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Monday, July 19, 2010

My Something Big

My husband once told me "you're the type of woman who can't be satisfied." He wasn't talking about in the bedroom. He meant, I'm never happy with my current situation. That's not a compliment, I've learned. I've told close friends that I wish I could just be happy with a simple life. I know that's a bit like the grass-is-greener mentality. But, I've wondered, why couldn't I just be happy staying home and being a mom?

"You don't have time to be a mom," my defiant 11-year-old snapped at me the other night. Ouch. I took her head firmly in my hands and told her that I work for our family, doing the best I can in the time I have and I don't like to be guilt tripped about my choices. Later, re-telling the story to a friend, I realized my daughter was partially right.

Here I am blogging about what my possible next steps are in my life when my time is stretched between running a magazine, managing a home, mothering four girls and pushing myself to peak physical performance. I've always been an over-achiever — taking on more things than I could possibly get done (never mind doing them well!). Maybe it's time to look at my choices more closely before I add one more thing.

The friend I related my woes of motherhood to is a good fifteen years my senior. She's had two boys who are now grown and out of her hair and she has been through two divorces — the ink on the second one is just drying — and she's been a working mother through it all. She always gives me the most thoughtful, sound advice and I love her dearly. She told me that she used to want to save the world/make a profound difference in her work, too. Now, she's just grateful she has a good job. She told me that maybe my desire to do something big needs to be shelved for now...because maybe my "something big" is being a mother to four girls. Right now.

When I had my first child, I resented that all my dreams and aspirations would have to wait. In some ways they have. I haven't finished college, I haven't written a book, I haven't made a million dollars, I haven't won any major awards, I haven't traveled the world, I haven't bought my dream house on the shores of a quiet lake...but, what I now have is four little women (just call me Mrs. March) with potential to each make a difference in the world. Does that mean I have to put my dreams on hold until they are grown? I'm not sure. But, it may mean that I need to stop trying so hard to always be doing more. Maybe I need to simply work on being satisfied with what I've been given.


  1. What a thought-provoking post. I am at the opposite end of your story. I've worked hard all of my life in hopes of achieving various goals, and something has always gotten in my way. I have put off having children, and I haven't done any of the things on your list, except finishing college (though I question the finality of it--I'm still taking classes and trying to pile on the degrees--to what end, I know not).

    I wonder if you suffer from a syndrome I've had for years. It is a syndrome that finds me plucking information from out of nowhere and making it my truth. It usually goes something like this:

    I go to a conference and see a person who appears to be happy. I know she went to the gym early in the morning. She is surrounded by happy people laughing with her. She has beautiful clothes and her hair is perfectly in place. She presents at a workshop I attend, and her powerpoint is actually compelling, and her handouts are in a beautiful font with lovely borders. She is gracious and engaging. Later, we talk. She talks about her practice and tells me of her PhD in curriculum design, mentions that she never eats white flour, that she rises no later than 5:30 every morning, and shares that she once spent a weekend at a retreat practicing this new-agey concept about being one with pinecones with a groovy mystic named Liam. In my completely "logical" mind, I lead myself to believe that these are the keys to a happy, successful life. By the end of the week, I've applied for a doctoral program, thrown out every loaf of Wonder Bread in the freezer, set my alarm for 5:30 each day, and voraciously pour over Internet pages looking for the pinecone guru.

    A simpler version is this: I am riding down the road and see a cyclist with great muscle tone and focus. I also see that he has a swanky messenger bag. The truth, plucked out of nowhere, for me is this: If I get a messenger bag like that, I'll be a fit cyclist.

    It is so difficult to be content. I related with the comment you husband made. That very quality that impresses and inspires others, the quality of determination, is the same quality that can be a demon to battle. The questions, for me, are these: Am I doing what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing? Will I be happy when I have ________ (that next degree, that promotion, achieved that goal)? If I sit still, have I failed? How do I outshine my previous accomplishments?

    I have a good friend who is wise and perceptive. When I get into this thinking, and it becomes big enough that it is spilling over into my conversations, my friend leaves me with words of wisdom that I'd like to leave with you: You have enough. You do enough. You are enough.

    I love those words, but that niggling demon in my mind likes to echo with: But, is that enough?

  2. PS Your girls are stunning and could be mistaken for a snap-shot of the generation before them a few decades back :0) xo

  3. I enjoyed this post. It is thoughtful, dealing with ambiguity, asking good questions for which there are no easy answers.

    May you have a Happy Birthday!


  4. Oh, Pam! I have asked myself these questions and been on this exact train of thought so many times. In fact, a few months ago I felt like I was going through a midlife crisis (hopefully more like "quarter-life" crisis, lol). These questions were burning me and I felt like my life didn't resemble me at all. I felt like I'd lost myself in the game of survival and was just getting buried deeper and deeper in the void between "should" and "could."

    Then I picked up Mother Theresa's biography and have been reading it. That book is changing my life because I'm seeing how "being" is so much more important than "doing." Now, each day I'm focused on "being" fully present with my children and husband, especially "being" loving and kind to them. All the "doing" gets done eventually and with a lot of prayer, the Lord helps us know when to do what so that we don't exhaust ourselves on "doing."

    All that matters is today. Tomorrow and yesterday can't be caught. Our children's lives are changed and evolved during the moments of "today." So, when it comes right down to it, all you have to worry about is doing today right. ;)

    I feel funny giving you my thoughts on this since I admire you so much and think you could educate me far more on this topic, but hopefully my thoughts help you know you're not alone and that I love you!

    p.s. that photo of your girls is breathtaking! They are all so lovely (just like their mom!)!

  5. I have often asked myself the same question "Will I ever be satisfied or content???" After years of searching I've found the answer - Yes and no.

    NO - I am a creator by nature and the act of creating is what is energizing to me. The process is what I love, so when one project is over, I'm on to the next because I love to create - a home, a child, a song, an article, a business, a relationship, a TV segment....

    The YES - By accepting myself as a creator who is energized by the process, not just the product, I have been able to come to a new level of self-acceptance, which is ironically satisfying.


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