Friday, June 21, 2013

Strange Gods and Cool Moms

One of the things I decided I needed to do for myself this year was read a book a month.  In May, I read Strange Gods by my Internet friend, the very excellent writer, Elizabeth Scalia.  She addresses our proclivity to create for ourselves Golden Calves to worship in our everyday life.  As I walked through the pages, I saw my earlier self when she got immersed in physical fitness, when it was all volunteer all the time, when I obsessed over gourmet cooking and discovered writers forums. 
Every time, what began as a good, an interest, a passion, a hobby, would eventually become less good, an obsession, a substitute, a routine or want that became a need and thus a chain.  This is not to say that foodie lover impulses or work outs or learning a new trade via reading/interacting with professionals online is a bad thing, only that my natural tendency toward being enthusiastic would allow the right order of things to become disordered.  I'd even done it with prayer!  It is a good but hard read in the same way going to the doctor and stepping on the scale is a good but hard notice, time to stop eating apple bread and go for a walk.

In June, I read my friend Tracy Beckerman's Lost in Suburbia and while she tackles coming to terms with motherhood through humor, she and Elizabeth are talking about the very same thing, our innate desire both to be consumed by whatever role we've chosen/been given  and to be noticed as singularly unique and special, beyond the role we've chosen/been given.  I laughed out loud several times at the pool and in the car before I finished, seeing my own self in the unwieldy battle between  trying to be mom and still more than mom and becoming increasingly crazy whenever one's own identity gets lost and  the mom role of one's life takes over entirely. I have known that strong need to stand apart and separate from everyone else, which when given, makes me wish to blend and be one in a million.   Ultimately, her search for the cool person within (read happy with herself and who she is and where she is and why she is in life), mirrored my multiple idol creating quest and the deep frustration and unhappiness that came with being ill at ease with wherever it is that I was before coming to terms with my own self.

 Being a mom of many, I've often felt subdivided and like I'm never doing what I should be. Ironically, it's meant I've cast about rather than be still, the best example being when my oldest son set me straight. I was expecting our ninth.  I'd volunteered to be the chair of the fall festival and I was writing.  Aloud I mused, "Do you think I should coach Peter's baseball team?"  He pushed himself back from the computer game he'd been playing.  "Are YOU CRAZY?" he asked. 

It struck home. I was trying to somehow do it all, to show I could do it all, but by casting myself apart from my family, rather than being present to it.  I didn't have the words then for what I was doing, creating an idol, in servitude to myself. But what I learned from my friends and family and years of hits and misses is not to beat myself up over the times I become overtaken by enthusiasm, but to just keep starting over. 

So today, I got up early and was writing when three children asked for breakfast. After I'd served them, I returned to the table but the laptop now took up too much space.  Symbolically, it was correct, the laptop should not crowd the family.  It was a gentle reminder, priorities.  Removing the computer, I looked at those still sitting at the table, happy, eating, content.  I looked at my daughter who was still on the couch.  "Want to play some pinball?" I asked. She beamed like a sunflower.  "Cool mom!" she said as we went up stairs.   Yeah.  I am a cool mom too. 

Can't wait to figure out what July's book will teach me.

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