Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Conquering Contradiction

Humans are complex creatures. We crave vacations, but quickly itch for routine. We want to be healthy, happy, and strong. . . . and sometimes weak, weepy, and alone. At times we have several identities battling it out inside us, each one scratching for the top position. Am I a wife first? What about a mother? And sometimes I need to be a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a comforter, or a drill sergeant. When am I just I? Identities are tricky things. I find myself caught in a tug of war with two contradictory identities. On one hand, there is the Morgen that decided to be valedictorian when she was in the 8th grade, and did it. She ran a marathon, finished grad school and had a baby in two years, teaches early morning seminary, homeschools, and finds time to scratch out a story here and there. That is an accomplished, ambitious Morgen. Then there is the other side of the coin. This is the Morgen that would eat a pan of brownies if left alone with it in the wrong mood. This is the Morgen that resolves over and over to stop biting her nails but nibbles at the first stressful moment. This is the Morgen that looks at every other woman in the room and counts the way they are better than her. I hate it when that Morgen wins.
So, I am at an impasse. I am determined to slowly, but completely align myself with the ambitious Morgen. Sometimes I get very afraid of really being healthy, really being disciplined, or truly meeting my goals. Why do we let fear stop us? Maybe the other identity is more comfortable. The "two roads" diverge and the one well traveled is so much easier to wander down. But, I want the difference. I don't like where the well-traveled path leads, and whenever I choose the other path, no matter how briefly I wander down before getting nervous, I am always always happier. So, today I take a step down the road less travelled and trust that I will enjoy "all the difference."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love Is. . Liking an Ugly Stocking

Ah, the first born child. Everything is important. The future is ripe with ambitions of homemade clothes, cuddling memories, and absolutely perfect holidays. You read three stories a night at bedtime. You make a birthday plate with an original poem on the back. Every parenting tip you have ever read is about to implemented perfectly with that little soul. Baby food. . . blended at home. Diapers. . .changed every hour. And the Christmas stocking. . . lovingly made at home in a creative and beautiful manner.

Am I the only one who dreamed this dream? I sat down to make Isaac's first stocking and it came together perfectly. . in the beginning. How hard is it anyway to sew red felt in the shape of a large sock. And then I cut and stitched a cute little snowman on the front. But then, the name section ruined me. An abbreviated crafting tip: Felt and Puff Paint do not a good mix make:
I was totally distraught. My first maternal Christmas was a mess. I was a failure as a mother and a homemaker. But, with a sigh, I hang Isaac's stocking up every year. Lucy's is storebought with a charming homemade touch. Emma's was homemade. . . by my husband. Isaac's is a bit of a sore thumb when they are all in a row. So, this year I said, "Isaac, I think I better make you a new stocking." Gasp! "What Mom! I love my stocking! I love it! I don't want a new one!" He hugged it to his chest with an impressive look of terror. I was completely surprised and thought perhaps a trip to the eye doctor was in order. Could he see his stocking? Couldn't he see the smudged letters, the tattered snowman and the lopsided sewing job? Then I got it. All he saw was love. All he saw was the first stocking he ever had, one his mom had made just for him. I see smudges of paint, he sees his name. I see flaws, he sees creation. Unlike his mother, Isaac can look past flaws when there is love involved. My life is filled with countless flaws and shortcomings. But, it is also filled with love. I shout and lose my temper. I also cuddle and summon the energy to vacuum because I know it makes the house look so nice when Daman comes home. My sewing is crooked, and my bread sometimes burns. But apparently, a frumpy stocking made (imperfectly) with love is exactly what Isaac wants. So a life lived (imperfectly) with love is good enough for me too. Thanks, Isaac, I love you too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Choose To Believe

Last week I had the talk with my 6 ½ year old. No, not that talk. It went something like this:

Isaac (eyes full of trust and hope): “Mom, is Santa real?”

Before you hear what I answered, let us cut back to the time when I was a perfect mother. . . that time before I had children. At this all-knowing stage my husband and I heartily decided that we would play along with the Santa illusion, put out some cookies, orchestrate a mail delivery system, and give the jolly elf credit for a few presents. But, we asserted, should one of our impressionable children get down to brass tacks and ask the inevitable, we would simply tell them the truth. This was a very good plan.

But I just couldn’t do it. The question was too full of a sad fear that made me think he knew what was coming and needed me to prove him wrong, giving him permission to believe. He needed the lie. Well, I couldn’t do that either.

So, I made my therapist husband proud:

Me: “Well, what do you think?”

Isaac: “I think he is.”

Me: “Great!”

Phew. Tragedy averted. Or, maybe not:

Isaac: “Do you believe in Santa?”

Now my mind was really racing, carefully weighing honesty with magic.

Me: “I think. . . that it is fun to believe.” (Holding my breath)

Isaac: “Me too. I am going to believe.”

And that was it. No tears or crushed dreams. No healthy dose of reality. I’m not sure where we stand now. I think that Isaac has, against all odds, decided it is more fun to believe than to not. And I’ve decided the same. I remember a Christmas many years ago where somehow my parents orchestrated a flawless Santa drop-off that seemed downright magical. I was old enough where I had begun to doubt, and at that moment I remember being completely amazed, thinking, “It is real! He is real! How does he do that?” I was totally suckered, and I loved it.

Truth exists whether we like it or not. I can doubt, disdain, or dismiss, but it will not alter truth. I do not define truth by how I cast my vote. I define my life. I can choose to believe, choose to hope, choose to trust. I can choose, knowing that it is a whole lot more fun if I believe in magic, light, faith, hope, and love. Isaac, I think, has figured out that no one is really getting those letters he tears up and puts in the oven for Santa. But, he has decided that life will be more interesting if he believes. I’m with him. I choose to believe. I choose to believe in God. I choose to believe that these prayers I am sending up are received, acknowledged, and answered. I choose to believe that Jesus Christ was born in a stable, suffered in a Garden, died on a cross, and rose on the third day. My choice doesn’t make those things true. My choice makes me better. It makes me believe and it certainly makes me happy. So, Isaac, thanks for the talk. Let’s keep believing together.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Direction Without Disdain

My scale tells me that between yesterday and this morning I somehow lost five pounds. This is very unlikely (especially considering the four cookies I ate yesterday). There is only one explanation: There is a cruel little pixie living in my scale intent on driving me to insanity. What a jerk. Well little pixie, I’m not taking the bait. The day before, when I’d thought I’d gained five pounds, I cut loose and lost it a bit. I let the scale tell me what to do, and I’ve learned that I’ve got to stop doing that. I’ve always had this natural, wholesome, healthy, long-haired, enlightened vision of myself that I want to become. I feel like it is just one layer down inside of me. I have used this vision as one of two things:

Option A: A 2X4 which I use to beat myself into “healthy” submission (temporarily)

Option B: A change too dramatic, too different, and too scary. This keeps me from breaking through to that level of health and wholeness. (an option which made me turn back in self sabotage lately and undo a ten pound weight loss from the Summer)

Are these my only options? I think I’ve finally realized that they are not. I can want that vision and be okay with where I am right now. . and tomorrow. . and in two days when probably not much will have changed. Goals are good. Direction is necessary. The other day on NPR I listened to this wonderful report about scientists who set people to walking in a straight line across a huge field. They blindfolded them and turned them loose. Across the board, everyone’s first 10-20 steps were straight, but then they began to veer in one direction or another. Then they veered some more. And then something incredibly curious happened with all of them: they began walking in circles. Still, the people were convinced they were walking in a straight line. The scientists created countless variables to understand why, but couldn’t figure it out. Their only deduction is that unless there is a point in the distance they are marching for, everyone just winds up going in circles. What a peek into humanity in general. If I don’t have a goal, I will just wander in circles without progression or growth.
I need goals. I need that vision of a more wholesome me. But, I can have that vision without spitting the present out of my mouth in disgust. I can have direction without disdain. So, I’ve gained a few pounds in the last few months. Wah wah wah. Life goes on. The common denominator between the Morgen that is now and the Morgen that will be when I am living a more wholesome life is me. I will still be here. I am the one taking on this challenge. If I try to run away from that to catch this other vision, I won’t be complete, and I certainly won’t be happy.
So today, I let go. Today I don’t think so much about food. Today I eat a few meals and make the best decision I can at each of them. And between those meals. . . I live.