Just Between Us

Just Between Us
Is it necessary for me to write obliquely
about the situation? Is that what
you would have me do?

–Adrienne Rich

There was a long time when I wrote obliquely about things I hadn’t yet been fully honest with myself about. I circled around, paced, and employed any other manner of metaphor for restlessness. Contained. Simmering in a dangerous dance of denial.

There was a period of time when there was no containment. Everything roared and gushed out of me, a genie from a bottle in a dangerous dance of becoming.

There was a time when I imagined such a thing as balance, that fairy state of being in a groove. Kind of reminds me of the idea that when I have structure and stability, I crave adventure, and yet adventure can feel like chaos, which frankly does not appeal. So much for that theory, little more than a dangerous dance of fantasy.

These days, what? Being a writing mother is proving challenging, and not for the obvious reason of not having much time to write. You can always write. As Audre Lorde wrote in an essay called “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” “poetry can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, on scraps of surplus paper.” Same could be said for blog posts, journal entries. Who doesn’t dream of residencies and retreats, when what life offers up are snow days, walkways to shovel, trips to the ER, litter to scoop, oil changes, single parenting, and forty-hour work weeks? This dance of mundanity is dangerous only when we think life is waiting elsewhere.

Much of my attention is on myself as a parent these days, and on one girl’s dance towards puberty. And that is not something I can write about here without being oblique, out of respect for her privacy and to honor the trust I so want to keep building between us.

I recently purchased a journal called just between us, designed with guidelines, prompts, and blank pages for mothers and daughters to communicate through writing, a dimension in some ways much freer, safer, and more spacious than attempts at talking. Unless one of us specifies the desire for a response, there isn’t one. We notify the other of new entries with a codeword we came up with together. I am learning things about her beyond my observations,and telling her things she may not have otherwise known. The sense I have is of fortifying some solid ground on which our daily interactions, be they embattled or easy, can occur in a reciprocal dance of navigation.

Meanwhile, her sister dances, too, to her own rhythm at turns enthusiastic, affectionate, and explosive. I want to shine on them both, without condemning the shadows or trying to guess at the inevitable blind spots. They are called blind spots for a reason, so I may as well pay attention to the things I can see rather than worry about the things I can’t, or don’t.

When I first started blogging, I was also building a business as a life coach. I would often end posts with a question, a prompt, some kind of invitation to engage. Over time, I abandoned this contrivance in favor of letting the words land where they may.

Tonight, though, I find myself curious: What dances are you dancing? What is the ground that holds you up?

Tell me about the waves that wash away your composure, the tides that redirect your course, the shores where you come to rest, and the detours you take away from dead-ends.

Share something here. Or here. It will be just between us.

Image: Mary Turner Buchanan

5 thoughts on “Just Between Us

  1. Beth Patterson says:

    I wish I’d had (or thought of making) such a journal as I walked through adolescence with D. What we did instead was drive. We’d both acknowledge the need for communication somehow, sometimes non-verbally–get in the car and go. We lived in spacious western Colorado at the time, so it was easy to let the wind and views open us up to dialogue. AND THEN, when she got her license and even more teenagery…she drove and I gripped the inside of the door (I’m sure she never knew…) After time and distance took their toll, she’d begin to talk…phew. We got through it. Sometimes with grace, always with tears and laughter.

    Thank you for sharing all of this in your post–too much to respond to, so I just took this one little piece.
    Love to you and your precious girls…


  2. Robin says:

    I got a Valentine’s Day note from my daughter today, written on lined paper and enthusiastically illustrated in pen with lots of hearts and arrows. In part, it said, “Thank you for making sure Josh and I are always A-OK.”

    I guess that’s the essence of parenting for me, even now that my kids are in their 20s. I never did anything too formal, but I checked in a lot and really did try to make sure they were A-OK. Happily, they both managed to skip the teen angst stage, but I’m not presuming cause and effect. (It was probably because they both had swim practice at 5 am all through high school and were asleep over their books by 9!)

    We all do things our own way and that’s terrifically necessary since not one of us is the same.

    I wish you joy!



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