Okay, it’s the end of the movie and Jules and Vincent are sitting in the coffee shop, discussing their very weird morning. Jules is trying to explain to Vincent that he’s quitting the gangster life because he had “what alcoholics call ‘a moment of clarity.'” Vincent doesn’t get it. What Vincent does get is a gut full of hot leaded comeuppance, suggesting that Jules’ moment of clarity may have saved his soul and his life.
Even though Pulp Fiction is one of my favorites, (OMG, the quote-a-thon of that movie!) I never really felt a personal connection to any of the characters. Until now. I’ve recently had a pretty bitchin’ moment of clarity myself, and it has saved the lost and wandering part of my weary soul. (Read about the moment here.) My moment happened on Boyo’s eleventh month birthday, and I am still discovering new ways in which that moment changed everything for the better.
1. I feel connected to my boy in way that I was starting to think I wasn’t worthy of. Boyo and I have had a long, painful struggle on the road to connection. I didn’t feel anything close to “baby euphoria” when he was born or in the days after. During The Dark Days (about ten days to ten weeks old) I felt like he was something to be coped with, a pain to be managed, a burden when I was expecting a gift. The guilt of those feelings was maniacal. Our connection has since grown and strengthened, but I never felt a sense of being overwhelmed and awestruck at my connection to him. I silently scoffed at other parents who said things like, “I’m in love!” and “I love him so much I can’t even stand it!” and “sometimes when I look at him, I see God.” Seriously? I honestly (and spitting with jealousy) thought that parents used those sentiments because they think that’s just what parents are supposed to say. I thought they were lying. Or at least, not telling the whole truth. I really did. Because on the rare occasions that I uttered those words, I was lying. That’s incredibly difficult to admit, but it’s true. I told myself other parents must be lying too, because if they weren’t, it meant that parents who felt that way deserved to feel it. And I just mustn’t be good enough.
During my moment, though, I felt that connection happen all at once, searing and resplendent and enormous. It was as though all of that emotion was magma, buried deep within me and that moment triggered it out of dormancy and into an epically powerful eruption of connection. My darling boy has never felt more mine than he does today and that’s only because it isn’t tomorrow yet.
What a fuckin’ relief, y’all, let me tell you. My boy! MY boy!
2. My patience has restored. I can’t properly describe the helpless frustration that had besieged me as I wrestled with an appalling lack of patience for my boy. Under normal circumstances, I have a terrifically long fuse. I am slow to anger and quick to forgive. I am indulgent of all kinds of behavior because it feels good to give the gift of allowing someone I love the room to feel exactly how they feel even if it’s bitchy or petulant or arrogant or obnoxious. I want not only to encourage, but to challenge my son to be his most genuine and authentic self and allowing him to be himself at home is where that lesson starts. But I only rarely had enough patience to retain that perspective. I was so sleep deprived and weary and felt so terribly guilt-guilt-guilty all the time that a normal reaction to everyday difficulty seemed like a fantasy, unattainable. Every cry felt like an accusation and every meltdown felt like a condemnation to a hell I somehow deserved because I couldn’t figure out how to love my son enough or correctly or in a way he could feel. I had little patience for myself, so I had even less to offer my boy. Brutal.
But now, cries just feel like cries and meltdowns are simply annoying or inconvenient or embarrassing, but nowhere near the end of the world. Even though I know my levels of patience will ebb and flow, as ever, at least I am once again a believer in the normalcy of my feelings and my ability to bounce back instead of thud to the ground like ice cream off the cone.
3. My head and heart are reconnected. You know that feeling of knowing something intellectually, but being unable to convince your emotional self of it? Yeah, that’s a super shitty feeling. That feeling has been a constant companion for much of my beautiful boy’s young life. It’s like I had the thoughts, the words, the right things to say and think, and I thought them and said them all the time, but somehow my heart was lightyears away and it took an enormous amount of time for those true thoughts to take root and blossom into feelings that were sturdy enough to withstand circumstance. Here’s a particularly harsh example: I knew in my head that I loved my son. I knew because I am a good person and I love people and he is my son and of course I love him. No question. But in my heart, (Boyo, forgive me) I doubted it. My heart said, “I don’t feel it the way I think it. What if I don’t love him? I may not.” Again, just the hardest thing in the world to admit, but it’s the whole truth.
My moment of clarity repaired the bridge from my head to my heart and, to my utter astonishment, instantly. All of a sudden my heart was achingly full of the steadfast, unshakeable knowledge of my head. “I love my son. I love my son. My god, I love him so very much.”
The lessons here are pretty powerful. First of all, just keep on keepin’ on. Keep at it. Keep going. Keep trying. Like Marty McFly says when he has one shot at his 1.21 gigawatts and the deLorean’s engine just won’t turn over, “This time. THIS TIME!” If Marty had given up and thought, “Well, I know there isn’t enough fuel and this just isn’t going to happen” he would have been stuck in that zoot suit forever. When all efforts have been exhausted, try again. Never stop trying.
And an oldie, but a goodie: When all else fails, fake it ’til you make it. I didn’t feel like a loving mother. But I acted like one. I said the words, I did the deeds. I let my brain be in charge because my heart needed a minute. (And by “minute” I mean, “eleven months.”) It worked. When my egregiously tardy heart finally made it to the party being thrown in its honor, the party was in full swing. All my heart had to do was pour a cocktail and hit the dance floor.
4. I have released the guilt. You know that scene in Superman II were General Zod, Non, and Ursula face the Council and their judgement? Well, I’m not cruel enough (or smart enough, really) to be an interplanetary heavy, but OMG, the guilt that I carried with me for eleven months was my kryptonite. Everything made me feel guilty. And I felt like every pair of eyes out there were condemning me. I realize now that the judgement I perceived in others was just a reflection of my own guilty visage, like the Hall of Mirrors in a macabre (No) Fun House. My own guilt (as unearned as it was) was unceasing, and therefore so was the perceived judgement.
Besides just feeling like I’ve taken a ten pound dump, having released the guilt has changed the way I react to unsolicited advice. Whereas before I took it as “this is how you should raise your child” now I see it as, “this is how I’m raising mine.” That allows me to enjoy differing perspectives, to appreciate all the different ways there are to parent beautifully and successfully, while maintaining my trust in my own beauty and success. No one will do it the way I do it and that doesn’t make my style wrong, it simply makes it mine. More importantly, it takes the spotlight off every other parent (and all of their opinions) and puts them in the audience where they belong. This show, this little melodramatic comedy of errors I’ve got going on here? It’s mine. And like any good performer, I will not allow an unruly audience member to trip me up. The show must go on!
You know what else? Since the onerous unearned guilt lifted, you know what has been steadily taking its place? Confidence. Unshowy, unflinching, steadfast confidence. Hot damn and hallelujah, I trust myself again! This is not say that I feel like I have all the answers. Far, far from it. (I mean far, y’all.) I’m just as clueless as ever. But I believe, in my head and in my heart and for the first time since wearing the mantle of “Mother” that I can and will figure it out. I know that I will make mistakes, even big, hairy, awful, “Oh fuck, better start saving for therapy” mistakes. But they won’t be failures. I will give myself the gift of learning from my mistakes instead of kowtowing to them, and confidence will be the pretty red bow.
So there you have it. A single moment has changed everything for me just like it did for Jules Winfield. He’ll walk the earth. I’ll raise my boy. I will appreciate my gilded, glittering moment of clarity, and to put it to good use. I will march onward and I will appreciate my sturdy legs and my grateful heart. I will continue to tell the truth and I will continue to encourage you to do the same because it is important and because it sets us free and because it’s the only way to hear the echo of my life in yours and yours in mine.
And then, I’ll have a cocktail.