Betty Duffy

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Life is up for Grabs...Any Takers?

One of the retirees at Daily Mass asked me today if there’s anything she could do to help me in these last couple months before the baby arrives. My heart was screaming, Yes! Yes! You can BE me for the next three months. Live in my house, sleep in my bed. This might disturb Mr. Duffy the first time he wakes up to a gray haired woman in his bed, but overall, it’s a better deal for him. Could you do the scurry all day picking up legos from the corners of all my rooms? Pack lunches? Just do it all and I will become an invalid. I’ll be bedridden in some quiet place where my husband brings the children for periodic hushed visits. I will go for months without inhaling the aroma of a dirty diaper, have piles of books within arm’s reach and a stack of Colin Firth movies to watch. People will bring me bouquets of fresh flowers, occasional dinners of filet mignon, and maybe even hand-written letters that let me know how much I’ve meant to them all these years. And the rest of the time will be unadulterated REST. No pain, of course, in this fantasy, no death looming just over the horizon.

If you can’t make this dream a reality for me, Lady, then really, don’t worry about it. There is a sort of fatigue that cannot be cured on a couple hours of free time, or a nap in the afternoon, or being relieved of dinner duty for one night. When you realize that it took YEARS to become this tired, it becomes clear that to really cure the fatigue, you need years to undo it. You begin to seek God in the psalms of the weary. What prayer can I find to support spending the rest of my life in bed? Lord in my suffering, give me rest—maketh me to lie down in the verdant pasture of my bed.

One of the hardest things about being a mother is that you are now irrevocably responsible for creating the safe harbor, and yet you never get to rest in it. It’s easy to become glum at this prospect, to wonder again and again, when it will be MY turn. And the answer is never again. Because the concept of having a turn that is entirely one’s own, is contrary to the premise of motherhood. We practice sharing as children; we have no alternative but to share as mothers. That we become our best selves in service to others is a truth that leaves me constantly pining for my lost youth. But I know it cannot be recovered. I was reading the Wall Street Journal last night and came across an excerpt from a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace. The glittering gem in a pile of sadness that apparently led the author to commit suicide was this:

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

Who can handle it? My wise sister-in-law made the observation that, “If your life is easy, you’re probably making it hard for someone else.” And she’s right. When I’m slacking off, my whole family suffers. When my husband slacks, I suffer. When I do my work, but don’t do it cheerfully, anyone who reads my blog suffers because I’ll complain about it. In the adult world, no one gets off the hook. And if I live my life as though I’m the center of it, the sad truth is that I will receive the brunt of the sorrow for it. The invalid life is not for me, as I am certain that after a day or two of living within those parameters, I would be sick and tired of it too.

My hope is in the Cross, but I come to this conclusion stubbornly, because there is no alternative, and it is the only possibility of redemption in this Valley. David Foster Wallace, rest in peace. My hope is in the Cross. My life depends on it. I need it.


Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

*finger on nose*

Not it!!!

But seriously, as usual you make good observations which make me feel guilty for the complaining I did on the phone to you earlier. :)

Betty Duffy said...

Yes you are it--OH wise one

John said...

It appears as if you have an out:,2933,428022,00.html

Betty Duffy said...

Something to consider...

Dawn Farias said...

There is a sort of fatigue that cannot be cured on a couple hours of free time, or a nap in the afternoon, or being relieved of dinner duty for one night

Yes, this is so true. It took me a while to realize that these things, while nice breaks, don't provide the refreshment that I need/crave.