For a few weeks earlier this year, I had it all together. It was early March, and I had achieved a rare and tenuous balance between homeschooling and writing. The girls were learning, I had a new publication, and I thought, “I can do this! I can be Super Mom. I can have it all!”
Hubris, I know. With a fairly solid humanities education (think of Odysseus and Oedipus, Faust and Eliza Bennett) I should know better. I should. But it’s so alluring, that sense of riding the wave to its crest, the illusion that there might be, that there is, some point on the mommy/writer learning curve when I’ll “get it”, when I won’t need to struggle anymore. Easy street.
In counterpoint to my illusions, I offer up Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. While her husband is off fighting the Trojan War, dallying with Calypso, and infuriating a Cyclops, Penelope has her own problems. Like vultures, her suitors come to take over Odysseus’s kingdom and his wife. Penelope staves them off with a clever ruse. She promises to marry once she has woven a burial shroud for Odysseus’s father. Every night she picks apart what she has woven during the day.
Clever Penelope. She clearly understands what I so often forget. For every thread woven neatly into place, another, somewhere, unravels. Some strands break. Others tangle. Not a shroud at all, our days are stretched on Penelope’s loom, too wide to see the pattern, but small enough to feel the shuttle’s vibrations, the ache of knots, the wrench of snapping. We live the intertwinings.
Relieved of her weaving and transported to the twenty-first century, Penelope might have been a baseball fan. She would have cheered on DiMaggio’s 57 game hitting streak, the impossible made real. She would have understood that there is always a curve ball coming, a neatly spinning orb with just the right mix of rotation and velocity to knock our careful balance, send it reeling. There’s always a Zeus with his Pandora’s Box, a crooked finger, crooked smile, a Siren to tip the scales.
I’m not a fatalist. I don’t believe in divine malevolence. The arc of a curve ball is simply life, living. Batter up. I hear the hum.