Sunday, May 30, 2010

Swan Dives into the Ineffable

I had a professor who called poetry a swan dive into the ineffable. That's nice. I like that phrase. It's lovely and it makes the making of poetry sound terribly important, and as the wife of a poet, I do think poetry's important.

But I bring up that phrase for a different reason altogether. It has been a little over 10 months since Atticus was born and I'm still swimming madly against the rapids of the ineffable. He still doesn't make sense to me, his whole existence doesn't. I sit in the backseat next to his carseat everywhere we go and I often, frequently, almost always look at him with a sense of wonderment nearing displacement. How did he get here? Where did he come from? Is this kid really mine?

It is not without love or attachment or a great desire for him that I ask these questions, but I'm trying to figure the ineffable here: once there was no one and now there's a whole Atticus. Any parent who doesn't get horribly confused by that fact is either not thinking very hard or far more wise than me.

And self-identity is still somewhere in that ineffable ocean. I know I'm a mother, but I don't always feel like a wife. Here's an inescapable truth of having a young baby in the house. Wait for it. Are you ready? Not a lot of sex happens in that house. Not that sex defines wifery, but certainly it has something to do with it. Have I disclosed too much? Will my husband cringe at reading this? But it's the truth and one that needn't be shushed or whispered or alluded to in quiet tones between other mothers. It is really damn hard to be anything more than a mother as being a mother is so all consuming. Any other pursuits feel selfish, reckless, and tiring at the end of the day.

I don't want it to be like this. I'd like to go out for an evening and let it be okay that my son is not as comfortable as he would be if I were with him. I'd like to put my husband first sometimes. Hell, I'd like to put myself first sometimes.

But I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

Last week we met up with some old friends in my old town and I became acutely aware of the difference in our lives now. It was a reading at a very hipster bar in Grand Rapids. The readers were great, real artists with presence and content and craft; it was the type of reading that makes you ache a little bit to go home and write and be a creator of things yourself.

That was at the beginning of the evening, but as the evening wore on, my creative impulses were overtaken by my maternal ones. It happened quickly and completely. The "must get home to baby" internal chant gained momentum and volume and I forgot entirely about wanting to write or eventually have my own readings.

Will it be this way forever? Will I ever feel like Atticus would be better served by serving myself first? Am I okay with this?

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