This’ll be a brief one tonight, as my sixteen-year-old son is trying to convince my husband that we need to install solar panels unless we’d rather just be complicit in letting the world to come to a screeching halt in fifteen years; my daughter looks like she swallowed an aging lemon because her homework is getting in the way of her reading (honestly don’t know what to do with that one); and my youngest is ostensibly receiving a trumpet lesson, but is actually – and inexplicably – peppering his music teacher with Irish trivia.
Yet it’s precisely this sort of night that reminds me why I turned to writing fiction and rearing children so many moons ago. Up until that point, I’d been driven by a sense of productivity. The more I could say I’d accomplished – whether it be a doctoral dissertation or yet another pile of folded laundry – the better I felt. But it was a superficial contentment I was fueling; one that felt less like satisfaction and more like relief at having kept the wolves from the door for one more day. I think that’s because, like so many women of my generation, I’d learned to engage in those activities that were most likely to prove my value to the outside world, rather than trusting those uncertain, nebulous aspects of life that truly lit me up from within.
It’s been hard to wean myself off the sweet, temporary hit of external affirmation. Sometimes, I still slip. But even tonight, when I’m kinda sorta hiding from the children AND my novel, I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, so much more profoundly satisfied knowing that I set aside the pursuit of professional labels and pats on the back in favor of diving deep into the relatively anonymous world of parenting and creative work. And because children and writing can never be perfected and never fully captured, I know that while they might be temporarily exhausting, anything I give to them only amplifies the kind of mysterious, bottomless wonder that never grows old.
Art: Cueva de las Manos, 7300 BC