25 Nov On Becoming
The other day, I was talking to my mother in law about creativity, and my infant daughter’s predisposition to creativity. Oh, my mother in law said, she’ll be artistic – her father is artistic and so are you. I laughed and said I wasn’t artistic, but I did consider myself creative. That’s true, my mother in law replied, you are creative – you’ve got your writing.
I keep thinking about this sentence; it has returned to me over the course of the week as I’m consoling Estelle’s cries, flowing through the still-unpredictable rhythm of her nursing and sleeping, changing the countless ubiquitous diapers. Being a writer has always been core to my self-identity, part of how I think of who I am, even though I rarely write anything for public or even personal consumption these days. I’m not sure how I am still a writer, in fact; writing is a craft, a slog, it requires dedication, time, effort. It is work that I simply, rarely do anymore. And, yet.
The best book I read this year was The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. It’s a slim volume that covers motherhood, Nelson’s relationship with her partner Harry, the function of words (although that’s not quite right). It’s a deeply philosophical book, and much of this was impenetrable to me. I find much philosophical discussion difficult to parse in isolation – I’d need to discuss it with others in order to make sense of my tentative conclusions. But The Argonauts resonated with me for many reasons, despite my amateur understanding of Wittgenstein and his ilk. Nelson’s journey through the fertility treatments to conceive their child. Her brutal honesty about motherhood, which returns to me now in these dawning days of Estelle’s life. Nelson’s relationship with Harry, who is transitioning from female to male (my own father transitioned several years ago; she is considerably more blasé – Understanding? Kind? – about this than I have been). And her exploration of writing, of words.
Which brings me back here, to this screen and this act. It’s 10am on a Saturday. Outside the neighbours are smoking, and swearing, and coughing, and then improbably, the words I love you float up through the frigid November air.
Motherhood has uprooted any sense of self I once had, and nothing grows in its place. My compass has lost true north and wavers through these days of sleeplessness and sadness and profound, fierce, animal joy.
And yet, I am becoming