A few weeks ago I wrote about living a good life. This post walks closely in hand with that one. I have lots of thoughts swirling on this subject, so please bear with me.
My Family of Origin
I love my family of origin. My parents have always provided for me. They’ve also given me the vital skill of choice. Throughout my childhood, they refrained from setting their dreams for me upon my shoulders. I’m sure they had dreams, but they didn’t make me feel the pressure of them. At the same time, they encouraged me to think in terms of my own personal limitations. For example, yes, I *could* show a lamb for 4-H but then they put me in a pen with one. Or, yes, I could try out for cheerleading but my career depended on my being free with my body in front of others. And, of course I could try basketball but my natural lack of athleticism was a hurdle I’d need to overcome.
On the big stuff, like going to college or being a lawyer, they told me I could do it and they helped me face the hurdles like financial aid. They balanced realism with optimism. They still do.
My Family by Choice
I love my family by choice. As I’ve said before, Husband hasn’t gotten what he bargained out of this marriage. He married a girl on her way to law school, a high achiever. He got a girl who has drifted and lost her way.
Kids, however, are amazing creatures. In their youth, they have unmitigated hope and faith in the people they love. They are so infectiously proud of me that I’ve felt fraudulent and they’ll agree soon enough.
Living One’s Truth
For reasons that are tough to explain, I have failed to live my truth most of my life. I tried to project the image I thought people around me wanted but I continually failed because projections are, by nature, limited. I tried to project an image that did not stand out in any way. And the pressure all came from me, really.
For a long time, I tried to keep my writing alive and also be successful at a ‘real’ career. I tried to compensate for my failure to realize how important certain aspects of my life would be to me. I never anticipated I’d want to be home with my children until after they were here. I assumed I would have a worker-bee job all my life.
I have a friend who I only met after we were both mothers. She worked hard between college and starting a family, because she was clear that she wanted to stay home with her babies. I didn’t plan like that, because I didn’t expect to want to be home.
But I can’t do anything about the decisions I made in the past. I cannot go back and study literature or creative writing or filmmaking instead of history and business and law. The tuition is spent. The loans exist. I cannot go back and carve a super job into my pre-motherhood life so that I would be less financially burdened. I cannot go back and tell Husband that I really wanted a life of art.
As a Christian, I feel that I have been blessed with a number of modest talents. What has not been clear to me is how I am called to use them for the kingdom. Indeed, I think the congregations I’ve experienced avoid the conversations of callings, gifts, and women, let alone the combination of those three. It has been a difficult thing to parse on my own because I feared the ridicule of doing it ‘wrong’.
For all of these intertwined reasons, I failed to live my truth and it played a role in my depression. Depression is a disease process. Like any such process, external and internal factors can impact depression. For a person with diabetes, eating sugar impacts the disease. For me with depression, avoiding figuring this stuff out impacted my depression.
Pursuing an artistic life or a spiritually gifted life or a life of motherhood – these have all seemed like luxuries for those who planned for it, those who followed that path all along. I felt like I could only legitimately pursue those things if I was earning them by doing other things. But I was incapable of doing all of it.
Even though I’ve long believed you can have everything just not at the same time, I was trying to do exactly that. I was trying to have everything at the same time.
Where I Stand
A few weeks ago, I put up my resume and decided to throw myself headlong into the creative life. Old me would feel selfish. New me knows that trying to do all of it at once was selfish and this, this is realistic optimism. I’m not hiding this from any parts of my life and I’m not trying to live more than one life at a time.
I am still grappling with the spiritual aspects of this because I think it’s hard in the faith community of which I am part to cling to spiritual gifts beyond marriage and motherhood and feeding others. I am still struggling with how to create in a productive and stable way. I am still mediating motherhood with creativity.
But I’ve begun.
I am using alchemy to combine my love for motherhood, my spiritual calling, and my creative truth, knowing I may fail spectacularly. That risk is how I know I’ve done more than existed. It’s how I’ll know I lived.