Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who Am I, Part 1

In the process of raising my kids, I am afraid of losing myself. I watched my mom do it, and fear I might make that same mistake. Don't get me wrong - she was truly a great mother and raised three dynamic kids. But I think she sacrificed herself at the motherhood altar. By the time the youngest child went to college (me), she had spent 26 years being a mother and forgetting how to be Brenda. Most everything she did with her spare time up until that point involved the kids in some way: coaching softball, running a sports program, volunteering at school. I do remember her bowling every Wednesday in a league, and also reading a lot at night. But I don't think she cultivated her soul, nor her marriage with my father. The result was when the kids left the nest, their marriage crumbled. I felt a lot of emptiness in my mom because her purpose in life (her kids) was gone, and I'm not sure she knew what to do with herself. That was a lot of pressure and guilt to put on me (her last child), too. Of course, if she were still alive, I'm sure she'd disagree with me. But this is how I saw it. And this is what I fear.

So I think I am constantly trying to hold on to the threads of myself each day, while raising Katie and Jackson. I think this struggle makes my job as a mom even harder than it should be. Why fight it? Shouldn't I just let it go, and be unselfish to a fault, and let the heart of Elizabeth take a back seat for a few years?

No, no, no. Just typing that sentence makes my shoulders tense. I want to be Elizabeth, darn it! I want to be a person unto myself, not someone who is completed by other people! Because one day, I will be all I have left. And I don't want all I have left to be empty!

Now, you know I mean that all metaphorically, right? I am not trying to be morbid or look for sympathy by saying, "I will be all I have left." What I mean is that no matter who I surround myself with or no matter how much hate or recognition I receive in my life, in the end I am only taking myself to Heaven. I will be accountable for myself, and I am the only person who has constantly been around from my birth to my death. Sounds silly, huh? But it's true, if you think about it.

So, then, who am I? And who do I want to be? Because the answers to both of those questions might not be the same. I am a flawed person, but I hope to keep learning and growing and changing. The question is, how do I get from here to there? How do I make sure my heart doesn't take a backseat, yet make sure my children have a fully committed mother to raise them?

Here's something I wrote a long time ago, about two months before Katie was born. I wrote it at the end of my sessions with my therapist, when I felt it was time to "graduate" and move on. I had been working with her to process the grief over my brother's death, and wrote this as a reminder to myself that there are certain truths in life that struggles, pain and death cannot change. I wrote it as kind of a little credo. Let me know what you think.

What I Know For Sure
God created me this way. With flaws and quirks and imperfections.
I am not perfect.
I cannot earn God’s love or grace.
I am lovable. I am worthy.
I am at my best when I give freely of myself—my time, my words, my encouragement, my gifts.
God is constantly re-creating me. He stands beside me through every trial and tribulation. If I have the courage to turn to Him and trust Him, He will carry me through. He will not fail me.
God’s timing is perfect. Mine is not.
I was put in this earth to love, to see the beauty and wonder and joy in life and pass it on to others. To be God’s hands and give.
Life is good. It’s the circumstances that can turn bad. God is good. I am good. I am God’s daughter. He is my friend.
Death is not an end. It is a new creation of our souls.
God, life, the world, the heart, the soul, my heart—is so much bigger than my view.
Change is not bad. It brings us closer to God and life and love and our true selves. I am always becoming.
My past helped shape who I am today. It doesn’t have to dictate who I’ll be tomorrow.
Live life every day. Become spontaneous. I cannot plan every moment of my life. While it would be nice to know the end of the story, it would also mean no surprise parties. It would mean too much routine.
I don’t have to live in anyone else’s shadow. I am worthy on my own. God loves me regardless of how the world feels about me.
Being strong is overrated. Sometimes it takes more strength to admit I’m weak, to ask for help.
esk 4-3-03

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