genetics.

February 22, 2008

i have recently discovered that i am more like my mother than i thought. most of the time i think about how my likes and dislikes, the choices i’ve made, and the way my life looks are different than my family; most of the time any similarities i might share with them are left unnoticed. this week, however, i realized that perhaps we are more alike than i knew.

it was a square table and mom was sitting across from me (dad and adam occupied the other two sides). the majority of our conversation that evening had revolved around politics, which i suppose is to be expected (or hoped for) during election years. we had enjoyed our cocktails and starters, and now sipped on wine (a deep malbec) as we waited for the main course. i looked across the table covered with empty salad plates, wine glasses, bread crumbs, and asked mom (for the second time) if she wanted to travel to africa with me. i could sense immediately that the topic had been discussed at home, when she and dad had been alone, and there seemed to be some tension surrounding it. mom responded, “well, lisa, i’d like to but it’s a little outside of my comfort zone,” her eyes were becoming wet with tears, and her voice began to quake a bit, “and it’s even more out of my comfort zone without dad.” she paused for a moment, glancing at him, and then added, “which makes me so mad.” i understood. i understood that feeling and i understood hating that feeling. all i knew to say in that moment was, “well, mom, maybe that’s the exact reason we should go.”

i like to think of myself as a strong woman. whether it’s an accurate assessment or not is beside the point, i like to think that i’m some sort of progressive woman: independent [not reliant], capable [not weak], and brave [not fearful].

last night i finally got to spend some time with friends i see not often enough. we sat around the dinner table (this one circular in shape) in their home and shared a beautiful meal…homemade soup, tasty salad, and round glasses of wine (another malbec). throughout the evening we talked about their growing son, laughed about old television programs, talked about summer plans, about jobs, and about life. towards the end of the evening, when all that remained on the table were empty salad plates, wine glasses, and bread crumbs, we began discussing, specifically, the stuff of my life: grad school decisions and everything surrounding those – the INN, loneliness, goodness, the lack of balance in my community, calling, sadness, and the need for change. they asked questions about all of it and i did my best to articulate (failing miserably, in my opinion) response. i had given them permission to ask. and their willingness to listen, process, and speak into my life meant more than they knew. we went back and forth, talking about it all, until suddenly i said something i had no intention of uttering out loud. with a lumpy throat, tears squeezing themselves from my eyes, and a trembling voice, i said, “what i really want,” i croaked, “is to be a wife and a mother.” i caught my breath, “i can make decisions about all the other stuff in my life – i can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to everything else – but not that. and that is what i’d pick.”

i suddenly felt dependent. i suddenly felt vulnerable. i suddenly felt frightened. i also felt stupid, silly, and pathetic. i knew these feelings. And i hated these feelings. the battle inside me continued: independent women don’t need men. strong women don’t admit stupid thoughts. brave women don’t cry about things they can’t control.

these friends didn’t reply with annoying empty promises that “it would happen someday.” they didn’t attempt to cheer me up by saying that i was “still young.” they didn’t try to console me with lame stock responses. in fact, i got no sense that they thought my confession ridiculous. what i did hear was one question: “so, how are you going to find a way to live out that desire to love as a wife and mother in your life as it is now?”

wanting to be a wife and a mother has always made me feel inferior. but wanting to learn how to love another person, and love well, is not pathetic. to be a woman loved by a man is not needy. to crave knowing the child that has grown inside of you is not silly. to want to live in a home filled to the brim with all the richness family can offer is not pathetic. in fact, it would be weak, fearful, and pitiful to believe any of that. i think, at the core, i don’t hate my desire, i hate how i’ve allowed it to make me feel. i hate that i’ve made a bad list of what it means to be a “strong” woman and i have tried to live by that list. i hate the choice i have made to ignore myself, the desire i have for certain things, and have therefore diminished who i am as a woman. i hate all these things because they are what have left me feeling stupid, weak, needy, and pathetic.

“so, how are you going to find a way to live out that desire to love as a wife and mother in your life as it is now?”

i think that is part of what africa is about. i think that is part of why i am at the INN, and why i am not ready to leave. i think it is why i enjoy transforming my house into a home – by creating within it. i think it’s why i want, so badly, to figure out how to love myself, so i can truly love others. i think it’s why i am not interested in shallow relationships – but long for deep commitment on both sides. i think it’s why i hate not having the time to invest in people. i think it’s why feeling disconnected from others leaves me so utterly alone. and i think it’s why having to sacrifice so many of these things, in one way or another, the past year and a half, has left me squelched. tired. sad. and asking if it’s really worth the price.

i think i am more like my mom than i realize. we both feel things intensely and we both believe ourselves to be weaker women because of many of those feelings.

i’ve thought about my mom all day. i have thought about the young woman she was when her husband joined the army. i thought about how, as a newly married woman and the mother of her first child, she had to move to germany, away from family and friends. i thought about how effortlessly she balanced working and creating a home. i thought about our trip to miami this summer to visit my dying aunt – and the deep love i watched her gracefully offer there. i thought about how i have watched my mother care for her own aging mother during the recent years and the patience that has grown inside of her. and i thought about how she chose to go to africa with me.

i thought about my mom today. i thought about how ordinary and incredible she is. i thought about her strength, which although threatened at times, quietly and steadily remains. and i hope i’m more like her than i realize.

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8 Responses to “genetics.”

  1. e said

    maybe you are and maybe you will continue to become more and more like your mom.
    seems like it took her a few more years to become the way she is than you’ve yet had.

  2. mom said

    what a surprise this morning to find this beautiful piece!

    it has been such a blessing and joy to watch our little girl blossom into such a wonderful and gifted young lady. we are so proud!

    Sis – you brought tears to your ole’ mama’s eyes – love you!

  3. Lindsey said

    I did not cry through your entire entry (i was mostly in awe of how well you could write and my thoughts were clouded with wonderings of when you write a book so i can read it over and over and dog-ear pages and underline and wonder what you really meant in some paragraphs and be giddy with excitement that i can actually ask you – you the author!) but i did not cry UNTIL i read your mom’s reply. then i cried and thought about my mom too and how jealous i am of this stage in your life and how ironically i would switch places with you in a heartbeat. and we would both be glad for just a little while. then we would want back into our own lives and we would appreciate them more.

  4. bec said

    simply, i am very glad the writing has returned.

  5. ryan said

    Wow, Lisa. Thank you for this beautiful articulation of truths that are deeper than most people realize. I am excited for you! It as an honor to be brought into such a space.

  6. attic dweller said

    thank you for putting feelings into words.

  7. Alex Fritz said

    Incredibly well put… you have wonderful people that God has surrounded you with to give such insightful advice…

  8. Lacy said

    Did you already know that you pretty much articulated my deep tension between wanting stability (a family) and feeling trapped by it at the same time? Thanks for articulating something for me that I am sure you had no clue was for me 😉
    Hang out soon?
    OK.

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