the time. The eating and sleeping and filling diapers seems pretty mundane. I can admit it. I am GOOD at admitting things about diapers. (For example, I recall with perfect clarity the moment I wished with all of the fervency and wish upon a star desperation in my heart that the Diaper Genie were truly an actual Diaper Genie). Believe me when I say that the babies and their upkeep IS mundane when you are the person helping said baby to accomplish these goals. If I were in charge of the Oxford English Dictionary--and it had pictures, which on my watch it would--and mundane had it’s own picture in the dictionary, it would have been me, changing my millionth diaper without so much as the confetti cannon or military salute that it so richly deserved. Mundane exists. It's real. And I'd even go so far as to say it has value.

But even so, with all of that workaday humdrum that surrounds the baby, it doesn’t come close to negating the fact that you were freaking awe-inspiring. And it comes down to the truth of this most singular fact: that when you and I were new to this planet, we were not only decidedly NOT blank slates, but we were brave and we were true.

You spent hours crying, refusing to be placated, because you needed things that you knew were your right to have. You slept and ate as much as you needed, and you didn’t apologize or feel guilty. Your brain grew at such exponential leapings and boundings--processing and deciphering information at incredible speeds-- and you layered very little judgements on top of all of that new information other than good, bad, or indifferent. (Yes, you were terrible at nuance, but I call that refreshing!)

You were open to the wide world. You were frightened sometimes. You were curious. You were asleep, you were bored. You were thrilled. You were soothed. You were just you. And it is only a mother, or a person looking back, that sees that baby for what it is. A force to be reckoned with. A beautiful, exhausting beginning of an individual who made no other demands on life than to be only themselves. Breathtakingly, brutally (at 3:00 am), intoxicatingly, selfishly yourself. My god, you were something else. And yet, your story remains to you, so very average. That you ignore the magic of your life so blatantly is a very sorry treason to your fierce beginnings.

Wake up, dear baby. Let us see your story, with it’s mundane, but with it’s tears-inspiring, selfish, glorious, good bad and indifferent truths. It’s time to wake up. Because you’re 36 years old, and it’s time. And even the mundane--when the diaper genies miracles don't happen, when the job is lost, when the potatoes are undercooked--some day you might realize that your ordinary will become extraordinary to someone else. You will become the confetti cannon and military salute for someone else's midnight. And I'm starting to think that that is what your story is for.

1 comment:

M. Fisk said...

Beautiful!! What other writing are you doing these days? You should post to your blog more often!