Signs of Life

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I almost gave up on this painting multiple times since I started it about a week after Rowan was born, but I am glad I didn’t because I finally finished it this morning.

I’ll probably hang it in the bathroom, over the toilet. Which is to say, I wouldn’t call it my greatest work, but I like what it represents to me: Signs of a more regular life returning.

This is the first week of my maternity leave that hasn’t been packed with daytime visitors. I’ve loved the company, and have socialized more with family and friends in the last month than the whole rest of the year. But those visits, which usually coincide with Rowan’s naps, also impede my ability to do anything else. So I’m grateful for the break in company this week, as it’s allowed me to do a little bit of yoga, art, cooking, and writing–all introverted things that fill me up, and give me energy for the extroversion, attention, and connection that being a new mamma requires.

My dad shared this fantastic article with me, an interview with Wendell Berry.  It’s a lot to chew on, but what’s stayed with me the most is what he says about the value of limits, how they can enrich our lives and provide meaning in ways that unlimited choices just can’t. I think about my life, how it’s taken on more limits (aka commitments) than I ever thought I’d want or be capable of. Marriage, home ownership, a community that shows up for important events, and now motherhood. A career, too, where people rely on me. I suppose sobriety is its own kind of limit, albeit one for which I am continually grateful. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, despite being tired and stretched thin and limited in a number of ways. I’m surprised by this, but I’m actually okay grabbing wisps of time for myself and letting go of the unstructured expanses. Those expanses were almost too big…and allowed more Netflix and snacks than were ever good for me.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is this TED talk my nephew Mason showed me, particularly the idea of accomplishing big things in very small amounts of time. One time, early in my courtship with Thomas, I broke up with him because “I needed to write my book.” (Another time I broke up with him, I told him I was more evolved than he was. For some reason, he still decided to marry me.) I still haven’t written my book, but that’s an issue whether I’m married or single. Since being married, though, I’ve been able to stop drinking, write my first published essays for pay, and apply for a writing sabbatical. I didn’t get the sabbatical last year, but I’ll keep applying until I do. It turns out that having the right person (and people) around me improved my mental and physical health as well as my creative capacity, despite requiring more from me as well.

My favorite Wendell Berry quote, which I fall short of but aspire to nonetheless is, “Every day you have less and less reason not to give yourself away.”

The Nappers (Mason and Rowan)


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