Ten years ago, I sat at my desk in my closet-sized office, typing fiction and quickly reopening work related windows whenever my boss would pop in to ask a question or check on how my projects were coming along. I would share writings maybe with my sister or an interested friend, but otherwise they remained locked away on my computer.
Seven years ago, Alex was my pint-sized boss and I blogged about him and our life as a family of three, working toward my MFA and bouncing from condo dwelling, to homelessness (living with my parents), to buying our current home – all from the comfort of anonymity online. Aside from a small handful of actual friends who knew about my blog, I was free to be open, but hidden.
Today, I’m scribbling stories and taking photographs of all my imperfect glory and posting them here there and everywhere and it has me wondering why I wasn’t always so just open and out there. Why I spent any energy at all trying to keep myself, well, to myself. Especially now that I know better, now that I realize that there’s freedom and laughter and friendship in openness.
I think I have motherhood, even more than age, to thank for this revelation.
Giving birth itself, both both the physical act (why, hello stirrups and good afternoon everyone and their mother who is coming in and out to check on my business) but also the emotional act, shifts something in you. Like an old wooden door that has swelled and no longer fits quite right in its frame. It’s subtle, but once it happens, the door simply won’t close.
I know my world cracked open, split right down the seams, when I had my first child. It was something that no doctor could stitch back up good as new, nor would I have wanted them to if they could. It has made vulnerable to the whims and beating heart of person outside of myself, who did not choose me, but who needed me more than anyone in the world.
There is an intimacy and tenderness that comes with all of the small acts of motherhood. The newborn finger grasping and the warm breaths on your collarbone as they nuzzle down to sleep. The soft bodies that come to find you in the dark, tucking themselves in beside you. How the word Mama can be spoken a thousand times in a day, but somehow seem brand new and wonderful, like they invented it just for you, by the next morning.
Turns out there are a million keys for opening my heart and to each child, I have endowed a set.
And, of course, there are the far less eloquent ways in which motherhood can crack you. Right off the bat, there’s the poop and the spit up and the vomit (and the hundreds of other ways your children can find to leak fluids onto you in the middle of the night) as you turn into a human tissue/napkin/diaper.
Then there are the daily squabbles and cries of urgent need that always come the very second either the telephone rings or the bathroom door closes. There are the moments of pantslessness when you’re digging through a pile of laundry only to turn around and see your three year old staring at your bum, wondering why you haven’t poured his cereal yet.
So, yes. The quiet, I don’t want to share, close-all-the-writings-down-when-someone-steps-behind-my-shoulder, woman has left the building. And, I think I have motherhood to thank for that.
For me, the experience is a daily practice in letting myself be okay with being myself – and only myself – for my children. And to know that they accept me, even love me, in all my shower-ever-other-day, yoga pant wearing, silly sing-song rhyming, Kung Fu Fighting dance moves while serving fish sticks on plastic plates, glory – well, that’s good enough for me.
This isn’t to say that motherhood has eclipsed me, it has enhanced me.
And, if I’m being honest, I just don’t have the energy to be someone different for the world than I am for my family. I don’t have the time to compartmentalize myself, nor do I feel like I need to anymore.
I’m not a writer, a mother, a photographer, a friend, a Jesus follower, a wife, a blogger – I am Melanie. And the Melanie that you meet at the bus stop, wearing pajama pants and an oversized tee shirt, is the same one you’re going to see at Alex’s baseball practice and she’s the same one you’ll see singing in church on Sunday or doing portraits at the park.
Perhaps the only difference – I’ll always be wearing pants. Only my poor children (who need to learn to knock before entering my bedroom) need bear witness to that. That’s a promise.