Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Figs

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree.
One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
~Sylvia Plath

Just finished reading The Bell Jar, which is, of course, a brilliant book. I love the fig tree analogy above. I have sat in the "crotch" of my own tree. (man, I just can't get over hating that word...crotch. Ugh. Still conjures up memories of my mother following me into Sears' change rooms, tugging at the seat of the pants I was trying on, as she discussed whether or not I had enough "room in the crotch", in what seemed to me at the time, a booming voice that carried throughout the entire store.) Anyway, I have sat in my tree, and still do from time to time, regretfully watching a fig fall that I am unable to pluck or watching curiously, expectantly as another one slowly ripens.

Luckily I don't believe that
"choosing one means losing all the rest". I think you can have a couple, maybe even a handful of dreams come to fruition in your lifetime. Although I don't believe in the possibility of "having it all". I think that's a lie they feed us women in order to keep us struggling to be good little cogs in the economy, as well as in the grand evolutionary machine all at the same time. And we buy into it so wholeheartedly. We're such a bunch of suckers! Of course, you can be the perfect mother, have a fabulous career, travel the world, get your doctorate, paint like Georgia O'Keefe, cook like Julia Child, own an immaculate home, and be as fit as an Olympian, all while dressed in the latest designer clothes and stopping everyday at noon to have wildly passionate sex with your Adonis of a husband (because obviously you also have a perfect marriage too). Of course! ...so why do many of us feel so guilty, stressed out, overwhelmed and inadequate most of the time? Must be something wrong with us women...couldn't be the impossibility of the standards to which we're holding ourselves.

My fig has been the husband, children and happy home. It was not the fig I thought I would choose. Quite frankly, I thought it was beneath an intelligent, creative, spirited young woman to be a stay at home mom. Deep in my inner heart, there was a tiny dream, wherein I saw myself laying my cheek against a small, downy head, or thrilling to a first word, or sitting content as an old woman in a room full of people that had come from my own body, like a strong rooted tree, out of which sprang life and warmth and goodness. But I was embarrassed and terrified of those dreams. Shouldn't I want more? And the question that was too painful to even ask, what if it didn't happen?

So I sat in the crook of my fig tree, like Esther Greenwood, and was too afraid to reach out and choose. Then love came. Love that was too big to even try to deny and eventually children. From the moment I first found out I was pregnant, I was suddenly filled with more surety and purpose than I'd ever known. Yup, this was the fig for me. Yet at every step I have been plagued with the guilt of an underachiever. I can't just be a SAHM?! I've spent my days and months happy, challenged and full to the brim, yet always apologetic. I made plans to go back to school or work when the boys were a certain age, just so I could explain to people that I was really more than this when they asked what I did. Then both of my sons were diagnosed with multiple anaphylactic allergies, and more recently Aspergers. I am needed at home indefinitely. There is no set date in sight when I can suddenly start proving to the world that I am more than just a SAHM. This is my fig. I am fiercely proud of the mom that I have become. I need to stop being suckered by the superwoman fallacy, and live the life I have, fully, joyfully and with no apologies.

There are still a few other figs on my tree...ripening for later. My boys will grow up and away, and my hands will be free to reach out and pluck another. The great thing is that now I wouldn't sit in that tree crotch (CROTCH, CROTCH, CROTCH!) paralyzed with indecision, I would grab and eat with gusto, letting the juice run down my chin.

6 comments:

  1. Oh E! Yet another epic post. I am reading a book right now about feminism and really learning what the word means, and more importantly, what it means to ME. What it means to be a woman. I am stepping into my own power, and making no apologies for the life I have chosen and am glad to see you doing the same.

    And by the way, I happen to think that SAHM is the most important and most difficult job on this planet. You are a mother warrior! So display that fig with pride, girlfriend! You also manage to do your job with more grace and pride than anyone I know. So, NO MORE APOLOGIES. For any of it.

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  2. a well-stated and absolutely lovely excerpt from the novelist fig.

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  3. Thanks guys. :)

    What is the book you're reading K?

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  4. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    *stuffs fingers in ears and runs away*

    :)

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  5. CROTCH?! Psssht. No,no. It's actually called Bitchfest. Which sadly, isn't much better. But honestly, it makes me want to build my own soapbox and sharpen my sword and stand just a little bit taller. Bitch started as a zine in the early nineties has grown from there.
    It is described as smart, nuanced, cranky, outrageous and clear-eyed. In short, my kinda stuff.

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