Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Is

Imagine you're a good husband who wants to be supportive of your wife who is clawing her way back from the Edge of Reason by doing something nutty like blogging every day for a month.

Imagine you read your wife's post for the day (because she asked you to, and because you're cool like that), and your comment is "yeah, I think that's great, Imaginary Wife.  This is really what your blog is all about - working your way through that labyrinth of individual vs. mom."  In this imaginary scenario, when you are this awesome husband who is working to understand and offer carefully phrased and useful input, you would probably not imagine your imaginary wife freaking out and being all Noooooooo!  This is the whole POINT!  I don't WANT the blog to be about moms!  Isn't there any way I can write something that reaches BEYOND the whole Mom Paradigm??  Don't I have anything to say to anyone that DOESN'T relate to being a mom?!?!? We are TALKING about the HUMAN CONDITION here!

Ahem. Before we continue, let's take a moment of silence and appreciate all those partners out there who continue to return home in the evenings, without advance confirmation on whether Crazy or Sane will be in residence when they arrive.

And then let's talk about this whole Identity Crisis issue.  Because although I know I said it is the scariest question a stay at home mom can ask herself, that query - Who am I? - is responsible for the ongoing salaries of many a therapist.  Therapists of parents and non-parents alike, I might add. 

It struck me recently that this stage in our adult lives seems to be the time when we revisit that question, and ask it with renewed intensity.  As a teenager, you truly believe that you can do anything, be anything, succeed at anything.  (Of course to wind up your parents you will shrug, when asked about your goals, and mumble I dunno. Maybe I'll work at The Gap for a while.)  As a young adult, those heady and freedom-filled 20s, you begin to grasp that you won't be able to do 'anything' (for example, I finally accepted I wouldn't be a supermodel. Ha.)  But as a tradeoff, you do start to figure out who you are, and areas where you might succeed.  And you start making your way down that merry path.

Then you hit your thirties, or maybe even your forties, and all of the sudden you poke your head up above the parapet and start wondering if This Is All There Is.  There might be a major event that raises the question to start with -  losing a job, finally getting married, finally getting divorced, having a kid, starting the 12 Steps - or it might just be the day to day disappointment of living a Life Too Ordinary.  Regardless of the prompt, the question starts to follow you around the house as you vacuum, climb in the car with you as you commute to work, fill your ears along with the pool water as you do your laps that day.  Is this all there is?

But here's a crazy idea.  What if, instead of asking if this is 'all' there is, could we try and just accept What Is?   Take your reality - be it SAHM, Divorced Dad, Single White Female - and accept that it IS.  Your reality might not be what you wish it was, not what you are hoping it will be, but try to wrap your head around the peace that comes with accepting that it just IS.

I was recently talking with a friend who is working through a major breakup - she was comparing her own life to what others sitting at the table that night 'had'. But through talking we realized that all of us in the group were working through our own version of the question: What happened to my career? What happened to my dreams? I thought I would be doing 'x' by my age.

Is it so terrible to accept your life for What Is? This requires a great deal of honesty, and that can be painful.  But can we not celebrate, or at least accept, our own choices, and where they have led us?
Instead of complaining about what we wish the situation could be, what we can do today is take a good look at What Is, and what choices can be made today, in the paradigm of our reality today.

Kids are a powerful mechanism to force you to just accept What Is. Whether you hoped you'd have a team of soccer players, or a child genius who would read Bleak House at age 6, or a musician who could hear tonal differences between Brahms and Bach - to quote the old preschool bromide "you get what you get and you don't get upset." Surely a parent can offer experiences/information/opportunities, but the kid is the kid is the kid. And fighting that is only setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

But here's the kicker:  the downside, the huge gaping hole in my theory of accepting What Is is that by accepting it, maybe you stop wondering if there is another path. You might not fight as hard to get out of a bad situation, you might stop imagining a life lived differently. Can anyone offer me wisdom on this? Where is the path of peace, between the What Is, and What Might Be?


Cheryl said...

GOOD LORD this is deep, woman! From Halloween costumes to existentailism in just a post or two? Yegads! I have no answers, other to say that I think writing about so-called "mommy" topics aren't really about being a mommy. I mean, they ARE, but they're not. They're about who we are, the essential part of us, that is. Being a mother is, as has been noted ad nauseum, the toughest job there is. What else has revealed both the best in us and the worst? That says a ton about the human condition, imho...

don said...

excellent post.

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