For Future Generations.

Sometimes I get in a funk after watching MadMen. Tonight, for example, I can't see out of the continuous circle that we're all in, the waking and the working and the resting. I saw a new city this weekend - a great experience - but now in the faded light of Monday evening it feels like it went exactly as it could have.

I saw a city. I learned its history. I had conversations with my mom that only I might have, ones in which I asked her which kid was easiest to raise and what was hardest about raising us and did she want to get ice cream?

It's hard living when you don't know who you are, I will give you that. But it's also hard living when you know exactly who you are and exactly how you'll react in a given situation and that the entire furl of your timeline feels predestined beyond your control.

I'll grow old and I'll write about it and there will be surprises and truths that I discover. And I'll do it all over and over, in a repetitive circle, the circle of life.

Sometimes I think the only truly original things I will make in this life will be my children. And while I know that I'll crave predictability and routine in raising them, there is something so effing beautiful about them being their own beings, their own tiny tops spinning and weaving and constantly making decisions that aren't my own.

They will be themselves, free of my intention.


I visited Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Illinois this weekend. What a prick he was, huh? Leaves his kids, multiple wives, no responsibility to anyone but to the beauty of his work. And I was standing there outside the gorgeous facade of the first house that he built at the ripe old age of 21, and I thought "well thank god. Thank god someone gave up family life and the expectations everyone had for him in order to ARCHITECT the hell out of American homes." 

Because the truth is that I don't know if we can have it all. I don't know if we can be Oprah and raise a family. I don't know if we can have the kind of written success as Liz Gilbert and spend our nights for many, many years soothing tears and feeding little ones. I doubt it, all of it. When we make a choice to become parents, we give up something - most notably the selfish time needed to explore and invent the heck out of a given field. 

So what of the mothers? And the fathers? Are we destined to live joyfully with our family picnics, buying graduation balloons and stuffing stockings? (Because you know as much as it's tempting to say that it's the dead-end choice, there sure are a hundred thousand joys that come with raising a family... of that, I am sure). But does it mean that you willingly pull a glass ceiling down on top of your non-familial ambitions? 

Maybe it doesn't matter if the ceiling has a skylight and is made of stained glass and if there's a window up there you can open from time to time, just to poke your head out and take a deep breath of fresh air.

A few months ago Chris and I talked about the possibility of private space shuttles going to Mars. We discussed who would volunteer to go up in a space shuttle that would never come home, all in the name of science. Chris was adamant that he would go in a millisecond and I like to imagine myself down here on the earth soil, thankyouverymuchgoodluckBuzzAldrin.

Surely that will be someone's contribution to society. But what of mine? A friend asked me a few years ago what I most wanted to accomplish in my life. I answered that I wanted to raise a few well-adjusted members of society. And that is true! It's on my Life List and I'm 21 weeks into growing the first member of that project. 

But am I going to write a book? Am I ever going to write a freaking book? Am I ever going to man up and write the damn words on the page and LEAVE a part of myself in a library for the rest of time? Today was the launch of NIFW Summer Camp; I'm coaching seven people right now through their creative projects and there is a tiny voice in the back of my head that says "how dare you coach others through something you haven't mastered yourself?"

I don't know how I dare. I guess it's because I like people and I understand what it's like to wrestle with creative work, back and forth, the motivation and the dead ends, the way you never know if you're headed in the right direction. What a gift to give someone six weeks of direction, six weeks to feel safe in their creativity rather than threatened by it. 

Last night I dreamed of saving friends and family members from themselves. Everyone was sad and they confessed what they were afraid of to me. Even my dad cried. Everyone admitted what felt like deep, deep truths and I helped them all. I listened and let them talk; I comforted them even though some of the truths scared me. 

And then I woke up with had horrible ligament pain. I massaged my hip and rested all day. I held Tiny in the crook of my pelvis and let him kick around in there, a tiny alien exploring terrain that has never been home to anyone else before, my little space explorer on a one-way trip to this world. 

1 comment:

Tim Meaney said...

A few cents: raising a few well adjusted members of society is no doubt high calling, and writing a book would be cool, too. But don't undervalue the impact you (both the universal "you" and specifically you, Jen) leave on those you meet and talk to and befriend and work with and study with.

Attitude and approach to life are great gifts that you give other people, be they your kids or otherwise.