Sunday, July 24, 2005

vicarious

Raelin and I returned this afternoon from an quick overnight trip to Bar Harbor, of Acadia National Park fame. A good friend of mine who I have known since middle school (well, actually, I think we may have even met as early as 3rd grade but a friendship didn't actually begin until highschool) is spending a month there at the College of the Atlantic. COA is a small (as in a couple hundren undergrads) private college where the only degree offered is Human Ecology. Sounds limiting until you check out one of the potential dorm rooms- in the corner of a huge home on the ocean's edge with 2 outside walls of windows overlooking a most breathtaking view. One could make some academic sacrifices for such accomodations.

My friend is there participating in a couple of teaching workshops as a result of a grant from a large teaching endowment. These past 2 weeks she spent learning about geology and cruising around Acadia, in addition to cultivating a (potential!) new romance and doing some incredible rock climbing in the park. You thought climbing on ocean cliffs was as far as Thailand? Not so- the thick, chunky verticle Otter Cliffs offer a pretty amazing stateside alternative.

Not that I'm doing any climbing, or will be any time soon. Sigh.

It is always interesting and fun to visit with this particular friend, because our lives are *so* different. She is single- mostly- living in a city with a vibrant and well-knit social life. She took up climbing a few years ago and now makes a practice of going at least a couple times a week in the city and outdoors as often as she can in New Hampshire (her abs prove it). She teaches in a great, social-justice focused school with a diverse population and is quickly becoming a respected senior teacher. I listen wistfully to her adventures and dependent-free lifestyle and try to snuff out the glimmer of envy that starts to burn within me.

It's the mother conundrum.

There's no fixing it or changing it or even a strong desire to do so. It's simply the unavoidable reality that That is not my life, as enticing as it may be. And it isn't even necessarily *her* life- though I would love to be climbing regularly and have the opportunity to teach at progressive school- but those seemingly endless hours of indulging oneself in... oneself- and not someone else.

I adore my daughter and my husband and in many moments, both long and short, the daily ins and outs of being a stay-at-home-mom. I have let go of the intense need to be productive that plagued my first year of motherhood and have slid quite comfortably into the rhythm of days that are not punctuated by alarm clocks and deadlines, but making a worthwhile appearance at a playgroup and getting through the day, with lots of play and a few loads of laundry inbetween. Perhaps I have even swung a bit far on the pendulum of productivity, because certainly my house could use a bit more producing- like, producing a few more clean surfaces. But, whatever. Clean is ephemeral.

No, the thing about spending time with a friend like this reveals more of the career vs. home issues (one that will most likely never go away). Especially since the more I am home and away from a regular 'job' the less likely I am sure I even want one, though I still envision myself teaching and want to achieve some competency at a chosen line of work at some point in my life. Being that I am 5 months from 30 and there's no imminent disaster, I have some time. But I am an endless seeker of new opportunities and am fickle- drawn to many paths, but pretty unfaithful to the finish. This applies to household chores and finishing drinks as well.

That's the thing about parenting. Fickle is not an option. It's good for me. Maybe my wistfulness of my friends life are because that's my out, my imaginary out, from a thing that I cannot leave. It's like People magazine. It's such a silly brain drain, but I browse it voraciously in the store and occasionally bring an issue home (that kevin reads as well, i might add). Do I really care about People? No. It's just fun- an escape. Do I really want to be back in the single life, looking for love with endless hours to myself? No. It's fun, but not nearly so satisfying as being Raelin's mom.

You would think that coming to this conclusion once would be enough. But it's not. It resurfaces in various forms, instigated by different experiences and interactions, kinda like trick candles. They always come back. Someday I'll find the internal water to just drown them out.

At a midwife (for an annual exam people, I'm not pregnant) appointment a month or so ago, she said something quite off-hand, but quite wise to me. She said, there is no point in your life when it is ever the same as another point, is it? can you ever remember reflecting on your life and thinking, wow, this is just like it was 3 years ago! it's always different, so there' s no point in pining away for past times.

too true.

2 Comments:

Blogger juli claire said...

i feel like you are thinking along the lines i imagine myself thinking when i am a mother, probably in a few years. And even though i am not a mother at the moment, i relate to this post tremendously - i have certainly thought about motherhood a huge amount in my life, and how that deep desire intersects with the many paths of my own volition which i endlessly think along. it's great that blogs give us a way to communicate that wouldn't happen (the same way) through spoken conversation, or even letters and emails.

8:55 AM  
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