Friday, January 9, 2015

A doozy for the year's first post

 {Climbing Mother by Brian Kershisnik}

Sometimes I say to myself, why don't you just live your life?  Why do you need to talk about it on social media or a blog?  But, even when the busy-ness of life pulls me a way for months at a time, I can never quite manage to give it up.  Maybe it's pride, maybe it's not wanting to bury anything under a bushel, maybe it's a craving for documenting my existence or seeking validation from others.  Whatever it is, I wish I could put more time into this.

The most important reason, I know for sure, is that it helps me gather my thoughts.  Flannery O'Connor said something like, "I don't know what I think until I read what I write."  I find that to be accurate for me as well.

This week a dear woman I've never met, who I was corresponding with over a damaged-in-the-mail copy of the painting above, commented on my 5th pregnancy this way:  "You are a wonderful mother.  I honor you."

The same afternoon, the teller at the bank drive-up peered into my (abhorrently messy) van and asked of Roger, Carter, and Clara: "Are they all yours?"  "Yes," I replied, "Plus another one who is at piano lessons and another on the way."  "Five?!"  She exclaimed.  "How do you do it?!  And you look so good!  You must be superwoman!"  Uber glad that I wasn't donning bed-head and a sweat suit for once, I smiled and said, "I'm not superwoman.  And I have a lot of help."

And today a dear friend, whom I revere deeply and am significantly inspired by told me, "It's nice to know you are human."

These three exchanges have done two things for me.  #1. They've lifted me way up.  Almost out of the haze I find myself in lately.  I have felt incredibly humbled by and grateful for the kind, gracious words of dear women.  #2.  They've made me wonder: is that what people see?  Some sort of supermom who's got it all figured out?  Is that what I'm somehow managing to portray on social media?!

The truth is: LIFE IS HARD.  For all of us.  Me included.  If it looks like I'm thriving, then I am editing my life too carefully.  Actually, besides the entire family being wiped out by influenza for the holidays, and the pain and utter chaos that resulted in day after day of Mom and Dad being in bed with fevers, besides all that, the beginning of this 5th pregnancy has been a season of self doubt and uncertainty and loneliness.  I know I should never take a pregnancy for granted.  I know that well.  And I'm trying to remember it every day.  But bearing and raising this many children comes with trials of its own, and sometimes it doesn't feel fair that I feel like I can't say so.  Being pregnant gets harder every time.  And the worst part--worse than the nausea or extreme fatigue or bruised tailbone--is the big fat shot of apathy that comes with it.  The apathy that makes me say, I don't care what I look like, I don't want to clean my house, and can't the kids just eat crackers for dinner?  Everyone is jubilantly sharing their 2015 goals online and I'm like "I have one goal/mantra: SURVIVE THIS."

I'm not the mother who feels like this was what she was born to do or is her calling in life.  I chose it.  And I love it.  But it has not come naturally.  And I still have wanderlust.  I dream about curating Matisse exhibits for a large museum, bashing around the city in fancy clothes, traveling to exciting places.  I think about advanced degrees or career paths I may have missed.

But all of that doesn't matter.  Really, it doesn't.  {And not all of it is permanently out of reach, either.}  What matters is--I MADE A CHOICE.  I did the research, I weighed the consequences, I prayed about it.  And I jumped in with both feet.  Being a full time mother is about a bajillion times more difficult than I understood, but it is also infinitely more rewarding than I expected.  Taylor and I wanted to do this.  And I wanted to make it a full time gig.  And so it is not for me to complain or face it with ingratitude, but to own it, to revel in it, and to approach it with the same enthusiasm and effort as I would any field of study or career.  Also, let's be clear.  I don't think it's any more right or righteous or worthy or commendable choice than any other woman's career choice.  But it is mine and I own that.

The tagline for my blog--a favorite quote by Thoreau:
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you've imagined."

This is the life I chose.  The dream I chose.  It doesn't always look the way I imagined, but that is mortality, isn't it?

I really hesitate posting this.  It feels kind of whiny and negative and ungrateful.  (And I know there are so many suffering people in this world who might roll their eyes at this and say, "give me a break, sister!  Don't you know what's happening in Syria or France?!  And yet, if I can't write about my own experiences on my blog, then why write at all?)  And if I know anything, I know that in this often-isolating career, we women got caught in the trap of feeling like we are alone in our uncertainty, difficulty, or failure.  And I want to be the first one to say: I AM RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, SISTER!  THIS IS REALLY HARD BUT WE CAN DO IT!  AND WE CAN MORE THAN SURVIVE IT!  WE CAN SUCCEED!  WE CAN LOVE IT!  IT CAN FILL US WITH JOY!  

So, there's that.  I am not superwoman.  I am very much human.  If my life ever looks dreamy online, I guess it's because I, like many of you, choose to document the things that are the most beautiful and make me the most happy. 

Happy new year to you all.

Hoping we can all find a little more gratitude and joy,


Aaron and Meg said...

I love this, Anne. So honest and raw and inspiring. Thanks for capturing my feelings. I choose to be a mom and love it, the tough and the awesome.

sarita said...

My feelings exactly. Thank you for being so candid and honest and articulating so well what we are all feeling. You have a gift. And congrats on #5! YOU CAN DO THIS!

joan said...

Perfect. Not whiney or ungrateful. Not at all. You nailed it. Thank you, Annie.

themother said...

Dear dear Anne, you are hitting up against a wall for sure, but I love your determination to break through it. And you will. Here's how I know: "And I wanted to make it a full time gig. And so it is not for me to complain or face it with ingratitude, but to own it, to revel in it, and to approach it with the same enthusiasm and effort as I would any field of study or career." A direct quote from you. If you were teaching and facing burn out, you might coast for a time, but then you'd dig back in, find new ways, develop new patterns. And I know you will. I love the words 'revel in it'. The only thing that makes sense. Love you.

Cassadie said...

Kate's friend here, visiting your blog for the first time. Lovely sentiment and eloquent words. These are our choices and even in those "How do you do it?!" moments, I need to remember that gratitude. Thank you for the reminder.