(photo courtesy of google)
My friend Sarah and I (so) often talk about missing quiet. About how we probably stay up too late at night because we’re so hungry for the quiet that’s only there, after all the little human noise boxes are sound asleep and the computer and TV are off.
Who am I there? In the quiet moments? I just asked me that this morning because I had a few awake moments in bed before I could hear the bang and crash of fresh morning boys. I don’t know that I’ve lost myself in motherhood, like they say not to do, or if motherhood has stolen me. Or if I am motherhood. And really, is that so bad? Maybe it’s only bad if when given the chance I can’t remember me at all, and even then maybe it’s not my fault. Maybe it’s just because there’s been so little quiet or time to myself and maybe, today, there isn’t much I can do about that. Society is a loud and sometimes angry beast, in 2012. We live this isolated motherhood existence. There is too much to do all the time, on our own, and when I tell moms in person that it’s lonely, for so so many of us, that we’re working so so hard and doing it mostly alone, they nod and nod and sometimes tears well up and I know exactly the kind of exhaustion this isolated feeling puts in them. I mean, it’s rare these days, to live next to other moms and spend a lot of time with them or to know a neighborhood where people are always outside or in each other’s houses, best of friends. There’s this level of protection people seem to hold around themselves that I don’t remember being there when I was a kid. A fear of getting to know people or of really letting them in. Maybe it’s more pronounced where I live, but it’s there, like a tree or a fence. Yeah, it’s a fence. It was there before we typed everything. I can remember. In Miles’ first years, before I was ever on facebook or anything else. The change in what community means had already arrived and it was hard to find other mothers outside of awkward exchanges at ECFE or some other organized thing.
Then came social media, this dichotomy of so good and connected and distant at the same time. And to be honest, I love it while I don’t, you know? I mean, on my birthday I didn’t want anymore facebook messages after the first 50 or so and that’s not to say I don’t appreciate them or I think them totally insincere. It’s just that I wanted faces and voices and maybe even a hug. But my phone pinged with texts and not calls and that’s just the way it is now.
So mothers, many of us turn the lock on the door and sit down to turn on the computer because this is the only place, truly, for many of us to find each other. To find friends that click and hum like we do–people who don’t hold back and so badly want to live next to us and share our every days. Mothers like-minded and not–because community doesn’t have to hold a bunch of clones, you know? It’s best at its most diverse and I don’t care if you mother exactly like I do, I just want to be in person and in acceptance. That’s utopian, I realize, and not, because it can happen. I’ve had it.
Online, it’s like we’re pretending at in-person community like our kids play house. That’s just the reality even though it can bring us very real friendship and I’m so grateful for the ones I’ve found here. It’s just that I still want the hippie commune my soul begs for. It might be unrealistic and idealistic and naive, but I still want it. I want to spend our days with other families and I want to pick up my friend’s baby when she’s crying and I want to make the lunch for everyone while my friend helps my boy in the bathroom. All of that feels like moments of quiet, to my heart. like when I used to work in a restaurant and everything behind the scenes was so chaotic but fluid and I was never alone but I felt peace in the midst of people who became family through all our hours.
The online thing, on the other hand, can be so loud–rapid fire updates as a means to connection–like a passing how are you in the store that isn’t meant–it can feel like that, even if it’s not intended that way. It can also feel like pressure because there are just so many people–it’s impossible, of course, but I wish I could know you all and I can’t so I feel not enough, like grasping to be enough in motherhood all by myself. I find me still wanting that though, in motherhood and here, because the chatter of pings and tweets goes quiet in the great big world of touch and see, out from behind a screen.
That’s who I am. In the rare moments of respite, I know her. I know she wants community. Messy, lively in-your-face community. And it makes me sad that it’s so rare and I’m a dichotomy too because it makes me really grateful that I can come to a blog space with other mothers while it also frustrates me that this is where we have to go, like there’s no other choice. I know that’s not true for everyone, but are you with me? Have you tried and not found your place in real life? With your kids? Does it feel like you’re hidden away, like a secret, like everyone is keeping some sort of secret that you don’t understand–one that keeps them afraid to let you in? It’s probably not you, like you may fear. It’s probably not that there’s something unappealing or wrong with you. It’s probably just the way the decades have turned. You are totally worth knowing and totally worth her time and her time and their time. It’s just that we’re all so distracted and busy and scared and forgetting that deep within, something is begging for the vulnerable, gritty, life-giving letting go of raw and real friendship within motherhood.
(If you have that where you are, do a happy dance of gratitude at least three times a day, okay?)
I say all of this because I love real community and I miss it so much. I wish I could bring it to life somehow and so I’m trying. I’ll keep trying no matter how this spinning world keeps changing because this motherhood gig? This humanity gig? It is all too much for loneliness mixed with status updates–it demands together.