Black Milk by Elif Shafak

I recently finished reading Black Milk by Elif Shafak and found so much to digest there.  In identifying the many facets of herself as "Thumbelinas" Elif helped me to identify with and honor all of the different aspects of my personality.  She also helped me to laugh at them and not take myself so seriously.  Anyone who can help me do that gets five stars! But I have read books that have helped me to do that before.  This book was just sort of a reminder platform to jump off into something else:  understanding which those aspects contribute to my writing life and which ones are trying to hold me back.  She deals with these complex questions in her present experience of pondering motherhood, all the while referencing fairly well known women writers and the glimpses of their choices around motherhood that we get to see.

I have been a mother for nearly 23 years.  I still find it demanding, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and one of my greatest achievements.  I didn't discover my literary self until my oldest was 14, and so did not struggled with the choice of becoming a mother v becoming a writer.  (Though I think Elif would agree that it doesn't have to be a choice).  However, the idea that my children are now grown so I can devote all of my time and energy to writing is a bit of an illusion.  Even grown children have taken up residence in a mother's heart, teasing out all aspects of our being:  nurturing, caregiving, empowering (why don't people every talk about a mother's role as that of empowering her children?)  The myth of being free of anything and unencumbered to write is just that, a myth, an illusion.  Whether it be a significant partner, children, a business, social contributions or any number of fractions, there will always be parts of ourselves that take us away from writing.

Be gentle with them, Elif taught me.  Humor them.  Let them come and go as they please.  But don't ever let any one of them completely take over your soul.  Then you will not write.  That is what I have been doing.  Letting them, one at a time, take up residence in my soul.  One would move in for awhile, then get bored and go away and I'd invite the other.  Elif has names for each of her Thumbelina's and I'm sure you could come up with names for yours.  I am acknowledging my own Thumbelina's and with a heavy sigh and a bit of throwing my hands in the air and rolling my eyes, accepting their place in my life.  But they no longer get to control.  As Elif says, this will not be an anarchy!