Two sides are battling for possession of my life. One pushes me ahead, urging, “Do, do, do, and you will be of value,” but the other twines a hand around my ankle and pulls me down to earth and whispers, “Be.” The “Proud Marys,” I have named these contrasting women who emerge one at a time from my center, but since I have lived in Mexico for seventeen years now, perhaps Maria would be a better shared name. A name is all they share, for by their own natures one is an outward person: a doer, a liver of life, a socializer. The other is inner: a reclusive watcher, dreamer, thinker, artist and writer.
Some people know how to balance these voices, but I don’t. And so I live on a little seesaw of made and canceled plans, meetings and random days of alternately reading, writing, watching movies or wandering around my house attending to my ever-lengthening “to do” list. What is life, I wonder? Is it your accomplishments? I have lists of those I seem to have less and less willpower to sit down to and finish. It’s like I have to sacrifice the satisfaction of ticking things off a list for the promise of a different kind of life.
I don’t think I’ve every really felt I had significance other than as a doer of things: artist, writer, committee chairman, decorator of houses, organizer of my friends’ lives. Yet during all of this activity, I always suspected that all around me people were leading lives that were more fun than mine, more satisfactory. If I gave more, did more, accomplished more, I thought I would attract this ideal life to me.
A tour guide once explained to me the importance of the agave plant in Mexico. For the Mexican of the past, the agave was what the buffalo was to the American plains Indian. Different parts of the agave plant were used to make rope, housing, clothing, food, dye and last but never least, mescal—the finest of tequila-like alcohol. So perhaps I should call my Marias the Agave Marias. Between them, they furnish me with all of the necessities of life. One says organize, proceed in a linear fashion. The other says, “Brainstorm. Go with the flow. Let process win over need for a perfect product.” So I let one Maria lead me through my mind and put it all down on paper, now and then letting the other Maria pop in to clean things up a bit and organize. Agave Marias, furnishing it all.
Childless, have I instead created all of the possibilities for myself within myself? In refusing to give birth, have I hoarded all of the possibilities of my genes within myself and is that what has led to this slightly schizophrenic seesaw of existence-—one day running off for an entire day of activity, the next staying home behind walls? One side wanting to be Cinderella at the ball, the other side wanting only the security of my own hearth?
I was married for fourteen years and before that lived with another man for three years, I’ve also had female roommates, but most of my life has been lived alone. There is some part of me that only exists in solitude and when I’m too long away from her, I miss her. Without her I feel superficial. It is from this side of my Agave Maria that I draw all of my real nourishment—my creativity, my soul. The other Maria is my reward—the finished product, the publication party or the book tour.
All of the seed I hoarded has given birth to these different entities within myself. Failing to produce offspring, I have become my own offspring. These children, my Marias, journey out from me but always return to the wellspring. I go to the party but come home to snuggle into bed for the entire next day, venturing out only for popcorn and a different CD. Or I sit on the side of the tub for two hours with my laptop on my lap, writing a story which takes me into a wonderful world of my own creation.
It is Christmas, and in the background, a chorus sings what to my ears becomes, “Agave Mar-eee-e-e-e-aaaah,” and the beautiful notes convince me, for a short time, that I am the mother of creation, the one Maria that all of Mexico celebrates, tattoos upon their chests, dyes into their T-shirts, puts on decals and bumper stickers, commemorates in stone or plaster or clay or wood in every house. She is the spirit of duality in all women and in all men: flesh and spirit, of this world as well as heaven, of the utilitarian and the creative, human and divine.
All of us are Agave Marias, learning to collect ourselves and pull all sides of ourselves in to ourselves to appreciate them. We are our own mothers as well as our sisters and daughters and friends. Within all of us are these Agave Marias, like sisters absolutely indispensable to each other who are nonetheless competing for our attention.
“Honor them by listening to each,” Mother Maria says to me and suddenly I realize that there are more than two Agave Marias within me. This third motherly Maria seeks to reconcile the others and whispers, “Look deeper. There is always one more. All welcome. All part of life.”
The daily prompt was Narcissism. Since I had already written on this topic in April, I chose a slightly different slant on this prompt, concentrating on the different sides of myself in a slightly nacissistic manner. My original Narcissism poem, published in April for NaPoWriMo is HERE.