Happy Mother's Day everyone! I got a Mother's Day miracle myself with Peanut, after waking up at 7:30, actually returning to bed upon my supplication and sleeping until 10! I'm not sure that's ever happened.
I'm also in a fantastic place right now in terms of almost everything. The big thing I'm missing right now is time for myself and my writing. The longing I feel for that time is physical, rooted in the deepest part of me.
So I'm giving myself this Mother's Day gift by squeezing in a post when I should otherwise be working, because I am currently having to work during every spare moment. I realize I should be grateful to have so much work. And I am. I really, truly am. But I can't help also wishing I could devote a bit more time to my passions.
I started celebrating my fortieth birthday two months early and this year is turning out to feel like a turning point in many ways. I left the once-a-week tour leader job I've had every high season for the past five years, ever since Peanut was a baby and I pumped my milk at 6:30 in the morning before setting out for the intense 13-hour days, not including commute. A lot of things led me to give up that job, which I did love in many ways, including looking around at my spry, mainly 20-something colleagues and thinking: I am too old for this.
I am incredibly proud of having carried my family through a really rough period, including two and a half years living with my mother-in-law. Now that things are marginally better, I decided to throw caution to the wind and let go of this dependable money. It turned out to be the right thing to do, because in the meantime my translation work has increased significantly. The next step, which I really hope will come over the next year, is to bring my side jobs down to a bare minimum so I can focus more on my writing, especially now that I've found what truly drives me. After forty years on this planet, I feel like I've finally figured out the creative/intellectual place where I belong. I happened to get a peek of it a couple weeks ago.
At the end of April I presented a paper at the annual MIRCI (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement) conference, which took place in the Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Rome and was entitled Maternal Subjectivities: Psychology/Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture and the Arts. I am still reeling from the experience. It was the stuff that dozens of blog posts are made of. Certainly I'd love to tell you about the talk I gave on Maternal Ambivalence in Contemporary Italian film, which I'm going to rework for publication with Demeter Press. And then the incredible Casa delle Donne in Rome. What an amazing place. A 17th century convent to which they used to condemn disgraced girls that was occupied by the feminists in the early 1980s. Pretty bad ass.
I saw something like 24 presentations over two days and found every single one interesting. My notebook is filled with things to follow up on. So many Mother Art Monday ideas! The amount of thought-provoking, beautiful mother art I learned about was mind-blowing. One of these was Gestare, an international art collective rooted in the creative power of the female body. One of the conference sessions involved a Nap-In with two of its members, Barbara Bickel and Nané Ariadne Jordan. That was the beginning of the second morning, which for me wound up being this profound, emotional return to my own mother, in various ways.
First, there was the Maltese Sleeping Venus - a very special image for my mom and me - in the center of the labyrinth that Barbara and Nané taped to the floor surrounded by our circle of chairs. There were the unexpected tears during the nap, feeling this connection with my mom that I haven't felt in years. Then the session on mothers and daughters. And finally lunch when I shared my mom's story with women who teach at the same university she did. In fact, MIRCI is run out of York University in Toronto, where my mom taught French.
One of the women at lunch was Andrea O'Reilly, who founded MIRCI and whom I like to call the pioneer of studying motherhood from an academic perspective. Essentially, this blog would not exist if it weren't for her. As I recount here, it was reading her reference to "the feminist motherhood movement" in a Maclean's interview in 2008 that started it all for me. The idea of bringing feminism and motherhood together just completely rocked my world.
So meeting and even meaningfully connecting with Andrea was one of the best parts of a truly transformative, unforgettable experience for me. Ten years after my mom's death, perhaps not coincidentally the same year I stepped off the PhD track in search of my creative passion, I can finally say I found it. Sharing interests and exchanging ideas with all these strong, bright, kind women filled me with this unwavering sense of being among 'my people'. It was just incredible.
So for now I've had to go back to this hectic life in which I can barely catch my breath and hardly ever work on my writing. But, holy cow, having gotten a glimpse of the dream like that, it's enough to keep me going for now.