Thursday, March 31, 2005

"This is your life, are you who you want to be..."

It isn’t easy separating who you are from what you do. Or should I say that it isn’t easy separating who I am from what I do. Mimi, you are correct when you suggested – in a very kind way might I add – that my priorities are a little out of whack. I’ve been thinking about that all month. Is what I say that is important – my faith, my family – being usurped by my need to be praised?

So far, I’ve let what I do define who I am. I am a mother and a teacher. I would love to be just a mother. That’s a lie. I would love to be a writer and a mother, but there is a reason why I am not a writer. It has to do with my theory of writing and writers, and I’ll divulge more about that at a later date.

For now, my attentions are divided. I can’t do what I want because I have to work. Rather, to maintain my current lifestyle, I have to work. Most who say that live in bigger houses, have nicer cars, live in more affluent communities, and have more toys. My husband and I do not live extravagantly. It’s a rarity that I buy something that is not on sale. Sure, we could live more frugally, but we both own used cars, we are a family of six and we live in a 1500 square foot home in a “Middle-Class” neighborhood in a average town in an state that has a higher than average unemployment rate. Currently, we pay $2.11 per gallon for unleaded gasoline.

Nevertheless, my family lives nearby, and it is important to my husband and I that our children spend time with their doting grandparents. The rest of my family is a little wacky – no, they really are. And I am no less wacky than they. But weirdly we want our kids to have a connection with my extended family, who also live in the vicinity, because it builds character to know and love strange people.

And my husband has a good job here. He is truly gifted at what he does. Also, his job pays a decent enough wage; his salary is probably better than any other un-famous musician can earn. He could be famous at the expense of being a good father and husband, but he chose, “the road less traveled.” [Thought – why is being a good father and husband not the popular path?] Instead he labors with a passion and excellence that the world may never recognize. Clearly he has made many sacrifices for me, so I work.

Which brings me to my point: because I can do my job and parent my children simultaneously, I choose to do both. But I do neither well. I personally can’t be the best at something unless I can put 100% into it. So in effect, I choose to do nothing well. That’s why I embrace my mediocrity. That is the one thing I can do 100%. Ironically, I am very good at being mediocre. These are my life choices. This is what I have to live with. I’ve accepted that.

Still, it is very difficult to separate who I am from what I do. It’s difficult to accept that about myself and to not feel – well – less of a person. All of those things that I enjoy doing – playing soccer, singing, writing – I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love the accolades for a job well done in those areas. But you are correct, Mimi. In the scheme of things, those are talents; my talents do not define me. My talents may define my borders, but what is external is only an expression of who I am – a faint expression at best.

So now that I’ve lived at least three-and-a-half decades, it’s finally time to start defining what is important. Life is too short to be worrying about how badly I do everything. These are not the last mistakes I will make, and my children will surely come back to me in 20 years and tell my how I’ve undeniably screwed them up. That’s what children do.

Hopefully, they will also discover that who they are is not what I’ve made them either. Right now I feel a little sad, a little confused, but very hopeful. My birthday present to myself is that this next part of my life I pledge to not make life so complicated, to not worry about the “cannots,” and to embrace the simplicity and contentment I desire.

4 comments:

Ch@ndy said...

Wow. As someone who has known you longer than almost everyone in your life, I have a couple things to say about who you are. Granted I am not in your skin, but they say that often it is not what we think of ourselves that is closest to reality, nor what we think others think. It is what others who know us actually do think that is most accurate.

When we were ten years old we had already cemented our “Best Friendship Forever” with felt-tip pens and construction paper. So that day your mom told us her drowning story that involved her death and resuscitation and her memories of angels, heaven and return to life on Earth and I knew that God had thought of me when He sent her back. Strange as the story seems, I have never doubted that part of your purpose in this life has been the most wonderful and tremendous influence you have had on me. Granted, it is highly unlikely that I will ever end up a topic in the history books but we are linked. Your mom, to you, to me, to KD and the boys and on and on it will go, like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Most of us are never blessed (or cursed) with the knowledge of the impact we have on the lives of those we come in contact with.

But today, I tell you, my whole life has been affected by our friendship. I am who I am today in large part because of you. And all these years later, you constantly affirm who I am, loving me just as I am and inspiring me to grow and strive to be the best I can be. And just in case there was any question (which I seriously doubt)….I like who I am and I love the impact you have had on my life especially because I know it was ordained by God, long before we were born.

Now about who you are. You are The Blue Sugar Poet, work of art, beauty, mystery and adventure, who will always be loved and desired.

Mimi said...

Thanks for that.

I think the truth is, everyone who is aware, in a certain way, thinks they do a poorer job than they should. I teach, and I have kids. And I goof way too much around with other things. But when I talk to my students, they tell me not to quit; when I listen to my kids they are glad I am not the same as other parents. It isn't that my self-perception is wrong; it is that they see and value other qualities in me that I bring to my job, my family.

Look at how other's judge you - of course, you'll have some critics (man, I hope you don't have any teenage kids!) - but examine a balanced collection. I bet you are not mediocre - from what little I see here, I don't think you could be.

Chandy seems to be giving you pretty high marks.

And I can tell you, you make a great first impression.

bluesugarpoet said...

Thanks for the encouragement Chandy and Mimi. I feel eternally blessed to be part of a top-notch community of supportive people – both local and now on the Internet. :) Chandy – you are my dearest friend by far. I’m touched and in tears; thanks for that. Same to you, by the way! And to my newest acquaintance, Mimi, thanks for your kind words and for making me think. Things are definitely not as dark as I at times make them sound (reference “personality test results” – you can clearly see that I have worry/paranoia/anxiety issues – but in a funny way, of course). It makes me feel good to “exercise” my “demons” nevertheless. There is something to be said about speaking my fears; making them tangible makes them manageable. Thanks for joining me in the journey!

bluesugarpoet said...

Btw, thankfully my kids are all under age nine. I am sweating about the teen years, however, because I have four daughters!