The holiday season always makes me a bit more reflective. Maybe it’s because a new year is upon us and I think that most of us would agree that 2016 has been one big (your choice of expletive language). But even amongst those moments of disbelief that so many things could go wrong in one year, there were also sparks of utter joy. My general approach to life is to try to see the good. The more cynical individuals will argue that it might rob me of a certain depth to not wallow in that pity. Sorry, but being smart and miserable are not one and the same. I would argue that you’re missing out too. Life can be one long dinner party with excellent conversation if you choose to be a good guest.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for every single blessing I have. But that’s not to say that Andrew and I don’t work hard for every single thing we have. There I said it, I work. That word is probably the only word I have trouble saying with any semblance of confidence when trying to define where I stand in this world. It was much easier when I was working towards a degree. It was even simple when I was weeks away from defending a 200-page document that encompassed much of what I cared about for a few years. But then, you reach a point when you can no longer define yourself so easily within a society that values certain markers of success.
A few weeks ago I heard Andrew tell our son C not to worry too much about “stuff” and to think more about who he is because that’s something that no one can take away from him. Those words hit me hard because of the simple truth in it. Is that what we all are building ourselves for? It’s true, no one can take away my years of education and doctoral degree. I know, that those “things” don’t go away even if you haven’t found a place for yourself with the credentials you’ve earned. As a feminist I should be even more critical since I can see through everything that devalues what I do each and every day and the care I give someone else. Like my mother said, maybe T was meant to grow up with me for a few years. The bond I have with my son that I’ve forged by being there for him, day in and day out, is also not something that you can rob from me by placing me inside a box, or perhaps more appropriately, within the home.
I think this struggle with ourselves is just how driven, competitive women are built. It is part of our muscle and sinew to want to be better, the best, to always want more. The trouble is that sometimes these inner workings can make you a shadow of a person. Empty people are not present because they’re already 10 years ahead of themselves. Sometimes it it much healthier to practice some self-acceptance and to offer ourselves the kindness we try to offer others. Thinking that “it is written” is not defeatist or lazy. In some ways it allows you to take things in stride.
I know that there are so many women who are working through defining where they want to sit amongst this brave new world that allows us to have whatever we want. Some of us have made choices but somehow placing the career ahead of so many other possibilities is sometimes seen to be more noble than being “good” in other, smaller, ways. Smaller, not small. Being a good mother is the hardest job I’ve ever done and trust me, I once worked in a restaurant hauling dishes up flights of stairs. I am no princess. The truth of the matter is that family members may believe that there are a million and one things that you should be doing. Others worry that “women like you” will be destitute in the case of a divorce. To these people I respectfully, and with the utmost care tell them to take their need to judge everyone out on some adult coloring books. Also, newsflash is that many of us would probably marry again, or maybe, just maybe get back to our careers?
At the end of the day, if I know that I’m still trying to find my place in the world, I’m good with that. Try is the operative word. Believe it or not, most of us still wake up each morning hustling to reach larger goals. And to the backseat drivers offering their pert opinions and concern, kindly get out of my car.