This is a working manuscript entitled:
Motherhood: The Path to Enlightenment
Following this Introduction, chapters will be posted focusing on the spiritual disciplines and benefits of Motherhood.
The children provide the landscape-we navigate the hills and valleys, ponds and streams and as we ride the waves of motherhood, we discover the courage and fierceness—the depth and complexities of selfhood. Wrapped around our autonomy like burly roots—sometimes suffocating, sometimes offering a leg up, and sometimes just making our own core more interesting.
Many female writers document their inner journeys for others. I have found inspiration, solace, wisdom and uncanny connections to many writers, whether it be Virginia Woolf, Tillie Olson, Adrienne Rich, China Galland, Sue Monk Kidd, Anne Lindberg Morrow, Maya Angelou, or even Mother Theresa; I resonate with these spiritual, insightful, reflective women. However, nearly every time I immerse myself in a work, there comes a point where the bond is severed. I reach a particular line and my heart flips to anger mode. “You lost me,” I say aloud. It’s usually when the author has suddenly sojourned to Nepal, or Greece. “Hmmm. I’m not like them,” I conclude. Or halfway into a book I will discover that the author is now a lesbian, or that she’s an alcoholic. Either that, or the writer has the hubris to leave her family and hop a plane to the Holy Land in order to give her spiritual quest priority. Well, not me. I’m a boring heterosexual. I’ve been married over 23 years to my high school sweetheart. I’ve never been addicted to drugs or joined a creativity commune, (although I’ve dreamt about it!) I’ve never lived anywhere soulful- not San Francisco, not the beach. Not even Tujunga, where the grass grows wild and overgrowth is trendy. Strictly suburbia for me. Tract house haven, complete with manicured lawns and cookie-cutter furniture. I don’t head for Israel to retrace the footsteps of the Christ, nor do I retreat to mountaintops with nuns in order to revitalize my connection with God. Mostly, I stay home. I tend to the family. I run my business. I microwave dinner. This is why I get a little miffed when I reach the point in their narratives when these women flee the mundane in search of the magnificent. Something tells me they are parading around as “one of us” when in reality, they are in a category all their own. I’m not interested in what category that is. Who knows. But I am desperately interested in where it is that I might fit.
I wonder, do they have something over me, because their journey warrants autonomy, self-space, even expensive trips and getaways? Is their inner life more sacred than mine? At this point, I usually set the book down in order to finish the dishes-the ones that sat in the sink for two days while I sat on my ass for two days trying to “find” myself in their prose. Often, I “find myself” exercising more self-talk than transcendent mantras after these literary experiences. I wonder why God called one woman to explicate the feminine divine? Why the Good Lord called another to unravel the essence of the historical Madonna? What about me? What am I called to?
What’s my calling?
What if I don’t have one? A real calling. Outside of the house, the family. It’s hard to say, but if I had to answer, it would seem that my calling is ‘whatever is most pressing’. During one season of my life, it was most pressing that I remove the yellow poop from under my fingernails, left from changing the sixth diaper before noon. Could my calling be the mighty act of answering all 37 emails from students staring at me through the iridescent computer screen? Maybe it’s the torturous filling-out-of-the-FAFSAs. God knows that feels like the worst kind of suffering known to man. Is it the sock pile? Sometimes, the highest, most pressing calling is figuring out a way to revive last week’s raw chicken that I started to cook before I got distracted. What else presses in? Sex with the husband? The cat’s litter box? Putting away the Christmas ornaments from last month? Or has it been two months yet? Cobwebs? Are cobwebs ever pressing? Sometimes you just like to admire them, in awe, not knowing how long it took them to appear, gain prominence and thus stretch across the ceiling. Or wall. Or fan. What about baseboards? Are baseboards ever pressing? Unless you have weekly household help (which most suburban gals in my neighborhood do) baseboards are a luxury, I always say. I can’t be called to this life, can I? Didn’t I just fall into it? It’s what we all do if we don’t join the mission field or the Peace Corps? It’s what happens to us. It’s not preplanned, or specialized. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s every day. It’s every one.
So then, my calling is anything but precise. It’s just whatever it is at the time. And it certainly doesn’t warrant a book series. What would I have to do to in order for my journey to be considered an actual calling? Or attention-worthy? Do I have to be a recovering addict? Do I have to have a romantic affair? Become a lesbian? Travel the far ends of the earth? What about the normal, day-in-day-out drudgery of housekeeping and mothering, teaching and wifing. Isn’t that spiritual enough?
I wanted to hear my calling.
I decided to expand a little. (I may lose you here, if you’re anything like me. Hang in there.) I traveled to Southern France with my two adult children, thinking my inward journey would surely be sparked into hypermode. I would hear my calling.
Nope. We just had a good time together.
A month later, I flew to San Antonio for a job sans any children, thinking this would be the self-reflective, defining moment of my journey, expecting it to bring some clarity for my inner world.
The next month, I went away with my husband, Jim, to Venice Beach for our 23rd anniversary. I brought my journal, my hungry spirit and the anticipation of the insight that solitude brings. I walked. Ate. Sat around a lot.
And then, it hit me. My journey is inseparable from my kids. From motherhood. I don’t need to leave. Or search. Or pine away for sacred significance. My calling is motherhood.
I’ve always known it.
It might not be a marketable calling; it might not be popular; it might not be glamorous. But it fits.
“Maternallyours” began as my journal twenty years ago today. Now, I honor it, as my calling, just as the other female authors honored theirs. I write, record, retell, revisit, rewrite. I cerebrate. I present this introduction; I offer it to others as a guide in uncharted territory and affirmation of our shared experience. I claim it as my sacred inner journey, worthy of processing, reflecting, documenting and the time and energy it takes to do it. The words have all originated from the same kitchen table, typed by the same overworked, dishpan hands, within the same modest, mostly-messy suburban house in Southern California.