Tuesday, April 10

The Longest, Shortest Time

A while back I heard about this woman named Hilary Frank who was interviewing mothers about their first years as parents.  She even interviewed her own mother.  The podcasts are sometimes funny and familiar and heartbreaking and interesting.  It's called The Longest, Shortest Time.

I went running tonight (that's another post) and I listened to podcast #3 that I had downloaded a while back and not listened to.  It was in interview with Liesl Gibson who designs Oliver + S sewing patterns.  You should check her patterns out because they are adorable.  I wish I could sew, or had the money to pay someone to make these things for me.

It was interesting to listen to them talk about this sudden nothingness and everythingness that they felt.  They were doing nothing and everything and the result?  They were suddenly both overcome with the question of who they were.  Suddenly, not working and being home all day, chasing a small child, becoming preoccupied with what and whether they ate, or did or read... it made them reevaluate who they were as people.

Doesn't that seem completely ridiculous?  Hilary says at one point she became fixated on the idea and would discuss it with her husband, who would gently tell her that she had plenty of time to figure it all out, but she felt like it was an immediate need.

Really?  Isn't it ridiculous?

Once upon a time I was a graduate student.  I read fairy tales and Greek Mythology and Appalachian folktales with a voracity that seemed unquenchable.  I was someone who believed that story was the essence of love and connection and empathy.  I still believe those things, and I still want to sit and read stories all day long, but there is a part of me that has taken a step back and keeps asking, Who am I?

Who am I?  I spend my days trying to corral three small children.  I try to enrich their lives and their minds while keeping house and my sanity.  I am a referee, librarian, teacher, chef, tour guide and nurse.  I am the law and the love and the heart and the soul of their home.  Or at least that's what I do.

But who I am and what I do are not the same thing.

But what I don't do seems to have stripped me of who I am.

Leisl says, toward the end, that it eventually works itself out, and I think she's right.  I can already feel the fog clearing and the old self returning.  Or at least part of her.  This new part is familiar, too, but she is better.  Clearer and more sure of herself.  She isn't 16 and unsure and withdrawn.  She is 31 and experienced and soft in the right kinds of ways.


Laura Wilson said...

Someone asked me tonight if I'm "just going to stay home" after I finish this job and I could feel my identity getting shaky and defensive.

It is ridiculous! And yet so universal. Thanks for pointing that out. Really good post.

Chara said...

I think one reason why I am so glad to be teaching as an adjunct is that it sort of wards that sort of thing off. I'm hoping that by the time Sadie gets old enough to go to school, I'll be a little more sure of what I want to do with my time.
Maybe I'll write a book.

Jennifer Gerhardt said...

Chara, I felt the same way about adjuncting; it gave me a defining identity for that question, "What do you do?"--one that I thought said more about who I was than staying at home, which is such a very big category. I guess I worry that people won't understand who I am if I say I stay at home.
Now that I'm a writer, I'm not sure which is a more humbling thing to share--staying at home or writing--because both induce people to say the rudest of things.

t sanders said...

Chara, we're 32 dear.

Chara said...

Hmmm... that's embarrassing.