Writing is a double-edged sword. If you write for validation you may not get it, or worse still, you may get it from the wrong people.
I procrastinate, double-bind myself, hesitate, and then … Well you know what they say about he who hesitates don’t you?
So here goes.
A long time ago, on Mother’s Day in fact, I wrote a piece called How to break your own heart about my experience of mothering my first child. It was, in other’s words, “a powerful, raw piece of writing”. It formed part of a book of essays, written by other mothers, on how mothering was not all baking cupcakes and lego but was often painful, antagonistic, frustrating and actively dreadful at times.
I agreed to it being published with my own name. I regret this more than anything I have ever done in my life before or since, because when my daughter read it, it put the final nail in the coffin of our relationship which had been difficult for many years. In my hubris and pride at being ‘published’, at finding a voice after so many years of silence, at having people pat me on the back for visceral writing, I neglected to think about how she would feel if she read it. I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it, I got no further than receiving a copy and putting it on my shelf.
I didn’t learn my lesson though. After leaving my husband I set up this blog and the associated twitter account. I continued to write about how I felt, joined erotic memes, was part of a community of people writing around kink, sex and eroticism. Took pictures of myself and posted them online.
When you are part of this kind of community you can forget how shocking much of what we write and post here is to those who are not. I thought my anonymity here made it safe to write freely, and the fact that I was only posting within a fairly small community meant that I didn’t think about how my other children might feel if they knew about this.
As many of you know I was outed to my sons, by, I believe, my ex who had already spread many lurid stories of me around our small town to mutual friends. He and my daughter, who had ironically never got on, were united in their view of me as a depraved sex addict who wasn’t safe around children. As a result I have no contact with my grandchildren.
My relationships with all of my children have been damaged by my writing. and I don’t really know what to do with this knowledge. When I think about my father who died four years ago next month I remember realising after his death that I so wanted him to be noble in the face of suffering, to be able to raise himself above his fear, grief and loss so that I could retain my childhood impression of him even unto death. Instead I had to sit with him as he raged, was unkind to his carers, threatened to cut us all out of his will and refused to face the reality of my mum’s illness. I hated seeing him that way. I was angry and disappointed that he couldn’t live up to my ideals, that my fantasy father was replaced by a man who died as he lived, ascerbic, bullying when he was frustrated, and certain that he knew best in all things.
I missed the opportunity to support him in those dark days because I didn’t have the fortitude to withstand it with grace. Instead, I raged and bullied at times, certain that I was right and quite unable to face his vulnerability with anything but gritted teeth and impatience.
I have been a mother for 40 years now. Perhaps my, now adult, children will be able to extend me more grace than I could my own father. However there seems to be desire in all of us to continue the sense of our parents being primarily that, even if their parenting has brought us pain and suffering. The idea that, particularly our mothers, might have been able to enjoy a full life without us in it seems to threaten our own validity at a very primal level. Having our own children can give rise to the almost universal fantasy that we will or can do a better job of it than they did.
And that is where this writing is taking me to today. I tried to do a better job of it, I don’t think I did. I did do the best I could though, and now I think they did to. I somehow need to find a way to accept that I am no more noble than my father was.
Having a voice seems to me a source of pleasure and pain. Perhaps it is always going to be so, but in the 20 odd years that I might anticipate having ahead of me I need to continue to write, whether or not it meets the approval of others.