I went to see my ex last Sunday so that he could visit with our daughter. He is living in a residential hotel, a little clustered strip of brick buildings hidden behind a tower of storage units. Well, this hotel room is just a bed, a TV, a table, a dresser, a kitchenette, and low-pile carpet. He has his VHS collection stacked against one wall, the same one that he had when we met, and a pile of pumpkins, and a dresser covered in skulls. He has his guitar and mandolin and his PlayStation and a heart-shaped ashtray half-full of cigarette butts. We sat on the bed eating fast food and watching an old-school Care Bears movie.
Our daughter kept wanting him to take her to the sink to wash her hands, then to pee pee in the pot, then to feed her bites of food. She kept nudging the fork into his hand so that he would eat, too. I remember that about him--I would cook, and he wouldn't eat it. He didn't understand how the refusal to do something together is sort of a denial, like you are saying no to the person without doing anything. It was other things too, how he would fall asleep on the couch or keep his shoes on hours after he came home.
He said in a voice that I don't like for a two-year-old, an annoyed and patronizing voice, "You can feed yourself."
Well, ok. I am learning how to make my daughter happy. She is almost two, and I only just figured it out. She wants me to be her mommy. She wants me to wipe her mouth, get her Sprite, help her pee, pretend to do chores with her, hold her, cuddle with her, and watch cartoons in a little snuggley ball in a mountain of stuffed animals.
I do not think that I understood until recently what the interaction thing means. It is about burrowing deep down into a person, until you are finally eye level. It is a way to look around and see the world the way they do. From this vantage point, I know what my daughter wants.
"She just wants you to do stuff with her," I told him. "She wants you to eat with her."
I have been thinking a lot about something I read last week in Force Vs. Power, one of the many hippie books I've been reading lately. He talks about self-love in a way that makes me think about maternal devotion.
"At this more evolved stage, nothing 'out there' has the capacity to make one happy, and love isn't something that's given or taken away by another, but is created from within."
I have been experiencing, some evenings, a glowing sensation that wells out of my love for my daughter and into our apartment, covering the pile of laundry, the furniture, the musty yet comfortable scent of our home. It comes out of me, but it also wraps around me. This is, I've been thinking, my maternal gaze turned inward onto myself--and outward onto the world. "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover the multitude of sins."
Love in this way, as a blanket of warmth, rolling out to bathe and massage the cracks: love that is drawn from an infinite source--I think that is how to be a mother. Or an ex-wife. Or just a person. IDK think about it.