Wednesday, March 19, 2014

(Thank God for) Other Women

I spent last weekend reading Louise Erdrich's The Blue Jay's Dance and Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place, both books about motherhood.  Erdrich's book is a compression of the first year of her three daughters' lives into one memoir about motherhood, writing, and nature and is, as you might imagine, stunning.  Corrigan's memoir is about her father, falling in love, starting a family, getting cancer, and becoming an adult in the midst of it all.  Hers is one of those books with such clear prose it runs through your fingers, cleaning and refreshing whatever it touches.  Even though its central conflict is the cancer diagnosis of both the author and her father and their ongoing treatment, it is so open and funny and strong, it sort of takes you into its arms and leaps over the sadness and is a thrilling portrait of family life.  

After finishing The Middle Place, I found myself looking up more of Corrigan's work, clicking on videos of her reading and talking about her writing, and was struck by how solidly she has always wanted a family.  I can't say I have ever felt that way, at least, not until I met Tim.  Then it was like a flip switched, and I wanted a family with him.  Watching Corrigan read in front of a fancy fireplace in a living room packed with beautiful women, many of them moved to tears by her reading, I felt an odd mix of emotion: admiration, appreciation, envy.  I envied her audience's clear embrace of their experiences as women and as mothers, and wondered if I have what it takes to identify as a sister to all of them.  I sure hope I do. 

One of my friends who also happens to be pregnant - see pic below - recently sent me this blog post by a stay-at-home mom responding to the cattiness of a radio program tackling the "To-Work or Not-To-Work" question.  I love this part of the post:

"So, angry, debating ladies…here’s the thing.  My daughter is watching me AND you to learn what it means to be a woman.  And I’d like her to learn that a woman’s value is determined less by her career choices and more by how she treats other women, in particular, women who are different than she is."

It goes on from there, but I will let you discover its loveliness and humor on your own, if you so choose. 

On a somehow related note, the same friend who sent me that post has been keeping me in good reading: she also sent a link to the Lena Dunham article in Vogue.  I think I've written about Lena Dunham peripherally on this site before, or on Grizzly and Golden, but I can't find it right now!  Anyway, I like her.  Best of all, I like that my husband watches Girls with me and finds it just as entertaining as I do.  I love thinking about my own disasters in my twenties in New York while I watch it.  And I like that our country is ready for a moment like the one Lena Dunham is having right now. 

My favorite part of the Vogue article is when Dunham broaches the necessity of making mistakes, in reference to a conversation she had with her boyfriend:

....In such moments, she thinks about an observation Antonoff made one day when she was feeling low. “He’s like, ‘You know what’s hard? People want the person who wants to share it all. But they want the person who wants to share it all minus foibles and mistakes and fuckups. They want cute mistakes. They don’t want real mistakes.’ If I placed that many censors on myself, I wouldn’t be able to continue to make the kinds of things that I make. And so I just sort of know there are going to be moments where I take it one step too far.”

 Though I aspire to bravery in my living life, I can't say I always live with the same bravery in my art.  I don't give myself a long enough leash in my creative life, and I'm starting to understand how essential it is to give myself more permission to just fuck up.

There are a million maxims about this idea, and they run rampant in the business world, cutely, cloyingly.  Incidentally, this could be what I love about the business world: just as the myth of inspired genius haunts many creatives, entrepreneurial fever haunts the business world, as if on any day, any of us could break out and become a millionaire.  (Truthfully, I think what I both love and loathe about business settings is the people - on good days, I find their openness and lack of self-consciousness a real relief.  Other days, I find the lack of imagination pretty lonely.)

In any case, it seems that most of us human beings hope for that feeling of transcendence, of power over or in our lives (unless we are also just looking for health insurance.  Which is its own kind of transcendence?).  And while this sort of mystical hope amuses me in business settings, in artistic ones, I find it closest to the bone, in the work itself. 

In my own life, few of my creative products satisfy me.  Maybe this is good - dissatisfaction might drive habits like a hunger.  But I've been thinking lately, I'm ready for a little, I don't know, gratification.  And maybe that feeling comes as much from a good product as it comes from giving everything to the work itself, and knowing that nothing was left behind. 

I think this is why I love baking, and walking, and crafts.  There is no way to "fail" at glueing things, or looking at trees, or pouring water into a bowl of flour, and in these activities I allow myself to wholly give.  I allow myself so much freedom and happiness in these activities.  I want to uncuff that sweetness when I sit at my writing table, too.  

Is this a goal, a prayer, a real possibility?  I guess I'll find out.  In the meantime, I cook this baby for a little bit longer (ten days??) and then I'll be practicing many of these principles - humility, going for it, fucking up and starting again - very shortly.  Wish me luck! 

In seriousness, I have received so much support in my pregnancy - it has changed me in many ways.  Before my friend came over and saved me this weekend (same Vogue article friend, same blog post sender: it seems I am really racking up a debt!) our living room was a wreck of objects, gifts, cards, and flowers, and it felt pretty good.  Putting things away has been hell for me, but staring at the mountains of kindness in our home, receiving the sentiments flowing toward us from friends and strangers alike, has been a wondrous thing.  I wouldn't trade it for all the Feng Shui in the world.  Sometimes I lay in bed clutching the stuffed animals meant for our daughter, listening to the whale song station on her little white noise maker, and luxuriate in this magic her presence has bestowed upon us.  

So I hope the seeds of abundance are finding each and every one of you this season, and you are diving in, leaving a trail of fine mistakes in your wake, too.

With crazy love,