Monday, February 11, 2008

Still searching for my balance...

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I love Oprah. Of course I love Oprah. Who, in fact, doesn't love Oprah? Some time ago I viewed an episode that hosted the author of "Eat, Pray, Love". All throughout the episode a pretty, tall, thin blonde woman summarized her life story, a life story that inspired this new bestseller. Here was her basic story of woe....

She had the perfect life.
She had a loving husband.
She had a beautiful home.
She wasn't happy.

And thus began an absurd and baseless journey of "self discovery" that amounted to leaving her husband to begin pasta eating, yoga chanting meditation, and spiritual lessons from a man named Roger with a white beard. Forgive me for sounding insensitive, but what exactly was the problem? Sitting there on the Oprah show with short curly blonde hair while using cute dippy phrases such as "Oh, I'm allergic to the word soulmate", hailed by millions of American readers for being a new sort of woman-discovery genius for alienating a perfectly good husband and life, one she once vowed to remain committed to...this confuses me.

And don't even get me started on Burnt Toast, by none other than a Desperate Housewife herself- Terri Hatcher. She proclaims it is time for all of us women to stop taking the "burnt toast", the gross little end piece off of the bread of life. Forgive me Terri, but I am inclined to suppose you have no idea what burnt toast tastes like. In fact, I'm willing to bet that with your multiple marriage record and one kid at the age of 37 or whatever you have been allowing yourself the entirely flakey and dense portion of the bread of life, slathered in plenty of Hollywood calorie-less, taste-less, magic butter. If I'm curious about what to do with the "Burnt toast", I'll go ask Mrs. Dugger or Mother Theresa.

Why is it that after women's lib, after newfound freedom finally available to us all, freedom that has opened countless doors and shattered plenty of glass ceilings are we women supposedly still unhappy?

We search for this fulfillment in our homes, but apparently didn't find it there. We search for it in the workplace, still...not there. We search for it at the gym, at the book club, on the Oprah show. Thanks to "Eat, Pray, Love" the quest is now open to pasta italiano, monasteries, and the arms of old men with heavy accents who woo us with "Darling, come to bed".

And I have a sneaky hunch it's not to be found in any of these new and catchy places. We still have miserable marriages, unfulfilled women, etc...the only difference lying in the fact that at least in the 1950's you could swallow these un-pleasantries with a slice of homemade Betty Crocker cherry pie and a glass of cold 100% whole milk from one of those neat glass jars.

Here is where I DO think both authors are onto something, something that I believe is the reason their works can strike a universal chord with any woman. We DO sell ourselves short. We DON'T take pride in what we do best. I'm certainly guilty of this as much as Ms. Terri.

Case in point:

After changing around the fourth poopy diaper of the day, wiping the remaining swirls of an entire bottle of Bath and Body works lotion off of the wall and heater vent as well as vacuuming an entire bag of crushed Tostitos chips off of the playroom carpet, all courtesy of my out of control- I mean "rambunctious and energetic" two year old I can't help but pause and ask the question:

What on earth am I doing?

Is this what I signed up for? Has today's vacuuming, wiping, combing, changing, scooping, stirring, suctioning, running, and re-doing fully utilized my supreme potential as a woman?

A few months ago one of my great childhood friends paid me a visit while in town. After conversing for a long time about her travels through Europe, Africa, etc. she turned the topic to me. We hadn't spoken in over a year or so, and our conversation ended on a note like this:

Lacy: "Yeah, after dancing with the Hundaweeni tribe of the Northern region under the full moon we all met up in Germany for some weinerschnitzel that was out of this world before enjoying the carnival lights in Venice. It was great. So, what have you been up this past year?"

Rachel: "Oh, you know, I've been a Mom."

The lame-ness that suddenly enveloped the room could have been cut with a know, the same knife that cuts the homemade Betty Crocker cherry pie.

"Oh my heavens to gosh," thought I. That sounded so LAME. In fact, I'm surprised how lame that sounded. The entire foundation of my meaning in life, my total and truest happiness, the core of joy and beauty and fulfillment was just summed up in a simple sentence that failed miserably to do itself justice. There is no story of chaotic grocery shopping with a toddler throwing pretzels from the cart, no way to convey the sweetness of your baby's smile in the words that justify and properly define what motherhood is. All that comes spilling out of your mouth is...

"I've been a Mom."

I thought for days about this cruel injustice. I was angry with myself for letting myself feel little and insignificant when my core KNOWS of its validity. Why did I feel stupid, when I've never been more convinced of the worth of life, of my life, than when I became a Mom? On the most basic level, I'm actually fulfilling a literal biological purpose of life as a member of the human it too much to ask that at least a few feel good endorphins be released when I utter a seemingly simple phrase that has to do with motherhood?
Am I becoming another rendition of Ms. EatPrayLove? Would I have felt better if when asked what I had been up to for the last year I could have replied,

"Oh, I began a small public relations consulting firm that was eventually bought out by IAMWOMAN HEAR ME ROAR Incorporated and now I am the appointed CEO."

Probably. Do I need to begin plans for a flight to Italy? India? !!!!!

However, if I were in Italy...

Would I have been able to peek around the corner this morning to see Lily holding her two baby dolls and kissing each of them one by one, saying "I luuu you. I luuu you."?

Would I have been present to handle the explosion of catastropic proportions of Ms. London's diaper that amounted to a warm bath with her squishy, squirmy fat and sweet smile?
Would Lily have been able to ask me for "Nuuggets? Nugggets? Pawk? Pawk?" (Chicken nugget picnic at the park)?

Would I have Lily cuddling in my arms on my lap at this very moment, as I type this reflection on being her mother, after waking from a nap?

For me, this has been the arena that has not sold me short. I revel in the fact that Lily says "tant youuu (thank you) and wee-cumm (your welcome)as much as any other accomplishment in my life. This is my calling, this human connection and sacrifice and dare I say diaper changing monotony. I have a wonderful husband. I have wonderful girls. And I am happy. I choose to be happy.
And I'll continue to eat, and pray, and love, and be happy. And every now and then I'll even take the burnt toast if it means my kids and my husband get the warm and flaky pieces. And I hope my daughters -as real, strong and independent women- will do the same.

I have to go, Lily just spit out her Chocolate soy milk all over herself and me and the keyboard....

What do you think? Do you think women today are happy? Either way, why? What makes you happy?


Amy Minor said...

My favorite line of this post: "And every now and then I'll even take the burnt toast if it means my kids and my husband get the warm and flaky pieces."
By the way, I read the first chapter of the Burnt Toast book and the writing was so bad I could not go on. And I'm one of those people who always makes myself finish a book, even if it's agonizing.
It's funny, I think we in the Seattle house think and talk about this subject a lot. What I've found so interesting is that even though my friends are SOOO different, almost every one of them wants to be a mom. And I think they would choose that over a career. I know I would and will if I can. I agree with you -- I think biologically, emotionally, etc. we are made for that.
However I do think that some people exceed at it, like you, some people don't, unfortunately, like the moms on assistance who come into the Prosecutor's office for child support, and others, like me, will probably try their very best but never feel up to par...and you will probably be that mom we all judge ourselves against. ;)

jenniferoharra said...

So funny that my favorite line was my sister Amy's as well! I think this is so true! Liesel is living our dream in NYC going out, having fun and I'm home being a wife, walking my dog and hopefully a mom soon too. But I couldn't be happier! I think when our single friends come to town and they travel all over the world, we feel like we are boring but I actually think they are all looking for what we already have! I'm glad you're happy and congratulations on your new baby girl!