“What would I be doing if I wasn’t doing this?”
The age-old question that we mothers ask ourselves, even though we would probably never admit to doing so. And the more elaborate those visions we create are, the bigger the guilt we feel for even asking ourselves such a question.
Like…when you know the paint color you’d use on the walls in the small bungalow house you’d rent that’s down the street from the coffee shop you’d frequent wearing the cute new boots you just treated yourself to?
When you know that many details about the kind of life that you would want to lead??
That’s the stuff that brews trouble.
It’s that kind of stuff that makes a mom feel guilty for even harmlessly dreaming of being somewhere else even when she is wearing the same shirt from the past three days, and her greasy bangs keep brushing annoyingly against her forehead while she cleans old spaghetti noodles out of the strainer at 9:30 at night.
I have dreams. I have visions.
And my kids ruined them.
Nearly 6 years ago is when it started. This undoing of me and all of my plotting.
Now I rock back and forth against the daily constraints of day-to-day life, and beg for SOMEBODY to just let me out. Even for 30 minutes. By myself. Just to focus on myself. That’s all I need, I declare.
Because my kids ruined me.
I bump against the ceiling of creativity, and can’t break through it because I don’t know what I’d even go back to school for or what job I would want to have, and I cannot fathom having to research a ten page paper in this stage of my life, and yet I know that I could do more than scrub the ring of grime around the base of the toilet.
I could do more.
But my kids ruined that.
I run into walls of expectation, and realize that I’m not good or productive enough to be the Pinterest mom, and I care too much to be the perpetually cynical mom, so I worry about how to be the mom in the middle. I know I disappoint one tiny face after another on some days, while I still have to prove myself to the prying minds who want to know how I can even stand being at home all day with my children, and what I even do with myself.
Another Ashley clamors to get out sometimes.
This Ashley feels ruined by all of this life that is happening to her. She could do more. She wants more. More is somewhere out there, she silently says to herself, as sure as she has ever been about anything.
But her children ruined her.
They ruined me.
They ruined the picture I had painted for myself. They ruined plans. They ruined possibilities. They definitely ruined my expectations. They ruined my ambition. This “season” has consumed everything else that could be.
But it gave me something so much better. It gave me my children.
They took those visions and expectations and desires and longings and they turned them on their heads. They profoundly changed them. They ruined the image I had of myself, bright-eyed and adventurous in a world with only horizons. They ruined whatever picture I had of satisfaction and a live lived with contentment. Whatever concept I had of a life lived before seems menial now.
If I ran away, right now, and give it all up, I would taste, but never be satisfied again. I am ruined for joy. I am ruined for peace. I am ruined for happiness. I am ruined for satisfaction.
Nothing would EVER feel as good. Nothing will ever be good enough.
Not since them.
Nothing will ever feel as good as my infant’s skin against my neck. Nothing will ever smell as good as my son after a bath. Nothing will ever be as beautiful as my daughter and her curly hair when the light hits it.
Nothing could ever be as precious to me as when my children crawl into bed with me in the morning and curl against me, or when they hold hands naturally, not just because I made them, or when they play and laugh at and with each other.
Every time I think I could do more, that there could BE more, I find out just how wrong I am about that.
How can I long for more life when there is so, so much life happening right here? How can I ache for adventure when there couldn’t possibly be any bigger adventure than the one within your own heart, and the one happening right under your own roof? How can I reduce this parenting thing to just a season when it is in fact a calling like no other?
Life isn’t about what you have seen, it’s about the people you see when you close your eyes. It’s the people who make up the negative space beside you that outline who you were, who you are.
It’s the people that prove that you were here. Not the plane tickets. Not the degree on your wall. Not the photographs.
It’s the smiling faces around your dinner table, or the people who share a cup of coffee with you in the early morning hours. It’s the people who reach out to hold your hand when you’re out for a walk together. The people that you will miss out on if you aren’t careful enough to learn how to instinctively appreciate them.
People are the measure, not the stuff.
This is the measure of the full life: the people in it that love you, and most assuredly, the people who you love.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
There just is nothing else for me anymore.