Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My mother's hands
Sometimes I think I have my mother's hands. While hers are remarkably soft and white, mine are calloused, tan and rough. But we both share the wrinkles that come from age, in addition to burns, cuts, scrapes and bruises, from cooking, cleaning (and in my case gardening...my mother hates to garden). But more often now I think I'm not a whole lot like my mother. I'm not a mother nor a wife. I've never had to sacrifice the things she has for her husband and children. I've never been forced to choose between those two and live with that decision for quite some time. I wish I was more like her. I wish I shared her grace, poise, patience, and hope. These days, I work to make my mother proud of me, if only she could see herself in me just a little bit.
I wondered what she thinks when people ask about her daughters. What does she say about me? Does she say "I have 2 lovely daughters, both are married to handsome men and have beautiful, amazingly gifted children. Oh, and there's my middle one. No, she's not married. No, no kids either. Yes, I know she's too old now. No, not a lesbian either, thank God. She's the odd one, you know. She left home thinking she knew better. One day she'll find the right man. We pray for her every day." Does she say that? Is there shame or embarrassment?
So, I decided to ask her the other day. Instead of the above response, my mom tells me I'm nuts. She says, of course she's proud of me and would never be embarrassed by me. "Why would I?" she says. "Embarrassed of what? That you're not married? That's nonsense!" "I'd feel bad for you only if you weren't happy." That is followed by the expected: "if God wants that in your life, you'd have it. But you're happy, so why should I be ashamed?" Good answer, mom. Thanks.
I've never been someone to fit into traditional norms or expectations, God knows I've tried. I grew up just like my sisters, dreaming of the post-college life: college, career, marriage, kids. But instead of subscribing to those norms, I seem to be running in the complete opposite direction. Those who know me well know that I've spent much of my adult life challenging norms, expectations and rules that should govern me and women like me. Starting 12 years ago with a life-moving decision and onward, my life has been my own. I've been told I was selfish when I want to do something that makes me happy, I've been told to grow up and get married, stop playing around, stop traveling, stop helping, stop, stop, stop.
These days, my differences are very obvious. At least to me. I look around and most women I know are not like me. At times, I wish I could be different. But my life experiences and places I've been and things I've seen prevents it. Not that I wish it, either. It's just a lonely place sometimes, that's all.
My mom asked me if I had to choose between my life's work and finding a man, getting married and having children, what would I pick? I choose both. Why can't I have both? But I won't settle. The one thing that brings me the most peace and utter happiness is when I'm working, traveling, hiking, walking, exploring the desert, playing with friends, and helping those around me.
I have definitely worked way too hard and lost way too much to compromise, at this point in my life. Settling for someone, or something, only out of fear of not having it later is one thing I told myself I'd never do. I'm tremendously blessed/fortunate/lucky to have had lovers and friends who I could share my life with. And they enrich today and I am better for having them in my life.
I'm really not procrastinating this forgiveness exercise, this is the preview. You see, I've been close to settling. I've been in situations where I was this close to settling, to not questioning when my intuition told me otherwise. Just when I thought I had both, when I could trust someone and share my life fully and completely with them, they pull the rug out from underneath me. Forgiveness after being betrayed and deceived is a hard thing to do. And, unfortunately, I don't have my mother's grace to do it well. I only have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm still whole, complete, only a bit tattered and worn from all of it.
I really don't know what 2009 will look like. I know that it will include forgiveness, openness, as well as continuing to explore the (at times) crazy and nonsensical path my life seems to be on. It will be a year of leaping head-first into whatever comes; I'm going to travel and eat and read and write and drink tea and red wine; I'm going to open my heart even if it gets a little bruised; I'm going to walk along the desert and sit on mountain tops and take more chances. I'm going to indulge in life.
I'm going to do this because it's the only way I know how, and I do it with my mother's hands and blessings.