Straddling two selves

Many who attended and relished #BlogHer15 are writing now of reentry. Of recovering from the fatigue of being "on" during the conference (even though we certainly wanted to be just that) and dealing with long trips home. Of feeling somewhat misplaced, no longer in a community in which there is a sort of shorthand and a great deal of acceptance and understanding.

In one of her summations, I think my friend, Alexandra Rosas of Good Day Regular People, said it best: "You don't want who you are when there, to disappear again."

I am lucky to have many good friends and a family with whom I am close. I belong to two writing groups that nourish me, and as an at-home mom, well, suffice it to say that I'm not lacking in the quality-time-with-my-children department. I'm active in my community, and I feel I give back regularly to it. And, my cat. Enough said.

So what's tugging at my heart right now? What feels slightly off-kilter even in the midst of all this richness?

It's that the "me" I am when I'm there doesn't often feel possible when I'm here. In the three days since I returned home, I've felt the there me constrict dramatically. It's visceral at times, the sense of being pushed and pulled from a large room in which I bloom and breathe easily into a tiny one, down the hall and to the left, in which the air must now be shared by many. The sense of disappearing.

In that cramped chamber, as I make lunch and ice bruises and listen to that infernal Gummy Bear song, I hurriedly scribble ideas and desires onto any bit of paper I can find, hoping that when finally –but when?- I unearth them once more, they will still mean something. That I will be able to summon the spark of creativity, of insight, of depth that birthed them and find the time to lay hand on pen, pen on page. That I will tease from my clues, the message I wanted to share.

In many ways what is powerful about doing things like attending conferences is that it legitimates claiming time and space. "I'm registering, paying, traveling and will be learning" feels valid in a way that "Kids, I'm gonna go write for a while now. Cheerio!" sometimes doesn't. I think it should, but it just doesn't. 

Nor is it all that feasible. I don't know many parents whose kids truly entertain themselves for hours on end, even if they're allowed to go full zombie with a screen. Something will run out of batteries, someone will fall, a fight over Legos will surely ensue, never-ending hunger will need to be fed. Likewise, I'm an at-home parent for a reason: to stew in the wonder of loving, tending, guiding and remembering. And, apparently, to be beaten in Battleship by these two kiddos. 

Please note that Oliver is dressed as wonder woman but also has voldemort's wand within easy reach. he is always both sides of the coin. hah!

Please note that Oliver is dressed as wonder woman but also has voldemort's wand within easy reach. he is always both sides of the coin. hah!

It takes time to really think through something and then craft a piece about it. It takes time to consciously read a good book or magazine, to ingest the words rather than skimming them so distractedly that they never enter one ear, much less leave the other. It's lovely to cook a dish without worrying if I inadvertently added a cup of salt instead of flour because I was also filming a Magna-Tile explosion. 

Alone time is any parent's rarest commodity. But it is in that time that I not only remember who but also pursue and refine all that I am beyond Mom, and so it is especially precious. 

My mother asked what my favorite part of Big Boy Week was (the annual week that the boys spend in Louisiana with her and my dad). Without hesitation, I said, "the luxury of being on no schedule. Of being able to be spontaneous. Of being able to let responsibility go. Of being able to open myself up to myself, and to see where that takes me."

I love my children with something that must approximate feral instinct. And yet.

Like a brilliant, low-slung moon sinking too quickly into the horizon, I feel there me receding into the folds of memory. Even though I wouldn't trade the sources of this dilemma for the world, the frizzled middle sometimes feels agonizing. How to live in both worlds, as a friend wondered. How indeed.