The importance of finding joy (and finding yourself during motherhood)
Hopefully, everyone reading this will live to be or has been fortunate enough to make it to their 40th birthday. I did...but it happened to be during a global pandemic.
The year 2020 is basically a cussword now because I had been waiting on this milestone for a while.
In March, when it was becoming evident to me that the world was about to shut all the way down, some people thought and said, "oh it'll be over by July. " My Spidey senses/Negative Nancy tendencies leaned towards a worst case scenario, so I just knew my birthday would sadly, probably not meet my lifetime's expectations.
One of the books I got to read while the pandemic was in full swing was by New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks. In "The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life," Brooks argues that life is defined by two mountains: On the first mountain, people tackle personal goals, and on the second, people learn to focus on service to others.
My first mountain was wrought with choice: choosing a path. I was not your traditional path chooser--I am an experiencer by nature. A good euphemism would be a Jack of All Trades (*master of none). I struggled to choose a path that I knew for certain would bring me the greatest life satisfaction. Much of it was based on what others said, what I got from external sources. I completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication. I got married and had 2 kids. After much sacrifice on my family's part, I was able to finish a law degree (in a different state and a different school from where I started). We moved several times and had many different roles in Higher Education. I frequently described to my husband that our pace of life felt like I was running a "marathon."
In this book, "The Second Mountain" talks about the lies our culture tells us--"if you are successful, you will be happy." Placing value on time over people, staying busy, grinding, sleeping when you are dead... those ideas of this diminishing resource of time, where you have to hurry up and make something of yourself-- be as "successful" as possible while juggling LIFE...all so you can be free?? I saw the struggle happen right before my eyes. THE "FIRST MOUNTAIN" IS ABOUT EGO.
During my whole "first mountain" phase, the age of 40 signified to me an arriving (a la Diana Ross "I'm Coming Out"). There was an awful lot of accomplishment that needed to happen by that time and I wanted to get to make a declaration to the world that I HAD ARRIVED!! However, here was (insert whatever cussword)2020.
The world just....stopped...for a moment. Then, I felt it--the exhaustion, isolation and stress of moving around, all the expectations...my kids were busy, yet lonely or sad.....then my dad got sick. I think my dad's sudden illness shook me the most. My parents are aging and probably needed help, but I was so far away from home that I couldn't get there fast enough. Those people who cared for me and had my back since birth, I couldn't return the favor to them from my current position. Where had I REALLY arrived at?
This past year has been a catalyst for many things--economic uncertainty, political upheaval, racial injustice/reckoning. But in the midst there has been a lot of personal growth. Life is short; THE SECOND MOUNTAIN IS ABOUT COMMITTMENT TO OTHERS. I still have goals but they mean something different, they are more about my relationships. Because that is where my joy lies.
And so here I am, after 40, embarking on the second mountain. You will find me focusing more on my kids than myself these days. I've met so many wonderful people during my journey thus far. My desire is to use the professional skills, experiences and knowledge I've acquired during this short journey to share universal truths, gain respect and make an impact in my small corner of the universe. And return to the things that I love. I won't require accolades or awards for my efforts, just appreciation.
This season, I create and share joy.
Walk with me please...one last ego-trip..
PS...the adage about never knowing what personal battles people are going through still rings true--extend grace as much as possible.