Only Connect

by Rebecca Moon Ruark

Nine and a half years ago, I entered the cult of motherhood, twice over, with the birth of my twins. With that act, I joined a community of nurturers reaching as long as time and as wide as the world.

So, it was with some surprise, after the initial glow dimmed, the first visitors left, and my husband went back to work, that I found myself feeling very much alone.

Isolation is a funny thing. We avid readers and writers seek solitude and cherish it like the rare thing it is. Still, we all, at some point, seek to connect with a community of like-minded souls. This is why I am thrilled to connect with you here as the new Features Editor for Parhelion Literary Magazine.

If only this magazine had been around then! There I was, a new mom and not-so-new writer, five years post MFA—with its ready-built community—living in a new town where I knew almost no one. “Doubly blessed,” I was. How many times had I heard that about my healthy baby boys? Yet, I couldn’t help feeling a little stranded. Sleep deprived times two, I couldn’t even write.

Over time, I would be rescued by library story time, by mom’s groups, and by my husband, who didn’t have the option of napping when the babies napped. I would also be rescued by writers in online and in-person writing groups, who helped me say what I needed to say. But to be rescued by another writing twin mom felt like being rescued twice over. Because to feel the self drowning, along with the stories we tell about ourselves, can be too, too much.

That writing twin mom was (and is) the essayist Randon Billings Noble. Randon and I only met in person just briefly a few weeks ago now. But back when our kids were small, we were both in the same online writing critique group. I don’t think we ever critiqued each other’s writing—we were in different genres. Of course, I wasn’t actively writing, only trying to resuscitate old work. Did we talk about the new state of motherhood and its impact on our writing styles, substance, or inspiration? No. We bonded for a brief, humorous moment over “twin skin,” the after-effects on the abdomen of carrying twins. And she was writing about it, sharing her experiences of twin-motherhood in carefully crafted essays for others to see—and even laughing through the process.

Sometimes a model is all you need to find your way forward. More time passed, and motherhood began to feel for me less like a weight and more like the buoyant experience it has become, which would lift me up—and my writing with it.

I hadn’t thought about Randon again until the recent release of her essay collection, Be With Me Always. And the big writing world got a little smaller, when she showed up as a featured author at a writer’s conference I attended in April. She signed my copy of her book and we caught up for a moment on our respective sets of twins, who are a year apart.

In reading Randon’s essays I’m reminded of the power of words to buoy—and even save. And what better way to throw out a line than online forums and publications, like this one, which stretch around the world in no time at all.

In her essay, “Leaving the Island,” Randon reads her twin pregnancy alongside reading Robinson Crusoe, the story of the man shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island. She calls her pregnancy her “nine-month Island of Despair,” a period of depression, when her words wouldn’t come and even reading her beloved classics gave her no solace. When she delivers her twins—“…they’re pretty cool,” she says—she is delivered back to herself. A book of people-love, in all its forms, and of love for the written word, I could sum up the collection with the quote from E. M. Forster, which she uses to introduce another essay: “Only Connect.”

Isn’t that why we’re here? To connect. For my part at Parhelion Literary Magazine, I’m thrilled to connect with you. I look forward to featuring new and established voices—in the form of articles, essays, and book reviews—in this very spot.

Until next time we connect,

Rebecca