Friday, May 9, 2014

On Reaching for My Ultimate Dream and Honoring Mothers

The other night in Biodanza class, our facilitator led us in a vivencia of breaking down walls (figuratively) to “Reach” by Gloria Estefan.  The song came out around the 1996 Olympics to honor the athletes who had spent their whole lives training for that very moment – to compete in the games and fulfill their dreams.   Among the many powerful lyrics, Gloria sings:

“Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all
Your heart

And I'll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
From that one moment
In my life
I'm gonna be stronger
Know that I've tried my
Very best
I'd put my spirit to the test
If I could reach”

I too have a dream, and I was listening to the song and throwing myself into the dance I found myself really motivated by her words.   In my work as an Academic Success Coach, I deal in dreams every day – my life’s work is dedicated to helping students discover their dreams and achieve them.  My life is dedicated to helping students break down whatever walls or obstacles are in their way so that they can go out into the world and make it a better place.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she aims to fire up a new generation of women leaders by asking, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”  I often ask my students this very same question.   Answering this question helped me years ago to transition from a cushy corporate job to serving students in higher education. But lately there is something bigger calling to me – my ultimate bucket list item.   My ultimate vision quest.   My ultimate feat of bravery.   Something that frightens me to the core but from which I cannot turn away.

The past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of books that deal with courage and vulnerability and determination.  I too feel like I am training for my own personal marathon – or for a long-distance hike like the one my new guru, Cheryl Strayed did and wrote about in her critically acclaimed memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown (p. 1) encourages us to stop standing in the sidelines and get in the ring.  She reminds us of Theodore Roosevelt’s words:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So…what is it that I want to do?   What is my ultimate dream?   To climb Mt. Everest?   To backpack through Africa?  To sacrifice everything for my art?   These are all noble dreams, but none is as important to me as this:

I want to become a mom.   I want to bring a new human being into the world and nurture it and care for it and support it through its journey into adulthood.   If I’m lucky, I’d like to bring two new human beings into the world and shape them and my husband into a family.   That may not sound like a big deal, but to me that is huge – that is one big, hairy audacious goal.

My Vision Board
My husband and I have been trying to have kids for a year and it has not happened yet.   Some days I think that it will never happen and some days I think our time is right around the corner.   Only God knows that answer to that. 

As more time passes, my desire and fear grow neck and neck.   The sleep deprivation factor scares me; the never-ending nature of parenthood scares me; the heart-wrenching emotional exhaustion scare me.   

Yet, I am fascinated by parenting and kids and human development.  When I’m around a baby or little kid, I can’t keep my eyes off of him or her.   I love to play with my friends and relative’s kids, and I try to help out moms and dads in whatever ways I can.  A new acquaintance asked me recently how many books I have read about babies and parenthood, and I told her about 50.   She seemed shocked, but I actually think that that was an understatement.  

The more I read, the more profound respect I have for all of the parents out there in the world.   I was fascinated reading The Mommy Brain:How Motherhood Makes Us Stronger as the author described how your brain and body shift when you become a caregiver to make you better prepared for the task.   Your senses become sharper; you become able to endure more; you need less sleep.   Like the Olympic athletes Gloria Estefan was singing about in “Reach,” moms (and dads) actually grow stronger. 

Motherhood is the ultimate invitation to confront our dark sides, to confront the ugliest parts of ourselves, the things that we would rather forget and push aside.  In Laura Gutman’s Maternity: Coming Face to Face with Your Own Shadow (p. 27), she writes:

   “With a mother’s soul exposed in the body of her baby, we are able to see more clearly the crises that have been kept inside, the feelings we have not dared to admit, the knots which continue to entangle our lives, the items which are still pending solution, what we reject, what we feel is untimely.”

While I love to be around kids, I am acutely aware that I have never babysat for a child overnight.   I know in my head that it is excruciatingly hard to raise a child.  I know that when I babysit for my little friend Dmitri that I get to unwind and read a book or watch TV after his mom picks him up while she probably has many more hours of work ahead of her.   I know that my husband and I have life pretty good right now.  I recall my friend Brooke writing on Facebook soon after she had her son:

“3 things I have learned about parenting: 1. It is the babysitting job that never ends!!! 2. You have to really love your career [because] that is the only long break you get during the day. 3. Getting a smile from your baby makes all the poopy diapers, spit up and crying all worth it!!”

So why do I want to do it all?  Why be a mom?  Why not continue my life of cocktail parties and reading books and sleeping in and doing whatever I want whenever I want to do it?   That would certainly be the easier way.   Maybe that’s what God is trying to guide me towards by not granting my wish to conceive.  Even so, I just can’t let go.  For me, motherhood is the ultimate adventure, the ultimate long-distance hike – it’s a journey that would take me to the absolute end of my ropes…but ultimately be the best thing that I ever did.  

Cheryl Strayed writes about the joys of motherhood in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (p. 122):

  “…you’ll have a baby.   An amazing little being who will blow your mind and expand your heart and make you think things you never thought and remember things you believed you forgot, and heal things you never imagined you would heal and forgive people you’ve begrudged for too long and understand things you didn’t understand before you fell madly in love with a tiny tyrant who doesn’t give a damn whether you need to pee.  You will sing again if you stopped singing.  You will dance again if you stopped dancing.  You will crawl around on the floor and play chase and tickle and peek-a-boo.”

The front book jacket for Cheryl’s book Wild says, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”  That’s how I envision raising a child would be.   That’s why I want to do it more than I have ever wanted to do anything else in my life. 

If I don’t have kids, I may interact with children and love them, but I will never ever be someone’s mother.  Only a mom (or sometimes dad) has the privilege and responsibility of being someone’s key source of love and security in the world.   Only a parent serves as someone's main anchor in the uncertain seas of life.  I love watching little kids go off to play and then run back to their parent for a mommy or daddy refill. I want to be that refill.

Without becoming a mom, I will stay stuck in my ways, stuck in my own small world, stuck in the world as a grown woman child.   To die that way in forty or fifty years would be the ultimate waste of my life (in my opinion), no matter how many countries I saw or books I wrote or classes I taught or fancy titles I got.  

Almost everything that I have been working on for the past five years has been in preparation to be the best
Me and My Cousin Emma!
possible mom that I can be.  I’ve read books, I’ve meditated, I’ve exercised, I’ve done my best to eat healthy, I’ve made friends, I’ve saved money.  I have tried to be the best woman that I can be – and I still fear that it is not enough, that I am not strong enough, that part of the reason I am not a mom is because there is something wrong with me – something about me that is not qualified enough for the big leagues.   Hopefully that is not the case.

Cheryl Strayed writes (in TinyBeautiful Things, p. 246-7),


“The sketches of your real life and your sister life are right there before you and you get to decide what to do.  One is the life you’ll have; the other is the one you won’t.  Switch them around in your head and see how it feels.  Which affects you on a visceral level?  Which won’t let you go?  Which is ruled by fear?  Which is ruled by desire?  Which makes you want to close your eyes and jump and which makes you want to turn and run?"

As much as it scares me, the idea of having kids does not make me want to run.  It doesn’t even make me want to close my eyes and jump. At this stage in my journey with fertility, it isn’t a matter of closing my eyes and jumping, it is a matter of reaching.   Reaching with every fiber of my being, reaching in the way that Gloria Estefan expresses in her song.    As she says:


“…I'll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine.”

Hopefully my dream will come true, and I will have the chance to rise to the challenge and step into the ring – to give motherhood the very best shot that I can.   I hope with all of my heart that that is the case. 

In the meantime, while I’m waiting for my chance to join you, I wish to honor all of the mothers in my life and in the world – my friends, coworkers, aunts, cousins, in-laws, my grandma, and no one more so than my own mom, who raised me with all of the love in her heart and every strength and bit of energy in her being.  

Mom - I Love You - Happy Mother's Day!

To mothers who are right in the thick of it and mothers whose children are grown, you all have my deepest respect and admiration.  To me, you are Olympic Athletes, Amazon Women, and Fearless Leaders in a world that desperately needs the courage and vulnerability and strength that you demonstrate every day.  You inspire me and you give me courage and hope for the future.  I hope to walk in your shoes someday, and I have very big shoes to fill.  

 Happy Mother’s Day!  

Here are the full lyrics to Reach - and the Youtube video:

Some Dreams Live On In Time Forever
Those Dreams You Want With All Your Heart
And I'll Do Whatever It Takes
Follow Through With The Promise I Made
Put It All On The Line
What I Hoped For At Last Would Be Mine

If I Could Reach Higher
Just For One Moment Touch The Sky
From That One Moment In My Life
I'm Gonna Be Stronger
Know That I've Tried My Very Best
I'd Put My Spirit To The Test
If I Could Reach

Some Days Are Meant To Be Remembered
Those Days We Rise Above The Stars
So I'll Go The Distance This Time
Seeing More The Higher I Climb
That The More I Believe
All The More That This Dream Will Be Mine 

If I Could Reach Higher
Just For One Moment Touch The Sky
From That One Moment In My Life
I'm Gonna Be Stronger
Know That I've Tried My Very Best
I'd Put My Spirit To The Test
If I Could Reach

If I Could Reach Higher
Just For One Moment Touch The Sky
I'm Goona Be Stronger
From That One Moment In My Life
I'm Gonna Be So Much Stronger Yes I Am
Know That I've Tried My Very Best
I'd Put My Spirit To The Test
If I Could Reach Higher
If I Could If I Could
If I Could Reach
Reach I'd Reach I'd Reach
I'd Reach' I'd Reach So Much Higher
Be Stronger

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