A Fierce & Passionate Life

Times Square, NYC

I have been flying high the past few days after my exhilarating trip to NYC last weekend. My senses have been on fire; I’ve been basking in the glow of taking a risk and a big step forward in letting go of martyr mom.

What a wonderful adventure it was; made even more special shared with a delightful friend. Over the weekend, we walked up and down Manhattan’s bustling streets long after our feet ached; talking, laughing, people watching. We enjoyed abundant, delicious food at some of the city’s most charming restaurants (and at a couple of serviceable delis) and shared rich, engaging conversation.

And we experienced artistic expression at a level that left me breathless, awestruck and envious.

I get choked up thinking about the miraculous art exhibit and theatre performances we experienced. I left all three shows –  MoMA’s Cindy Sherman exhibit and Broadway’s One Man, Two Guvnors and Venus in Fur – feeling electrified and stirred. I especially love theatre and am often inspired by remarkable performances, but the intensity of these feelings was new for me. I experienced vibrations in my body and longing in my gut that left me feeling sucker-punched.

I’ve also been feeling a sizable amount of loss and sadness. Over the past few days, I’ve been coming to terms with some of the choices I’ve made in my life so far and wishing for a redo; specifically a redo in terms of my willingness to follow my passions rather than more pragmatic routes. I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to pursue creative outlets – I’ve just ignored the calling in favor of safety and obscurity.

I walked away from the weekend jazzed about life and bursting with creativity and enthusiasm. Here’s the rub. Now I want more. More of those delicious feelings. More room to pursue the exciting ideas and projects I imagined during my time away. A lot more room. More room than I’ve ever given myself in the past. And I’m scared.

Do I deserve to feel alive, excited and passionate about life every day? What if my passion is not my children? Or my husband? How will it work to pursue passion at this stage of my life?

I’m aware that my “all or nothing” thinking will hold me back as will my shame. Shame that at times (a lot of times) I enjoy pursuing artistic expression more than I enjoy parenting. I often enjoy the process of writing this blog more than I enjoy teaching Ava math or reminding Rhys to wash her hands and certainly more than the endless dishes, cooking, laundry and carpooling duties I’ve elected to take on. I’m coming to see that I use my children and husband to stay small, to avoid taking risks in this adventure called my life.

If the writing I’m doing was paid work, I tell myself I wouldn’t feel guilt or shame. I’d be contributing to our family income and doing my fair share. Noble pursuits! However, since I began this blog and started writing again, I’ve been arguably nicer to my kids and more fun to be around, when I am around (I have no empirical proof of this or even anecdotal evidence – just my own delusions justifications beliefs).

I’m afraid I don’t know how to put myself and my life first and don’t have the emotional muscle not to get bogged down in shame and guilt every step of the way. Someone dear to me asked me the question: What is your primary purpose? I tell myself the right answer is “to be the best wife and mother I can be.” That’s true. And today I want more than that. I want to show our girls by example how to live life fiercely and take abundant risks and make mistakes and try again. These ideas feel profoundly different from my upbringing, and I’m finding it hard to trust this journey.

When I think about spreading my wings and enjoying my life, I think it’s selfish. And not the good kind of selfish. Selfish in that I tell myself I should have spent my younger years (read before husband and young kids) pursuing my dreams, stretching myself, taking risks – not now. When I write this, I’m aware of the limiting nature of the messages in my head. I need some new messages. Will you help? (In the meantime, I’d like to leave all my negative messages on this post. I imagine they’ll be here whenever I need a hit of doubt, guilt or shame.)

So tell me … Can you give me some new messages for my weary head? How do you reconcile your passions with your responsibilities? How do you handle the mommy guilt?

FYI:   the original post I lost was infinitely more interesting and certainly better written than this re-do. If my iPad ever coughs up the original, I’ll post it and you can decide!

30 thoughts on “A Fierce & Passionate Life

  1. Mary,
    Here is my insight for what is worth… Fours years ago I decided to go back to school. I wanted to be a school librarian and I first needed my teaching certificate and than many graduate hours in the Library Science field. When I talked this over with a friend I complained ” I will be 47 when I am finally done” and she replied ” and how old will you be if you don’t pursue this… still 47″. Well I turned 47 in March and I I completed my last assignment today and am interviewing for school library positions. Being a school librarian is my passion, and I had to forgo many things to get there and my family often took 2nd place behind my studies. I more than once thought about quitting ( especially after viewing my son’s high school grades) I was encouraged by TJ and my sister to keep at it. That my example of pursuing my passion was a lesson for my children to learn. And yes by getting a job I will be contributing to the college education of Becca ( ironic actually that I went to college so I could pay for her college), but the library field is more than a job for me, I feel it will complete me and make me a better wife, mom and most importantly person. I guess what I am trying to say is that our kids pick up on our unhappiness and know when we are being filled. I say pursue your passion ( not that I’m encouraging you to run off and write Broadway plays) but there has to be a way to balance your family life and your passion.

    PS I was fortunate enough to stay home with my kids and only work when they were in school. My going to school at night and on weekends actually made them more independent and self sufficient, important traits for today.

    • Lisa, what a beautiful, compelling story. Thank you for commenting and sharing your experience and hope! Congrats on finishing school and on your amazing dedication. I love what you said about the benefits your kids received and will receive from you pursuing your passion. I’m inspired! I’m sending you love and good luck on your job search. Would love to know when the lucky library system gets to benefit from your talents! Thanks again!

  2. Shut up. This post was awesome. I SOOOOOOOO identify with you! I could write (and pobably will write) a very similar post – except in my life I did NOT take the pragmatic route – I pursued my passion, classical music, and got a Masters of Music in Viola Performance from a prestigious conservatory. And when I got married and realized I needed to find work, I was embarrassed to realize that after all those years of school, my only options for work were gigging here and there and teaching private lessons. I liked teaching, actually, but the main hours I could work as a private violin/viola isntructor were in the hours of the afternoon that I should (want to) spend with my own family. I have wished many times that I pursued music as a minor and focused on something that could earn real money as a major. Your post gives me some insight though; I’m sure if I had chosen the practical route I would be daydreaming about being a classical muscian. In the last year I’ve been able to strike a balance – I play with a small professional orchestra about 7-8 times per year, and stay home with my kids. I was working part-time as a bookkeeper but I just quit because my boss was a certifiable lunatic. Lately I’ve been finding awesome furniture on the side of the road and fixing it up and flipping it on craigslist. I know that’s weird, but it’s become such a frequent occurance that I’m starting to believe it’s devine providence. Jeez, SHUT ME UP. I’m writing a freaking blog-post. I’m just trying to say that your path will find you more than you will find your path. And it’s never too late to follow your dreams (agree with previous comment). Keep writing…

    PS (SHUT ME UP) I just had to say I frequently also prefer writing to doing stuff with my kids! :-s

    • My path has been trying to get my attention for a long time. Thank you for identifying (can’t wait to read your post)! And no way I will shut you up! I love reading your comments! I’m always inspired and awed by people who choose to follow their passions – such a powerful and frightening choice. I’m inspired that you’ve found a balance – here’s to me finding some too!
      I LOVE, love, love your new hobby! I’m a huge Nate Berkus fan and he’s always encouraging people to redo furniture. You’re very on trend!! Just like cooking shows, I love watching but have no drive or movement toward cooking or furniture refurbishing! Thanks again for commenting – I’m enjoying our interactions!

    • I’m going to go look up obscurity in the dictionary to make sure I used it right – nothing like a little perfectionism to kill any joy! Thank you for being such a supportive co-conspirator in NYC and here!

  3. All I can say is that I was raised by a mother who had no outside interests, so “I” became her interest. And that SUCKS. I truly wish my mother had had the guts and self esteem to follow her passions. And I completely support you in being fully alive!!

  4. I agree with Lauren. Your kids don’t want to be your interest. And you don’t want to resent your kids. But I do think you can find a way to find some balance. Whatever you do, whatever dream you have, there is still life to be maintained. Sheets to wash, food to cook, a home to clean, bills to pay. If I focus on my dream and my passion 24/7 then I resent it and miss time with my family. With writing, I have found time for both. But that’s me. You figure out what works for you. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for nine years and there have been a lot of ups and downs as far as being me and being mom. Just know you’re not alone. Carve some time out for yourself each day. There should be no guilt in that.

    • Thanks for your feedback and support. I’m amazed at how much fear I have that I’ll f-up my kids unless I have perfect balance at all times. I know in my heart that’s not the case and balance feels elusive right now. I’ll follow your lead and trust I’ll have time and energy for all of it!!

  5. the phrase “a mid-life crisis”,
    is like a white shirt in a aviary,
    random shit can soil it at any moment,

    wash out the clear-green-white-black goo,
    and it’s still a white shirt,
    ready to hold a torso, a neck, two arms,
    and one middle finger,
    pointed straight up to the sky,
    the universal symbol,
    understood across all species,

    mid-life crisis,
    has acquired a bad rep,
    and lost all its street cred,

    divorce trade-in for a younger model,
    grecian formula “real black” hair paint,
    facial tuck-pointing,
    loud, virile sports car,
    creepy wild & crazy old dude hipster

    crisis isn’t a necessarily a bad thing,
    and doesn’t have to be an expression,
    of internal discomfort with signs of aging,

    crisis has an alternate definition:
    “a point at which future events are determined”
    a recognition of the fact,
    that we live in a world,
    of change and impermanence,

    a fleeting awareness,
    presenting opportunity,
    to make choices,
    and speak truths,
    at another sweet spot,
    in the cycle of life,

    a parent aware,
    being observed by loving, learning eyes,
    of two daughters and one man,
    choosing lesser-used colors,
    sizing different canvas,
    soaking old brushes,
    righting the easel,
    daring new hues,

    walking the labyrinth,
    to fill in the fingerprint,

    at once,
    teachable by observing eyes,
    and unfiltered plain ole’ wisdom,

    and teaching by modeling,
    what it is to be a woman,
    painting the vision of her life,
    in full living color,

    “see the whole of me,
    oh yeah,
    I have to show it to you first,
    don’t I?”

    reads the canvas chyron,
    invisible to the naked eye,
    a message visible,
    only to holders of the decoder,
    husband in the art studio,
    and daughters sprouting women.

    blessings to the creative,
    in the mirror.

    francis xavier saucedo

  6. Hey Mary,
    Thanks for sharing and for adding me to your contacts at linkedin. I enjoyed your post and would love to chat with you sometime. I also truly enjoy coaching Ava! I am almost 50 and still wondering what I want to be when I grow up. Always thought it would be writing. I do a little freelance, but at most it supplements my Starbuck’s habit. I have had many setbacks, but I try (not always successfully) to enjoy each day and still have hope that many things are possible!

  7. Oh that balance between the “for me” and the “best for my family”. I think it is impossible to achieve. I think that balance is not in the day to day living, but in the overall living. As you yourself said you are happier and more pleasant to be around when you write. Even though that may mean you are not hovering over your children every spare second of the day. I think start with something small – a class or a lesson or a project you have always wanted to do and then go from there. Don’t try to overwhelm yourself or your family with something huge.

    Good Luck!

    • Thank you for the pep talk! I agree with you, balance isn’t something we can “get,” then freeze in place. It’s a moving target and part of the journey. I like your idea of small steps rather than huge projects … I’m more likely to stick with something if I’m not overwhelmed from the start. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I think sharing your dreams and growing them is important. It demonstrates to your children how to pursue dreams.

  9. I’m new here from PYHO. This is a beautifully written post. I can relate to this struggle. Blogging has helped me find my passion for writing as well, and I have no idea how to balance my desire to create and my job to be a mom and wife. I have passion for both. one seems sensible and one seems selfish. Sigh…

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Sensible vs. selfish – exactly! I’ll try to trust that putting these feelings in writing (and out in the world) will help us find some balance. If not, I’ll be calling you to brainstorm and commiserate!

  10. As a stranger visiting your blog for the first time I can tell you that this post was interesting. I instantly related to you.

    I have put myself on the back burner for years, making sacrifices for my husband\’s career and my kids. I used to be this passionate person, with so many ideas and plans, and now I have become the typical house wife.

    I am going to let your post inspire me to do something for me, since for some reason us moms often feel we need a reason. Your post can be my reason.

    (btw, I found you through \”PYHO\”)

    • Wow! I’m so happy to “meet” you here. And I hear you. I’m amazed at how easy it’s been to lose myself in my everyday responsibilities and pay little to no attention to what brings me joy and lights me up. I want my passion back in a big way. So … I’ll be using your comment to inspire me again!! Wanna go to NYC? I think that’s the answer :-)! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  11. Mary – the following that your wrote is the story of my life:

    “I’ve been coming to terms with some of the choices I’ve made in my life so far and wishing for a redo; specifically a redo in terms of my willingness to follow my passions rather than more pragmatic routes. I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to pursue creative outlets – I’ve just ignored the calling in favor of safety and obscurity.”

    I left a stable, good paying job in Corporate America 2 years ago to focus on my children and to study yoga and to write. Ha! talk abut becoming a mid life hippie! My road has been a shaky one but I stand by me choices and have never been happier. I miss the money and also have that same guilt about spending so much time blogging – which to date, has not made me money. But I have faith that I am finally on the right path in life and that gives me comfort. I also have the guilt about not giving enough to my kids – even though I am home with them.

    But as far as the choices you are making, have faith in yourself. Have faith in your instincts. have faith in the things that you can not see – because if you believe them to be true, then they are. You “gut” never lies. Good luck!

    • Thank you for this loving, encouraging comment. I’m going to borrow your faith and trust that I’m on the right path. Whenever I start doubting, I seem to get more “green lights” that I take as encouragement to keep going. I’ll keep showing up and taking risks! It helps so much to hear from people like you who are navigating a new path for themselves and following their gut. Inspiring!

  12. I think you can still pursue your passions, even if they sometimes have to come ahead of motherhood. Our kids can still see they are important, even if they aren’t always the center of our universe in every single choice we make.

    • I so want to know what the perfect mix of motherhood and passion pursuing is before I even start doing it! I hate trial & error! I agree – my kids know they are important and it’s easier to focus on them than on what I want/need. Baby steps for me … Thanks for commenting!

  13. Just found your blog through Christie and you had me at this post. I’m going through a similar struggle ( http://welcometothemotherhood.com/2012/06/01/hello-my-name-is-carinn-and-i-am-a-writer/ ). Sometimes I blame it on NYC – where I live all the time – it’s too damn inspirational, too damn electric, too damn full of voices that whisper “follow your dreams”.

    Better late than never? Realizing the things that make you come alive is important. It’s important for you, it’s even more important to live that way so your children see it.

    I look forward to reading more from you!

    • Happy! I’ve seen your comments on Christie’s site and and am excited to check out yours. Thanks for identifying. I love NYC and have no doubt I’d feel even more pressure living there. How do you do it? I do want to show my kids all sides of me, whether they like it or not! Thanks for visiting!

  14. I relate to so much of your story…and your readers for that point. It is hard to have time for everything and to feel like you aren’t doing everything only 50%. My new blog is where I feel that I get to write and it feeds me. I believe that you would really relate to my blog…especially the post “mother guilt.”
    Looking forward to hearing more from you;)

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