My kids were watching Blue Planet snuggled into the couch with Scott.
They were watching all kinds of animals instinctively care for their young. I was looking over from the corner of my eye trying to figure out how to start this blog post, when suddenly it seemed so obvious.
Somehow, every creature is hard-wired to know how best to care for their offspring. Animals give birth without hospitals or epidurals. After they are born, they protect them, even giving their own lives without question or debate. They hunt or forage for their babies’ food without the use of microwaves or fear of salmonella poisoning. They just know exactly what to do. And when it’s time, they send them off into the world without a tear. They know it’s time and they have instinctive faith that everything will be all right.
We humans, for all of our superiority, are a fragile breed. We cut our kids’ food into tiny pieces so they won’t choke. We read them a half-hour of bedtime stories to help them sleep. For God’s sake- we’ve invented Pinterest with hundreds of thousands of ideas to stave off boredom!
I suppose it’s no wonder that as my last little one leaves the nest to spend more of her waking hours at school than at home, I am feeling displaced. The past ten years of my life, I have had a child–or two, or three–orbiting around my body everywhere I go. I’ve done everything for them (probably too much if you ask my husband). But they are what has given my life purpose for the past decade.
It’s an odd feeling to pack up their lunches, kiss the tops of their fuzzy heads and send them off to school for the day. I have found myself desperate to leave the house immediately after their departure seeking ways to distract myself. Whether it’s the grocery store, a workout class, or wandering aimlessly around town with a coffee in hand, I’m spending time wondering if I have made a mistake by staying home to be a mom for the past eight years because now where do I fit into this world? Doctors have been made in that much time! What do I have to show for it? A PhD in peanut butter and jelly sandwich making?
I remind myself there will always be shelves to dust, laundry to fold, and dinner to be made. But doing all of it takes a fraction of the time that it used to because I am no longer interrupted by someone asking me for a snack or to read them a book. All those years of waiting to get some of my time back…well now it’s here and I can’t tell if it’s better just yet.
So I’ve been mulling it over…what can I do now? It’s the age-old question so many of us in this position face. We signed off a piece of our souls at some point between the hospital holding those soft little bundles that flipped our world upside down and then holding back tears as we watch them walk with apprehension through the doors of their brightly colored kindergarten classrooms.
I wish I knew how animals can be so cool about it. It’s probably because they never lose the notion that they are a bird, or a wolf, or a whatever-they-are. They know it down to their core. We have a lot more difficulty here because we can be so many things! Sure we’re all human beings, but it’s not so simple. We look for meaning in our lives more by what we do than by what we are. We measure our success by what we have to show for our time and energy spent doing something.
I came across this Mother Teresa quote that spoke to me, “Be happy in the moment. That’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Our purpose is in this second. Not a few minutes ago, or ten years ago. It’s not in what is going to happen or in what could happen. Everything that matters is in the present. If we are focusing on this second, we will know our purpose. And we never know what each moment will bring our way. Sometimes, it’s a matter of waiting for the opportunity to find us and then not being afraid to say, “Yes!” We can’t always pursue our destiny with force. Life is happening to us, not the other way around.
While I am still not exactly sure what I’m going to be when I grow up, all of this has forced me to look at who I am rather than what I am. I’ve realized that I did have instinctive faith by choosing to make motherhood my primary occupation. I felt something in my heart pulling me to it and I chose “yes” in that moment. Every moment since that one has been a result of that decision.
I’m just learning to have faith in this minute right now. I guess if we’re all anything, we’re just works in progress because it doesn’t matter what any of us are doing. The one thing we all have in common is that we are working toward being what we were created to be. This is what sets us apart from animals. We have potential to shape the world around us with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We are more fragile because our purpose has far more impact on the world. We can’t take this responsibility lightly.
Since school started I’ve had to remind the kids that change can be uncomfortable. Without these challenges we can’t grow or become stronger. This is true for all of us. When we face these crossroads of life, we are being given an opportunity to define not what we are, but who we are becoming.