Hail, Mary

Full of grace...  I have only a little while before the dog is going to need to go out and I've promised myself to spend it translating.  But how can I not say a greeting to Mary, on this her day of days?   

The Lord is with you...  And yet it is so very hard to drag my thoughts from the mundane to the historical, never mind from the perennial worries of the everyday to the transcendence of salvation.

Blessed are you among women...  I'm not, which is one of the things that I'm worrying about.  I'm having an attack of the uglies, having gotten my hair cut this past week and feeling even more middle-aged and dumpy.  Nor does it help having just measured myself so as to be able to order a costume for my end-of-quarter party that actually fits, now that I am inches and inches fatter than the one I wore the first time my friend (alas, no longer a friend) and I co-taught the course.   

And blessed is the fruit of your womb...  And so I've been thinking this morning about what Simone de Beauvoir said about why women find it so difficult to transcend themselves, how we get stuck in wanting to make something, literally, of ourselves rather than something out of ourselves and how only actresses can (and even then, only fleetingly) fulfill the simultaneous demands of beauty and craft because they are themselves the object of their making, and I feel sad and inadequate and despairing.

Jesus.  If only I could allow myself to feel the love that I know God has for me, but I can't and I don't know if I ever will.  Is it love that I need to feel for myself first?  Or would I do better to stop thinking about myself so much and focus more on others?  But in focusing on others (particularly at work) I have lost myself to other people's agendas so much so that I no longer believe in the work that I would do myself.

Holy Mary, Mother of God...  I'm sick of writing about myself, thinking about myself, wishing that I were somebody other than myself, mainly my younger sister, who is slender and athletic and glamorous and active and gets to spend her days doing almost everything other than sitting at a desk, and I feel like I have lost my opportunity to become whatever it was that my father dreamed I might be able to, while at the same time disappointing my mother because I am still so much myself, the impatient little girl with the Snoopy toy.

Pray for us sinners...  And me, especially, so empty even though I've been trying so hard for so long to become something of which you might be proud.  But then why would you be proud of me?  I haven't made anything that will survive the ages or even the next generation of academics, not like your true devotees who built Chartres for you and painted your image so beautifully and wrote music for you and spent their lives praising your son.

Now...  because I am so very stuck in the now, in the despair that says, "This is the way that it is always going to be, nothing is going to change, nothing is going to get better if it hasn't already," as I walk the dog around our oh-so-historic neighborhood with its mansions and money and long yet again for the house that I will never have.  If only I could kill that dream once and for all.  It won't make me happy.  Nothing is going to make me happy if what I already have doesn't.  Because it should: a family, a home, a job, a career.  But I'm still fat.  And underpublished.  And stiff.

And at the hour of our death...  I wasn't any of these things six years ago, just before my father died.  Then I was thin and in the midst of writing a whole set of articles and as limber as I had ever been.  I could even do the splits.  And then my father died, and I cried for a year.  And got fat again.  And lost my writing.  And started getting stiffer and stiffer by the day, despite still doing my yoga.  Which I don't anymore because I hurt my wrist.  And now my waist is a good four or five inches thicker than it was (31" now, when it had been around 26 1/2"--yes, I was that thin) and my writing is not what it should be and I haven't done yoga in months.  And I just can't seem to do anything to get out of this slump, despite blogging about it for years.  I know that I'm wrong to equate success with slenderness or progress in my writing simply with publication (see, I've learned something writing this blog), but I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that this is it, as good as it gets.  Which as an artist (if I am one) means I am going to die because to be an artist means to create and if we don't create, we die.  Like sharks, we have to keep moving.  (I know this is true, Julia Cameron said it.)  And I feel like I've stalled and can't breathe anymore and I don't know how to find my passion again.

Amen.  So now I've made myself cry, when I should be working on my translation of John.  And it's stupid anyway to be crying because, really, look, I am surrounded by love.  My family's love, my dog's love (if dogs love), the love of my friends and my fellow fencers.  Even God's love, if only I could feel it.  But I'm afraid.  I can't see my way clearly any more, now that I am nearly ten years post-tenure and it is clear that I have somehow missed the boat, how I have no idea, I've been working hard this whole time.  But it's there, that nagging feeling of being less-than-I-could-be, of not being ambitious enough while at the same time too ambitious to enjoy the comforts and achievements that I do have.  Maybe Beauvoir is right, I'm spending too much time looking at myself and not at my work.  But I'm a woman, that's what women do, isn't it?  Worry about not being beautiful enough, about not dressing well or decorating their homes beautifully, when the smart thing to do--the manly thing to do--would be to get on with our work.  Except that I don't want to be a man, I want to be me.

Okay, enough of this. Time now to translate, while the dog is still occupied with her bone.*

*And whom I can't simply let outside because my neighbors would have a fit.  If they were home to know about it, which they aren't.


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