I spent the better part of 20 years of my life consumed with the idea of having a family of my own. I wanted to be a mom from the earliest age. In addition to that I had the longing to have a husband, a house to decorate and a kitchen in which to cook. At the age of eight I remember lying in my bed at night thinking about my future husband, wondering who he would be. I longed to have a partner in crime, a person dedicated just to me. I desperately wanted to be a mommy and to have a whole crew of babies whom I would snuggle and love. I longed for this idyllic scenario. As I got older, this concept of marriage and family developed into a movie trailer description of what I wanted my life to be. When still single, I romanticised about marriage and having this "other half" who would complete me and make me feel like the most special person in the world. I cried many a tear wondering why I had not found my Jordan Catalano. I had no regard for what or who was good for me. I was desperate to have someone love me and make me feel complete. I was certain I would be a great mother. I had no other real hopes and dreams. Everything in my life revolved around this idea. I didn't pick a degree or pursue a career based on my own goals for my future. My future was going to be being a wife and mother. I hadn't really planned beyond that one goal.
Well, in the year 2000 I stumbled into a relationship with someone and hung on for dear life. Rather than going about pursuing and maintaing the relationship in a way that would truly meet my needs and satisfy my soul, I dug my talons in and begged for him to stay with me and love me. I'm really freaking lucky that he decided to stick it out with crazy, often drunk, desperately needy, "drive over in the middle of the night crying" Heather. I'm really freaking lucky that he turned out to be a wonderful, truly loving man. But, at the time, he could have been anyone. And for the first 5 years of our relationship, I was still a complete mess. And he turned out to have his own issues as well. We were a match made in a neclear laboratory. We were the perfect storm of needy, controlling, weepy and mean. It has taken years of therapy and constant work for us to learn how to love each other. The love was always there, and we genuinely liked each other (most of the time), we just didn't know how to treat each other. It turns out that even under the best conditions, two people partnering together for life means difficulty, work and farsightedness. And every day you have to learn a little more how to take the whole package and not isolate out (and hate) the different parts of the person. You have to care for yourself and care for your partner with the same kindness and grace (sometimes mercy). You definitely have to learn to say how you feel with strength and conviction and without the intonations of "I told you so" or "You are so stupid" or "I seriously hate you".
Even though it made no sense at all I was always hoping I would accidentally get pregnant. I knew that being a mom would finally give me that sense of being complete. I just knew that, as opposed to marriage which turned out to be difficult, I was going to be good at being a mom and find it natural and easy and have this warm relationship with this tiny human. Well, we all know where this is going. I have written about it several times. Motherhood has completely baffled me. I mean, anyone with any sense would have known that it wasn't going to be a breeze. And certainly I knew it would be challenging. I just had no idea how it would be difficult. I had no idea how separate this little person would be. I had no idea how it would feel to see her look me in the eyes and disobey me or have the complete opposite reaction to the one I expect her to have. Wait, you won't eat the pears you just begged me to give you??? I could never have anticipated the frustration and exhaustion of taking care of someone who so completely depends on your for their every need, want and whim. I had no idea how difficult it would be to be simultatneously both self-sacrificing and self-sustaining. I really had no idea just how selfish I truly am.
So, here I am, a wife and mother. On the one hand, it turned out that being those things did not complete me. I had to do that myself and still have to work on it every day. On the other hand, it can be so completely rewarding and soul satisfying in ways you could never expect. Today, after we finished dinner, we were listening to music and dancing in the kitchen. The Indigo Girls' song Power of Two came on. Marco was holding Maya, and I was dancing around singing the lyrics. All at once I could see so many layers to my life. The song, which I've listened to far before either of them was part of my life, has taken on new meanings as ech of them has become part of my team. It turns out that loving a human being is messy and difficult and requires work and tears and patience. But it's so worth it. Because in those moments, you love them with all of the history, with all of the story. The love you share is one that is woven like cotton to be the fabric of your life.
But the oddest thing struck me the other day. We were watching Baby Mama where Tina Fey's character is longing for a child and consumed with becoming a mother. And I suddenly realized that that longing I had for most of my life was gone. I AM a mother. I know what it means to be a mother and to mother someone. And I am a wife. I am committed to being with Marco for the rest of my life. I know what that means to live that every day. The longing to find someone is gone. I still have desires for romance and hopes for Maya's future, but the craving I had for so many years of my life has been satisfied.
So, now what? I'm 31 years old. In many ways I feel like a total loser for not having set or achieved any goals for myself when everyone around me has pursued their dreams and attained careers doing what they love. And I'm just working as someone's assistant (yet again). But lately, I have been feeling this sense of hope. My dear friend Kristin really gave me a shot in the arm of confidence when she told me that many professors she has did not become professors until later in life. She said, "You're someone who got married and had kids and will have her career later in life." She said it like it was absolute. She had so much confidence in my possibility, and it made me start to believe that too. I can do things I've always wanted to do. It's actually possible. I just need to figure out all that I want to do and set about making that happen. The problem, as it's always been, is to narrow down my dreams. Is it possible to fulfill them all?? Oprah would probably say yes. And surely 30 or 40 years will give me time to fit them in, right?
So, here are my ideas for what I'd like to do - don't laugh. :)
Host a TV or Radio show
Write a travel column
Publish a book of essays about life
Write a column about motherhood
Learn to play guitar
Take singing lessons
Become a great cook and maybe make a living out of it
Publish a cookbook
Get really into camping and the outdoors
Travel all over the world
I guess to even begin any of this I'll at least need to get out of my pajamas! Day One of 2009 spent entirely in pajamas! Oh yeah! The future is bright!!!