My trouble with mother’s day

and more reflections on writing about grief and life

About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about my mom’s death, Living and Grieving Beside J Butler. That entry was the first of many as I reflect on how to account for/give an account of my experiences living and grieving beside my mother and her terminal cancer.

I don’t have much to say about my trouble with mother’s day other than this: mother’s day caused a lot of trouble for me. I felt undone by the day and its painful reminder of what was missing this year. But this painful reminder is not all bad–what would it have meant if I hadn’t felt my mom’s loss? In Undoing Gender Butler writes:

Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something (19).

To not miss my mom would be to miss something even bigger: the possibility that her loss and my grief surrounding it might re-orient my perspective, from an autonomous and in-control self, to a person who not only recognizes my connections to others but acknowledges how those others shape who I am and how I might achieve (or fail to achieve) a livable life. And in a far less abstract way, to not miss my mom would be to miss that she still matters to me and that her illness and death have transformed me in ways that I never anticipated, but that I can never (nor would I want to, even if I could) undo. Hmm…maybe that isn’t any less abstract, huh? Oh well, I am still working on ways to articulate my grief/loss and on how to weave my own stories into my theoretical work.

Wow, apparently I had more to say about mother’s day than I had expected. Now I want to move onto the intended purpose of this blog: further reflections on my manuscript about living and grieving beside Butler. This morning, as I was drinking my latte from Brewberry’s, I had a sudden realization about the title and concept of my essay. “Living and grieving beside J Butler” doesn’t quite capture what I am trying to do. Then it hit me–wait, my mom’s name is Judith too! (Should I be embarrassed to admit this obvious fact? Of course, from the time that I started to seriously reflect on Butler’s work, even before my mom got sick, I recognized that they shared the same first name.) So, I want to change the title of this piece to, “Living and Grieving Beside Judith.” This revelation doesn’t merely signal a title change; it shifts my perspective on the entire essay. I am not only interested in reflecting on how I used/am using Butler’s work to make sense of my experiences with my mom’s terminal illness and death (being beside Judith Butler). I also want to reflect on how I used/am using my experiences with my mom to make sense of Butler’s work and how it fits with my own theorizing about making and staying in trouble (being beside Judith Puotinen). But wait, there’s more. There is another very important Judith in my life–my daughter, Rosemary Judith. She is named after, and in honor of, my mom. I was pregnant with her when my mom was diagnosed and when I was writing my dissertation chapter on Butler and the livable life. Her entire life has been lived beside her nana’s illness and beside me as I experienced my mom’s illness and as I reflect on/write about/teach Butler. So, the Judith in my new title (“Living and Grieving Beside Judith”) refers to three Judiths: my mom, Judith Puotinen; the subject of my teaching/writing work, Judith Butler; and my daughter, Rosemary Judith Puotinen. Then there’s me: the daughter, the scholar, the mom.

I think that this has a lot of potential…

I wrote this entire entry on my new iPad. I am still getting used to the different feel and functionality of it (as compared to my MacBook), but I like it.

12 thoughts on “My trouble with mother’s day”

  1. I think each person experiences grief and loss in their own way. It seems natural and appropriate that your journey through this experience will tie the events in your life with the theoretical work you’re doing. This breakthrough might, at first, seem like semantics, but I think it’s an important connection to make, and I think it’s a big step in working through this loss in a way that makes sense for you.

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