Reconsiderations, Reversals, Reminders
More bad news from the college this week. Last-straw kind of bad news. We're in the midst of finals and I have so. many. papers. to grade so I'm pausing before making any grand, stress-driven decisions that can be read as emotional or knee-jerk. But I have a good idea of how I'm going to proceed.
I came across this article by physicist Alan Lightman on the TED web site about quiet time/mindfulness. Here's a small sampling:
Somehow, we need to create a new habit of mind, as individuals and as a society. We need a mental attitude that values and protects stillness, privacy, solitude, slowness, personal reflection; that honors the inner self; that allows each of us to wander about without schedule within our own minds.
I have paid lip service to these values that Lightman writes about for years -- since becoming a mother just over thirteen years ago. They became values because I no longer had an easy way to incorporate them into my life. Infants and toddlers do that to you. There's little stillness, precious little privacy, and solitude only (mostly) when sleeping. They were aspects of being a person that I took for granted when I had them, and missed fiercely once they were absent.
My children aren't toddlers anymore. My youngest is five and more self-sufficient by the day. She has her own sense of self. Her own need for stillness and even, sometimes, solitude. And yet my children growing older hasn't created more space for my own stillness, privacy, solitude, slowness, or personal reflection. There's less. Far less, even. But my children aren't a cause, at this point, for my lack of that space.
For the past few years, this blog's tagline has been "a record of panic, parenting, teaching and art-making." It's due for a change. In a conversation with A.P. this week, he reminded me that I didn't grow up, let alone spend the last decade, thinking I wanted to be known as an educator or even an academic. I want, I have always wanted, to be known as a writer.
This isn't in the context of fame or publication, which are impossible to control. This is in the context of everyday, my reality, which I shape with my actions. This is a matter of identity, how I want to be known to those who live life alongside me. This is how I want to know myself.
I'm not badmouthing being an educator. It's a good way to support my family. I value my time in the classroom. But my time as an academic needs to remain isolated, right there, in that classroom, in my office hours.
It needs to not consume the hours and space beyond, because that's not how I want to be known.
And you know what I definitely don't want? Another Mother's Day where my child answers this question with this answer:
Because also: while I didn't grow up thinking I wanted to be a mother, while I never really wanted to be known as a mother, I became a mother, and now I want my kids to know me as a good mother.
Not whatever this is.