My brain is opening slightly, but it turns out there is nothing much inside.
I fear constantly that I am boring. My conversations are dreadful and dull. I stand around at playgrounds and in conference rooms looking blank. People, well-meaning people, ask me how I am, and I never have a good answer. I’m not sure that I was ever very interesting, but now I know that I am not.
I suspect part of the problem is that the main things I find interesting now are my husband and small children, who are admittedly not all that interesting to other people. I try to read and cultivate the life of the mind, because I don’t want to talk about ear infections and gross motor skill development all the time, but that’s what I can converse about most readily and fluidly.
I have never wanted to become one of those mothers who only talk about their children, but here I am.
I am slowly reading Kierkegaard, Either/Or, and am happy to find much of it very comprehensible and pleasurable. (And I haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet, The Seducer’s Diary.)
I wonder what it must be like to write with such confidence about the world and the state of human beings. I don’t know if he’s even right about such things—desire, sensuality, Don Giovanni being the greatest opera of all time—but he’s so sure of himself that I believe every word.
“Love from the soul moves precisely in the rich multiplicity of the individual life, where the nuances are what are really significant. Sensual love, on the other hand, can lump everything together. What is essential for it is woman quite in the abstract, and at most distinctions of the most sensual kind. Love from the soul is a continuation in time, sensual love is a disappearance in time…”
Blame it on Kierkegaard, but I am thinking a lot about desire these days: where it comes from, where it intersects with vanity, how we process and enact it, how it changes as we age.
Small children are so suffused with desire; they pursue it relentlessly, without hesitation. A part of parenting, it seems, is guiding them toward choice: helping them pursue the better desire. Because there is always a desire that is better, more likely to lead to growth and flourishing, than another, which leads to stagnation and struggle.
A perpetual gift: to have married someone you continue to find very intriguing and strange and enchanting.
Even if I have become a mommed-out shell of a woman, brain full of diaper rash cream, I at least have a deeply odd, fascinating husband upon whose intellectual coattails I may hang.
(All of this sounds menacingly anti-feminist, I know, but where else can you confess such thoughts if not to one’s Substack??)
Avalon, Nell Zink
Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
The Low-Impact Home, Margot Guralnick and Fan Winston
I will talk about ear infections and gross motor skill development with you anytime. Xo.
Love reading all things mommed-out from you.
Have you read the Memoirs of Gluckel von Hameln or have we talked about it? So good. Two hundred pages of seventeenth-eighteenth century Jewish woman detailing how excellent her deceased husband was and how proud she is of marrying off her many children, (all done while avoiding being killed in pogroms and surviving everyday systemic antisemitism, though she is less focused on that than on various family feuds etc). The writing is excellent and the whole thing is delightful.