Thursday, November 20, 2014
Posted by Maggie May
looking back, can you say what you needed and what you did not, what you could have learned with a little less learning, what you already knew but wouldn't admit? i cannot, not yet. not with any certainty.
forty years old this november tenth. i became a true grown up in my own mind, the age of forty is the land of adults for me, the age i heard as a child that embodied the all responsible, bedrock of spirit and mind embracing of human experience that i imagined true adults achieved. and now i am the mother of four children, wife to one, a published writer, working poor by accident- two of them- and by choice, a la stay at home mother to babies for many of the last 20 years- a woman who had a baby out of wedlock not once but twice, and yet i can say that my life has been lived as true to my values as i could bend my body and break my bones to fit those shapes after a childhood locked into fear. perhaps i was born afraid or made that way by a father who to me was and always will be the epitome of male control, power and manipulation, from his deep and enormously muscular voice to his mustache and irritability, the same irritability which scraped itself raw on his own skin until became anger, until became rage. how can one turn forty and not think of your parents? those people who were are you now. i shouldn't like the easy slide of that- it's not true, of course, in many ways- but in a structural way, the way we all are skin and bones and slide into consciousness on the firing of synapses, it is true. our parents were the adults. now we are the adults. this is forty for me.
in the show True Detectives, a murderer and cult follower is caught by Rust and Marty. Locked in handcuffs and on his knees, naked chest needled with tattoos, he mutters about time being a flat disk that repeats. Rust skulks that life is simply a nightmare we wake into over and over again, that yes, we reincarnate, but damn, into the same life. these thoughts have been companions of mine since i can remember, the wondering of how slippery time feels and yet how anchored, as if we are both pinned beneath it and all around it and inside it at the same time. sex feels this way, anchoring, grounding deeply in the body, and yet completely escapist, beyond the flesh and the concrete, out there into the something we all reach for when afraid or lonely. i am here, but where is that?
in this last year i have been encroached on by new realizations about myself, most unwanted. the constant strain of personal stressors have worsened and stripped much of the bounciness out of my step, and part of me fears the forties as a time of possible tar pits and fossilizing. i do not want to become the culmination of my worst habits while accepting them as foregone conclusions about myself. my teen years were about escape and survival. my twenties were about freedom and motherhood. my thirties were about devotion and family. my forties, i sense, will be full force motherhood and writing, sparring friendly like at times, keen enemies at others. although many writers who are mothers talk about finding a balance, i have none- none that lasts, i should elucidate. like parenting a baby- as soon as you understand one stage, they're on to another. my children come first. i will and would never sacrifice being the kind of mother and creating the kind of family i feel morally and spiritually drawn to doing for a great work of art. in fact, i know my novel that i am completing now is not the novel it could have been with more time, great hot gulps of time like coffee. every writer has a different process, and my best work has always, even in my twenties, demanding large spaces of time. i have a delayed response in writing, like a feinting orgasm that just won't quite make it. when it comes, though…
the day i turned forty i felt exactly the same as i had the day before. and perhaps that is really the most important point of note regarding the entire birthday.