The tear in my flesh

Jackson Pollack "Autumn Rhythm"

This mothering thing is hard. No one really tells you how hard it will be. Or maybe they try and you just can’t believe it until you live it on your own. No one tells you that your heart will be torn in two and you will go through repeated cycles of trying to figure out who you are and how to match your independent desires with your desires to serve and love your family well.

No one mentions how messy it all is – that the desires will never match up, will never fit and yet somehow it all comes together anyway, but it looks more like a Jackson Pollack painting and less like Michealanjelo.

Before we were mothers, we were all something besides…mothers. We had dreams and longings and aspirations and desires that went beyond cleaning and scrubbing and washing and drying and refereeing and surviving.

When motherhood sets upon us, those dreams don’t disappear, but they do shift. Our desire to be Mommy becomes so much stronger than any other thing we’ve ever felt and we give ourselves wholly and fully to the task and yet….there remains something else inside.

The truth is, I sometimes feel like a big failure for not accomplishing more before I became a Mom. And I fight the feeling of failure for not attaining more even after I became mother. I compare myself to others and I wonder why they seem to accomplish so much and I can barely get through  my days.

Then I remember that every journey is different.

I wish I was finished with this novel. I wish I could write it faster. I feel like I’ve failed already for taking so long. But the truth is, this is the best I can do. I cannot stay up until all hours of the night writing, because that’s not how I operate or function.

I can’t do this any faster and still do my job as Mom well. I’m learning to be okay with that.

I wish I had more time. I wish it were easier. I wish I could accomplish more in the few hours I have alone. I wish I could shirk every other duty and focus solely on the one thing I want to do the most – finish this book.

But that is not where life has me right now. Right now I don’t have the solitude needed to be a great writer. I do, however, have everything I need to be a great mother. I have all the tools and all the abilities and all the time to excel in the role that matters most.

I will finish the book. I know that I will. But it’s taking time – so much more time than I want it to. I won’t finish it in the wee hours of the mornings because I must sleep in those hours so that I can be alert to pour all my energy into my number one job. And I will save a bit of time, a bit of energy for the desires and longings that are mine and will work fervently in the little time I have to reach that goal.

But it won’t be a quick ascent. I am the tortoise in this race. I’ll reach the finish line, but only through perseverence because I’ve found that, for me, slow and steady is far more successful than fast and furious. I’m much less prone to burn outs that way.

Lisa-Jo Baker wrote a wonderful post on writing the other day. It has encouraged me so much. If you feel like you’re always a step behind, like you can’t keep up, I suggest you read “If You Wish You had an Island to Write On Alone.”  This quote by Madaleine L’Engle bounces off my soul and clangs inside my heart:


“I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that’s what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the after. I didn’t matter how small or inadequate my talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.”


Day 16: If you, like me, feel frustrated with the longings that war against once another, take heart. It will all come together, and though it may look messy and wild, in the end it will be considered a masterpiece. 

Image Credit

I went there

“Mom, when will I get a cell phone? When I turn nine?”

I fought the urge to laugh and covered my hysteria with a short cough. “Um…no,” I replied as I steered my (smokin’ hot) minivan onto the highway.

“Oh. Well, when I’m ten? Eleven? Twelve? THIRTEEN?”

With each age his eyes grew wider and more horrified. It was like he saw a future of torture before him. And me? I grew more amused. Why the obsession with a cell phone? The child has no one to call…

Honey, I don’t really know when we will get you your first cell phone, but it won’t be for a long time. Maybe when you turn sixteen and start driving, but before then you just don’t need one.”

“What?! No! But, Mom, all my friends have cell phones and it’s embarassing that I don’t. It’s cool to have a cell phone.”

*sigh* I had no idea that this argument would crop up so early. I thought I had a few more years before I had to answer the all-my-friends-have-something-so-why-can’t-I battle. So I took a deep breath and glanced in the rear view mirror at the child who is just being a child. A normal child who sees and wants and desires and has to reconcile those desires with a wisdom that hasn’t yet developed.

“Well, babe, a cell phone just isn’t necessary at your age. If you need to call anyone, you can use my phone.”

“But what about an iPhone?” he asked. “Can I get one of those?”

“Honey, I don’t even have an iPhone,” I replied with a laugh.

“Well…” the wheels turn, “how about I get an iPod touch? That way I can play games but it’s not really a phone, but I could pretend it was a phone when I’m around my friends.”

Ah, consumerism. You are a wily beast.

“Well, that’s probably not going to happen for awhile, either, babe. I’m sorry.”

His face fell and he looked down at his hands resting in his lap. “Why?” he asked. “I just don’t understand why?”

So I went there. I went back to Africa, to the sights and the sounds and the smells and I decided to take all three kids with me.

“Do you know that most of the children I met in Africa don’t have a television? They don’t have iPads, or iPods, or cell phones or Nintendo Ds’s or even computers. They don’t have LEGO’S or a room full of toys to play with or shelves full of books to read.”

Sloan looked up at me with curious eyes. He has always been so sensitive to the plight of the those who are less fortunate. Currently, he has a piggy bank full of money that he hasn’t yet spent because he wants to give it to the poor. Like all of us who are conscious and aware, he wars with the longing to have more stuff, yet simultaneously knows there are people who don’t have enough.

He’s trying to reconcile at eight what most of us never come to grips with as adults.

“The money that we would spend on a cell phone could be used to feed an entire family in Africa for a long time,” I said and he nodded his head.

“Yeah,” he said with a resigned sigh.

I smiled and looked at him again. “I understand how you feel, buddy. There are things I want that I won’t get for a long time either.”

He grinned back at me. “It’s okay,” he said. “I would rather help poor people anyway.”

And that was the end of the cell phone conversation. For now, anyway. I expect it will crop up again sometime and there will be other wants that pop in here and there, but my prayer for him (for all three kids) and for myself is that we’ll always remember.

I don’t want my children to live under a banner of guilt every time they get a new toy or gadget. I myself don’t want to live under that banner. Coming home, I wondered if I’d be frustrated or annoyed with all the “stuff” around me, but really? I’m not. We live differently here. We live in houses and we drive cars and we watch TV and we eat out.

There’s nothing bad about those things. In fact, they are quite good and enjoyable.

But I don’t want to be consumed by them and by God if I’m not going to work hard to make sure my kids aren’t consumed by them either. Rejoice in privileges, don’t take advantage of them. And yeah…it’s okay to remember from time to time the lessons learned in Africa

How do you protect your children from the monster that is consumerism?