The notice said, “We liked your story but felt it did not move beyond the mundane enough to be right for us.”
The word, “mundane,” was familiar to me – an online critic once applied that particular criticism to a couple of my photographs I’d put up at a forum for review. The description incited some argument because of course the critic was like 20 years old and living in New York City and couldn’t be further disconnected from the L.A. suburbs or from a non-working, aging mother. The two perspectives were grossly skewed. The proponents of my shots argued that there was nothing mundane about my point of view, that there was beauty and excellent form and there was uniqueness to what I expressed. Perhaps. Certainly, I thought later, when the child has free access to clubs and plenty of time to compose artistic, black and white fluff…well, shots of “backyard flowers” would certainly seem...
Am I mundane? Have I become a lonely old woman who frets about mold growing on bread in an overheated bread box? Am I ordinary, speaking in ordinary tones, speaking of the mundane in a voice that doesn’t, cannot, go beyond unfixable limitations?
I’m reminded of a quote by Dale at the blog, Mole, that I was a little horrified by last month (brought to my attention by the inimitable Diana at Diaphanous):
I feel diminished and ordinary, though. This was what I have been protecting myself against, all these years -- against this sense of myself as just a person like any other person, subject to the same discontents, laboring under the same conditions. And that's exhausting too. I hadn't realized just how heavily I leaned on a sense that I had something special about me, something in reserve that would dazzle people if they only knew -- how much I depended on that.
The statement Dale wrote, beautiful and haunting, horrified me because it rang so true. Since I was a child I labored under the idea that I was someone unique and special and…brilliant (yes, yes, the term had been applied to me in college by beloved professors, a term I hung on to and so badly wanted to believe)…a person who would accomplish great things. As I struggled with failed goals, I kept putting new ones in front of me, different ones, each one seeming just as impossible to attain as the last, each goal getting less and less spectacular until one morning I woke up and my goals consisted of getting out of bed, making a fried egg, and showering.
“If I can do those three things, the day should work out fairly well.”
Happiness continues to elude me – depression comes and goes – hopes ebb and flow. I sigh often and droop about the house, an ordinary house in the middle of an ordinary suburb somewhere southeast of Los Angeles. Time is catching up and in some circles I am beyond hope to do much more than mother and teach a couple of classes on the side.
What if that is all I was ever meant to do? How does one let go of the extraordinary illusions? Do I try to be the "best darn mother this side of the Mississippi?"
How ordinary, how mundane, that at this midlife I wonder these things.
This morning I sat in traffic on the way into Studio City to meet my dearest friend, Lori, for a breakfast at Jinky’s Cafe. A pick-up truck drove past me, a display case full of Mexican sweet bread in the bed. The pinks, the yellows, the browns…the bread to accompany café con leche on a chilly spring morning. How funny to see the bread there in the center lane, the imagined scent making its way into my car.
So ordinary, the bread.