Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stop and Stay Steady

Most of you are aware of Josh's intense interest in competing in an Ironman triathlon. Several friends who heard about his struggle whether or not to compete, asked me if I would ever be interested in doing something like that. I quickly answered, "NO". But, it got me thinking about what I would be interested in doing. I had a hard time coming up with anything, and that made me feel a little sad.

Josh has always had a hobby he's been working on ever since I met him. He's driven, competitive and focused. I can probably count my hobbies on one hand, and they usually include something free that can be done when I have a quiet moment to myself, after all the other to-do's are ta-done. I've always been more of an introvert, preferring quietly reading a book or watching a movie to pounding the pavement or attending a people-filled party. Maybe it comes from being sandwiched between four boys, or the fact that I grew up in a large family, that makes me that way. Perhaps it's just my nature, I don't know.

When I made the decision to become a mother, it required that certain chapters in my life came to a close, in order for a new chapter to begin. I couldn't have my fingers stuck firmly holding places - bound in the pages of my own interests - because I needed those hands to be a mother. It IS a two-handed work, at least for me!

I used to hold all my babies like this - their bums cradled in the crook of my elbow. One-handed, so I could do something else with the other. Isn't Yaks so cute?

One of my favorite books is called, "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindburgh. It was written by the author while taking respite for two weeks alone in a simple cottage on the beach at Captiva island. She collects five shells: channelled whelk, moon shell, double-sunrise shell, an oyster bed and a paper nautilus, all symbolic of the different stages in a woman's life.

Lindburgh says, "What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head."(26)

I think we mothers feel that constant war within ourselves of others vs. self, particularly in this day when everywhere tells us that we can do it all NOW, and we should be able to do it perfectly. So many of my girlfriends have been able to strike a beautiful balance - being able to busy themselves taking classes, sewing, crafting, working-from-home, writing books, or training for marathons. I think this is wonderful, and I know they find great joy in being able to do these things in addition to being a wonderful mother. I really look up to them.

I can't help but feel I've lost pieces of myself in that area. It's so easy to lose your identity as an individual person, when you are in the trenches of diapers and the daily three square meals and two snacks. Perhaps I never really took the time to develop my interests and talents when I was young, or maybe I just gave up and lost them somewhere along the way.

Limburgh says, "My shell is not like this, I think. How untidy it has become! Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, its shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?"

For me, getting sick was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. As I lay in that hospital bed day after day, it forced me to look at my life and myself. I would daydream about the tasks that I used to find completely boring, mundane and tedious. I wanted to be at home, doing laundry, cooking dinner, reading the same story for the sixth time because my kids love it that much. I wanted to just be a mother at home. Perhaps it was almost losing all of that, which made me value it all-the-more. This experience has made me content and happy, and I hope I never lose that feeling.

I read this quote from the movie Bridges of Madison County (never seen it, and I don't really recommend it based on the summary) this week that really sang to me:

"When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you're expected move again only you don't remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself."

I still have days when 8:00pm can't come soon enough, and days when I wish I got some sort of tangible paycheck for the work that I do, but for the most part I feel really at-peace with myself, with womanhood and motherhood, and with this season of my life. I've been able to reconnect spiritually through prayer and scripture study, and it has felt good to find that Amy again. I'm healthy and getting stronger. I recently got called as the new Beehive advisor for YW! My kids are learning and growing in their testimonies. I know the day will come when I will need to move again alone and find myself, but didn't Christ say, "He who loseth his life for my sake shall find it"?

Now is my season to stop and stay steady so my children can move, and I suppose that makes me an Ironmom too.


Brianne said...

I needed this today. Thanks, Amy.

Two Dot Crew said...

Beautifully written...thank you for sharing!

Holly said...

I love this post. It is just the thing I was talking with my sister about at our last visit. One of the reasons I love my calling in Young Women's so much is because of all the learning growing I've been able to do. I felt like I was kind of stuck and not going anywhere spiritually before I had a calling at church. For now, my purpose and what drives me is the girls in my class and working to be a better teacher and mentor for my girls at church. When we have kids, then my children will give my life purpose for that season, and I'll try to be everything for them. I like how you quoted the scripture about the one who loses his life for Christ will find it again. I've found that to be true, as I immerse myself in service as a youth leader. I am so much happier and remember who I am when I'm giving everything to that calling.

JBpaulsen said...

Never thought I would be crying at work at 9:30 on a Thursday. You are an Ironman. Thank you love.

Marie' said...

A beautiful post, Amy!

Liz said...

I loved the quote to "stop and stay steady". You are an inspiration to me and I really needed to read this post. I am asked a lot why I don't have a job and I liked how you put into words how I DO have a job and that I should do it the best that I can.

Chad said...

Amy, I love your writing. I am not a mother by any means, but the times i have had to play Mr Mom has really opened my eyes to a mothers responsibilities and my gratitude goes so much deeper when I think about that... I was burned out after just a day or two!

There was a website that I saw once that said if housewife and mother were a paid position, it would be worth around 150 K a year. We can argue the salary all day, but I believe the point is that it is a job full of important responsibilities and the compensation is among the top paying jobs.

Anyway, thanks again for blogging and sharing from your heart.

Kristy said...

This is one of your best posts, Amy. I too love the quotes you used, especially the Madison County Bridges one. It is so true that every challenge we face usually ends up to be a growing time, a time of rediscovery. Thanks for sharing your growth with all of us.

Dianna said...

Again, Kristy was logged in and I didn't know it. The last comment was from me.

Sarah said...

I'm slow to comment on this one. But, I've been thinking of it since first reading it a few days ago...

As others have said, I LOVE the quote "you stop and stay steady so that your children can move." I need to print that for my fridge. Staying content and recognizing the purpose AS I steadily stay within these walls is something I constantly struggle with.

Good for you putting into words how important YOUR job of standing strong is. You are doing an amazing job staying steady with what is most important! Wonderful example to your little family. :)