In so many ways, this has been easy. The wind shifted, an opening in a clouded sky for a shaft of light after a long storm, and I said yes to the still small voice. Most days, I’m not even sure what I want for breakfast. I am not a woman with a 5 year plan. Never have been. I am focused and can be single-minded, a dog on a bone, but I am myopic. I’m a solid 3 with a wing 4 and traces of 8, if you’re into the whole enneagram thing, which I’m not, but I’ve taken the test and have been told by my friends this tracks. I don’t necessarily take in the larger picture, make pro and con lists, fact check. I am a 52 year old woman without any investment portfolio. I once had over $15,000 in an IRA. I cashed it out at great penalty to chase a dream. It was absolutely the right decision, but the more practical person would have never done that. I am not practical. I also once talked a state tourism department into paying me $20,000 for the use of a song of mine (not even a good song, if I’m honest). A smart woman would have put that in savings or paid off that damn student loan. Not me. I’m fairly sure I bought a lot of shoes.
In a way, my son is the result of the wind shifting on a given day where I just put my wet finger in the breeze stream and then shrugged and said, ‘Ok.’
Is it bad to admit this? Because I know how blessed I am. I know how extraordinarily lucky I am. I mean, I had a baby at 50, without complications, who has turned out perfectly perfect and happy and active without any food allergies or health problems, all ten fingers and toes. My body didn’t suffer from the birth. I had a handful of days of semi-suicidal despair angst, and a few close to violent rage fits, but I realized pretty quickly it was probably hormonal, called my doctor, and got on Zoloft for PPD. Zippo: I wanted to live again. My thighs are softer and my belly is softer and my arms flap a bit more than they did, but I love my body, maybe more now than ever. My husband and I have made it through the hell of the first year of a child, actually, almost the first two, with my mood swings and his career change, and we’re thriving. I mean, I’m pretty sure we are. At least, I’m not going anywhere.
It has been, dare I say, easy?
I want to shout this, because I realize I am rare. There are not many of us. 50 year olds giving birth, I mean. Of course, it was not my egg, and so it was not some miraculous conception thing. Pure science. A lot of money paid for by my husband’s insurance mostly. A lot of needles, some surgery, one misfired failure, and then a beautiful boy growing inside the uterus of a woman more likely to be in menopause than pregnant.
But it happened. And it was not hard.
Also, not hard: being a mother and an artist and not allowing either to suffer. Again: part miracle, but a lot of commitment. I think had I been younger, I may have allowed the early infancy days and nights to define me, completely overwhelmed without the emotional capacity or physical endurance to even consider making another record, touring, writing, weaving all these parts of myself into the whole.
But you see, I want to write this because I’m NOT superhuman. I am extraordinarily ordinary. It’s not luck. I just said yes. I said yes to my son. I said yes to making another record. I said yes to doing the 3am shift and fighting through the lacerated nipples to nurse. I said yes to never sleeping in. I said yes to not going to the party anymore or not being the one who can be at every show of my friends. I said yes to containing the heart of my life to what could fit on our comfortable, ordinary beige couch.
I’m really not an expert on anything. Every single thing I’ve tried to do, I have failed. Sometimes spectacularly and sometimes publicly. Stefanie Sikora was a better singer than me in 11th grade. But I wanted it more and when I played Maria in West Side Story our senior year in high school, I dyed my hair black and learned Spanish. (Yes: I am that girl…annoying, I know).
I had NO business pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter. I learned to play guitar when I was 25. I wrote my first song around then. At 30, when many of my friends were well on their way to PhD’s or associates in Law Firms or their 2nd child, I decided to cash in my IRA in order to fund a 7 week tour across the US, spending more than I made. I could barely play a bar chord. My songs were copies of Lisa Loeb meets Aimee Mann meets Joni Mitchell songs. My voice had too fluttery a vibrato. I was too well-thought out. I tried way too hard. Most NYC industry people who heard me in the first few years told me all the reasons why I would not make it.
I went to songwriting camps. I sat in the front of every seminar on the Music Business. I got a day job working at EMI Music Publishing to learn about contracts and legalities of songwriting.
I sent demo tapes everywhere. Tapes. Then CD’s with my name and number sharpie’d on the front. I remember sending postcards to my mailing list.
I was not even a close 2nd to the best singer or the best writer or the coolest in my small circle of artists I started out with. I can name you so many who still stun me. But I’m here. I’m still here. And it’s not because I’m an expert. It’s because once I say yes to something, I am stupidly stubborn.
Once I said yes to motherhood, I was in the deep end of the ocean.
So I’m here. At 52. Writing this, still, because when I started, I had nobody to talk with about this journey. Now, through this, I do. Now, through this, I realize too, that if I send up a flare there will be others.
I’m deep into motherhood now. It’s a part of my blood. It’s how I look at the world. Huck stopped nursing so long ago I don’t remember the exact date and I’m surprised I didn’t write it down. But there’s still milk that will drip if I express and just the other day, he batted at my breast and said “mamamalk” which is kind of “mama milk” and he put his mouth to me for a minute. I missed those early days.
I’m typing this from a dressing room in a theater in California waiting on my soundcheck. I just facetimed with him, which is amazing and keeps me from feeling 100% like an absent mother. But, he’ll pay attention for a minute and then he’s off, chasing a ball or a shadow. I miss him. I love the stage. But I really miss my son.
I keep trying to quit. I mean, that’s not true. I can’t. But once in a while I look up to the skies to God and say out loud (alone, in my car), “If there’s something else I should be doing, if you want me to stay home, please send me some kind of sign. This is hard. This being away from Huck is too hard. Tell me. Give me a sign. Make it obvious, because I’m kind of dense.” The last time I did that, talked to the sky, my phone literally starting ringing off the hook with congratulations for being nominated for a songwriting award. I laughed out loud through the tears. Ok. I won’t quit. For now.
See, I’m fully both feet in this – what else would I do? I ruminate on the what else would I do a lot. Because I tell myself it’s too hard. But the truth is, it’s not. Of course, I’m also lying, because it is. It’s very fucking hard. It’s exhausting, this mothering. I feel all the things at once. More in love than I can describe. Worried I didn’t attach enough when he was an infant. Worried that I’ll get cancer. Worried that he’ll get hurt. I feel nervous that I’m kidding myself with this music thing, even after I won that award. I feel left out of the big party because I’m either on the road or home tucked into my nest with my son. I feel so much love that it hurts my heart.
But a human being, I’m learning, can hold space for all of this at once and it’s not a 5 year plan that will get you through. There’s no blog or book or video seminar or best friend or mother or mother-in-law that can tell you what or how to do any of this. You just say yes, open your arms, trust that there are no sharks in the dark down there, and let the current take you. Let it be easy.