A Reason for Writing (and other thoughts on being single)

When I applied for my MFA I had to come up with a purpose statement, a reason for writing, a mission for my work. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my writing. I just knew I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to be a writer of some kind, any kind. I focused most of my entrance essays on refugees and storytelling. I even spent a month in the UK conducting interviews for a book I thought I would write. I came up with a proposal for an ESL social project that would earn me a full ride scholarship to a school in Oakland. And I almost got it too. Almost.

Then I returned to the states and I moved to California. I started my first week of classes and all I wanted to write about was the man that I loved and the heartbreak I’d suffered because of him. That’s not entirely true. Sometimes I didn’t want to write about him at all. I wanted to write about the ocean and my life in France, my relationship with Target and the reasons I loved cooking. I did in fact write about all of those things, but somehow the man always found his way into the story. Like a weed that won’t die or a rodent that burrows beneath your home. I couldn’t bring myself to kill him off. I couldn’t deny he played a role. So I just sort of let him stay there month after month, essay after essay.

At the start of the year I began looking for something new. Something meaningful and good, something I really cared to write about. I began reading through other blogs, looking at other stories, trying to find something that touched my heart and held my attention. What I found, rather surprisingly, was a fascination with motherhood. Thinking about marriage was still painful, but motherhood piqued my interest.

Perhaps because it’s a life so different from my own. Perhaps because some sort of biological clock has annoyingly decided that it’s time to go off. Maybe it’s because I see it all around me, at church and at school, with my siblings and friends. I like reading about the tantrums and the tenderness, the struggles and the arguments, the moments of complete surrender and the daily decision to choose joy. Maybe this is just my perspective, but something about parenthood seems to push you to your limit. It breaks the facade that life is easy and you can do it on your own. Parenthood is messy and brutal and rewarding and surprising. It is life. Raw.And there are no small number of wonderful blogs and magazines and newsletters and websites that support weary parents and encourage them to carry on. To keep going. To love well. To realize that they are forming the lives of the future and their love and effort matters. Sometimes I read these blogs, pretending that I have children of my own, that I will enact positive reenforcement, give choices and be fair in my discipline. It isn’t that I’m baby-crazy. I don’t see children on a regular basis. I’m not even sure if I want to have a bevy of them myself. What I’m really hungry for, though, is encouragement.Anyone who has ever been a mother seems to empathize with the fact that motherhood is tough stuff. They offer words of praise and encourage self-forgiveness (at least the good ones do, the real and human ones who have also had to deal with a three-year-old screaming in the middle of the library). I don’t often feel like that’s true for single people. We don’t tell them it’s okay that they can’t do their own taxes. We don’t sympathize when the disposal backs up, when their car gets a flat, when they’re sick for five days. Well, maybe we sympathize, but we don’t really do anything. We chalk it up to life. We say some nice words. We go on.

More often than not, we envy their freedom. Single people have no one else to care for, provide for, answer to, or worry about. They have all of that time to attend to life, to workout and travel and socialize and learn things and read books. When they come home in the evening they can do what they want, eat what they want, watch what they want. There is no one expecting them. No one needing them. No one asking anything of them. Isn’t that the best part?

For this single person, actually, that is the hardest part. There is no one waiting for me. No one wondering why I’m late. No one excited if I’m early. No one hoping I’ll have time. There is, simply, no one. And though someday in the future I may find myself tromping through a house (a real one with a fireplace and a living room and carpet), tripping over toys with one child on my hip and the other at my feet begging to watch Mary Poppins, longing for the mornings when I could make myself a cup of tea and write to my heart’s content, today, this day, it is hard to be alone.

So my new mission, which may not really be a mission, but more of an aspiration, is to write with both hope and acceptance. To share the honest truth that life is hard and messy and difficult even when you are only one person and sometimes because of it.

Last week, for example, I was working on an article I needed to e-mail to my editor. I opened my inbox to be reminded yet again that I haven’t filed my FAFSA, which will require pulling together tax forms from all of my part-time-but-no-benefits jobs and reminded me of the fact that though I’ve acquired a California driver’s license I still haven’t registered my car—the one that my new neighbor said scratched his Mercedes (even though it didn’t) and which he took in for an estimate the day I was trying to buy new running shoes to replace the ones that were stolen in October while also ignoring the string of texts from my neighbor insisting that I decide whether or not I wanted to pay $400 to repaint the bumper of the car he is actually only borrowing from a friend and which I didn’t hit in the first place. Because he is my neighbor and a cop and he lives directly above me, I was afraid of running into him if I went through the front door when I returned to my apartment, so I entered by the back way, two bags of groceries and two boxes of shoes in toe, which made it difficult to unlock the door, which is hard to see in the evening, unless you remember to leave the light on before you leave the house, but that would waste electricity, which we already pay an awful lot for so I never really leave the light on. Anyway, when I got back into my apartment I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to make dinner. I didn’t even want to veg out in front of my computer and watch Netflix. I really just wanted to cuddle. I wanted someone to look into my petrified eyes, stroke my curly mess of hair and tell me that it would all be okay, that I was doing the best I could, that we all get behind and it doesn’t make us any less worthy of love or acceptance. That’s what I wanted. But that wasn’t an option.

The next best thing might be hearing those words from someone else, or reading them in a magazine or a book or a blog; feeling connected to other people even if you don’t live together and they’ve made no commitment to love you despite yourself (but maybe they actually still love you anyway). It may be enough if by writing I am able only to encourage myself, but I’d like to think that hope can stretch further, that someone else might need to know that it’s okay to be human.

One thought on “A Reason for Writing (and other thoughts on being single)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s