School is getting harder and scarier. But not because of the subject matter – it’s the sheer quantity of it. I still gladly, and eagerly, get up and gone before dawn just to get myself there. If the last six years of SHM-hood has stripped me of an identity then the last three weeks of school and being back “home” has almost completely returned it. Motherhood is hard. (Say that like a pull-string Barbie describes math.) It’s the hardest thing I have yet attempted – and I do mean attempted because I certainly haven’t mastered it. It offers no escape. There’s no amelioration for the condition. And, there’s definitely little sense of accomplishment. Not in this life and maybe not the next.
Maybe my approach to it was naïve. Ok. MY APPROACH WAS NAÏVE. I don’t have easy kids. And living in the countryside of an unfamiliar (and somewhat alienating) town was isolating and exacerbating to burnout. But those things didn’t wreak irreparable damage to my psyche. (My pride, most certainly.) These are all things from which I still have lots to learn. I hope for a change in perspective, but for now, I look at that part of my life as spinning my wheels.
I have learned more about myself, my husband and my children by being away from them these past three weeks then I ever learned being tied at the hip to them for six years. And it’s not an appreciation for something after it’s gone that I feel. I simply didn’t like who I was then. I was a burned out B---h, let’s face it. (I know three other people who will second that.) Now, I get the opportunity to again be the person I want to be. To lead a vita diligentissima and embrace capacities in myself and my children instead of trying to contain them in some misconceived domestic ideal. I get to ride the (still civilized) train. I patronize used bookstores, because without little fingers to chase after, I can. I am anxiously engaged in learning skills that will concretely benefit society. I get to have conversations about social injustices in medicine in the most powerful city in the (still, for now) most powerful nation and take part in affecting those changes. I sit, study and sometimes waste time in sidewalk cafés where words like “amorphous” are overheard to be used in neat little sentences that don’t require definition-laden appendices. All in all, I get to be intellectual but remain without the attitude. Because there’s nothing wrong with being refined when you also know how to drive a tractor and clean a chicken. The snake killing I will leave to my beautiful and refined mother. (See Week Two.)