I’ve always wondered at people who walk about lethargically with their eyes half closed, a slow mode of speech, talking of the mundane. Jack Kerouac described them as “people who yawn”. To him they seemed to be complacent types who craved little. I’ve tended to agree until I felt my eyes droop.
I’ve never met myself face to face, but I imagine that upon first meeting I seem insane, wild eyed and manic. I image it that way because it is how I feel. I have more ambition than ability, more ideas than time to execute them, and more energy than is appropriate for polite company. I’m perched on the trigger ready to go at any twitch. And I’m pretty content being like that, especially when I have a wonderful adventure on the books to look forward to. However, I’m not master of my fate and more often than not I’m snatched off the trigger when the heavy, musty quilt of responsibility is thrown over my head. The abductors whisper, “Be home to cook and clean.” “Be home to drive children to their activities.” “Be home to be a housekeeper.” “Be home to tend the children so your husband can fulfill his career destiny.” Sit. Sleep. Like it.
My spirit lives for adventure, but I have children with their own interests that I honor and a husband with an unpredictable work schedule, so I often must tuck my dreams away and tell them to hush. If this were a job, I’d quit, go bankrupt and run toward the horizon with a song in my heart. I’d sign up to dig a hole to China. I’d rob graves. I’d risk being cannibalized if the reward was the opportunity to learn, to open my mind to my world yet unseen. I’d run with my eyes wide open and my mouth agape. I’m in this skin for such a short time and I want to make the most of it, but this life isn’t anything as impersonal as a job. This is a family.
I would never quit a family. And my family counts on me cancelling self-enriching plans so others can thrive. My family does not need me to selfishly feed my soul or expand my world view through experience. All my family requires of me is that I be home so my children can live.
Boo hoo, right? First world problems. I don’t expect anyone to sympathize. Rather, I hope to give voice to a reality that is valid for women like me. Some women need a little something different. Women who feel that every moment of parenthood is a dream come true, I accept that your prism refracts different colors, but I humbly ask that you allow a space in your world view for a mom like me who knows now what she wishes she’d known then and is currently trying to fit herself into her own life choices, her own gilded cage. “The unbearable lightness of being.”
I schedule exciting adventures sometimes months in advance, but over and over again I have to cancel them because my husband’s work schedule changes and there’s nobody else to parent the kids. At these times it is unreasonable to be angry and pout. He is bringing home what we all need to live, afterall, but the disappointment still guts me. At these moments I must lower my lids, scale down my ambition, and know that I am one day older. I will die someday, as we all will, and one reaches a phase of life when one knows its true.
“Follow your bliss.” Right. Or do right by your family because you are a responsible person of character. “Sieze the day.” Uh huh. Or carry out the duties you committed to because others are counting on you. “Bloom where you are planted.” Easy to say, but what if the soil lacks nutrients? Good luck.
Lower your lids. Watch daytime TV. Forget. Go to sleep, perchance to dream. Watch Jack Kerouac speed off in a fast car. That ride’s for him, not you. You just sleep now. Shhhhh.