Untidy Emotions: The Woman Who is Mother/Writer


I know of nothing more demanding, more lonely, more empowering, more rewarding than writing, and I would not trade it for all the wealth of the world.

I know of nothing more demanding, more empowering, more magical, more selfless than mothering, and I would not trade it for all the oceans and skies of the world.

Writing is messy work. Parenthood is thorny business, even when you have adult children that you are happy to see on their own –doing well.

They come to visit and the cord you thought was cut and burned at the ends starts to unravel, alive, and the desire to protect and care for rear its ugly head and knot you up inside and outside – emotions spilling everywhere like the brilliance of Flamboyant in bloom, petals spilling layering the ground – the tears you swallow.

There are a few things I have always been sure that I want: to be recognized as a writer of substance and to be a good mother.

In graduate school, a professor who saw my potential said these desires were in direct conflict and suggested that I focus on the former as that was far more rewarding – of course he was a man with a wife who took care of his children and made sure he had both the space and time to write and research without interruption. When he saw me pregnant with my second child he lamented,

“Opal, you had so much promise,” shook his head and refused to help me thereafter, so convinced that I had throw away a brilliant career.

Twenty-six years later, three children, all of whom are successful in their own right, and sixteen published books, I think about the professor now dead. The promise still exists and continues, I chide his ghost.

If I had to do it over I would still write and mother or mother and write –so much for hindsight.

I cannot imagine what could fill the space in my life my children occupy. I don’t know how I could have learnt or become the person I am today without them – the knowing of unconditional love, unmitigated joy, and self-discovery. My children are never not present in my mind; they are always next to my heart, beating, thriving, warming me alive. They have and still take precedence over my characters, over every thing else in my life.

I cannot envision what could fill the space in my life my writing demands. I know I could not have learnt the things I have without the characters and poems that forced me to be silent and observe, and walk in someone else’s shoe.

Perhaps age is creeping up on me more quickly than I am willing to accept why seeing and being with my children, and then watching them leave to return to their own life, feels akin to almost drowning or maybe more like sinking into quicksand, your eyes not yet covered so you recognize the help that is coming to rescue you, and you silently implore the rescue team to come with more speed. How does one rescue the heart? There is no rescue.

These are not emotions I mange well. But how does one handle love, keep it tidy from slipping and staining you. Indelibly.

I am a mother who writers. I am a writer who mothers. I am who I am because of both, and I will carry the weight of desire and love eternally.

Thank you my children for helping to continue to grow me. Thank you words for helping me to express how love and writing and mothering and writing are intertwined.


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