At Home, East Arlington, Massachusetts
Last week, my mom came to visit. Mothers are such complicated things. I don't think my relationship with my mother is any more complicated than anyone else's, but sometimes, in my most disoriented moments, it certainly feels that way.
My mom and I are very very different people. She is all practicality. She is rooted in life in a way that I've never been able to share. Her mind is all lines and sense where mine is chaos and flicker. People are central to her world. Ideas are central to mine. She listens to people's hearts. I imagine what their hearts could be.
Recently, I've started to realize that as much as she struggles to understand me, I struggle to understand her. For a long time, I thought that I was a lot like my mother. And we are. We both care about people a great deal, and I thought that her gifts and talents were mine. The thing about this is that of course most children inherit some of their parents' abilities. I got just enough of my mother's straightness, just enough of her “peopleness,” just enough of her empathy to think that I could go through life doing much of what she did. As with most children, I tried to pattern myself off of her frame.
But I can never be everything that my mother is because I can't understand her frame. And this is currently one of the biggest struggles in my life. Within me, there is a tug to be rooted in reality and people the way she is, but I can't do it. The times I've tried have overwhelmed me. But without following in my mother's footsteps, in whose footsteps do I follow? My own are a scary and lonely place.
I can't be my mother. And she doesn't want me to be her. She made it very clear when she was visiting that I have to be my own person. I have not been made to replicate her. But this is frightening. It is being cut loose into a world of decision. It is having to think. It is having to examine. It is having to trust.
There is so much within me that comes from my mother. Though we do not think alike, we certainly feel alike. And that strongly. And maybe that is why it is sometimes difficult to relate. Our minds and attitudes are miles apart, but our hearts beat the same emotion. We struggle to comprehend what the other is thinking, or why she is thinking such things, but we feel the same way – strongly and sensitively. Both deep love and great hurt are often produced by this reality.
My mother is a great woman. Perhaps the greatest I know. And in the end, this is the most profound reason why it hurts at times not to be just like her. I have risen and called her blessed, and I fear that unless my life looks exactly like hers, my children will not be able to do the same for me. What does it mean to honor your father and mother? Surely it does not mean becoming exactly them. And yet they have shaped me and molded me in indefinable ways. I am grateful to know they love me and are proud of me, despite all of the internal crises I put myself through.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.