Monday, August 22, 2011

Does My Life Have Value?

Wow, has it really been six weeks since I wrote on this blog?  During the summer it is hard to find a quiet moment to sit down and collect my thoughts, much less put them into some sort of coherent order to write them down.  Especially now that my kids are older. Some like to stay up late, some like to get up early, so there is someone around all the time.  I can't stay up late enough or get up early enough to avoid them.  Not that I want to avoid them altogether, mind you, I just enjoy a quiet moment now and then, and summer, with its long days and lax schedules leaves little time for quiet moments.  Not in a house with three teenagers and a 12 year old anyway.

Now that they are back in school, and the house is quiet and still, no sound about, save the snoring and snuffling of the dog at my feet, I have time to spend a moment alone and collect my thoughts.  And guess what I'm thinking?  I miss those stinking kids!

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom.  I played with dolls until I was embarrassingly old.  I fantasized about what kind of mom I would be.  Thought about all the things I would do with my children someday.  I wondered what they would look like and who they would be.  I couldn't wait 'til the day I could finally make those dreams a reality.  Once my first child was born in 1995, I couldn't wait to meet all of my babies, and I did, in quick succession in 1996, 1997 and 1999.  Those were some busy years; years I cherish.

Almost immediately after they were all born, however, I began to get nervous about them leaving home.  I wondered what I would do when they were no longer the center of my universe.  Who would I be when I was no longer someone's mommy?  I have to tell you, I spent many an anxious moment contemplating my life without kids at home.

To counteract the feelings of anxiety, and in an effort to stave off losing myself to my children's lives, I threw myself into volunteer work.  For many years I said yes to most requests for my 'free' time.  I was determined I would remain a viable person in my own right.  I felt if I lost touch with the outside world, I would somehow lose myself in the process.  I needed to be needed by people beyond my front door.  I pushed myself tirelessly.  During those years I had two hip replacement operations and did my best to stay down for as little time as necessary.  I didn't want anyone to forget how valuable I was to whatever project was going on at the time.

I always found it easy to push myself, put aside my own physical limitations and press on.  I never slowed down.  Never,that is, until last winter.  That's when my body had had enough, I suppose.  I was faced with some physical obstacles I couldn't just push through.  I was literally laid flat.  During the months that have ensued, I have had lots of time to reflect, contemplate and evaluate not only what I had done in the past 16 years, but also how I plan to proceed with the next several years.  I've come to some conclusions I didn't foresee.

In part, I concluded I spent too much time worrying about what I would do after my kids are grown.  I was so hyper-focused on being a valuable member of the outside world, I failed to see how much more valuable I am right here.  Don't get me wrong, my family hasn't been neglected, they have always been my primary focus, but I did spend an awful lot of time wearing too many hats in an effort to show the world I was more than Just a Mom.  I didn't appreciate enough what it meant to them that I was Mom. And in the end, it was my pushing myself that lead to physical exhaustion.  I didn't leave any time for personal enjoyment.

Now that I realize this, I feel I can relax for the first time in years.  I know that I can do things outside these four walls; I've proven that already.  I also know I can make a difference right here, with these children, who aren't that child-like any more.  Being focused on the mundane (and scheduling a bit of down time) isn't the worst thing in the world.  I only have a few more years with my children.  Time really does fly by.  We have a baby, blink once, they are in kindergarten, blink twice, we're dropping them off at Senior High School.  It's okay for those years in between blinks to be focused on family life.  I know I don't want to miss any of it and I don't want to kill myself in the process.  I want to wave them out the door for college knowing I gave them what they need to succeed in the world and to close the door behind them without regret.

Life truly is a process - one that is never fully completed.  I learned hundreds of lessons, low these 46 year, and  I know without a doubt I have barely scratched the surface.  It is lovely to uncover each lesson, whether the lesson is concealed in something less than desirable, like finding out I have a chronic illness, or comes to me on the heels of success; they're all precious.  I count each a blessing, and stack each next to the last one learned, as I discover more and more about myself, about how much use I have in the world, no matter how big or how small, I will always be able to find a way to be of value if I keep up the growing process.