“If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me.”
Wise words from Rumi, and helpful today, as I ponder the ongoing quandary of being a highly skilled professional mom who has decided to lean out after 9 years of leaning in. These are turbulent and beautiful times, raising a young family, and without the luxury of staying at home. (Meaning, I have to work.)
The flowers. I took a picture of these flowers, while at breakfast with my family, and my sister and her little family, on a drop dead gorgeous fall day. I have spent much of my life rigidly compartmentalized, because I chose, early in my life, to work right in the heart of human suffering. In spite of, or maybe because of this, I am constantly moved to sweet and strong emotion, by every bit of beauty there is to take in. And then I photograph it.
I won’t go into detail, because, in the words of the wise Dave Chappelle, “not everything can be for sale,” when one chooses to live a more public life, but that was a hard day for my family. Something unexpected happened, after we’d ambled on from breakfast, and to someone small and vulnerable – one of my children. We weathered it, like any good storm, and it was good practice.
Practice for my husband and I, because while this day was hard, there will be others that will be hard, if not harder, and that is the nature of it. I cannot, despite all my will, protect my children from things like gravity, heartbreak, and the bumps and bruises of learning, nor should I try to. These are muscles I need to flex, or they will never be strong enough.
And these are truths I cannot rigidly compartmentalize, and since there are not two of me, I have had to make space. In carving out what is really and vitally important, to me, I have had to set aside things I love, even if those are basically an unhealthy work-life balance and poor self care. Mostly, though, I have had to push aside a million passing commentary on what parenting should look like.
I have had to torch hundreds of articles, blog posts, advertisements, books, and conversations from my memory. I have had to be a bit ruthless, and I have had to find the grip that feels exactly right, without too much clutching nor too much laxity. I have had to learn how to do it my way, and not give a bit of a damn what others think I should do differently.
Along the way, I’ve found that I am lucky, because my teachers have been many in a clutch, who could only do their best, though they all would do it differently if they could. I get to honor the many families I’ve watched weather insufferable losses and break open in ways I pray I never have to. I get to smile, and celebrate all the little victories, the near misses, and the incredible resiliency I’ve been privy to observe.
This week, this month, and this year, as I look at the opportunities around me, and the beautiful supports I am fortunate to have, I am grateful to also have the gift of perspective, balance, and bravery. I am grateful to all the parents who’ve taught me, and run the race before me. I am happy to have two small people in my life, who show me right where to look, daily, when I am sort of frozen in the overwhelm – even though some days I cannot.
I have sat down with the workhorse inside, and told her it’s time to play a little more, and the part of me that clenches her jaw, and gets it done, whether I’ve got it to give or not, and told her it’s time to ease up. (Even though they sneak out, often.) I know the right things will show up, and the tension need not be too tight. Thank you for the 800 year old reminders, Rumi.
And in the end, the sweet smallness of my family will last only another moment, and I must remember there is time and space, and I’ll get to do all the things, because I will live a life of great love and great joy, even in the face of things that are hard. It will, in fact, all fit. But no, not all at once.