About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Monday
Jan132014

Capping the man hole

Michael gave me Flannery O'Connor's Prayer Journal for Christmas. These recently discovered journals from Flannery O'Connor's college years are so rich in honest yearning: Dear God, I cannot love thee the way I want to.  You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon.

Among the many missives that strike mutual chords of knowing and longing, this one, Please be the cover over my passage, a tiny and tucked away little line, like the middle note in a triad- easy to overlook, but so essential to the beauty of the sound, continues to ring inside of me.  

You see, I am a listener.  An open passage, like a man hole. And any meandering pedestrian can fall right down, deep down, inside of me. Pedestrian guilt, pedestrian shame, pedestrian failure, pedestrian perfectionism; they all so easily fall right in and bounce around inside, ringing loud, if I do not have a cover over my passage.

I realized this most profoundly when, after I published my last blog, I received two harsh comments. And rather than dismiss them with the perspective of, "it's a live and let live world, and everyone's entitled to their own opinion," the words fell down deep inside of me and rattled around, and caused all sorts of havoc.  

My first reaction was, This is not worth it. It's so difficult to find the time to write, let alone to write something I trust enough to publicly put out there; to wrestle with words, only to have a stranger criticize, is very defeating for me. My emotional energy needs to go to my family, not to strangers, and I spent entirely too much time with their words reverberating around inside of my head, trying to decide if there was truth to heed, if I had a right to be angry, if the whole form of a blog is frustratingly ineffective, if I need to just let the writing go.

My reactions were a little dramatic (surprise).

I shared my angst with Michael, and he made a very wise in its simplicity, Michael-ish suggestion: why not disable the comments on your blog?

Hmmm, but isn't the point of blogging to create a community?  Maybe, yes.  But I only had three comments on my blog, so let's be honest. What I've got is more like the size of a 5:30 am yoga class than a robust community. And unless someone is a consistent reader, commenting on blogs is like commenting on a CNN article- it's a drop in, accountability-less, potshot of opinion.  

So, I disabled the comments, but still I thought, why do I bother with a blog? Does the world really need one more voice to add to the endless chatter, endless opinions, endless commenting on opinions, endless commenting on the comments on opinions...

Am I just contributing to all the white noise?

And also, can I handle the harshness of certain comments?  I've never been "talked" to in such a way in my entire life, and it's terribly painful.  Why would I volunteer for this kind of hurt? 

In wrestling with this, I realized it's not the writing that's most fulfilling to me- it's the idea of contributing to someone's journey of self-discovery, of perhaps opening a window to a new perspective.


It's when, as in one Facebook discussion around my Vasectomy blog, some people disagreed, but everyone expressed their opinion respectfully.  And a discussion opened up; one where people were wrestling to make meaning, listening in order to hear and to learn, seeking in order to find; they were engaging each other like thinking believers who don't just swallow ideas, or try to talk the loudest to reinforce their already set in stone paradigms about the world.  They were apprehending truth for themselves through the hard work of questioning and listening and refining.  It was incredibly beautiful.  And absolutely the best feeling in the world to contribute to that kind of dialogue.

As I thought more about this, I realized helping people find and use their voices motivates me in everything I do.

It's what I loved the most about teaching.

I didn't care a hill of beans if my kids did well on their standardized tests, or even if they could write a bangin' five paragraph essay. I taught those things because they were standards I needed to meet, and I tried to do a good job because that's what was expected of me.  But what motivated me, what lit a fire in my soul, was when a student would express opinion, original thought, an alternative viewpoint.  

It was when one of my freshman boys (also one of Michael's wrestlers) came up to me his senior year and told me he still kept journals because of what we did in freshman English class, that he still listened to music and analyzed the lyrics and thought of them as poetry because we opened each class with a song like Yellow by Coldplay or Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve, and I let the kids free write, and then we shared our thoughts.

As a teacher, I couldn't ask for more. He learned what his voice sounded like. He trusted himself to use it. 

He wrestled to become his own person. And I had a part to play in that.

 

It's what I loved the most about acting, and directing, and singing, and dancing.  Helping people find their voice through using my own voice to tell stories, to represent the human condition, to present a new way of thinking about things so that the observer might ask questions, and in the question asking, find a new iteration of their own truth. 

It's what motivates me in my mothering.

My areas of gifting are not so much in sitting down to do homework with my kids for a half-hour every night, or in having chore charts, or creating index cards clipped to their shirts that tell them what is expected of them that day, or in working on daily Bible memorization. I've tried to do all these things, and it's like fitting a square peg in a round hole. I end up feeling like a failure. And while I continue to work to improve in the areas that don't come so easily for me, I'm finally recognizing where I am gifted as a mom.

I'm good at listening to my kids. And I'm good at helping them find their voices. And I love to nurture their sense of wonder, and their delight in the world, and to give them a hunger to fully occupy the space they reside in, to suck the marrow from life.  I'm teaching them how to ask questions, and how to create beauty, and how to be listeners, and how to love deeply. Or maybe they are teaching me...

Because of those two blog comments, and my subsequent wrestling with why I write and what motivates me, I came to these realizations about mothering for the first time.  

For seven years, I've felt like a perpetual failure at motherhood because I had some version of "good mother" in my head, which caused me to never measure up, because that version of "good mother" was based upon a performative checklist that I was not good at keeping.  My sense of failure was keeping me from fully embracing how the role of mother fits on me, Trinityish Trinity.

It's like once I finally stopped trying to shove my square peg in that round hole, I have perspective to see how my square-ishness is a gift.  Wow.  I don't have to be good at all aspects of mothering. God gave me my kids (they chose me to be their momma) because of who I am. Why is this a revelation to me?  

Because if I do not have a cover on my passage, all the pedestrian voices fall inside, and I can't hear God's voice/my own true voice for all the chatter.

Please God, be the cover over my passage.  

Footnote: 

As I went to publish this, I clicked on my last blog again and realized there were now ten comments- a little larger than a 5:30 am yoga class- and when I read them, I cried.  Cried out of hurt, and cried out of gratitude. I can't really make sense of this.  I do want people to be kind to me and understand that I daily fight through fear to be honest about the process of my messy journey, but people have the right to their perspective and opinion. I guess my hope is that we would all listen to each other rather than judge.  I moved through the pain of the first two comments into a greater self-knowing, and into more freedom.  I know that if I have my God cover on my passage, I can continue to somehow do this because God's voice, and my husband's voice, and my childrens' voices, will be louder than the rest. May it be so.