The Reinvention of Me: Avocation

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.

The Reinvention of Me

This is the reinvention season. The time when life either spirals or centers. We remake houses and children, hastily shellacking both with a festive, serene varnish. We remake old acquaintances with holiday greetings. We remake wish lists. We remake goals, promises, priorities.

This year, 2015, was to be my year of intentional living, and I set the bar high. Life did not get the memo. It intervened in unforeseen ways that threw me into doubt and distraction. Still, I managed several things on my intentional living plan.

‘Tis time to chart a course for 2016. My theme: Reinvention of Me. What’s that even mean? That I hear my own voice clearly. That I build up my world without burning it down. That I get nice and comfy in my own skin, in my own mind, and in my own capabilities.

Sounds hard. I suspect it will be a challenge. ‘Most every second. That’s what makes it worthwhile.

My biggest enemies include, inter alia: worry, hesitation, holding back. These are the microfailures that prevent growth. They are all noise, no signal. They are the barriers I laboriously assemble and then curse as if I had nothing to do with them. They are my safe harbors, where I can peek into life and say, “Yeah, I totally wish I could do that awesome kick-ass thing over there but…barriers! Dash it all!” And then I snap in an aw-shucks way and smirk because I obviously live in the 1940s.

Don’t be misled: I also fear failure. But, listen, success? That’s terrifying. You succeed, the bar rises. You succeed enough and folks start glancing your way. Pretty soon, people get EXPECTATIONS and all manner of fancy notions. Pretty soon, people start deciding they have a lot to say about you and the stuff you do.

And you know what? Those are the things I want. A challenge. Success. Expectations. Not a peek into life but a romp through it. This should get interesting.

Professional Reinvention

After teaching with Amridge University for the last four years, I am looking for a new adventure. My job search centers now on three ideals: 1) work that increases the good in the world, 2) work that fully employs my skill sets, and 3) work that pushes me toward personal and professional growth.

What does that look like? Where will it be? What is the title? I don’t yet know. And I embrace that. It propels me to scour media for opportunities. It encourages me to reach for challenges that quicken my heart. Landing in the right place may require some patience and perseverance and, yes, even a measure of stress.

Personal Reinvention

The cornerstone for my personal reinvention is borrowed from the Bible:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4: 13-17

Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Regardless of the source of this statement, the sentiment rings true to my mind. My year of intentional living was this on steroids. The spreadsheet is a wonder to behold! I managed to accomplish many of the goals I set for 2015, but they happened in unplanned and mixed-up ways. It has been a year I have needed. And it has paved the way for less detailed planning and more detailed doing.

  1. Plan to live.
  2. Appreciate the tenuous nature of my life.
  3. Rely on the central truth of my life.
  4. Know the good I ought to do.
  5. Do the good I ought to do.

Seems simple enough.

Recently, my father taught art lessons at my kitchen table. His first pupil was Third, my seven-year-old son. Grandpa, as we call him these days, put on his USAF voice and said, “Now, get ready. You’re gonna have to do the hardest thing you’ll do all day. It’s really hard – the hardest thing you’ll have to do all day – are you ready?” Third affirmed his readiness. “Sit still and be quiet for two minutes.”

Eight seconds later, Third: Do you want me to go to another room to be quiet?

We laughed and Third took it in stride, eventually putting in at least a minute of quietude.

Sit still and be quiet. You can hardly get simpler than that. Yet there was a question and a restart. My 2016 will hopefully look a little like that. An opportunity to do a hard thing will arise. I’ll be still long enough to be quiet. Sometimes I’ll ask for clarification. When the laughter subsides, I’ll press on and do the hard thing the best I can.

Creative Reinvention

I am a writer whose last big write was in August. I have been a writer on leave. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I say that invention is the mother of obligation and obligation is the mother of absence. In turn, absence is the mother of objectivity, who is the mother of reinvention.

My life pulled in unexpected directions this year. Those obligations required my absence from that all-desired creative chrysalis. Pushed apart from words and art granted me the space and perspective to reconsider both.

Authenticity, craft, courage, engagement – these are the cornerstones to my creative shack. No more chrysalis. Now the place I live.

My theme for 2016: Reinvention: creating the unknown from the known.

Do you have a theme for the new year so fast approaching? Share it in the comments.