I haven’t been writing much at all – life is so full all the time. Mostly mothering – mothering my children, mothering my congregation. I am a mother. I am tending to things all the time – tending, nurturing, teaching, caring, loving. I am a mother.
Funny, I never thought I was mom material – maybe because I saw how fully that identity enveloped my own mother. I felt bad for her – all that she gave up for us. I saw my dad take time for himself to write – knowing he deserved to put himself apart and create. He took naps. He lounged like a king on the living room chair telling mom and us kids to bring him this and that. He always chose what was on the television. Mom never did that. She only gave.
I looked at her life and I didn’t want any of it for myself. The monotony, the endless caring for others, the constant pouring out of herself. I interpreted it as that she felt she had to do that to fulfill some societal role: the good wife, the good mother, the nurturer.
I would be different. I would be the scholar, the traveler, the writer, the tattooed, smoking, tequila-drinking pastor who cussed a little. I reveled in being Different! Wild! Free! Driving around in my black GMC Jimmy that reeked of Marlboro smoke, listening to Hole turned up loud. I wore my flannel and my angst so well.
I wonder how many times mom smiled to herself at my angst. Did she knowingly look at me and think to herself, “love your wildness, girl – live it fully – because for everything there is a season.” Did she know that one day I would be her – and I would be glad about that. By the time my mothering years came, I welcomed them. I’ve put away my cigarettes, the tequila is a rarity because it only makes me slow and sad now, and I’m much more interested in a good rest than staying up late. I only miss the traveling – I was good at living out of a backpack and being in constant motion. However, at the same time, I love our home and that my children have a place to feel their feet firmly set on the ground. I’m thankful that the relentless buzzing in my head has ceased and I’m more interested in being good at loving my kids and my congregation than I am in my attempts at rebellion.
To me, it seemed Mom was born mild-mannered, so impossibly gentle, so perfectly mom-ish with her gray hair, her wrinkles by her eyes, her big, soft hands. However, as the years go by and my reflection becomes more gray, wrinkly, and soft, I’m living into the age-old truth that every older person was once a younger person. I sit at the table having coffee with the church ladies and think about how the differences between me and them lessen each day. There was once a time when if you came upon us sitting there, it would be obvious that I was different, younger, free-er, wilder…not anymore. The strands of silver in my hair betray me – but it is more than that. Everything in me has changed – my depth of understanding, my ideas of what is important in big and small ways: for example, for the last thirty years I have worn eyeliner most every day but a few months ago I just stopped. I never wear it now. It seems entirely unnecessary, whereas before, eyeliner was a complete necessity – like breathing and hairspray. (but the can of hairspray lasts a lot longer now, too…)
It is liberating. And it is truthfully, a bit melancholic. It is fully both – because I care less about what other people think, and that is good – but it is a bit slightly sad because I realize how little anyone thinks about me at all. I am a middle-aged woman. I am a mother. These are my roles now. They are good roles, I live a happy life, and of course there is always room for surprise – but it is still a tremendous change. Before, in my angsty 20’s, I felt a certain sense of power in my appearance, my youth, my possibility, my constant motion. Now, I’ve worn a hole in the rug of my roles as a mom and a wife and a pastor. I’m fully established in most of what I planned to do. It feels like I was once an exciting, innovative, new top-40 hit…whereas now I am the predictable, established greatest hits album…it’s all been heard before.
I imagine this is the challenge of the late-forties of life if one is lucky enough to get here. To live it and breathe it – to enjoy all that has been established but to also keep my eyes open for all that is beckoning and yet possible.
“Ambition left to itself, always becomes tedious, its only object the creation of larger and larger empires of control; but a true vocation calls us out beyond ourselves; breaks our heart in the process and then humbles, simplifies, and enlightens us about the hidden, core nature of the work that enticed us in the first place. We find that all along, we had what we needed from the beginning and that in the end we have returned to its essence, an essence we could not understand until we had undertaken the journey.” – David Whyte
“No matter the self-conceited importance of our labors we are all compost for worlds we cannot yet imagine.” – David Whyte
“Perhaps the greatest legacy we can leave from our work is not to instill ambition in others, but the passing on of a sense of sheer privilege, of having found a road, a way to follow, and then having been allowed to walk it, often with others, with all its difficulties and minor triumphs; the underlying primary gift, of having been a full participant in the conversation.” – David Whyte