Thursday, October 10, 2019

Being a counselor involves a lot of intimacy, but as intimacy goes, it’s a relatively dry occupation. Just tears, and a bit of snot, both of which most people are perfectly capable of cleaning up for themselves.

When I signed on to be a mom, I expected work. Work and caregiving. Caregiving work. Messy work. And I was right. But I wasn’t prepared for just how intimate it is. And I’m barely four months in.

I’m not just talking about fluids, although there’s a lot of them. I’m talking about what happens when those fluids mingle with love, dependency, innocence, and sweetness, creating a profound intimacy I wasn’t associating with the effort of motherhood.

I mean, on a day-to-day basis, most people, especially the people we love most of all, don’t stare intently into our eyes while pushing out a massive poo that we then have to clean up. Nor do we sing happy little songs and kiss their bellies while we wipe.

Of course, I realize now that this is parenthood, and caregiving in general. I’m not having a unique experience under these ambiguous crusts; I’ve just entered more deeply into the human condition.

Humans do this for each other. We do it for babies, and we do it for the elderly, the disabled, the infirm. One day the babies–ours or someone else’s–will do it for us.

It’s weird, and beautiful, and the intimacy makes it all okay.

But apparently, I’m kind of dumb, and definitely late to the game. When I told Thomas that I hadn’t anticipated parenthood to be so intimate, he said, “Well, d’uh.”


  • John

    Thanks for sharing. I like the part about “the human condition”.

  • John P Korb

    I like your blog. I’ve been too busy to check in very often, but I just quit a job I hated. So I can kind of call my own shots now. A real “retired” person. And I’ve thought of private blogging. I’ve always kept a journal. Social media is just the wrong medium for that. It’s commercial and contentious and, to me, too much like the dysfunctional family I grew up in.
    On the other hand, it might be ideal…if I had “zero friends” (and there were no emojis) and someone would need to be intentful and curious enough to sign up for my posts. I’ve found some jewels in old abandoned blogs. Art, artists, authors I’d never heard of. Blogs that didn’t have a “sign up” feature. Just a momentary self-expression, and then went off into internet never-never-land.
    Or I could just go back to paper. But there are just too many things that I’m involved with. Photography. Scientific and philosophical inquiries. With diagrams. Too much labor to print out. And I’d need a storage unit.
    I don’t have any kids, and little family left. Part of me would like to leave something for ‘posterity’ – my father did that – a good or bad example, my struggles and mistakes, a little victory here or there. I’m 63 now, and think about those things.
    I read autobiographies for that reason. Journals, like Paul Gauguin’s.
    An anecdote I’ll share about my mother. Maybe it qualifies as “intimate”? She nearly killed herself after leaving Palo Alto. Said she had to stay in Gainesville in 1969 (the rest of us returned without her) or she would have put a garbage bag over her head. Something she disclosed to me, she said the only thing that kept her from doing that was *curiosity*. Simple curiosity. What if your life were stripped of everything but curiosity? And I think curiosity got her into her profession. And I think social media, in many ways, strips us of it. Almost like the AI algorithm were written by and for a dysfunctional family.
    Those are my thoughts.

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