I’m often looking for rainbows. That, and four-leaf clovers. I’m a Pisces. We believe in signs and luck and serendipity.
This morning, the ever-shifting background image on computer’s desktop reads Trust Your Struggle. I take a deep breath, read it again, and then again. Trust your struggle, Jen. What does that mean? I have fifteen minutes before I need to be in the car to go south to see my sister and the baby still living in her body, the baby that everyone is ready to meet, most especially my sister. And it’s probably true that the one who wants to meet him next-most is his papa, but I feel like I come in a very, very close third.
I have barely written about this small one who is about to transition from one existence to another, from being in his mother’s body to being out in this terrifying, exquisitely beautiful world. What could I say to him? What can I offer? How will I or any of us be able to protect him, when there are so many dangers and his whole job is to grow away from us and find his whole path? I don’t say his name — it feels important to hold it inside my body for now. So I call him small one. His papa calls him Junior and little guy. My sister has names for him, I’m certain, that no one will ever know.
Maybe my mother has names like that for me, and for my sister — the names we had when she carried us. The names she gave us before anyone us had ever seen the color of our eyes. What if she had remembered to say those names before the monster got his claws into our bodies? What magic could have happened then?
I am trying to Get Everything Done before the baby gets here — finish all the writing projects and all of writing ourselves whole’s administrative tasks, write our grants, send workshop information to schools and colleges in this area and elsewhere, prepare for the workshops that are currently ongoing. Every morning I sit down to the computer and think, Ok, you have to finish everything. Then I freeze, or frenzy, and come up for air some hours later feeling frantic. What kind of a model will I be for this small one? Will I be someone they can look up to, or an adult who abandoned her dreams? I stop even here, thinking I should check my email, get ready to go down to see my sister, get in the shower, quit stalling. I have to finish it all: once he gets here, he’s the only thing I’m going to want to pay attention to. We want to front load all the goodness and connection. We want to load him up with love. We want him to know, in these first hours and weeks of this next phase of his life, that all that exists in the world is love. He will have years enough to discover that isn’t true — and in the meantime, he will get a foundational promise in his soul that then we will all of us endeavor to keep: you get to be safe in this world. You get to be honored and adored. You get to be fed and warm. You get to be exactly and only yourself. You get to discover and cry and laugh and play. Your boyness gets to encompass multitudes, all the masculinities and femininities. You get to be whoever you are.
Of course, I won’t get everything done before he emerges — most of these projects don’t have a “done” button, anyway; they are endlessly repeating and ever re-emergent. Like raising a child, I guess, is never “done.” This is the first child born into our family, the first for my sister or me. I will not tell you about what messages I got from my stepfather about any children I might bear,and I don’t know what he said to my sister — I will say that for a long time, I was afraid for any children I ever came into contact with. I will say that it’s a kind of miracle that my sister is having this baby. I will say that I think this child is fortunate beyond measure to get to live on the inside of her body, to get to know intimately the sound of her breath and heartbeat. Something will stop when this boy is born, and something entirely new will begin; I don’t mean his breathing and engagement with the world — I mean, more selfishly, that a kind of death that we were promised will unbecome, dissipate, dissolve into a wisp of smoke that we can just blow away.
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What is it that you’re frenzy-ing to finish? Could you take a deep breath and listen to what your struggle is trying to tell you? Where does your writing want you to go today?
Thank you for honoring what scares you today, and for walking hand in hand with that terror. Thank you for your presence and awareness. Thank you for your words.