artist, artist life, authenticity, award, baby, beauty, better luck next time, bottle, breastfeeding, cash prize, change coure, choice, class, commitment, family, life, memoir, mother, nonfiction, opportunity, prayer, professor, rejection, rejection letter, rejection letters, schedule, stories, storyteller, time, validation, woman, workshop, writing
I did not get into the writing workshop, after all. For the past few Wednesday’s Bloom posts, I have been exploring my conflicted feelings about pumping breastmilk and introducing the bottle to the munchkin. This particular anxiety was heightened by the idea that if I made it into the weekly, 2-hour class, it would be a good idea to have a back-up bottle with which my partner could feed the baby, (They’d ideally be just down the hall in a lounge area, or very close by so that I could have nursed him right before class and he’d likely go to sleep. But, just in case, the bottle would be ready.)
I agonized over this one decision. Half an hour before opening the email from the professor telling me and the other 62 people to stay encouraged with our writing and apply next semester, my mother was getting on me for not having been pumping or practicing the bottle. How, she questioned, did I expect the munchkin to just adjust to bottle feeding in three days time (when the class would start), in a public, unfamiliar space.
The truth, I didn’t expect him to. I was prepared to step out of class for the first week or so if I needed to until we got more comfortable with the bottle. But it wasn’t just the bottle I was worried about. It was also the uncertainty of what the space would be like where they would have to wait for me. The hectic commute to get all of us there during rush hour. The complications the class’ schedule posed in our dinner and sleep plans for the day. Figuring out how I would print out the homework every week. Would I go to a print shop, the library, my mother’s house? Buy a printer? And the list of things that had no easy answers grew and grew. Still though, I wanted to do the class. I wanted to see how my stories could evolve. I thought, my fears about embracing the bottle aside, this would be an awesome thing for me.
And, I also just thought for sure I’d get in. I really, really did not factor being unselected. This is why my fretting over having to pump and introduce the bottle was so intense. I was certain we’d be wrapped up in this new bottle rhythm too soon and I’d just have to try my best to focus in the class when really I’d be listening out for a howling munchkin to pull me back into my mothering.
When I stayed up until 3 AM putting my application together, checking repeatedly for typos, printing and reprinting my work sample (which just happens to be the most viewed post on this entire blog), and read and reread everything a thousand times before addressing the envelope which would later become certified mail, I made a promise to myself. I told myself that no matter the outcome, I would still devote this year to writing a memoir about my journey to and through mothering. I have a title picked out and everything. I use the weekly Wednesday’s Bloom series to sift through potential stories that I want to elaborate on in the book. Making this commitment to myself was the most important part of the application process. I knew that by applying to this creative nonfiction writing class, I was officially acknowledging that it was time to tell my story.
My mother is standing next to me with the munchkin in her arms when I check my phone and see the professor has sent the announcement. I tell her I didn’t get in, and she takes the phone to read it herself. She doesn’t skip a beat while cooing at the munchkin and telling me everything worked out. She says this is actually for the better because I wasn’t ready to give him the bottle anyway. “Such a nice letter,” she comments while passing the phone to my father so that he too can read it. He wants to know who didn’t let me in to what program. The munchkin grins through the chatter, his cheeks and fingers shiny with drool. Looking at him, I do feel a deep sense of relief that we have more time to practice the bottle, that nothing has to be rushed. That I don’t have to juggle him starting a bottle and being away from him and being away from him in a public space that is completely unknown to us.
I reflect on how different this news about the class is compared to when I was tired, hungry and six months pregnant in a crowded awards ceremony only to find out my short story was not the winning entry (read: did not take home the large, cash prize). I was salty because in all the years past, even the second and third place winners got money. Unlike other years, I had not even tried to be first place; I just wanted to place and get something. Any cash infusion would have been a big help. In fact, I had already spent that money in my head, and was basically coming to the awards ceremony to “pick up my check.”
Imagine my dismay when I learned there was only one cash award per category. The f*ck! I remember thinking. I was so over it. I didn’t even stay for the fancy hor d’oeuvres. Money they coulda used to give me a prize instead. In hindsight, I was so unhappy because my effort through the whole process had been half-assed. Sure, the story I had written was deeply thought out and was about characters I had been developing for over a year, but I hadn’t yet made a true commitment to my writing or becoming a storyteller. I hadn’t been writing every week, or even reading over works in progress. I was sitting on so many things, afraid of what kind of trouble (mainly being judged by others who would not take the time to look at the whole picture, or who simply would not give a damn), that my words would get me into.
I didn’t realize the connection then, but a few weeks after the failed awards event, I began this blog, Be(come)ing Binahkaye. Just before third trimester, I felt this strong urgency to write, to expand the Embodied Character project, to write about my family, traveling, the pregnancies, everything. I didn’t know where it was going or what it was for, but I just needed to dive in.
I think the other reason I feel so peaceful about not making it into the workshop is because I didn’t need the class to validate my process or anything else. When I was pregnant, I needed that money. And that desperation soured my efforts, and my attitude. But this is a new season. I’ve been doing the work because it’s for me to do. I truly believe it’s creating space for me to do more good in this world. Every Wednesday I am really praying with each word as it falls into place, forming each sentence, each paragraph. My family holds the space with me as I do nothing but breastfeed and type, sometimes for the whole day. The work is the prayer, and so I make sure to do it, always.
When I’m writing, I am praying that some mother somewhere feels just a little better about herself and the important work she is doing in the world, however imperfect the moment may be. I am praying that some woman somewhere who has yet to have a child but wants to be on that journey is being just a little bit gentler with herself, and her womb, whatever’s happened there, about the uncomfortable spaces we discover when be(come)ing active in the mothering. I am praying that the artist out there feeling a little less than wonderful about the worthiness of their craft gives themselves another chance to dream. I am praying that someone, anyone, feels that much more invited to also take up space in the world just being their authentic and beautiful selves.
This rejection doesn’t even feel like a rejection from the inside of this mothering. It’s more like a confirmation that I’m spending my energy in the best possible way. Be(come)ing a mother has sharpened my awareness about how I share my time. Moments away from my son must be extremely valuable, must enhance our family process, or open me up to some new and vital part of myself. It’s a blessing to have such clarity at least part of the time. On the flip side of not getting into that writing class, I found my way into an online course, Storytelling for Change (it’s free and open to the world, check it out). I’m on a team with dynamic mother-artist-women, learning all about skills and tools that will help me become a better storyteller, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
The irony is that participating in that writing class would have meant dismissing some part of my process as a mother, expediting a stage of separation we’re just not ready for. So basically, the rejection letter saved me from rejecting myself. It’s quite synchronistic that a few hours after getting that notice, I am having fun completing my first homework assignment in the comfort of our space, with the munchkin falling in and out of my lap, babbling happily to himself, his toys on top of everything. This is just how we need to learn right now. Together.