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!