Sunday, January 30, 2011

A life well decorated

Sometimes I just don’t have anything to write about being a mom.

I could regale you with the minutia of my everyday here with my children. Not a day goes by when they don’t amaze me with something they say, or do, or how they blink their eyes, or shrug their shoulders, or dance to music that is inside their heads.

They are life personified. They are hope in a jar. They are love without complication, without borders. They are joy unbound. They are sorrow seared into my heart. They are not mine to keep.

And then there is me.

I move through my days trying not to question what we are doing here in France. Of course I know what we are doing here. But if you think about it too much, you can question why you are anywhere.

Motherhood guides me in that regard. Tells me when to leave the house, when to come back. Tells me why to get up. Tells me to go to bed. Tells me to be kind, to be patient, compassionate.

Motherhood asks me to forget myself again and again. Motherhood asks me to forgive myself for not being able to forget myself.

The gray winter sky soothes me. It cushions my anxiety, mutes it just enough to allow my thoughts to run clear, the silt falls away, floats to the bottom where it rests and waits to get stirred up spun in circles.

I am distracted. My distraction clouds my thinking, tears my experiences into small pieces, confetti. I try to hang on. My fingers get tired. The pull is strong.

I have to remind myself to stay here, now, focused. What are you doing right now? Do it then.

The table in front of me is strewn with things: A notebook, a checkbook, a cookbook, an address book, a French encyclopedia, a box of watercolors, a box of pastel crayons, a box of granola, a tangled pile of Scooby Doos, toy Corvette with three wheels. It had four wheels for just two hours. A pair of sunglasses, a can of pens and pencils. A coffee cup. A pair of scissors, a laundry peg, a paper towel roll which Esther has decorated so I cannot throw it out. Not right now, anyway.

I can choose to see my surroundings as a life a life unmanaged, out of control, or as a life well-decorated, full.

Today, at least, I choose fullness.

14 comments:

Anna said...

Betsy - this moved me so so much. As a lot of your writing does. You are able to view yourself in a remarkably honest way, and then express it in writing over and over again - exquisite writing.

Anonymous said...

oh...my....goodness....Betsy - your writing is so beautiful, moving, inspiring, capitivating.....
Thank you for sharing yourself with us time and time again.

Kathleen Trail said...

First of all, the expression on Essie's face in this picture is classic. I wish I knew exactly what she was thinking, although I have a pretty good guess...

Secondly, the list of the things on your table has stuck with me since I first read this. It is such a brilliant, microscopic slice of the chaos of our collective parental lives.

My personal favorite is "a paper towel roll which Esther has decorated so I cannot throw it out. Not right now, anyway." Oh, the eternal struggle between the sentimentality of keeping and the pragmatism of purging! Sigh...

mooserbeans said...

So beautiful. I just love the way you write. I used to try so hard to make my house life seem perfect. God forbid anyone ever see our unfolded laundry. I have spent years trying to perfect "let it be." My home is my home warts and all. Your desription of your table gave me a thought. We should take still life picutres of those chaotic corners of our lives. Enjoy the beauty. Before we know it, these moments will be gone. It is this same instinct that draws me to take a picutre of my kids biggest messes (20 lbs spilled dog food, hot pink lipstick everywhere), before cleaning or yelling. Thank you for showing us the beauty in motherhood.

Emma said...

I think these are the things that bind people together, it's what we have in common. Such a strange, double edged sword that is motherhood.

Anonymous said...

Your writing just gets better and better. I stop in
Every few months to catch up and I am always
Moved. Thank you

Megan said...

Will you please put your beautiful words in a book? I want to 'gift' you to some mamas I love!

Princess Running Water (soon-to-be Queen) said...

Hi I'm a new 'reader' of your blog. Yes, like the many mothers who have commented here, I too am enthralled by the beautiful description of your table. My dinner table is NEVER perfect too and it really messes my thinking up too! My house was a mess and i found it such a struggle to practise housekeeping, care for my 4 mth old kid and work, that I actually quit the work scene! I wish i read your article earlier and learned to embrace the chaos and mess that is our life now that i've stepped into the realm of motherhood. Then at least i would still have a job and a monthly salary.

Gina said...

Betsy- I've read your blogs for years and love them both. I cannot tell you the times where I thought you must be reading my mind. You are a fantastic writer and really quite a poet. Thank you for always moving me with your writing. I know you are a snowboarder and have spend a lot (probably not enough, right?) time on the slopes with your children so I need to ask you this question about independence on the hill. I have a very responsible and cautious 6 year old daughter who I let, for instance, go back by herself to the counter at the fast food place and ask for a fork or ketchup or a glass of water. I can see her from the table (most times ) and I think it teaches her to speak up for herself and speak politely to other adults and she feels GREAT about herself afteward. However, just this past weekend I’m not sure if I went too far, our family loves to downhill ski and our daughter is very good already. She skis independently, is very careful on the ski lift, never falls at the exit and we live in WI so the hills and chairlift rides are very short (no long 20 minute + ski runs or lift rides here). So she’s been asking all season to go on the lift by herself and I finally let her. I rode in the following chair but obviously couldn’t have helped her if she needed it. She did so great that in the end I let her do it about 6 times. The chair ride lasts about 2-4 minutes max. But now, I’m feeling like I was irresponsible. At the time I felt she was fine and perfectly capable. Now if it was my son (4 yrs old now) who has little forethought, I probably won’t let him on there by himself until he’s 20, but my daughter sits still, understands the danger and rarely takes risks. Even my husband who is the bigger risk taker in the family thought I should have ridden with her so now I need to tell her she’s not allowed to do it again. Still struggling with whether or not I took a horrible chance with her safety or was just simply trusting my daughter who I know so well. Give it to me if you think it was too big of a risk, I can take it.

Again thanks for being out there for all of us.

Marie: said...

I left a post on babycenter about travleling to France. I hope you'll find it funny. Great blog, do keep up the good work. I am a subscriber and hope you'll drop by my little corner of the web to say "Hi" and to follow my daily chaos. I think you'll relate.
Here's the France post (to be continued)
http://35daysamonth.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-have-one-too-many-children-madame.html

Marie: said...

Okay, on second thought, I am not able to follow your blog.. I cannot find the link! I am following you on twitter. Btw, also a New England girl... RI is home.

Betsy said...

Gina: Sorry it took me so long to respond. I've been traveling and spent four days in a place where they charged for internet. Obviously, I refused to pay. It was a nice break, though.
Anyhow, I think it is awesome you let your daughter ride the lift alone. I think the comfort of our home ski hills is a great place for kids to experience some independence. People come to ski areas to enjoy nature and sports.

Betsy said...

Thanks all.
Kathleen: I agree about Esther's expression. It is intriguing and familiar all at once.
Marie: Thanks for the link. I'll go read it now.

Betsy said...

Marie: It tried to leave you a comment, but...
My comment was, next time try Craigslist Paris Vacation rentals. You can find some great apartments for rent, if you stay for at least 3 or four nights.