Tuesday, June 9, 2015
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
I've realized two things recently.
First, I am incredibly jealous of people, particularly those close to me. I have a pervasive and unsettling inability to rejoice with those who rejoice. When someone close to me experiences something good, my immediate and first reaction is to feel insecure, as if this good thing for someone else is by default bad for me. It causes me to think that people do not like me, or that I am dumb, or that others never want to include me. It's like FOMO, but incredibly twisted and sad, and it causes me to stress constantly about people, trying to evaluate them and perceive if they are doing better, or getting more out of life than me.
I need two things. I need to learn to be deeply and truly content. I need to remind myself daily that if I cannot be happy with what I have now, then I will never be happy. If I cannot cherish the people and the material gifts and the opportunities I have now, then I will not cherish those things if they change. Additionally, I need to learn what it means to rejoice with those who rejoice. I am quite good at mourning with those mourn. My life is a constant “mitgefuehl” with the woes of the world. But I do not know how to be happy with those that are happier than me. I am missing an entire half of the equation of what it means to love people.
All of this has struck me recently because I've struggled greatly with jealousy concerning those closest to me. I've been jealous of family members having fun without us. I've been jealous of my sister's beauty and talent, even though I am incredibly proud of her. I've been jealous of my husband’s intellectual abilities, even though those abilities will support and provide for our family. I've been jealous of numerous people very near to me for numerous silly reasons. And as I thought about all of this on the T ride back from the Athenaeum today, it struck me - I will struggle with jealously of my children. If I am jealous now of these silly, petty things when I am in the prime of my life, what will I be like when I am aging and my children are not? I need to learn contentment.
The second realization I've had concerns my mother and my fear of motherhood. Just the other day, Trey was teasing me about how much I will worry over our children, or in fact, how much I already worry over them without having any! I admitted to the fact that I already frequently worry about our future children and pray for their souls. We laughed together, but in the midst of the laughter, it struck me that the degree to which I feel anxious over our children, my mother has felt similarly anxious and more for me. It became real and tangible to me in a way I've not known before that I am my mother's anxieties. I am what worries her, has worried her for 30 years, in the way that I worry for my own children. It was staggering to think about, and fearful. I always say that it terrifies me to think of having a child like myself, and it was as if I could feel the anxieties of my mother for me as her reality and my reality merged with each other for one brief moment. Motherhood seems like a frightful thing and I am glad for my mother's endurance in it.
(Image by Gertrude Käseboer, "The Heritage of Motherhood.")
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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.