It’s important for you to know I don’t always hate myself.
It’s important because it is the truth.
And “hate” is a big word, one which isn’t truly accurate for how I feel day in and day out. But for those of you who struggle with the person in the mirror on occasion, you know when the word “hate” is stirring and feel the brunt of it when it rears its ugly head.
Most days I don’t even think about myself. I love being a wife and mom and friend and neighbor. All roles I enjoy and have even chosen.
But this morning a thought came to mind. After processing it a bit with my husband, a friend, and just an hour ago with my counselor, I’ll try my best to convey here.
Earlier this week I read this article. Before you criticize the author, read it and then process it through the following filter:
My intention in attending a 4-year college was not to find a husband. I mean, really, if you think about it…$20,000/year for private schooling = a really nice dowry after 4 years. Instead, I got married with a heap load of debt. I went to school with a desire to learn and grow and explore more of God’s creativity, knowledge, and will for my life. Originally I wanted to be a writer, but after being placed in remedial English my freshman year (WHO KNEW you could study for the SAT???!!!) and being challenged by my parents to choose a “real major,” I decided to move forward in pre-med, because I at least knew I wanted to heal people. (*Pretty sure my parents envisioned a beatnik writer in a smoky coffee shop with a beret handing out free copies of my work or a writer in a cabin in the woods, never publishing but living off her parents. I think they forgot about journalists and columnists and you know, authors and writers.)
|Photo by Ann Larie Valentine|
If you’ve read here a while, you know I didn’t make it through pre-med, seeing as how passing chemistry is necessary and all. With a passion for international travel and culture and a love for God’s love story for the world, I majored in Theology with a Missions emphasis and a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, my husband and I set off with hundreds of teenagers in tow to Venezuela to share God’s love, and that was just the beginning. (*This doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m talking about here…but you try tracing a thought in your head on paper. It’s tough stuff.)
Anyway, way back when my mom told me about reproduction, namely sex and baby delivery, I was cool never being a mom. And FOR SURE not going through the delivery part. Ewwww and OWWW! Kids were fine and all if they belonged to someone else, but for me, it was six in one, half dozen in the other. Then I met my husband and realized he would be one amazing dad. And then I met our first child and fell in love.
I hung up the world of Student Development in the college setting, having only been surrounded by college aged women from the time I entered college plus 7 more years as a professional. And I entered into daily one on one’s with an infant girl. One for whom I was souly (*I meant: soul) responsible, but really had nothing to give in return other than bodily excretions and some lovely sounds and snuggles. All good, but not the reason I went to college.
Soooo, follow along here for a sec…a few years ago my mom and I were talking about indulgence and contentment specifically how I’ll eat to escape. We talked about how on vacation we are relaxed, enjoying feelings attached to new memories, rewarding experiences, and new pleasures, often times coupled with dining and trying exotic foods or yummy drinks or relaxing on warm beaches. These are all good and great and obviously a luxury, but all reasons we long for and look forward to vacations, even short getaways.
This morning it occurred to me, a person who loves authenticity and enjoys the art of writing, whether on paper or in my head, that even though I love being a wife and mom, those roles do not define me. My friend even said her husband posed the question to her several years ago, “If I died or our children died, you wouldn’t be my wife or their mother anymore…so who would YOU be, not what would you DO?” He went on to say those are roles she may love, but they aren’t necessarily her authentic true self, they are part of her but not her.
Are you even tracking with me? I’m sorry if not…I’m trying here.
So, I can’t speak for you, but I’ll speak for myself. I adore my children and am a really good mom. I’m also a smoking hot, attentive wife who prays favor and blessings over my husband every day. And during this season of life, which is now going on 11 years as a parent, 20 as a wife, I’ve put aside much of my own desires, passions, pursuits, and ways in which I am wired, to focus on the here and now, namely my family and their well-being.
I put all my coals in one fire.
Like the British mum who expressed her heart, this is not something I should have done. Loving myself by keeping one iron in the fire would have kept God’s deposits, His gifts, still kindling. INSTEAD, like many SAHM’s and Outside the Home Working Mums, I focused on just one thing and that one thing became THE thing. And as a result, I have FILLED those places which were rich and fulfilling with temporary satisfaction, namely food.
And maybe you’ve filled it with an addiction to sassy coffee or keeping a perfectly clean house or volunteering extra hours at things which are good and worthwhile and important or shopping or redecorating and redecorating and redecorating your house or that third glass of wine? Or maybe you’ve filled it with accomplishments at work and others opinions of you or checking things off a list or keeping up the image you portray to those around you, no matter how weary you really are?
These feelings we experience on vacation when we are able to escape from the day to day become feelings we want to experience in the day to day when the rubber hits the road and we feel overwhelmed…and especially as Americans, we think we deserve it.
Okay, never mind, I’ll speak for myself…I think I deserve it.
I think because I did 7 loads of laundry, cleaned the house, got Em off to school and played trains and dinosaurs with Ryan for three hours and put a healthy dinner on the table, I deserve this or that reward…and truth be told, I crave the reward and instant gratification food or wine or, for sure, chocolate, delivers.
All the while, the reason these temporary indulgences have come up short is because as I dove head first into being a mom, specifically, I didn’t leave an iron in the fire. A writing iron, that is. The very iron God designed in me as an outlet for creativity and in more recent years, for authenticity, ministry, and healing.
Which leads me to my Facebook post after counseling today:
“Here I go to counseling to talk about disordered eating and unhealthy expectations and body image, and we wind up talking about writing…because apparently when I write authentically, candidly, and with vulnerability, I’m being true to who God made me to be.” #stuffcounselorstellyouthatyouknowdeepdown #killingmonsters #findingfreedomtowritemyheartout
After counseling I had lunch with Jason, then headed to a beatnik coffee shop to write.
The girls next to me asked me what I do.
I told them I’m a writer.