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MATURITY

At the root of my loneliness was my longing to know my purpose.

That much I was sure of.

I was also sure that I was not going to have another baby. So sure in fact, that only a few months after having that vivid dream my husband got a vasectomy.

In many ways, the decision to make things permanent was even easier than the decision to start trying in the first place, once I figured out that I was trying to move forward with one foot cemented in the past.

“Immaturity always beckons, offering a false haven…a hiding place and disappearance in the past, a false isolation of the present, or an unobtainable sure prediction of the future. But maturity beckons also, asking us to be larger, more fluid, more elemental, less cornered, less unilateral, a living conversational intuition between the inherited story, the one we are privileged to inhabit and the one, if we are large enough and broad enough, moveable enough and even, here enough, just, astonishingly, about to occur.” – David Whyte Consolations

As uncomfortable as it was (and still is) for me to live each day in conversational intuition between my past present and future selves and allow enough space for life to point me in the direction I need to go, when I am able to it feels a lot like grace. Challenging as it may be and again, still is, looking back on that time in my life I can now see it clearly for what it was offering me.

As the poet, Mary Oliver said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I was being given the chance – the time and space and opportunity – to figure that out, and it was terrifying.

I was still working from home, a decision I felt good about since it allowed me to be there for my kids during vacations and sick days and the like, but since I was now able to get most of my work out of the way pretty quickly, I was left with ample time to try and figure out what to do next.

For as long as I could remember I longed to write a novel, but unlike my longing for another baby which was something I knew I was good at, I never finished college and had no good idea how to go about writing a book.

Each time I sat down to attempt it, I felt like a surgeon about to operate without ever having gone to medical school. Who was I kidding? Who did I think I was to even attempt something like that? Both were questions I asked myself on a daily basis back then.

I would be out walking my three dogs every day and every day without fail the thought of writing a book would tag along trying desperately to get my attention.

I was slowly driving myself crazy with indecision. It felt a lot like sticking my fingers inside a Chinese finger trap when I was a little girl. The more I felt pulled in opposite directions, the more pain was being inflicted on me and the more trapped I felt.

I remember thinking, what if I spend the next several years writing this book and then nothing happens? I’m never published, and I will have wasted all that time without anything to show for it. I wasn’t even close to living in the present, all I could think about was the future and what a colossal waste of time writing a novel was likely to be.

But like the finger trap, I guess I finally figured out that above all it was necessary for me to relax. Relax in the not knowing – the not knowing how to write a novel as well as the not knowing what, if anything, would ever come of it.

Only when I was able to relax and let go of any and all expectations was I able to begin.

“Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.” – David Whyte Consolations

Once I finally began, there was no stopping me. Around this time I learned that a great uncle had died and left me with a small inheritance, so I used it to take a leave of absence from my painting for three months to devote more time to my writing. After almost a year, my first book was finished.

But the protagonist in it was so thinly disguised that anyone that knew me and knew what I had been through would know it was me, so after letting my husband and a sister read it, I promptly burned all traces of it. Not a very mature thing to do I know.

If nothing else it was cathartic to be sure. The act of writing without attachment to any outcome allowed me to finally release a lot of pain I had carried around for far too long.

It also allowed me to understand that I didn’t need to understand everything.

Unlike those fortunate souls who come into the world seemingly knowing exactly what it is they were put on this earth to do, I still had no good idea, but I was slowly growing accustomed to that being okay.

Not long after that and surprising no one more than myself, the idea of homeschooling my kids came to me rather suddenly one day.

My daughter had just started fourth grade and was being harassed by other kids (about what I can’t quite remember) on a regular basis. The teacher she had at the time was also turning her into a perfectionist which was not something I supported. She was told that when a mistake was made, there would be no erasing only starting over. The effect this had on her was startling. This strong, confident, smart kid was crying herself to sleep every night and beginning to doubt herself in every way, and I wasn’t having it.

I had the good fortune of having a sister in another state that was already homeschooling her two children, and I knew I could count on her to be a source of strength and support for me.

After some serious soul searching and considerable bouts of doubt due to the general lack of support from anyone other than my husband and this same sister, I made the decision to pull my daughter out of school and teach her myself. Then a year later I pulled my son out as well.

(This picture was taken soon after our adventure together began.)

It was hands down the scariest decision I have ever made. There would be no one else to blame if I screwed it up – if I screwed them up. I was back to being one hundred percent responsible not only for caring for them in all the myriad of ways a parent does but for their education, which would shape who they would become.

And the craziest part is that at that time I didn’t immediately recognize it for what it was – my purpose – at least for the time being anyway.

For the first time in my life I was wasn’t fighting the current but going with the flow, allowing my life and by extension theirs, to be shaped by the passing days and years like a river winding its way through the woods. If anything I was unschooling them, and we were all starting from scratch.

And like a river, they were constantly changing and so was I.

Instead of trying to always force things, always wanting to know the answer to the question of what I was meant to do with my one precious life, I was allowing my life to unfold of its own accord. It was a privilege that I will always be extremely grateful for. I was teaching and learning twice over.

After a time, I even began writing again and finished my second novel several years later. I still didn’t know what I was doing, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. This was only one of the many things my children taught me.

I learned from their example to stop being so afraid to make mistakes and to stop caring so much about what other people think. I had zero safety net, a very disagreeable superintendent I had to deal with on a regular basis, and everyone telling me with a bizarre degree of certainty that I was going to fail. I was doing a disservice to my kids; they would fall behind and then what would they do?

Despite the overall lack of support I received, my children and I thrived. If I never did another important thing for the rest of my life, being their teacher will have been enough.

I taught my son until he was ready to start high school. He wanted very much to go to the same trade school that my husband attended, so I backed his decision from the start. I taught my daughter until she started college – she graduated with honors a couple of years ago.

All those years ago I was convinced that having another baby would complete me. It would fill the emptiness I felt, cure me of my loneliness and my rid me of my desperate longing for something more.

What I couldn’t know then, was that by my trusting my intuition in concert with my past, present, and future I would gain some much-needed wisdom and in the process hopefully pass some of that wisdom on to my children.

“The wisdom that comes from maturity is recognized through a disciplined refusal to choose between or isolate three powerful dynamics that form human identity: what has happened, what is happening now and what is about to occur.” – David Whyte Consolations

In the following years, I would finish my third novel, Relish, which eventually became the inspiration for this blog.

I’m writing not only about what has happened to me in the past, but how it affects my life now, and how it will continue to do so in the future.

If someone were to tell me this is what I’d be doing all these years later, I’d think they were crazy, or at the very least that they didn’t know me very well. I am an extremely private person, yet here I am telling my life stories to the world.

And this particular story would have been so very different had I insisted on having another baby and not followed the guidance coming straight from my heart.

Instead, here I am, looking through a wide-angle lens of my life, in the hopes I might inspire others to do the same.

 

NEXT WEEK: MEMORY

 

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

One Reply

  1. Jeff

    That picture of our daughter and reading this blog made me cry! I would give anything to have a day back when they were that age! Keep up the great work! Love you!

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