I’ve been reading Patti Smith’s M Train. Erin gave it to me for Christmas. I’d read passages of it and the writing was so beautiful I put it on my Christmas list. It is a gift, and yet in reading it, it takes me into a place of words that twist and beguile in a way that I feel lost in my own past, the way the author gets lost in her past. And it makes me worry about aging, about getting old. The way even thinking about Patti Smith when she was young makes me feel, somehow musty, dusty. I become afraid, and I have to tell myself, to just shake it off, move on, life is good, vibrant.
What does young mean anyway? For me it was unfettered, before children, before being accountable for someone’s life. When I traveled, as Smith recounts traveling. When I was in Paris, London, Rome, even Berlin, before the wall came down. A busload of college students traveling through Europe. Before I got married, making a note of the places I’d return to: Hydra, Prague, Saas-Almagell in Switzerland. I have memories of walking the beach on the French Riviera, dark narrow streets in Venice. On our honeymoon we went to Paris, London, and Stratford on Avon, but once the babies started coming, I was home, and Steve traveled the world not with me, but with Prince.
I’m accustomed to women writers, hip mamas, whose lives are about mothering. I’m surprised that Smith doesn’t talk much about her children, she wishes she could see them as they were when they were little again. I’ve thought of this, of how my babies would run to me, how they were bursting with newness about everything, and now they are adults, so different, and yet, the same. I envy her this detachment, at least in her writing. I measure it masculine against feminine, how cool ‘girls’ were the ones more like the boys, detached. I also worry that this is what happens in aging, that the important times, the immersion in the mess of parenting or relationship, is what really counts, and nothing else counts, now.
Like a shadow life. I’m afraid of a shadow life. I was pulled back into the past just yesterday by Kathleen. Trying to make sense of her own beliefs about herself, about life. Remembering the horrible therapist I took her to when she was so little, who encouraged I punish her. I colluded against my beautiful daughter, I did not understand what I know now. And all I can say, is I’m sorry. I’d wish I’d known better, I wish I could go back and hold your beautiful child self and offer understanding for all of it. Winnicott* says that a child needs to believe that their emotions will not annihilate their mother. I did not let you believe that. I believed that your emotions were too potent, too powerful, and I didn’t know what to do with them, or with you when you were overcome with your own beautiful feelings.
Feel them all, let their beautiful messages about life and love and everything in the world inform you more than MSN, more than Facebook, more than Tolle or Smith or anyone else. I have not been the perfect mother, I have placed some things as more valuable than others and sought after these. But Nature Boy spoke the truth; The greatest thing you'll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return. I’ll finish M Train, it’s a beautiful read, but then I need to move on out of this melancholia that began in the fall. Return to bright colors, scents of spring, the past few months too dark.
*With the care that it receives from its mother each infant is able to have a personal existence, and so begins to build up what might be called a continuity of being. On the basis of this continuity of being the inherited potential gradually develops into an individual infant. If maternal care is not good enough then the infant does not really come into existence, since there is no continuity of being; instead the personality becomes built on the basis of reactions to environmental impingement.(Winnicott, 1960)