A month after Sophie was born, I made arrangements for her to stay home with Alex for an hour so that I could go someplace and write. I'll never forget how he looked holding her tiny, sleeping body as I closed the door: Scared to death. And because Sophie and I hadn't been away from each other longer than the length of time it took me to use the bathroom, I made skid marks in the driveway taking off.
By the time I got to the coffee shop, ordered my drink, sat down, and booted up my computer, I only had 45 minutes left to get back into a habit I had effectively abandoned for several months. So when the guy near me pointed to my laptop and asked, "Is that Windows or Linux you're running?" I said, "I have 45 minutes."
This is what happens with the anxiety and the sleep deprivation and the fear that you will mess everything up: You become a better steward of the things that are most important to you. Because in between the diapers, and the baths, and the feedings and the feedings and the feedings, all I could ask myself was: Will all the good stuff I used to love be there, waiting for me, when I'm me again?
Of course, now I know the good news. Yes, the best stuff--the stuff that fills me up and puts me in touch with who I really am--is still around. And the "bad news." I'll never be "me" again. As someone who has spent too much time trying to go back home, that so-called bad news has dogged me. I'm working on it; peeling back the layers of my identity, bemoaning each one, hoping it's the last I'll have to surrender. (Of course it never is.) Lately, I've been grieving the fact that I may never have an actual social life ever again. I know, it sounds silly, but as I watched youngsters gather for bloodies last Sunday, I wept like a pageant queen stripped of her title. I feared I may never drink my breakfast in this town again.
There is one bit of comfort in all of this, which is this: The things I've been forced to abandon during the course of motherhood were never that good for me in the first place. I may actually be a better, more deliberate person today, and wouldn't that be something? The things I still insist on doing are the really important things, because it's too exhausting, too much of a fight clinging to the things that don't. There's no glamour, no sex appeal in that philosophy, I know, but I'm counting on it. Because someday, Sophie's going to renege on her insistence that she and I to to college together, and here I'll be, with my laptop. With so much longer than 45 minutes on the clock.