Last night, as I was doing the washing up after dinner, the hot water cut out. While in general I'm the one in our household with more intuitive understanding of how things like plumbing and vehicles work, in practice we moved into this house when Ro was a year old and G has been the one who knows the details of our specific systems. But G is in Zurich this week, so this small crisis fell on my shoulders. I called the landlord, looked up the error code, discovered it was a simple matter of releasing a valve to refill the tank, called the landlord back to let him know I'd figured it out, and everything was fine. We have a good landlord; he'd have had someone out this morning if we'd needed it, but he's also happy to know we're fairly competent at handling minor things ourselves and trusts us to do that.
For all that it makes rational sense that G has been handling minor household maintenance this year, it was jarring to me to feel so unconfident in my ability to solve the problem. That's not usually how I am, not how I've been taught to be and not how I want to be, and yet for a moment of panic I had no idea what I was going to do. Having Ro around has changed so much of the dynamics of our household, but sometimes it comes into stark relief that some of those changes in dynamics also reflect a deep change in my sense of self. I'm not the one who knows how the water heater works anymore. I need my husband to do that. It feels, a bit, like a betrayal.
Similarly, I who once averaged two or three books a week am now lucky if I manage one a month. Understandable: my life is busier, my attention is less free, my free time is more fractured. And yet, being A Reader has always been so fundamental to how I see myself that having spent the past nearly-three years in this new way of being is disorienting to think about.
I wrote a bit recently about how I've been finding myself again thanks in large part to The Workaround, but these little bits of self run deeper and are a bit harder to re-establish. The idea that your identity changes when you become a mother is certainly prevalent in our culture, but I think for most of us, at least before it happens, the understanding is kind of amorphous: becoming Mother means something wishy-washy and emotional, love and care and similar things. We don't always recognize that it also means I'm no longer the household plumber or A Reader in the way I once was.
I'm not going to pretend the Letter this week connects in any way to the poem I chose to share; it really just doesn't. I was looking for something that sparked a creative idea and didn't find it; instead I found one that made me cry a little bit on the way to work, and sometimes that's more than enough. Please click through to read it; it's lovely.
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