Mother's Day

To Become a Stronger Storyteller, Don't Write. Explore.

Just for today: don't write. Go explore. #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudySometimes the best way to strengthen your storytelling and feed your writing practice is to take a time away from the page. When my husband asks me what I want for Mother's Day, "time to myself" is always near the top of the list. I was looking forward to an hour with my journal to write and mourn my mom and follow a thought from beginning to end without having to play referee or ask anyone if they needed to use the potty.

But then, as he started to pack everyone in the car, it became clear that I needed to savor an even rarer pleasure - time alone with my older daughter.

As a rule, she asks for more of my focused attention than I could ever provide. Today, however, as we explored the acres of awakening woods behind our house, just the two of us, we met unfathomable abundance. Amidst the unfurling ferns, the scattering of wild strawberries, and the countless fairy dens, I could give her all she asked for and more.

Was it the magic of the date on the calendar, when the ubiquitous celebration of mother love made me a better mama than usual? Can I think Nature's May display of infinite enoughness? Was it simply that my relationship with my daughter makes sense when we have time and space enough to hold it?

On Sundays, the #365StrongStories project is devoted to offering up a writing prompt. This week, I invite you to take part in a BEING prompt.

Go out and explore. Break a writing date with yourself and wander with eyes wide open. Say "yes" and spread your arms wide to the unexpected. When it's time, come back to the pen or keyboard and start something new.

This Is Why We Write: a Mother, a Prayer, and an Answer

This Why We Write- A Mother, a Prayer, and an Answer. #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyWhy write? Because sometimes you give yourself the gift of scribbling down a fervent prayer.  And then, years later you get to read it from the other side when you're living an answer.

Six years ago, I used to pour my earnest, new mother's heart into a blog called The Girl Who Cried Epiphany. (Heavens! I was a babe in the blogging woods - I use "one" like the academic I used to be!)

On this Mother's Day Eve, I discovered what was essentially a journal entry. I wrote the post as I looked at my newborn and worried over what would happen at the other end of my maternity leave. 

Prayer is a word I have and flirted with and danced around and fled from.  I used to worry about the term’s religious baggage.  Also, I have worried that I did not know how to do it properly.

Now, I know that no tradition has a monopoly on prayer and I am aligning myself with Spirit, not with a specific tradition when I talk about the practice.  As for concerns about whether I am doing it right, well, I want to say I really don’t have time for that stuff any more.

Motherhood makes you appreciate each activity a little more because you have less time to spend on everything. Every breath in downward dog is deeper because you don’t know when a wail from the next room will pull you from the mat.  Every chance you get to type with two hands because baby is sweetly sleeping in her sling is to be treasured and exploited fully.  Even though a huge part of me is dedicated to simply experiencing Moira each day, the other side of that equation means that efficiency is more important than ever.  This applies even to talking Goddess or God, or whatever I am calling the Divine on a given day.

Like I said, I do not have time to worry about whether I am crafting perfect prayers, I just have to unleash my soul’s dialog and hope the ideas organize themselves.

And yet, I am left to wonder, how literal is Spirit?  What matters more, the intention of one’s petition or the way one words the prayer, the way one might craft them into mantra?

My deepest prayers as I look into my baby girl’s great blue eyes are that we may find a way for me to stay home with her full time. I always knew I didn’t want to be a working mom, but I thought that was because it would be too draining to do both and because I never liked my job that much.  Never could I have imagined the all consuming love that would make being with my daughter a need not a simple desire.

And so I have found my days and nights filled with a constant refrain: “Please, please, please let me stay home with my baby.”

But then, I wonder about how true “be careful what you wish for” really is. What if the Universe decides to answer my most fervent prayers through a lay off?  You see, it’s economics that is keeping me at work. Not only do I need the courage to leave the security of my job, but I also need to find another source of income to make staying home the idyllic portrait of mother and child that I dream of.

And so, here I write, six and a half years later, a second child born and weaned, several lean seasons survived, a business built and growing.

I'm left to marvel that I did find the courage to leave that job and to feel sick at the "how." Then, I didn't know anything much beyond the mystery of prayers and their answers.  Turns out, it wasn't a lay off but my mother's unexpected death a few months after my daughter's birth that broke my heart even as it allowed me my heart's desire. 

But You're a Great Mom!

But You're a Great Mom. #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyAs Mother's Day weekend approaches (ever bittersweet for a motherless mom), I'm looking back on what I've written on the subject of motherhood. This was drafted in 2014 when my second daughter was an infant and I felt like my business had been chucked in the diaper pail. But you're a great mom!

I hear these words like a curse.

Not all the time, certainly, but these words can diminish and dismiss even as they are are intended to applaud and support.

Like many women of my generation, I was raised to be anything I could imagine. Top of the class and pick of the litter... there were no obvious limits placed upon the ambitions of hard-working, middle class smart girls who came of age at the turn of this century.

In the rush to get the best grades and apply to the best schools, there was no whisper of motherhood. Our mothers may have been our role models, but being a mom was never really the goal. There were too many other things to prepare for.

And now that I find myself in the midst of motherhood, I  feel wildly underprepared.

I know I couldn't have prepped for the love or the exhaustion. But I was also unready for the way that all those past priorities would slip away and "be your best mama self" would be the most important thing.

Not my ability to write or speak or make an income. (Though, paradoxically, those things are still vital since being "just mom" isn't a choice due to the economics of 2014.)

In the original version, I tied everything up in a nice little bow and talked about how great it was to "just" be mom for a while. Considering the fact that I still struggle with all of my roles, I know my pat ending was wishful thinking at the time, not an actual resolution. 

These days, no one says "but you're a great mom!" to me to soothe my worries that I'm not doing enough or accomplishing enough. That has nothing to do with how much I'm publishing or the new way I'm teaching about story. It has everything to do with the fact that I am no longer seeking that kind of validation. Amazing how time and sleep and writing into the beautiful pain of motherhood can restore lost confidence and begin to heal the wound of "I'm not enough."

But do think twice about telling a mother to look on the bright side of motherhood when she's telling you she's lost sight of her career, her creativity, and herself in the midst of all the mommying. Listen to what she really needs from you and support the woman, not just the role she's playing.