“I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.” ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
At the end of last year, I again ponied up the $100 or so I pay to keep this site aloft. Sometimes I have to ask myself why; last year I posted a measly eight posts. Eight! My thought had been to turn this into a blog about adventuring in the Canadian Rockies. But you can’t force these things. And then we had a baby.
I’ve been following Elle Luna on Instagram since she published her amazing essay The Crossroads of Should and Must on Medium. “Should,” she writes, “is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do…Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.”
I followed her 100 days of Self Portraits last year and this year, I read as she posted the outline for the 100 day project. You commit to repeating one action every day for 100 days. What did I want to do? What MUST I do?
As April–the start of the 100 day project–approached, I was in the very early weeks of motherhood- I was overjoyed, exhausted, overwhelmed. Baby took up approximately 97% of my brain. If I had anything at all to write about – it was baby.
But my experience was so, um, normal. Everything I’m experiencing is something I have heard before–I’m getting no sleep and I’m the most tired I’ve ever been! Baby cries and it totally sucks! etc. And, besides, did I want to be a mommy blogger? Am I one of those moms who has nothing to talk about but her kid? I shuddered at the thought. (My my, the ways we overthink and judge ourselves! How we defeat ourselves before we even begin.) Oh, and then the beginning of the 100 day project came and went while I was in Florida with family. I had three drafts saved here – and none posted. Now, I’m 15 days behind. But here I am, I thought, at the crossroads of should and must. I must write now. I must create terms under which I can really succeed.
Meanwhile, I was reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. I read it while James slept in my arms. Between feedings and crying fits and diaper changes, six million loads of laundry and all the other wonderful things and tiring crap you do when you’re on maternity leave. It taught me to have a sense of humor at the moments I felt the most desperate and crazy. And although it was about her first year of motherhood, it was also about Life.
I read a review of Some Assembly Required, which Lamott wrote with her son Sam about his son, her grandson, Jax. The review recounted how Sam considered Operating Instructions the greatest gift of his life and how he wanted to do the same for his son. What a beautiful gesture – to write a story as a gift. None of us remember our first year of life – we have a vague idea of a few stories that our mothers tell us. If no one else cared about my cliche thoughts and memories, Dan and James would. So what about 100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – written over the course of my son’s first year? This one–these 100–are for Dan and James – and anyone who finds them reassuring, amusing, distracting or whatever else they may be looking for.
P.S. I wrote this on Saturday morning and it is now Tuesday morning. I’m having the hardest time getting myself to get over the start line – I am so afraid it is stupid, that I will fail, etc. Fear looms so large I can’t even tell you. So, friends, here goes nothing.