It’s 2017! So, what the hell is wrong with me?
You would think, by now, the constraints of being a stay-at-home mom — that feeling of being completely and utterly stuck — wouldn’t be an issue. Look at the women who have come before me! Look at my own mother, a woman who started her own business at a time when women were expected to marry well and have babies.
The women who have come before me have all been creative and brilliant women.
My grandmothers were stay-at-home moms, but even then, when that was the only role women were expected to have, they found ways to expand themselves out of it. Grandma Sacrey was a seamstress who started her own business creating hand-made dolls and doll clothes. She made Barbie dresses and Barbie coats and even tiny Barbie shoes with tiny, intricate stitching that must have been mind-numbingly tedious, yet electrifying when the finished product came into being.
My father’s mother, Willew Dean, she was a hard worker, stern yet generous. She taught us how to cook and clean, and how to shuck corn and hull the beans. She told us, always, to be mindful of our studies. When I tried to drop out of college, she gave me a handful of cash, somewhere around $2500, to pay for an entire semester if I would only return to give it one more try. She wanted more for me than what she was offered in her day. As my mother has always said, Nannie was born out of her time, and if she had been born decades later, she would have been the CEO of her own corporation.
So, what’s wrong with me? I don’t know the answer to that other than, well…me.
Me holding me back.
It might also be a small portion the fact that I live in the state of Tennessee where, remarkably, there are a great deal of people, mostly women, trying desperately to hold onto 1952. The idea still circulates quite heavily in this part of the country that women, once we have children, are to be nothing more than simply a mother.
It could also be that that remarkable woman I call my own mother, who is a creative genius of her own making, was such a force of opposition to what her own mother expected of her, that she not only followed her personal pursuits, but in the process she forgot that she was a mother.
I took my own path, of course, scared of my own tendency to let my passions run wild. I chose to bury my passions deep down inside of me in order to give my family — my children — the mother I never had. It made perfect sense then, thirteen years ago, to put myself aside in a dark corner beneath my organs and muscles and bones in order to focus on raising my girls and offering myself up to my husband’s ambitions.
Grandma Sacrey had said one bright Saturday afternoon nearly fourteen years ago, “He’s a good man. Follow him wherever he goes. Take care of those babies. You look so happy.” And I was…for a time.
But I’m not anymore.
Our first baby girl grew into a bright, amazing teenager. Another baby right behind her grew into an eleven-year-old girl who constantly blows me away when she defies her own self-doubt to grow by leaps and bounds in areas where she desires to succeed.
Another baby right behind that one is quickly approaching her eighth birthday. Her imagination and brilliant energy, her need to explore and investigate, her glorious spirituality that seeps out of every pore on her little body, shines light onto what really matters the most in this world: faith, God, simplicity, gratitude, thirst for knowledge and wisdom, joy, and boundless love.
I look at these girls now — these three women I grew inside of my body and birthed into this world — and they amaze me. Dear God, they are incredible human beings! And I’m so proud of them. And I always want to be there for them. And I always will love them!
But what if, for a moment, I step away, and instead of putting all of myself into them, I draw back into myself to that place where I had buried the gem of my own essence so long ago?
My essence has been there…waiting. I have felt it.
Slowly, over time, it seeped its minerals into my blood, carrying it straight to my heart. From there, I shared with my girls. I taught them. I shared those minerals to nourish their own seeds of passion and being.
At the same time, slowly, that gem has been gnawing away at my insides. It has grown, perhaps because of the love of my own children watering it with their smiles and hugs.
But now it’s getting so big that it is starting to hurt.
My bones ache. My heart is about to explode. There is so much there. Sorrow and happiness. Gratitude and regret.
And, still, I let fear hold it all in as though it has become the very skin I am covered in. What will people think? Who am I when I’m not a mother and a wife? A daughter and a sister? A neighbor and a friend?
I am just me.
And that me is desperately telling me to walk into the flames — of rejection and backlash and opinions and the heat of those who may disagree — because I know that when I come out on the other side, there will be an even better version of who I have become.
I have to stop being scared and just BE.
For myself. But also, so very much, for these little girls who aren’t listening now so much as observing.
The women before me were creative and brilliant women. The women after me are creative and brilliant women.
I, in between, have the capacity and the duty to become a creative and brilliant woman.
What I teach my daughters now that they are old enough to get their own drinks of water and prepare their own snacks has more to do with me honoring myself as a women as opposed to honoring the version of myself that I think I should be: meek, pleasing, self-sacrificing, quiet, restrained.
Who am I?
I am a writer.