A Guest Blog by Kelly Belmonte
You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.
But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.
You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.
Rainer Maria Rilke / from The Book of the Hours
(translated by Robert Bly)
I love the first line of this poem. I love it so much, I want to cover it in hot fudge and let it melt in my mouth. It expresses perfectly the dilemma and glory of mid-life motherhood. Rilke starts this poem in the middle of a conversation (“You see…”), which is how I feel I am living my life most of the time, mid-thought. What follows – I want a lot – is just the nuts. Oh yes, RMR, you nailed that one. It is almost as good as the second line. Perhaps I want everything…
Indeed. Even before becoming a mom for the first time at 39, I found myself frustrated at many points with having to choose a path, a title, a job description. I wanted to do it all. I wanted my fingerprints all over whatever mess was being made, because that was just the fun of it. And I wanted to plant herbs, travel (occasionally), lead writing workshops, make soup, get and stay fit, read the latest Carl Hiaasen novel, sing in choirs, keep my house tidy (well, sort of), and be a good wife, friend, daughter, neighbor. Then when I became a mother, I wanted to experience motherhood in full along with all the other things I didn’t want to give up.
And I wanted to write. Always I have wanted to write. Which is another reason I love this entire poem even more than a half day spa treatment with pedicure and mimosas included. I want to write like Rilke does in this poem. Even more, when I do write, I want it to feel just like this. “The darkness that comes with every infinite fall / and the shivering blaze of every step up.” Yes, yes, yes! Such courage, such empathy, such presence. You know you have found your true self when it feels like this.
But I have been known to suppress this artistic exuberance. In early incarnations of self, I allowed myself to be raised to the “rank of prince” – or rather, to the rank of manager, director, chief special deputy assistant in charge of my little corner of the world (LLC) – by my own “light judgments.” I am thankful for the provision, the experience, the skills and knowledge acquired, the friends and colleagues who bore with me. I am grateful for a core set of competence that allowed for, in some cases, a certain amount of “slippery ease.” Yet I never felt a true thirst for the work if it did not include the elements of creativity and courage combined to produce something beautiful. Something one might even call art.
I have realized of late that I am a “crowbar or a hoe” for those who need a safe place or setting or system (virtual or real) to be courageous and creative, a place for the making of beauty, connection, meaning. It’s what I’ve been doing for nearly twenty years when I have felt most alive, when I have done work that I have been called to do and felt thirst for artistic expression. Through whatever phase, identity shift, or situation I find myself in, I’m certain I will be doing this in some form for the rest of my life. It is nice be able to finally give it a name.
As I inch up on the half-century marker in my life, the last three lines of this poem are pure gift. It’s like Rilke suddenly became cheerleader for team Belmonte: “You have not grown old, and it is not too late”… There is a lot of life left to live in this very moment. I refuse to miss out on a single thing.
In fact, as the calendar moves from year to year, my “I wants” become more about single things than “everything.” Or, rather, single moments: being alive for everything that is happening in this moment.
As my world changed in both momentous and mundane ways over the past year, I have found myself grow more free “to dive into … increasing depths,” to be alive to this moment.I am not going to say I haven’t been completely panicked at times. However, I have found as I go deeper into the depths, the bottom is rock solid and sure.
Life – that courteous and calm host – gives out secrets from a gracious well.
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. and trans. Robert Bly (Harper & Row, New York, 1981
Want to read more from Kelly? See http://allninemuses.blogspot.co.uk/ Want to share your story about making it all work? Contact me about guest-blogging.
We conspire with mission-driven women to lead, succeed and thrive in their careers, lives and organizations.
Individuals: We envision women who are enlivened, empowered and emerged. Our members have clarity of purpose and lead from strengths.
Community: We bring communities of women into the practice of seeing each other's strengths and potential. We envision multiplying communities of women-fueling-women's success and impact.
World: We conspire to unlock the potential energy & contributions of 51% of the human population. When this potential energy, thought power, and talent is unleashed, we will solve even the most difficult problems and transform the world.