Thursday, March 5, 2009

Letter to an Old Friend

(Because this is where my mind is at these days)

Dear _____,

It's funny, I was just getting ready to drop you a note, and here's one from you! I've been pondering the haiku, and wanting to write one, but my head is just not there right now. Jasper, my oldest cat at 18, is, I believe, in the last throes of dying right now. I'm mostly okay with it - she's ten days older than God, for crying out loud - but it's still the end of an era and kind of depressing, to watch her "go gently into that good night" before my eyes, leaking her life on towels laid in strategic spots. Not my best poetry writing kind of mood (although it's apparently good for prose!), unless I'm going for the teen angst type, ya know? So I'm going to owe you a haiku, as soon as the funk clears.

I was thinking of the question you put to me, the other night - what do I do? I never feel like I answer that question very well, not because my life isn't full or busy or satisfying, but because it's hard to explain that money isn't part of my equation for happiness, especially since we as a culture have come to think that one equals the other. I don't deny that I blew my academic chance, that I shoulda coulda woulda done more with what potential I was given. I never had the tools necessary to do well in school - hell, I never did homework, never wrote a paper any sooner than the morning it was due, and what a chip my parents gave me about the educational system! Nonetheless, as an adult, and as a parent, I can see where I went wrong, and decide to not make that same mistake with my own kids. I always knew I would have children, even though I was ambivilent about having them. I think I was 34 when The Professor was born - not exactly a career mom, starting that late (and there are more than a few sagas to fill in that time). But I had always felt that if I was going to have kids I wanted to really be a full time mother. Art did take a back seat to mothering, but I've often thought that maybe I'm just not crazy, or self absorbed, or driven enough to really be a serious artist. I mean, doesn't it seem like a lot of the career ones are kind of wacked and unbalanced? My childhood was such a roller coaster ride that unbalanced doesn't really appeal to me.

So back to the question: what do I do? I am:
> a full time mother, who really loves being that to it's fullest sense.
> an educational volunteer with 2nd-5th grade children 6+ hours every week.
> a history researcher, family historian and history buff
> a writer, of both family history, and a blog, where I try to hone my literary skills in a forum with more accountability than journalling.
> an artist on hiatus, though that is changing as the kids get bigger and I have more time.

These are all things that make me happy doing them, but I understand, that to the corporate world, I am considered to be a failure; that working without monetary compensation equals failure. It bothers me sometimes, that I don't measure up, but I realize also that I've never wanted to measure myself by the same yardstick as the rest of the world, which does make it easier to thumb my nose at the negative nay-sayers.

I had a vision as a child. It was a dream, but it's portent has never left me. I wondered for years why a dream at the age of 4 would haunt me into my adult life, and then I read "Black Elk Speaks". Black Elk had a vision dream when he was a small child that defined, for him, his purpose for living, and upon reading his story I knew what my dream had meant. The things I do, the things that define who I am are all expressions, or fufillments of that dream. I might not measure up to the warped standards of a consumer-driven society, but I am whole.

18 comments:

Madge said...

what a thing to be whole. i think i am usually closer to it than i want to admit, but always feel like i'm struggling.

Gypsy said...

This was so lovely. I wanna be like you when I grow up. :)

P.S. My word verification is "archol." I think it's a drunk saying, "alcohol."

Maggie, Dammit said...

I believe you. You are absolutely, beautifully, whole.

Professor J said...

Parenting, art, writing, researching--you may feel that you've wasted your academic opportunity, but it sounds to me like your intellectual life is full and beautiful.

FairiesNest said...

Mom and homemaker are full time jobs so see you're actually doing A Lot more! ( chauffeur, housekeeper, chef, storyteller, ms. fixit, laundress, and the list goes on.) You'll have plenty of time to expand your horizons and try other things when the kids are grown, and take it from me, that's a heartbeat away.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

You want to know wat I think? (too bad, I'm gonna tell you). I think that many of the nay sayers, those women (and some men) who scoff at women who choose to stay home, are deep down in their little heart of hearts, jealous. Take it from some one ass deep in the corporate world. It's ugly, and wholly unsatisfying. Your world is rich in love and creativity. Never doubt you made the right choice. NEVER doubt that you are less for it. Love you!
Bea

Duck said...

I'm so glad more and more of us are telling the corporate world to "*** off!"

Your life sounds wonderful. Better than any CEO.

I am a little stuck on the "I've been pondering the haiku" line though. I'd love to say that in context someday!

(Gypsy got archol and I got kessep. Sounds a bit like the drunken munchies).

A Free Man said...

When I was living in Britain I learned (the hard way) that 'what do you do?' is an incredibly rude question. I kind of like that. I always thought it was a dumb question, but now I have an excuse not to answer it.

Deb said...

Ditto what Bea said about the corporate world being ugly and unsatisfying. I am in the corporate world and on a daily basis feel chewed up and spit out. There is at least one day a week, sometimes more, that I cry either at work or on my way home. I only wish I had the f*&*ing balls to leave it and do something that fills me up and makes me happy rather than sucking the life out of me.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Okay, I just read the last sentence of my comment. What meant to say was "Never doubt yourself, and think you are less for it. Or never let "them" think you are less for it. Or never doubt you are better for it. .... either way, you know what I was trying to say. Mutual, Like Sweeden. Im going to bed now.

flutter said...

whole is delicious

tysdaddy said...

My wife got looks of horror last night at a skating party our school district hosted for the elementary school when she shared that she hadn't worked for 15 years.

That's all I got right now. It's a crazy morning . . .

YourFireAnt said...

This is wonderful. And it is just what I needed to read today. You are a good friend indeed, and whoever received that letter from you is hugely blessed.

Thanks.

FA

YourFireAnt said...

and P.S. those cookies? are makin' my mouth water!

;-)

Arizaphale said...

Incredibly well put. I wouldn't work if I didn't have to.....
I used to worry about those reunion things where people would ask what you did and I would feel a failure when I said 'teacher' instead of 'principal' or 'lawyer' or 'actress'. Nowadays I'm just pleased to have a job and my health.

hele said...

you are good stuff.

i am glad you are next to me.

i am sending a huge wave of i'm not sure what you need, there where your heart must be aching and sad but whatever will fill the space with a soft, fluffy gentleness, that is what i wish you to have with all my heart*

Csquaredplus3 said...

This is lovely and I relate on many levels. I think many members of our consumer-driven society privately envy your wholeness. I really do.

I'm sorry about Jasper. I'll think of him, and you, as I take my first sip of wine this evening.

KatieLauren said...

I stumbled upon your site and just love this letter. Other than the fact I am not a parent, and not sure yet if I ever want to be a parent I couldn't agree more with the things you say. I have a really hard time explaining to people what it is I do. Perhaps I am a waitress, or a writer, or someone who seems to have a knack for getting involved in the planning of big projects that make no money. I do this because I love doing it. I do have a college degree and after working in that field for a while chose not to continue. I wait tables to pay the bills, and the rest of what I do is what I love, and that is enough for me. It is sad that in this society that isn't a good enough explanation for many.