My Identity

Oh good grief! It’s been three months since I’ve updated this thing. It’s probably been almost that long since I had two hands and more than a few minutes to put a few sentences together, too, so don’t judge me yet. 🙂

I think I need hot chocolate for this. Fortunately, though I am about to take a five- to ten-minute break, you won’t know, because reading is like watching TV on DVD: The breaks might be obvious, but you don’t have to wait through the commercials. . . . Only the inane blather about weird analogies while the author could be using that time to make said hot chocolate and get to writing a dang blog post, for goodness sake. That’s the quality you get here. You’re welcome.

I’ve read many blogs over time, and have come to terms with the fact that I am not a great blogger. I probably never will be. I’m a decent writer, maybe, but too perfectionistic to write well quickly. Therefore, I rarely post, because if I can’t get something done quickly, it doesn’t get done. That’s why my garage is still full of clothes I could be wearing, but haven’t sorted through. My three-year-old is destructive when I’m not looking and my seven-month-old likes to be held. He eats ever couple hours, and needs changing frequently. When they don’t need me, I am around in case I’m needed. And I’m probably tired, because my baby would have woken me up once or twice to eat, and I just cannot adjust. Things that aren’t immediate and quick don’t get done.

This clashes greatly with my old identity. My old “system”, if you will, or maybe “habits” fits better there. However, as I’ve thought about it, “training” actually is the best word to describe what I’m currently fighting against.

My entire life, up to graduation from college, involved, in some form or another, training in the ability to sit for long periods of time, studying. Testing. Deconstructing. Figuring. FOCUSING. I’ve always done my best in jobs that required long periods of focus on a single task; data entry, filing, or compiling being some of my greatest skills. I can sit for hours and do data entry. I’m really good at it. Leave me alone for a few hours or days with a cabinet full of stuff that needs to be reorganized or systemized (and the resources needed to do it), and I’ll give you a system you can depend on for a long time. This is not bragging (okay, maybe a little), it’s just what I’m good at.

But I haven’t done that much in my life. I’m, admittedly, an extremely distractable person, and the Internet has played a key role in my inability to live like an organized, systemized person. Throw in a good dose of Lazy, and you have Me. Yay.

When I graduated from college, I discovered . . . freedom. I was married, sure, but I was free to be a stay-at-home wife; my husband even encouraged it. Back then, probably because we had less stuff, no cable (only a VCR and computer DVD player), and dial-up, my house was always clean, the laundry always done, dinner always cooked. I had my storage room full of crap I wasn’t going through, of course, but the REST of the house was just lovely. And my brain was finally resting. AAaaah!

I loved being a stay-at-home wife. But . . . what was I now going to do with that piece of paper I’d earned after five years of work? I was pretty bored at home, to be honest. I discovered blogging, but back then I tried not to post more than a few times of day. I discovered a budding discussion board (remember EZ Boards?) and became a member there, but there wasn’t much discussion during the day, because there were still few members, and I didn’t want to be the chatty wannabe. They were tolerating me at first, anyway–it was all about the perils of the IT world, in which my husband was embroiled, and I was kinda tagging along for the fun of it. I didn’t need to ingratiate myself. Not to mention we still had dial-up, and I didn’t want to be on the phone all day (though it might have been worth it, since Qwest called every stinkin’ day to try to sell me something). These were the years before cell phones–not a new technology, but definitely beyond our means at the time. If someone needed to get ahold of me, the phone line needed to be free.

I’d subscribed to the local paper, because I’d always wanted to get a newspaper, but never had had time to read it. I quickly discovered I was not one to read a whole paper in a day, but it did come in handy when we wanted to get out and enjoy some local events–and when I decided it was time to look for a job. I wanted to contribute financially, and it felt like my degree was burning a hole in whatever stack in the back room I’d placed it in. My parents had reminded me frequently what it was costing them to send me to school. I was going to be paying those loans back soon. And my husband’s job was looking somewhat questionable as to whether it would exist in the next few months.

I kind of wish I hadn’t been too picky back then, and knew what I know now: I would gladly work in a coffee shop (there was one five minutes from our apartment, by foot) or a library (I knew where there were a couple in town). I didn’t really need to find something “in my field”, because, really, my field–“Environmental Science”–was kind of the equivalent of a Liberal Arts degree. Fuzzy and not terribly useful in the “real” world. (I did get a job in a lab once, but not because I had any kind of sciencey background. It was because I told them I enjoyed technical writing, and they eventually wanted someone to do documentation for the equipment they developed. I can say that my college training in writing lab reports DID help me out in that job, since the only real writing I ever did for them was a performance report on one of the pieces of equipment, and the big boss used it in a presentation and told me it was a great report. I got no compensation other than bragging rights.)

Going back to my original point (whatever that was): These days, I’m a mom. My house is cluttered; my floors are gross; I rarely get to listen to my music anymore; I feel guilty leaving my children with a babysitter, even my husband, which means doing anything without them is never very refreshing for long; and I can never focus on a project for more than half an hour without being needed by someone (or something–I’m talking to you, cat) or falling asleep/getting distracted/sneaking time for a shower when the baby’s asleep and the kid is entertaining himself in his room during lockdown “quiet time”. Ask me how long it’s been since I’ve updated the checkbook–a task that takes a lot of time and is actually very cathartic for me when I can focus on it. Fortunately, paying the bills is a quick, easy job, so that’s always done, but the checkbook is never balanced.

I went through school being pressured to perform academically. I was not discouraged from doing extracurricular activities, but it was made known on a few occasions that I shouldn’t have been wasting time with them. Fortunately, academics came easy to me, though I was always an average student. I knew what I could do to get by. I excelled at what I loved, though: Singing, writing (but I rarely did my best work), and reading. I was a little jealous of my brothers, who were such great athletes and not expected to bring home good grades but were allowed to take part–nay, encouraged–in any sport or activity they wanted (slightly more irksome when my youngest brother proved to be a math whiz–my weakest subject). But their identity was not bound up in what their brains could do.

Without getting into a bunch of other baggage, I’ll just say that now that my brain is pretty much my weakest link, I’m getting frustrated. I guess I’m still kind of smart about some things, but my articulation is so poor that I can barely get those concepts across anymore. I take in a lot of info during the day, and I have a longing to report on it or synthesize it, but by the time I’d get around to it, everyone else has already done so and I don’t have two brain cells left to spare on the subjects. I get a little jealous of my husband, who is so very smart and articulate, and who gets to spend an entire day focusing on a single task at a time–taking in information and writing about it, go figure–and then feel really inadequate when it comes to discussing anything deeper than what we had to eat that day.

This brain–the same brain that used to engage my husband (then friend and eventually boyfriend) on the phone for hours with interesting topics and witty banter–is NOTHING compared to what it used to be. The last counselor I saw told me something about how people tend to identify themselves as something–for instance, an intellectual–and face a crisis when they can no longer identify with that anymore.

I know I’m a mom. I have cute-as-buttons children who make me laugh and make me tear my hair out. It’s a job I longed for and a job I frequently love. But it hit me the other day that, though the overall joy is worth the pain, I face daily defeat, and it can be exhausting. I’m not the wife I want to be. I’m far, far from the intellectual I used to be. Heck, I’m even a mediocre mom, and it’s what I do full-time. Granted, I’m convinced children exist to show us our inadequacies and insecurities on a daily basis, and my children definitely excel at that. But it’s hard not to feel like a regular failure when you can’t figure out how to get your child to obey a simple command, you lose your cool too often, and you hope that at least the kids can put a smile on your husband’s face when he comes home from work, because you feel like you’re failing at that, too.

I’m not writing this to garner sympathy, but to explore the irritation I’ve been feeling lately. As a Christian, it’s even more frustrating, because, ideally, my identity in the world should have no bearing on the identity I have as a saved follower of Christ. But I’ve felt like a mediocre Christian, too, who (*gulp*) barely cracks a Bible anymore and mostly remembers to pray when serving food to the kid–or when suppressing the urge to tie and gag the kid the next time he shrieks in the house after you’ve told him to stop it for the tenth time.

(On that note, don’t ever tell me or any other embattled parent to not pray for patience, because God will only send lessons in which to learn patience. When I’m praying for patience, it’s DURING those lessons, and I’m praying that God save me from emerging homicidal urges. I expect other parents feel the same.)

It’s like drinking in fresh, spring air after being cooped up in a musty cellar for months when I get to delve into a deep Bible study with someone. It’s like food when I get to spend hours searching scripture for answers. It’s like sweet water when I find those answers and get to pass them on to someone. I can understand the verse about hungering and thirsting for Christ and His teachings. It’s like the last bastion of deep thought I am afforded anymore. I think my political dabblings embarrass my husband. My nutritional research makes me guilty when I can’t expend the willpower or time to change my diet to something more healthy (though I have made great strides in past years, and my diet is much better than it used to be, even if it’s not always the best). But aside from personal study (which I have neglected) and recently infrequent studies with neighboring Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t get that meaty, satisfying discussion–not even at church.

If I were to pick an identity I would love to have, it would be Christian first. “Mom” comes with the territory, and it’s really a job. Who is THIS mom, besides Pie and Beanie’s caretaker and Sweetie’s wife? I’ve tried to run a business out of my home, but have been largely unsuccessful due to my own insecurities. I’m holding out, though, for my breakthrough–I don’t want to quit. It’s a very lucrative business, and I think I could be good at it if I allowed myself to be. I just have to get out of my own way and learn how to redefine myself.

Well, I’m finally getting tired. I wonder if anyone made it this far into my ramblings. I should probably congratulate you if you did. 🙂 The word count says I’m over 2200. Too bad I could do this kind of volume during NaNoWriMo! Anyway, that’s what I’ve been musing about lately. I don’t do the dreamy or poetic-type blog posts about how magical and blessed it is to be a parent or a person on this earth. I like nitty-gritty with a touch of philosophical. And a splash of vodka. 😉

And now, to go against my better judgment, I’m going to publish this without proofreading, because I am one of those people who will proofread and rewrite for another hour, and the baby will probably wake up in that time, so I’d better grab all the sleep I can get. Until later–God bless. 🙂

One thought on “My Identity

  1. Hey girly…I read through to the end…just wanted you to know that!! I have had that conversation many times with myself!! Sending you my cell # we really need to get together 🙂

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