I met a friend of mine, who was almost three years ahead of me on motherhood, one hot summer afternoon while she was visiting from out of town and I was about seven months pregnant. We met at a coffee shop and sat on a couch, she drank an iced mocha, I drank a cool herbal iced tea. She curled her legs under her and said with her arm waving across her body, “Any ambition I once had is cut out of me.” She was referring to her life post-baby. That afternoon, I could relate to what she was saying because during pregnancy, my writing life fell on the back burner. Being pregnant and feeling the little life growing inside of me was by far the greatest thing I’d ever been a part of creating. I don’t know if my energy was limited, or if my sister’s cancer journey during that same time diverted other stores of creativity I might have had, but I didn’t write very consistently or productively during pregnancy and, with all those great Relaxin hormones flowing inside of me, I didn’t even care. So, I related to what my friend had said and I thought perhaps my Ambitious Writer had finally been quelled.
I’ve never thought my Ambitious Writer was a helpful aspect of my persona. Many days she sulked over a rejection letter, or spent too many hours surfing the Internet oogling over writing acquaintances or famous people who were getting books published, or stories printed, or award accolades and she’d compare herself to them and again, she’d sulk and sometimes throw a hissy-fit. Since I’ve been sober, I’ve understood my Ambitious Writer aspect to be a founding-father (yes, she’s also a he) of my alcoholism, that her pushing and need to be discovered or published or somehow recognized and acknowledged was a sign of dis-ease within that needed recovery. So, when I was pregnant and my Ambitious Writer was finally somewhat dormant, I was serene about my writing career for the first time in many years. But, the serenity, I now know, was a drug-induced high created by hormones.
I’ve always believed that creation of any kind is not an act of my will. To paraphrase a concept originally floated by my sister, my will would sit on the couch watching Friends reruns and eating pistachios and chocolate, and enjoying a glass of wine or bottle of beer (for starters). So, when I’ve written anything at all resembling creativity, much less gotten to the end of that project, those were moments of my will actually getting out of the way and allowing the muse, whom I consider to be God’s will, to come through me. Those moments of creative production are often a link to my spiritual and higher power connection, for which I am most grateful. Plus, in the time I’ve been in recovery, I’ve had more moments of the muses working through me and less of my own will sitting on the couch and I’ve also been grateful for all of that. But still, when I was pregnant, I didn’t write much.
Well, now two years have passed since the baby has been born. These essays and those to come notwithstanding, I still don’t write very consistently; my concentration is shot and my focus is about as steady as a fly trying to get out a window. However, since becoming a mother, my Ambitious Writer has awakened from her peaceful slumber with a vengeance. Because my daughter is a girl and, yes, right or wrong, I still generally believe it’s harder for girls in this world to get recognition, I am determined to succeed in my dreams in order to be a role model for her. Or, I should say, my Ambitious Writer is determined to succeed and I don’t personally know if this need to succeed is healthy or not. Surely when I am actually writing, when my daughter is actually asleep like she is right now and the sunrise is coming up all striated in peaches and orange blossom lines, the feeling, like I feel right now, is euphoric and energetic and not totally caffeine induced, though I am also so happy that I get to drink my own good cup of coffee in peace. I am so happy writing in my room, old laundry-room mess that it is. Or, more accurately, my Ambitious Writer is so happy – she’s clearly one tough cookie to shake off.
But these moments of creation are pure; the happiness is the creative connection to the creative juices of all the universe, the feeling just like the happiness I felt most days of my pregnancy – I believe this feeling of creation is the same energy – the connection to the Great Creator that lives in all of us. And the creation is the pure part: I can’t worry right now about the end result, whether, when looking back in a day or two at what I’ve written, I find that my euphoric creative moment actually produced only a bunch of schlock. I’ll have to deal with that problem later.
And then, inevitably, I hear over the monitor little bumps or rustling blankets or changed breathing and my heart skips and a shot of dread runs through me. “Please don’t wake up,” I whisper, “just let me finish this thought, just let me get through this paragraph.”
What kind of mother am I that I pray my own child doesn’t wake? Just so I can selfishly have time to myself to feel this feeling of euphoria that goes with creating? The guilt is maddening. But at the same time, I think my Ambitious Writer is so active because of my daughter. Because she wants my daughter to reach for her own stars, whatever they may be (and God I pray she doesn’t want to be a writer – hopefully something with more job security, like a mechanic or a hair stylist). But I have to show her that one must work for her goals and make time to connect to the creative universe and take time away from the world to be in the world.