That "GETTING IT ALL DONE" is just an alternative version of "HAVING IT ALL" and both are the world's song. The former is how a stay at home mom creates worth for being home, the later is how the at work mom, justifies not being home. Both songs involve having the woman value herself according to what she can do, not who she is, and both require that the woman be something other than mother, something other than present. Both songs require the woman be BUSY.
I fall into the siren trap of both tunes all the time. I know because today, I heard my Catholic blogger friend, Sarah Reinhard talking on WMET 1160 about her new book, Word by Word, Slowing Down with the Hail Mary. I was running late. Mass started at ten. One daughter was home sick. Another was cantering at the mass. I dragged my toddler and the sick one to the car. The trip normally takes seventeen minutes (twenty-one if there's a train). I had 18 minutes to make it. The light at the mid county high way was abnormally clogged. Two service trucks with flashing arrows eliminated the two lanes I would normally be in, so I moved over. The light took forever. The line didn't move. I looked.
Two men from the work crew were shaking hands and hugging the passenger and driver of a truck and talking through the green light. Sarah was talking about the need to slow down and how we have this tendency to speed through things, even prayer. I sat bemused at the men stopping traffic and all of time, to hug. But then I had to switch lanes again and now, I was stuck for another round of lights and in the wrong lane. My good humor evaporated in an instant.
I had ten minutes to make it to mass, and I'd been stuck at this stupid light for over seven minutes. To calm myself down, I refocused on Sarah's voice. She spoke of the process, of asking forty writers to each take a word from the Hail Mary, and use it as the source for a meditation on the whole of the prayer, and I thought, the idea of asking others for help, was something I needed to learn. In writing, asking others to contribute was a means to flesh out the deeper meaning of the prayer. So also, if I could learn to ask for help, I could help flesh out the deeper meaning of motherhood, of living this life, and not "HAVING or GETTING IT ALL" but having all be part of the process of living.
Sarah talked about "Slowing down" in the prayer, and in life. I had eight minutes and another red light.
Slow down...slow down. How would it be possible to slow down? I sat at the red light, trapped behind a bus, convicted. I was fighting the best advice I'd ever get. Why? Because I'd have to surrender something. I'd have to abandon getting it all done and having it all, if I wanted something better. But I'd been pushing this damn boulder of life, whether as a parent, or as a writer, and thinking, what would happen if I slowed down? Less progress that's what! I didn't want to slow down. Five minutes left. I made the turn onto the side street to try to navigate back to the church. The bus stopped and pedestrians got out. "I JUST WANT TO GET TO MASS ON TIME!" I growled in frustration. The bus pulled away.
"Slow down." I'd heard Sarah say. I felt convicted. The men shaking hands had slowed down. If they'd been efficient, there would have been no hi, no hugs, no smiles, no laughs. That would have been a darker moment of life, just work, no solace, no joy, no friends. I slowed down. Because I slowed down, I saw on the side of the road, a woman dressed in black. She wasn't paying attention to the drivers. She was stalking two deer in the underbrush, trying to snatch a picture. I slowed down more so as to not spook the deer. She too, was stopping time, stalking beauty instead of caution or efficiency. There are countless pictures of deer on the internet, but this one, would be hers. I look at the clock. It is ten o'clock. At best, we will be five minutes late but I've finally been pulled into the proper spirit to even show up at mass.
We pulled into the parking lot, and there were the children, lining up to go to the Church. We hadn't missed it. It hasn't started. Mercy for me and a message, over and over again. Slow down. That is the purpose of Advent, the purpose of prayer, the purpose of living. Not to have done everything or get everything or have everything, but to be present. I held my daughters and sang, "Ave, Ave, Ave Maria..." but my heart was shouting, "Thank you, thank you, thank you Blessed Mother."