It All Comes Together
1. into or in union, proximity, contact or collision, as two or more things
2. taken or considered collectively or conjointly
3. into or in a condition of unity
At least since college I have struggled with the divergence of things. Every thought, action, choice seemed to be juxtaposed against something else. I believed that for life to make sense, for it to mean the most, it had to be strictly defined. The meaning in one’s purpose was encapsulated in the clarity of their direction and the potential for overall good that it carried. The problem was my interests did not seem to fit into a tidy box. I was a deeply passionate artist in my early 20s, but I struggled deeply with the meaning of it, the definition of it, the purpose of it, the purpose that I would have if I gave my life to it, and I could not reconcile these questions; so I gave it up.
I thought that choosing something else would make things clear, provide a clear purpose with a clear meaning. No. I continually found myself in the same situation, drawn to artistic endeavors and a variety of interests, questioning the validity of them, and wondering why I could not settle on what I was.
Of course as a passionate artist I wasn’t sure I would ever be a wife and mother, not sure I desired them. Over time I did and I was blessed to find them. And as a mother the pattern repeated, and took this form; to be done right it must be done right all the time. If I was a mother, I was a mother and I would do it with single purpose and correctly. Organic food. Breast milk. Wear my baby. You know the rest. I was able to maintain my idealism almost perfectly with my first daughter, although it was not without its own struggle, for idealism is not self-satisfying, but self-perpetuating. AND THEN…quite surprisingly, I became pregnant with twins when my daughter was not quite one and a half, and the idealism was ripe. And reality was ripe.
The next two years were a fight with my own quest for perfection, my ideal of what this ideal mother was. And I had to face…Bed rest. Early delivery. Hospital stay. And the dreaded FORMULA.
I was a failure.
I was faced with my own judgments, my preconceptions about how things were supposed to be done; I had to pull myself through them kicking and screaming with eyes wide open and look at my healthy boys who made it well into the final trimester, had good birth weights a minimal hospital stay and were never sick. I had to look at my happy daughter so alive, even though she was not eating vegetables for breakfast anymore, no longer wearing organic diapers. I had to look at all that was good and healthy, the breast milk I could produce, the times I could wear them and ACCEPT that it was all good enough. And what did that actually mean…I was good enough, not perfect, but good enough.
I was in the trenches of what I had tried to avoid for years; life meaning different things, being a person who was comprised of different parts, whose idealism was not always actualized in what I could produce in my everyday life. And I had to accept that there was meaning here too, in this non-perfect place. The places I could not reconcile, the parts of myself I could not reconcile. And I began to find meaning in the parts of me where I had believed it did not exist. I started to think that if I believed there was meaning in art, there had to be meaning in me as an artist. That as a mother I believed one of the most powerful things for a child to learn is the value of their passions; and so I had to engage in mine. That passion and meaning do not fit into tiny well-articulated boxes, but exist in the wilds of our imagination and the courage we have to pursue them.
So here I find myself fifteen years after my college idealism was at its peak; rehabbing furniture in my garage, writing about meaning, while my children are inside with a babysitter. They don’t really fit together and yet they come together in the passion of my heart, in the function of my day, in the privilege of my life, in the meaning that I have come to believe in.
The struggle has not been vanquished, but the lesson has been learned. And I can appreciate the divergences in my life, the places where the different parts don’t always seem to come together and believe that there is beauty and meaning in how we choose to navigate these trenches.
This is so powerful, Jo. You speak the truth for all of us women! I read once that it is better to be live a both/and life than an either/or life. It may seem contradictory, but it is much richer. Another favorite quote of mine is from Walt Whitman and I hang on to it like a lifeline: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." Thanks for sharing this, Joanna- I think you are perfect.ReplyDelete