Friday, February 01, 2008

My Biggest Challenge

In all the excreta of moving, Wayne found this beat up Tibetan prayer paper on the floor of his studio:

"I'm afraid that choosing to be an artist also means that I have to give up the idea of having kids."

This was the fear I had written down and folded up to give to God to deal with. It is dated 8/7/95, a year and a month before my son was born. Famous last words.

Funny, I don't remember that fear at all, so I guess God took care of it. I don't want to imply that I'm some "perfect Mom" - far from it. I have many regrettable incidents to my name, especially in the past year, when I have simultaneously moved 6 times and gone through The Change (if anybody doesn't want to hear this, cover your eyes).

All my rage and shame (my friend Mona Banzer, a life coach, says "pulling back is always a result of shame") boils down to this: if you as a couple have 3 kids, only one of you can be an artist. What do you think drove Zelda Fitzgerald out of her mind? It was fits of jealous rage, or rather, envy. My life is measured out in increments of dryer loads. I resent the fact that every day my husband is an "artist," while I am a nurse, maid, short order cook, dishwasher, nurse, slave.

I remember, after we had our third infant, Wayne and I passed a young couple (like we had once been) strolling their first infant down the big hill in Chevy Chase canyon in LA, and he said , "Ah, just look at them. Their egos are still intact."

Isn't Mom's home cooking bitter meals for kids to swallow? No doubt Catherine Poisson would say better to feed them anything at all rather than a meal cooked with the poison of resentment. Wayne and I started out even, so how did I become uncool, embittered, taken for granted, blackening instead of blooming? HOW DID I BECOME MY MOM?? The situation would be comical if it weren't dull as dishwater.

How did I become (in Harry Potter terms, because it's not just a series of books in our family any more, but a whole string of metaphors we apply to our lives) a MUGGLE, with my eleven year-old writing book reports "What I learned from this book is that moms can be annoying..."?? And how did Wayne retain his "magic" persona, like the cool, law-breaking Sirius Black? How come I have to crack the whip and he gets to play the banjo?

I have had to face the fact that if only one member of a couple with kids can be the artist (since someone has to take care of the kids, the bills, the litter boxes - fuck!), it's going to go to the one who's got the Type A personality, the most testosterone; the Alpha dog; the one who's got guts, and works fast.

"You have to be willing to fight for it," says my wise friend, designer Bonnie Tanaka.

You have to be willing to show who you really are, to show your work, for Christ's sake, and not flinch back from the fact that your own best friends are going to hate your guts for it. Faulkner, believe me, never had those kind of scruples - and he had a MAMMY, well into middle age.

There are days when my moodiness flashes like heat lightning, and I HATE being a patient cow because that's what kids need. Absolutely my biggest challenge is consistency. I resent doing things the same way twice, but kids need someone to be as regular and dependable as clockwork, and that's not an artist.


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