So the thing you have to figure out is, how to begin in the middle.
To find the in medias res of your own life.
You have to begin in the middle of the day, or the night. In the middle of a sentence, or a thought, or an interrupted intention. You have to figure out how to continue to be who you are—who you were, multiplied by a factor of motherhood. You have to figure out how to pick things up where you left off, even if you dropped them a year ago, or two years ago. Or ten.
This skill—the slippery ability to begin where you meant to and not a day too soon or too late—is vital to a mother. Because, now and for maybe ever, you are an interrupted person. Interruptions can feel like a slap in the face, especially if they come from someone you love—even, illogically, your child, who has not yet learned to distinguish an emergency from a whim. Interruptions can feel like an implied insult—this, this random thought or need of mine, is intrinsically more valuable than anything you could possibly have been thinking or doing. But that is not what a child means—a child only means, HEY, I’m here. Do you care? So you have to tell him or her, gently and often, that you do. And to please go away for a minute. But only for a minute.
While writing this, trying to articulate it for myself on the page so that it will hold water with me, I have been interrupted to:
- Learn that my son would like to buy a new kind of milk the next time we go to the store
- Administer two kinds of antibiotics, one to each kid, and two kinds of allergy medicines, a different one to each kid
- Clean up the kitchen, so that my husband will have somewhere to set the groceries
- Brush two sets of teeth
- Make two guesses in an ongoing game of Battleship, and listen to a series of nonsensical guesses in return, all of which must be delivered in military codespeak (Golf 2, Foxtrot 5…)
- Assure my daughter that we will play hangman after we make sure she can spell salmon and chartreuse
- Search in vain for an Allen wrench, because I promised
And so it goes, until you wonder if you can possibly make a sentence that doesn’t implode from the pressure of its own impossibility.
But there, I did it.
And so can you. Find the continuity, I mean, the middle. Whether your middle is teaching or baking or accounting or painting or getting a Ph.D.
It helps if you have help.
Next to me, always, stands a man, interrupted. Sometimes he interrupts me, sometimes I interrupt him. Sometimes he saves me from interruption, as I save him.
Always, we begin. In the middle.
Because that’s the best part.