Nobody and Somebody.

For me, being a mother is becoming nobody and somebody at the same time.  Sometimes I step back from my life and see myself pushing Remy on a swing in a quiet courtyard.  In that moment, I simultaneously fill both roles.  I am insignificant in a lot of ways, but I am somebody to Remy.  More of a somebody than I've ever been for anyone.  The further I step back and watch the two of us, squinting a little in the sun, wondering what we will make for dinner, the more I realize that in the world, I am nobody.  I'm not nobody in a sad way, it's just the truth, and it is the truth for so many good folks. Perhaps this internal questioning is aggrandized partly because we reside on one of the most prestigious college campuses in the country and almost daily I find need to proffer up what I do, most often to myself, but sometimes to others as well.

A handful of people know what I do in a day, and only a couple of people know what I will ending up making for dinner, one of whom will most likely throw part of it on the floor.  In so many ways lately, I am stepping back and becoming a nobody in the world. This is both heartbreaking and wonderful to me.  I am charting waters I never thought I would sail.  I am navigating my understanding of my own importance in new ways.

I honestly spent a good part of my life believing that by the time I was thirty, I would be famous, or at least a little bit famous.  I thought I would have had dozens of art shows in big galleries and poems published in top journals.  I thought  I would be teaching at a university and living on fellowships.  Those things haven't happened in such big ways yet.  I haven't ruled them out, and I'm not discontent with the things I have done, but I am slowly taking steps back because I am working on becoming somebody in another world. I believe we all have people that need us to be somebody for them.

In this other world, the one in which I am a mom, I do many, many things that don't matter to anyone else except the person I do them for.  To Remy, and to Carl, I am somebody, and every day I am becoming more of a somebody to them.  I don't believe that following dreams/careers and being a mother are mutually exclusive.  I plan on integrating my worlds, but for now I can't be a somebody in both worlds.  I don't know how.

I sat down to draw today.  I laid out a piece of brown Neddegen paper on the floor, which is crisp, fibrous and perfect for thin lines.  I drew a little boy with blonde, wild hair in striped pajamas.  He was kneeling down and his hands were full of trinkets.  Then I heard Remy wake up from his nap, and drawing time ended.  Remy came downstairs and after gobbling a slice of honeydew, picked up my pencil with sticky hands and drew big wide circles on my paper.  Later, when I looked closer at what he'd done, I noticed that he had carefully drawn tiny, looping lines directly around and on top of my own little drawing of a boy.  It was as if he were trying to follow my hand, as if he knew his mother had been there working.  The world will never see that drawing because it is crumply, and sticky and drawn over.  But here I am, learning to be joyous in being the best nobody and the kindest somebody I know how to be.


Krysta said...

You know just how to say things. I find myself in a very similar situation. My nobody is often tied to my husband and his interests so who am I, really? Goodness did our mothers ever feel this way? But I guess it does afford us many opportunities to pursue knowledge and continually push ourselves.

Miss K$ said...

I've thought alot about this before and even expressed the same sentiments, BUT about being single. I was trying to tell some in my life how being single often makes you a nobody. When one doesn’t have a family, they often feel treated as if they aren’t contributing to society in a the subtle, silent, expected way of all ‘respectable’ adults. Esp. as a Mormon, if you are single you aren’t expected to contribute the same way and one often aren't valued as a whole until you've fulfilled the status of wife and mother. I’m rarely asked to even bring a side dish to a potluck.

My sister in law (who is a mom) reminded me that she feels the same way. Does great things but they are all thankless jobs, goes unnoticed, and feels undervalued.

Maybe this is who we are as women more than who we are at stages in our lives. We give because we love no patter the payback. We go unnoticed not because we wouldn't like the praise, but because the praise doesn't change what we are willing to give. We feel undervalued maybe simply because we secretly recognize how impactful our contribution is to the world and our little somebodies.

I sometimes wonder if the solution to this for me is becoming a better personal cheerleader. Feeling like I need to do something wonderful to merit global approval is a tricky lie. While, I'd like nothing better than to be told I really did it ALL, I think I really just need to settle down and let myself be happy doing what I do.

Rachel Hunt said...

This is beautiful, of course. And Christlike, who was the ultimate nobody and somebody.

I have really loved reading your thoughts about creating your own little world, now with Carl and Remy. Thank you.

Shelly said...

I love this so much. And, I love Remy!

Brooke said...

I feel trite saying this brought tears to my eyes, but.... So sweet Ash. Thank you for being so honest and so dear to me.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

What beautiful thoughts. The phrase that flows thorugh my mind over and over and over again is my own version of what the savior taught, "she who looses her life will find it." Sometimes I think we have to loose ourselves, what WE want and what We think we should have, before we can find it. I am loving your blog.

Lauren Swainston said...

I agree with rachel hunt, exactly. You are somebody to me, and such a curator of beauty and truth.