Betty Duffy

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On having a DREAM

My husband and I ran the seven mile block Sunday, which I haven't done since before I had kids. I didn't think I'd be able to finish it, couldn't utter more than two syllables at a time the entire way, so conversations went something like, "Tall corn," and "Dead bird," grunting verbalizations of the points of interest we passed along the way. It was very romantic.

Years ago, when my husband and I were getting to know each other, we went for a four mile run together, and I kicked his butt because I was coaching high school Cross Country, and he almost never ran. When we finished, we jumped in the lake and took turns pulling one another around on the inner tube, and more or less fell in love.

So we got married, and had babies, and I took a loooooong hiatus from running. I guess I took a long hiatus from a lot of things, which has been on my mind lately because my life is so different these days. I'm no longer on hiatus, but it's only been in the past several years that I did anything other than wipe bottoms, clean-up, and moon about using my "potential."

My "potential" was a real thorn in my side for awhile. My husband would go out for a run, and I'd think, "I used to be able to walk out the door like that. Now I'm the static person."

I liked to talk about it, or at least let people know I 'd once had potential. And then I'd give people a "you know how it is" look as I blamed my kids, or the circumstances of being a mother, for not using it. And there have been times when motherhood really did prohibit me from running or other activities in very practical ways. I don't discount that.

But if I look back with honesty, I can recall offering my potential in lieu of actual work even before marriage and kids. One of my cello teachers in high school chewed me out for showing up to a rehearsal without practicing, saying something to the effect of: "I know you think you're pretty cute so you can get away with not doing the work that everyone else has to do in order to succeed, but you're not going to waste my time that way."

He was right, and thence forward I wasn't so flippant with how I used other people's time, but I continued to cute my way out of using my own time wisely. And then I'd keep mooning, because it was easier than working.

I complained to my spiritual director about my unused potential, wondering why God would put these desires into my heart, to write, to run, to make music--or whatever the object of dissatisfaction was for the day--and then not allow me to do them. And she kept saying, there's plenty of time for all that. You'll know when the time is right--because it won't be a struggle against your vocation as a mother.

I didn't believe her. I thought that my education had been a waste, that all the interests I cultivated prior to motherhood had been in vain. I'd overhear some Disney princess on the TV singing songs about having a dream and think, "Let me know how that works out for you, Rapunzel."

In a brief quasi-fundamentalist streak, I thought I might discourage my daughter from developing any interests that would later be a source of disappointment to her. You want to be a mother? Then why go to college at all? Why develop any sort of an identity that God will just wrench out of you?

But I don't think the wrenching came from God. I'm the one who put everything on the altar to say, "Look, Folks, at everything I gave up." Not for my kids because they would have been glad to have an athletic, musical or writerly mother, rather than a grouch on the couch. Not for my husband. He didn't fall in love with a weak, whiny woman, so I'm not sure why I thought he'd like to be married to one.

I did it for my pride, which is a really bad thing to treat like a god. Maintaining the myth of my potential was safer than addressing the like potentialities of failure.

When I meditate on scripture daily, when I pray, when I rekindle the relationship with God that I had when I was a younger woman, the confirmation I receive is, "Here's your life. Do the work. Let it take you where it takes you. Just remain in my love." It's so simple. There's no aching or yearning or conflict. There's time.

And all of it comes with the knowledge that it really could be taken from me at God's hand whenever he wills. If I follow in the footsteps of any one of my grandparents, my body will fail me completely one day as will my mind. Everything that makes me me will turn to dust. Time is not for wasting.

My daughter recently started playing soccer, and the girls on her team run around with pony tails and red faces, wisps of hair falling over their ears, and this gorgeous athleticism that already holds so many promises. Some coaches in the league are really encouraging and any time someone runs towards the ball, they say, "Nice try, Linda!" Even if Linda never gets around to kicking it.

But there's always one coach yelling, "Attack, Barbara! Be aggressive! You're going the wrong way!" Parents are wincing every time the coach opens his mouth--but I sort of like the stronger encouragement. It is not enough just to will the ball to move. You've got to kick it. Attack!

It may make you a happier wife some day to be able to keep pace with the man you love. You may be a more effective Mother Superior if you've got a good education. And who knows if little Barbara isn't collaborating with God on something else completely unexpected.


Katarina said...

This is one of the best ( well written) blog posts i have read in a long long time .

Julia said...

You've got some good stuff here that, combined with some other things you have written about failure, would make a fine article I would love to hand to my college-age daughter. Have you considered doing something like that?

It would be a different kind of writing, and take stupidly long to do, and even longer to polish, and you would hate it before you like it. But it would be an excellent form of writing exercise. And you'd have to do it in order to do something beautiful for God, not because it's how to become a successful writer.

Just thinkin... Email me if you want ideas.

Barb said...

I had an epiphany reading this post.

My 11yo son plays football and for 2 yrs I have been cringing when I hear the coaches shouting at him.
I now see that this is exactly, exactly, exactly what he needs.

And he obviously knows it too, because he loves it.

I know this may not have been the main point of this post, but thank you anyway!

jan said...

for many assorted reasons, I really really liked this post. awesome stuff :). thanks! attack!

JMB said...

Who names their kids Barbara and Linda anymore:)? Great post, a lot to think about.

Kimberlie said...

You have given me lot's to ponder as usual. Been thinking a lot about dreams, about being content, about just about everything really. I've been reading a really interesting book too that you might find really interesting a per how it relates to women/dreams/vocation. It's secular. It's called Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz. The author's thesis is about the development of pre-adulthood in modern culture and how that has impacted the "life scripts" we live out. But it has also impacted women and the dreams they have for themselves and how they view their primary vocation. It's good stuff.

Trish Bailey de Arceo said...

I agree that a lot of times we set our own limits because of our own fears or inertia, and then we conveniently blame it on external circumstances... I think we ALL do it!

Gives me a lot to think about (as usual). Maybe I'll act on it. Or maybe I'm just too busy... ;o)

When will Betty write a book? When? (Attack, Betty, attack!)

(Shouted from the bench, of course!)

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

I love this. Love it. Love it. Love. IT. Thank you. A million times thank you.

Maria said...

This was a very moving and though-provoking post. Thanks for sharing! It was especially helpful for me to read, as a 20-something single gal who hopes to be married with kids someday. Sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like...what does it matter that I pursue all of these interests and skills right now, if I am just going to throw them to the wind once I am a wife and mother. How are these things even helping me attain what I truly desire (but can't hurry along), aka, a husband and kids.

But your reflections have given me a good perspective 1) to appreciate the time I have to pursue these things wholeheartedly while I can, 2) to realize that each of these interests ad ambitions help to form me as a person, and ultimately in my vocation.

May you find joy in pursuing your whatever form that may take!!

Pentimento said...

Yes. Yep. Yes, indeed. Oh, and dig this: my verification word is "rough."

Young Mom said...

I love this post. My dreams were completely stifled in the name of keeping me content as a homemaker, and slowly I am learning that it is OK for me to be whoever I am, there is no perfect cookie cutter wife/mother/person that I have to embody.I can be whatever it is that I prioritize.

Idoya Munn said...

I really like this, thank-you.

Annalea said...

I'll echo it, too: thank you for a timely & pertinent post. And what is it about writing, and music, and running that seem to make them want to go together? I already love the first two (pianist & vocalist) . . . and keep trying to start the last. I'm getting there--a dream I could sing about, too. ;o)

As for life before children: being a fully-developed person, someone with dreams, a history, talents & abilities, shows our children powerfully the value of all of those things. The trick is maintaining them enough to be able to teach the children by example that those things are a part of who we are. Sigh. I'm so not working that one into my life.

Lady.Rosary said...

I think that growing old sometimes makes us think that we shouldn't carry those big dreams we used to have. But I think living without one should not be an option. Thank you for reminding us!

MrsDarwin said...

JMB, I love you every time you comment. :)

I've been pondering my unwillingness to get going on several projects (one of which includes fitness, again). It's not that I don't have the time, exactly, because there are odd chunks of free time in my day. But that time doesn't just fall in my lap, completely structured for, say, ideal exercise conditions. I have to arrange the babysitting and coordinate the schedules and mold everything together, and once I confront all that effort, the tummy pouch doesn't look that bad, considering.

It's like my sin -- I don't like it, and it's aesthetically unpleasing to me, but I haven't reached the point of utter loathing which prompts me to make changes, regardless of the costs. And that's a dangerously complacent place to be.