I want to explain just a bit about what I am learning and it may sound like a bunch of gobbledy-gook so stay with me if you can.
The short answer is that somewhere in the quest to have children I lost a bit of myself. Or, perhaps it was that who I was and who I became changed. I don't have that part figured out. What I know is that there is, for me, a clear "before" and "after" Lisa. Before, I was a teacher. Before, I was a speech coach. Before, I got my master's degree and managed a home all during Big Man's medical school and residency. After, there were babies and no paying jobs for me and a crazy new physician's schedule and no friends or outlets. After, there was no map for my new life.
Having a child was always a given. It seemed like it was something that should just be and it wasn't. It was difficult and brutal to my tender heart. Yet we persisted and we have two children.
With that one sentence I can write off seven excruciating years. Having children was a dream except it wasn't. This is another sentence which can write off being home for ten years in world I did not understand.
That's what people want. A short summary.
So I never wrote about trying to have kids and have really struggled to make sense of time with kids. At the first writing conference I attended, what came up and out astonished me though it shouldn't have. And since that time, my life has taken some other dramatic turns and I have taken to the page in order to make sense of them, but still there is always a bit I hold back. It's self-preservation. It's the fact that if you really get down and dirty with your words people will see what a freak you are, they will look away from such brutal honesty and whisper, "Oh for God's sake. Get over it. Move on. Look on the bright side."
And that's the thing. That is just not me. I am not pessimistic, but I can't lie about how I feel. When I am fearing people won't take what I have to say graciously, I shut down.
So did anyone really want to know how awful I felt day in and day out in the quest to conceive? Not really. And after all that, would anyone really want to hear that I found motherhood (at times) boring, infuriating, lackluster, and soul-sucking? Hell no, you ungrateful wench! All anyone wants, mostly, is a happy ending.
This job search and wait is the same way. All people really want to hear is that the job is there, Big Man is working or will be soon. Six months! That's nothing! See? It all worked out! Except it's not like that. It has not been easy. In fact, it's been quite hard.
And how all this fits into what I learned this past week in my writing conference is that how I see all of these things, how I have walked with them and lived with them and struggled to interpret them is part of what makes me a writer. Dorothy Allison called my classmates baby writers. I feel now, almost a year later, that I am entering tweendom, which means I still care a whole lot about how others will perceive me.
I can feel myself letting some of that go, and this shedding is hard. This saying good-bye to a "before" Lisa will not ruin me, but there will be claw marks. (I knew I loved David Foster Wallace for a reason!)
All of this is to say: What I am learning from other writers about the act of and craft of writing is that we do it to understand ourselves and the world around us and our relationships with all of these things. If I call myself a writer and I haven't written about the things that have shaped me, especially the hard stuff, I am not doing my job.
My creative nonfiction workshop teacher, Rebecca Brown, put it this way-- nothing happens unless you take yourself seriously. You must do the work because there is no other option and the work is serious because it is you.
Call me a slow learner.
Rebecca also reminded us that our journeys as writers are our own. Doesn't matter how or why or when or where. The important part is to take it.
I hesitated to write about any of this because what I don't want people to see is that I came back from a conference all inspired because what is really going on is that I am getting who I am. I am getting that the way I see things and think about things is me being a writer which is me being me. I work really hard to deny this sometimes, and I don't know why.
But I will.