I have a recurring nightmare. In it, I am not a writer, I am not a dancer, I am nothing. A couple of months ago dissatisfied and disillusioned with my job as an administrative assistant in an exclusive private school, nestled in Berkeley one of the most beautiful places in the world, I complained about my job to a well known writer in San Francisco . ” If you leave your job and you tried to write and if you found you could not or nothing came of it, what is the worst thing that can happen? You will stay at home and bake cookies with your children? That is not too bad a life is it?” he asked me. I shuddered inwardly at the thought while I demurred.
Do not take me wrong, I love my girls. There is nothing in me that doubts that. I have birthed them and loved them with a ferocity that has far outlived any passion I have felt for any man. There is a problem though. A home baked cookie does not give me joy. I often wish it did, it would make me a woman more content. I have a husband who would support anything I wanted to do including baking cookies all day long. I am blessed with enough resources to do that if I desired. Roosevelt once said, ” Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Being a mother to my girls, making sure to the best of my ability that they will be kind and strong women in a tumultuous world are indeed work worth doing and I will do it. The problem again?
That little part of me that is beneath my role as a mother is sadder every day that I do not write or dance or walk or balance on a yoga mat. And on days like today which was great – swimming classes, a half hour on the treadmill, a buffet lunch fit for a king, hot chocolates under the rainy skies, but, with almost no time for myself, I can feel her sadly murmuring in a corner of the heart. And on less than idyllic days, on days when the children haven’t been on stellar behavior, when I have been unwell, when I have pushed myself to live up to my ideal of the mother I must be; she shrieks and screams in my heart, she beats at the walls. My thoughts turn murky, gloomy, grim and dark.” Is this why Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven? Is this why Virginia Woolf walked into the pond with stones in her pockets?” I am under no illusion that I am a writer of their stature. But I am a writer and I am a woman and I can be as imaginatively doleful as I like. This one place I have freedom.
So every day that I agonize over clothes left lying around, socks and underwear under the feet, counter tops littered with left over food, unwashed faces, unbrushed teeth, fights, tears and an overflowing sink- all of which require my supervision and skills, I tell that little voice in the heart to hold on and be patient. These sweet little girls and this home needs me. When they are grown up, when they will know how to bathe, when they have learnt how to choose and how to live their own life, when this house will be quiet and no squabbles require my judgement, when that day comes, I will be an old lady. Perhaps by then I would have given up coloring my hair, perhaps by then my skin will glow a little less, I am not worried about that (ok,maybe just a little) but really, I am more worried about the voice in the heart. ” I must do this work,” I tell it, ” Hold on, hold on. I promise to give you voice today, tomorrow and the day after. I promise to keep trying as long as I live.”