Thursday, April 23, 2015

On Being Nothing

"I'm more afraid of being nothing than I am of being hurt."  That was my senior quote, taken from that masterpiece of American cinema, Days of Thunder (what can I say? Twelfth grade was the height of my "Deep Redneck" period).  Eighteen-year-old me planned to go to college on the cheap but then go on to law school somewhere staggeringly impressive and someday sit on the Supreme Court.  After all, what was the point of anything if I wasn't striving to be at the very highest possible peak of my chosen career path?  What meaning could my life possibly hold if I let feelings or relationships get in the way of "making something" of myself?

Now, a few months from turning 30, I'm starting to realize that being nothing is the whole point for me.

I am blessed to be surrounded by a group of remarkable comrades-in-arms in the trench warfare that is mothering lots of very small people.  We sneak out of our houses after bedtime every other Wednesday to read the upcoming Sunday's Gospel and to encourage one another to grow in virtue.  This week, we read the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, John 10:11-18, which is about how the Good Shepherd lays down his life for His sheep.  He surrenders Himself to the will of the Father.  Our discussion turned, as it often does, to what it means to embrace God's will in this season in our lives.  We spent a good deal of time talking about why we choose to stay at home with our children.  Most of my girlfriends said that withdrawing from the world to stay at home was something that fit right now, for a variety of reasons, but that they expected to rejoin the workforce/to contribute to society/to follow their passions/to do something personally fulfilling as soon as they moved out of the all-little-kids phase.  I made a joke about being too lazy ever to want to go back to work, but I've been thinking about this conversation all day, and I can't make it go away with a blithe self-deprecation (though it is true.  I am deeply lazy).

When I decided not to go to law school, I said it was because I didn't want to practice law and because I hated writing and wanted to be done with school.  These things were true, to a point.  But it occurs to me now that it really was a rare occasion of my listening to and submitting myself to God's will over my plan.  I needed to be broken of those career ambitions in order to accept the path to sanctity that God had in store for me.

Hearing my girlfriends comment about following their passions, using their talents, and needing to find personal fulfillment outside the home threw something into sharp relief for me:  I don't need that.  I need to work hard at being nothing.  

For most of my life, I never did anything I wasn't great at.  If success didn't come easily, I just quit (this is why I still can't really drive a stick).  I found a handful of endeavors that did go well for me, and I was happy to accept heaps of accolades in those fields.  And then I became a mother.

No one awards engraved plaques for Achievements in Bulb Syringe Usage or letters of commendation for Excellence in Pretend Tea Sipping.  After I've read The Travels of Babar for the seventeenth time in the space of an afternoon, I don't have the mental wherewithal to do anything that the world at large might extol.  And that's ok.  I don't have a yearning for creative expression or a fiery passion for any particular field.  I've spent a lot of time envying my friends who do have those things, but I'm slowly starting to recognize that perhaps I don't have that sort of drive because I'm not supposed to right now.  

Instead of looking for some way to make something of myself, I need to accept that I'm called to be nothing.  If I can joyfully surrender myself to His will, content myself doing the invisible tasks that are asked of me in this vocation, and make my only ambition to attain Heaven, I'll have everything.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm bummed I missed last night- for work of all things. You are such a wonderful writer and an even better mother. I'm blessed to be "in the trenches" with you and to learn from you.