I've been reading this phrase a lot as I finish "The Hours", and I've been applying that question to my own life and the way I live every day.
Lately I've been doing some serious soul-searching regarding my life, my purpose, my reason for being here. I adore my family. I love my kids and my husband, but I can't help but feel deep deep down in my toes that they are not all there is for me and my life. Doesn't that sound horrible? I feel so much guilt admitting this, because as much as I bitch and complain about the little details, I really do love my family.
But still, even as I declare this love, I can't help but admit that something inside me feels empty, and I don't know how to fill it.
I've spent the past 4 years playing around with my various mediocre talents, trying to figure out my passion so that I can be not only enjoying myself, but also bringing profit into the house. I have failed at every endeavor, including chunkyrhino, and I can't help but think it's because I'm trying to serve 2 masters, and it's the financial master that's winning and in doing so, ruining my soul.
Shawn works his fingers to the bone almost every single day of the week, only to be paid less than he was a year before, only to come home to the realization that yes, we are going to have to struggle again this month, only to feel like less of a man for not being able to provide what his family wants. Isn't that a sad statement? That a virile, healthy, strong young man would feel like a failure because he doesn't make enough money to send his kids to camp or take a yearly vacation (and not just a drive to the coast). These things are mundane and insignificant, and here he is guilt-ridden and anger filled because he cannot attain them. And yet, there are people across the world who would feel immeasurable joy at being able to live the life we live.
I know I am at fault. I know that I am not, or have not been, strong enough to resist the temptations of material goods, of creature comforts...of cable. If we're being honest here, and I think we are, 70% of the arguments I have with the kids involve them not leaving me alone long enough to watch Oprah or... South Park. Seriously, though, how silly is this? How sad and pathetic and weak is it that I would put television before the beautiful gifts God has bestowed on me.
I want to rid myself of all of these temptations. I want to not want to watch a movie rather than take a walk with Jaxson, or play dress up with Ryan. I do work at it, I really do, and I detest as much as the next guy people who whine and complain and never take any action. I don't want to be one of those people, and have always prided myself on working towards that goal, but as I reach this point in my life, I'm stripped of my rationalizations and forced to face the ugly, ugly truth: I was not put on this Earth to watch tv, to rack up credit card bills on extraneous clothing, to be famous, to make loads of money.
Then what? Just a mom? Just a wife? Nothing else? Just wait 18 years until the kids are out of the house to start really living the life I feel destined for? What about Shawn? Where does he fit into the equation? And couldn't we all benefit from a change? If we were able to work towards a higher purpose together, side by side, day by day, as a true unit?
Since I was a little girl, before I knew how to put it into words, I wanted to help the less fortunate. The Peace Corps, missionary work, all of this seemed so romantic and idyllic to me. As I grew up, I continued to spend spare time volunteering here and there, but never took the plunge into something bare and scary. And I've got a degree as a teacher, which I thought would satisfy my urge to help others, but which really just led to more bitching and whining.
I stayed home with my children, only to find myself complaining left and right about, well, everything. Everything I have to do, everything I don't have, everything other people get to do that I'm missing out on. I try to attribute my day-to-day activities to the higher goal of taking care of the 3 people I love, but still I feel empty and shallow, spoiled and rotten. Is it really necessary that I make those Chunky Apple muffins that Shawn love so much? Or that Ryan's room is pretty as a picture? How important is it really that I make new pillow covers for our couch? I mean, really?
The temptations and covetous feelings are everywhere, to the point that I really don't feel I will be whole until I do without. Without the air conditioning, without the tv, the clothes, the house. Without the knowledge of what others have, without the desire to take time away from my loved ones in order to chase the almighty dollar. I have all these things and still am not fulfilled, so what next?
Am I impetuous? Yes. Am I dramatic? Please. Do I go to extremes? You bet. Is this just one of those instances where I've forgotten to take a few days' worth of Prozac, have slipped into a mild depression and started taking inventory of my life through an unstable mind? Maybe.
But what if this is none of those things? What if this is real and tactile and waiting? What then? How do I reconcile 30 years of hedonism, a husband and 2 kids with the desire to sell everything and move to Guatemala? Why would God deliver these people to me if this is my calling, but not theirs? Why is it always all or nothing with me? Why can't I merge both worlds?
What is wrong with me? And how can I fix it? I want more for my kids. I want more for them than a new computer or a great college university or a career in the NFL or on Broadway, but what if those are their dreams? When do I let go of mine in order to help them achieve theirs? Would I be serving them better if we did let go of our possessions and lived in foreign country where they could actually experience life, learn things never taught in books, and recognize the true worth of silly little things like bread and water and a clean place to sleep.
Am I looking for the easy way rather than the difficult path that forces me to meander through the nonsense to get to the essential? I feel like the answer is yes, but then I also feel like I tend to be a tad hard on myself during these moments of insight and deliberation. Or maybe I'm not being hard on myself so much as being honest and realistic.
I guess what i want is for someone to tell me what to do. I am weak. I need guidance and direction. I need a sign. I need to know whether or not living in a nice house, comfortable and safe, spending spare time collecting clothes for the underprivileged, or working the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck, sending money to children thousands of miles away so they don't have to hide at night from armies who would rather see them as soldiers than see them in school is enough. I do those things now, and I'm proud of the work I try to do (another on my long list of sins), but I need to know if it is enough. If I'm willing to go places others won't in order to help those truly in desperate need, why shouldn't I?