The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Finally Forty! by Alana Ruben Free

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As I began to inch closer to forty, I was stunned to realize that for all my efforts of the last twenty years–working day and night literally through day-dreams and night dreams trying to tear down what was non-essential to my soul and build up what was, my big dream of having a real home, a stable home, had still eluded me. Over the years, I had invited a stream of goddesses, archetypes, artists, and imaginary friends into my private cauldron of destruction and creation to assist me with the art of letting go of what is dead and opening to the unknown. Lilith, the Black Madonna, Kali, the Great Mother, Sophia, Miriam, Shiva, Shakti, Wild Women, Wild Turkeys, Witches, Whales, Leonard Cohen, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Marion Woodman, Gabrielle Roth, Roxlyn Moret, and more dream images than I can list assisted me in gradually transforming my body of fear and anxiety to one capable of greater love and clarity. I hoped as I continued to work on my inner home an outer home would manifest.

But for all of my efforts, gains, and moments of bliss — despite over fifteen years of encountering as many NYC real estate brokers as healers, I had yet to walk into any place– in or out of my budget– that “felt like home.” I considered the possibility that for all my efforts, I was still overlooking some important element to my inner home. So, I plugged my nose, took a deep plunge into the ocean and desperately threw myself into concocting a remedy of last resort; stuck my hand into the black hat from which I can always pull out a rabbit: I set my mind to writing a play exploring my twenty-year search for home with many questions in mind.

As I wrote my play, Fear and Desire, I bravely feng shui’d my inner home, busting out my inner walls that were in the wrong place, installed new windows, and carefully arranged new mirrors. I listened to the dream voice that told me, “If I wanted a home, I needed to do more than move around the old furniture.” Something more drastic was needed: I needed to creatively work through my fears and build something new. I labored draft after draft trying to find out what I had missed. (An excerpt exists in the current on-line edition of the Mom Egg.)

In the writing of Fear and Desire, a book of epiphanies emerged, one being (if the title itself didn’t give it away) that what I desired most, I also feared most. I couldn’t build a new home while I was still continuously running away from the home of my birth, and any make-shift home since then. It was time to settle into my body, my memories, my being– to the extent I had acquired, and write. Write myself free. Write myself to my own truth. Write myself to the other side of the issue. Write myself home.

The fact of my life that I had completely overlooked and been in denial about was…. that in fact I was a daughter. Perhaps I had taken too literally the idea as a writer we need to kill off our families, and see ourselves as orphans. I had been in denial of this important role perhaps due to the pain that word induced when I began to move it around in my heart. I realized that I could not really become a woman (despite already being a mother), until I dealt with being a daughter. In Hebrew, the word for home (bayit) is almost the same as the word for daughter (bat).

When the play was completed, I circulated it widely and found great joy when daughters who were also mothers of daughters would say, “I see myself in the mother and I see myself in the daughter.” Mirrors. I read once that those of us who have spent our lives without success looking to other human beings to mirror us eventually give up and look to God and the world of spirit. Fear and Desire is as much about a daughter desperately wanting her own spiritual life and individuality as wanting home, because as I discovered in the writing we don’t find ourselves comfortably at home until we find ourselves comfortably at home in who we are essentially: our soul is our true home.

Well, last July, forty rolled in and I did get a chance to rest quietly, joyfully, stretched out on a lounge chair at a place inside, a destination I had always dreamt of visiting, sensed was there, for a day or two — before the next tidal wave shook me up again. Within a few months, I was back out with real estate brokers hoping for better luck and back to work on the next play. Despite the zoo of animals upstairs and the constantly leaking ceiling, Eden, the heroine of the trilogy is starting to rub off on me.
She wisely reminds me that with a little love this apartment could be my home.


alanaAlana Ruben Free is a playwright, poet, and writer. She was founding editor of The Mom Egg, and co-edited the publication for six years, and is the producer of the documentary, The Last Stand. Her play, Beginner at Life, has been produced in Australia and Italy, as well as New York City. http://www.beginneratlife.com.

 

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