On What’s Left

Long before, before all of this and before him, when I was just me and staring out at the ocean with the kind of time to ask questions and wonder; I wondered what would happen to my writer self if I became a mother. I wondered how two things that ask everything of me could both be true.

What I know now is that I had the right to worry and not just wonder. That as mother and as a woman, we are asked to hollow ourselves out, to give and to give until there is nothing left to give, as if there is something golden at the center which can be only found when emptied out.

I do not know how to write about this without it sounding like regret or sounding like I am sorry or sounding like I am ungrateful. Is that the word? This forever feeling as if I owe my great life something. As if wanting is some kind of error in judgement. I do not know how to talk about how these two feelings live inside one another, but isn’t that just the same question only with a new set of circumstances. How can I want to write so badly but not miss a single thing. How can I miss my freedom and yet crave to hold him close to me while he is small. How can I want both and feel like I am not living up to either?

Then I got sick. Sick the kind in a way I have not been since I was a child. Sick in the middle of the night on bended knee praying to a god I only talk to when the worst of it makes itself seen. I kept thinking, how animal like, those words in my head again and again. How pain like that brings us back to our animal selves, hunched over and making guttural noises in the dark, all spine bones and fingernails. You can feel the ropes of your insides. You remember the way the body works. You think about childbirth.

For days before the sickness came into our house I kept seeing dead birds. I saw two while out walking and one here at the house that flew into our great cathedral windows and broke its neck. Yellow chested and small it laid there like a gift I did not want. I knew something was coming.

I have an existential dread that I missed some great invitation, some ship, some trip I was meant to take. I have not written anything since the baby was born. This week was meant to be my chance to get back in the groove, to meet my writer self again, to be see myself doing the work, to remember that I can and could come back from this. I could finish the book.. if only, if only. But the sickness is still here and it creeps through my family and now my son is flush with fever and cries when I hold him. Then I hate myself for being mad that I cannot get on the plane to Ohio and write for a week. That this one thing I wanted was taken from me. This workshop that I have worked for years to get into. I tell myself he’s all that matters, him being healthy, and it’s true. The cycle goes around and around. The writer and the mother at odds with one another. One cannot be so long as the other is it feels sometimes, even though logically I know this is not true. But it is true. In ways it will always be true. I will always chose him.

There is a connection here, between the sickness and the writing, the work and the emptying, between what is taken away and what is given willingly. There is something in this but I cannot take the time to make it right, to finish the line, and isn’t that the point I am trying to make? I am needed somewhere again. I cannot be both and I already know which one I will choose. Even this feels thin at best, nothing of note, nothing but a mere journal entry to say I am still here, but to whom? To myself, to prove there are still some words maybe even if they are not golden.

Perhaps for awhile that is all we can do, remind ourselves that we are here, and keep searching for the golden center at all that we are only when we are entirely emptied out. Maybe that’s all that’s left.

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