I wrote this piece two weeks ago. I have written and rewritten it several times, each time unhappy with the lack of direction and the rambling nature. I have felt doubtful and afraid of being misunderstood. Then I heard this read on the radio this morning:
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. – Elizabeth Cady Stanton
And I realized that often the truest way from point A to point B is a big ol’ meandering zig zag.
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Sometimes I feel like I am letting feminism down. I am aware of the juxtaposition of my pre-kid ambitions and my current ambitions. I hear the roar of the Lean In Movement. I choose to lean differently and that can feel so isolating. I feel the criticism – whether legitimate or of my own imagination (I suspect it is a bit of both) – from colleagues; I wonder if I am a person they think of throwing away potential when they ask me what’s new or if I am making art these days.
While I feel inspired by and sure of my choices and my lifestyle in the giant, oceanic sense, I indeed have waves of doubt and insecurity. It’s remarkable that I can feel lost, when moving in right direction with a functioning compass.
I remain driven, although it feels so different from my ambitions, before child. For me, everything regarding my goals and perspective changed when my first daughter was born. Everything. I didn’t want to admit it for over a year. I was still invested in my work but it was no longer what defined my success.
At a dinner party last summer, I talked with a group of friends about how remarkable it is that in this town – where nobody moves for a career opportunity – we have all found meaningful work. A filmmaker, communications director in local government, reporter, nonprofit executive director, artist, nurse and me. My friend asked if I’d go back into my old work (development director at an art museum), someday. Really, you peaked before your time, she said. She said it lightly, as a nod toward how young I was in that job. But I cringed. You can peak more than once. I am peaking now, I defended. I do believe that. And I do feel defensive about it.
I inhale and remember I make my choices with great care and I exhale knowing that, right now, more than any goal or ambition, I want to mother my children. I do. I want to craft a meaningful, altruistic, creative, progressive, loving, living life around this high charge. I want to pay attention to this. This.
I haven’t lost myself in my children. My position doesn’t request your approval or disapproval. My position requests an understanding that the fire in your belly is the same as the fire in my belly. And the moment we stop thinking we should do things, we free ourselves to listen to our true life’s missions (we are complicated; we have more than one; we can change our minds). I don’t believe any authentic calling is common or unimportant.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ― Howard Thurman
Of course, I want to achieve a great many things. I think of my creative muse like a rabid texter. I can silence my phone. I can leave the room. I can turn it off. But, at some point, I will see the contents of those green thought bubbles and I will happily engage. I must engage. I owe it to myself, and especially to my children, to muscle my way through my inspired fits.
I want to write this book that stares at me every time I open my computer. And I want to grow GEO to the place where my husband can paint full time. I want to bring back Virgin Harvest and print those canning labels I designed. I want to finish that essay about how adults inappropriately comment on little girls body types (lucky girl! legs for days!) and I want to publish it in some giant magazine. I want to create a garden planting app. I want to realize my children’s book about weighing risk and big living. I want to get my blog posts finished – the ones about beet recipes, my sure-but-insecure desire to homeschool, house projects, building furniture, my favorite kid movies and all the feelings and stories in each corner of each of those ideas. I want to volunteer more, change the lunchroom culture in public schools and make art.
I want to say things out loud. I want to do things. And then I stop and ask myself…
To what end?
For what am I doing things? For whom? Why? On the day I sip my last breath, what do I want to feel I have contributed to the world?
I ask myself, with everything I do: to what end? Yes, I need to earn income and clean and tend and comfort in the same ways we all do. But, the other stuff, the stuff we choose, the way we get there: to what end?
Am I rendering myself irrelevant? Am I shrinking away from the momentum that is in me? Do my fantasies about unplugging completely and moving with my family into the deep wilderness come from a fear of failure? Am I meant to do more? I reflect on those questions often.
I think those things in that paragraph up there will wait. And if they are no longer available to me when I turn my attention to them, I will find the next thing and that will be the right thing.
I tell myself I have plenty of time to ____. Truth is, I either do have plenty of time or I don’t. I might live to accomplish another something and I might die tomorrow. In both circumstances, today: I choose the mess, excitement, love, exhaustion and ceremony of the ordinary. I am
(and then Ruby interrupted me, hijacked my computer and finished it up perfectly)