Peacemonger Mom

My son just enlisted in the military. I'm a peace activist. Why couldn't he have rebelled in some other way, like being republican?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day Zero

TB left for boot camp today. My father drove him to the recruiter's station, and said that he got out of the truck, shook his hand, and TB walked across the street and went inside. I can see it in my mind, and feel it in my body, just from those few words, and it has had a profound, surprising effect on me, even though I have been preparing for this for the last month or so.

Bodily knowledge is something that we (by we I mean those in my program, those in my discipline, those of us who are feminists and who do a lot of thinking - or even those people, feminist or no, who do little conscious thinking, and much more acting) do a substantial amount of discussion of - how we teach through the body, how we occupy our spaces, bodily, how our physicality is more than what we are, yet is not the ultimate of who we are. Our bodies do not control our destinies, but are ultimately (I become more and more convinced of this - both from education and aging...and what is aging if not education in and of itself?) the place where our destinies are written - budding breasts and menstruation lead us to see ourselves finally as women, then sex, conception and birthing of a child, then the aging of our own bodies (good god, when did I develop my mother's legs?? And who said I needed veins that large in my shins?????). So much of our knowledge is gained from our bodies - from the physicalities of our experiences.

In class tonight (thank goodness, the last one of the summer, I am beyond exhausted and burnt out) we discussed teaching via, through, and in spite of, our bodies. I attended class with a rapidly settling feeling of having recently attended a strenuous kickboxing class, or perhaps moving day. My shoulders, my abdominal muscles, my back - especially the small of my back - felt as if I had been working out, doing physical labor, or had been subjected to a beating. While we discussed the bodily aspects of our pedagogies, and the pedagogies of others, I could feel the tensions of my body - my most recent bodily experience of mothering - settling down on me like a very heavy, wet wool blanket. My eyes began to ache. My head thrummed with stress and pain - mostly due to a lack of anything to eat, aside from the Fig Newmans I brought to share with CEO (she ate one, and declared that it was somewhat like a dog treat. Therefore, I ate the rest. Along with some organic chocolate. Must balance the diet, you know). As I sat there in class, increasingly incapable of concentrating on anything other than my physicality, and wondering what TB was doing right now, I realized that I really, really must begin caring - really caring - for myself, physically, bodily, or I will not make it through the coming semester. I am carrying my caring within myself, within my body.

I doodled in my notes, conceptualizing the writing on my body that I anticipate producing soon. I tried - really tried - to listen to my classmates, as they spoke, and I wanted, desperately, to produce something, some intelligent - semi intelligent - concept to throw out into the floor and thus legitimate my existence in class. Nothing occurred to me to say or offer up, even as I enacted the bodily experience of my teaching, and my mothering - with no children in the room, I still enacted my mothering, through my aching, the pains I was feeling - and continue to feel - I could only listen to my classmates in the context of my role as teacher of my children, and the bodily experience I have had, and continue to have - with both of them.

The many, many awakenings late at night, by a sick child. The ear infections. The bodily fluids. The administering of medications. The clothing of bodies. The feeding of bodies. The hygiene of bodies. Later, as they became teens, the late nights, wrapped in a fuzzy bathrobe, sitting on the bed next to each of them, listening, listening, listening. Hearing - practicing the active listening skills that I had no idea I had, nor that I even considered might exist. It was just love, love for them, desire for them to feel and appreciate that love, painful desire that they have what they need, what they each desired. Mothering is nothing if not aching muscles, aching back, crying joints and leaking eyes, breasts and souls.

My body was enfolded, many, many times throughout the day, by the incredible women I work with, and learn with, and exist with. Had I not been blessed with the beautiful, loving and amazing women I spent time with today, I have no idea how I could have made it through today, which lasted roughly ten to fifteen years, all within 24 hours.


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