Post-Verbal Motherhood

Dance as an art has become really meaningful to me in the past few years. I could have never predicted this. I actually have always loved to dance, but just in close-knit social situations, where goofy, really stupid dancing is acceptable. As far as dance as an art form, I'm not at all versed. Formal dance has never really much engaged me, until about two years ago.

Jared and I attended a two-day artists conference comprised of creatives from every discipline (poets, painters, dancers, musicians, etc.). There were so many impressive artists from across all disciplines, but to my surprise, a highlight of the event came from the dancersa professional dancer and her non-dancer (accountant) husband.

The two of them performed a 5-minute modern dance piece, about marriage (though they didn't say so), and it was sweet and engaging and really quite moving. For the first time in my life, dance made me cry.

I'm a hyper-verbal person (which is why most of my marital fights involve connotation vs denotation). Words are paramount to life, so I couldn't fathom why a non-verbal dance was so moving. I was excited how much the couple was able to communicate non-verbally. It was something visceral, heartbreaking, vulnerable, primal. I felt like a new art form that I'd never been able to grasp had finally been cracked open for me, ready to be explored.

And then another 5-minute dance piece again took me by surprise. Sia's Electric Heart.

Music video is not a form I look to to be instructive or inspiring or meaningful. I honestly can't remember the last time a music video moved me. But this kind of sucker-punched me when I was totally not looking or prepared.

The performances are wrenching and impassioned, the choreography is simple and telling, and the feeling of the piece is totally bared and honest. I don't think a music video has ever made me feel this way. I watched it again and again, trying to figure out why I responded the way I did.

I'm not certain as to the specifics of the metaphor at work here at least from the artist's intent, but I took something very specific from it.

As I worked through it it was clear it was about a lot of ideas, but it began and ended for me with motherhood.

If motherhood's ever been in the zeitgeist, it's now. Everyone's writing about it, championing it, complaining about it, stressing our commonalities, or challenges, or mercies. It's clearly something on our minds.

A motif that seems to reappear constantly in my feed is the transformation of motherhood. The way we see Mothers might as well be as haloed Marys, glowy with love for our precious newborn child. How wonderful motherhood is, how challenging it is, how worth it it is. And yes, there are wonderful, irreplaceable things that come when you take upon yourself this new and permanent position. But I don't seem to hear too much about the flip-sidewhat you lose (other than sleep, sanity) when you become a mother. And you do lose something, or for me, someone.

When I had my first child, I felt like I literally lost a part of myself. I'm not talking about post-partum depression (which I feel fortunate to have evaded), and I don't mean, "I put everything into my child and lost myself in the process." I know who I am. I know. The problem is I haven't forgotten.

What I do mean is, in a mildly schizophrenic way, one part of me was gone, without fanfare, or notice. You don't get time to mourn the former self when you have a child. You literally shut the door on the old chapter of You when you're not totally sure it's ended yet and seemingly start motherhood in medias res.

The new self is improved in many ways (more selfless, more empathetic, more intuitive, more nurturing, more loving) but many of the wild animalistc tendencies of pre-child life go away (or they did for me).

Although arguably there does exist a ferocity to motherhood (when the "momma bear" is summoned to protect her child, for instance), it wasn't the same to me. A lot of my spark, my fire, had been lostreplaced by tendernessbut lost. That part of me escaped quickly through my ribcage, and left a wiser, more sober part behind.

I understand the pure love of parenthood is a wonderful thing to have gained, but honestly, I miss the fire. I miss the aggression, the lust, the drive. I miss that same childlike ebullience that shows up in my toddler, who runs around naked beating his chest like Tarzan.

I miss the chest-beating part of me.

I miss the part of me that can't be reasoned with, that just reacts, and feels and expresses without careful articulation. That does stupid, impulsive things.

The part that wants to go outside and scream at the top of my lungs just because I'm a human and I have this remarkable thing called a body and I have a soul on fire.

On one hand it feels impossible to overcome this chasm between yourself as this tender, nurturing person and this person with moxie and creative curiosity who sometimes likes the way swear words sound falling off their lips. It might be possible to reconcile these two, and I'm sure some have done it with minor success, but I don't know how to do it for myself. If feels like these two selves would try to beat each other up until they're both bruised beyond recognition. Or, one would simply escape the cage.

Stella got her groove back, right? Does this give me hope I can get my edge back? I want my edge back.


I spent an hour tonight dancing with my toddler.

He goes nuts for these Mommy & Milo dance parties. We danced, we both sweated and laughed and roared at each other. I threw pillows. He tackled me, repeatedly.

He is two years old.  His spark is just being lit, and I hope he's part of what helps set me on fire again.

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