Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Updated List

I updated my list this morning, filling in red those figs I've already done. It's been a while since I've actually done anything, except ride a horse. And that I've not yet done at a full gallop. But, more on that later.

I have also decided that two of my figs are no longer desires of mine. They include: take my kids on an airline flight alone and take my kids to a fancy restaurant.

At the time of writing this list, I was in the beginning of my year alone with my kids, as my husband had recently deployed to Afghanistan for a year. I was scared to death of that year. I worried I wouldn't be able to take care of the kids myself, that I'd yell too much, sleep too late, somehow muck up Maggie's first day of kindergarten....and on and on and on.

A few months into the year, I realized I was living my life pretty much crippled by fear, just waiting for the days to pass until Ray came home, hoping I didn't mess anything up in the meantime. I decided to write this list because of that quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy says to Red, "I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

My best friend from Peace Corps quotes that all the time. I think that quote is saying, in simpler terms, what Plath is ultimately saying in the fig quote. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

I realized that while Ray was deployed, while I was living there in California scared to make a mistake, to take care of my kids, to be a 'bad' mom, I was dying a little bit. So, this list was a kind of way for me to get busy living.

Part of that living was to tackle some of the parenting fears I had, such as riding in an airplane alone with two toddlers and taking them to a fancy restaurant, forcing them to behave well and thereby feeling like a successful (and partly French) parent because my kids could feast on filet mignon or upscale pasta.

A funny thing happened, though, with my husband's deployment. I didn't fall apart. I didn't ruin my children. I didn't sleep too late, muck up kindergarten or fail to pay the bills on time. I took care of the house and kids. I made friends. I tackled figs, repelling the rock wall at the gym, watching the sun rise in Paris, reading Hemingway. This list very much helped to push me from inside my house and myself to outside my house, into the kitchens of friends, to the park with my kids, to Spain for a wedding and so on. By the end of the year, I no longer feared any of it, and of all the feelings of confidence I gained, the confidence I now have as a parent is by far the greatest.

I wanted to take my kids on an airplane and to a fancy restaurant not because I thought any of us would enjoy it, but because I felt I had something to prove. If I could accomplish those things, it meant I was in control, and if I was in control, I suppose I think that meant I was a good mother.

I am happy to report I no longer have any desire to force my kids to a fancy restaurant and I no longer hover on the cusp of feeling like a failure because my kids don't eat foie gras.

So, I'm going to strike those from my list of 52 Figs and replace them.

I'll post about the replacements later this week. I have some ideas....but I want to be sure.

Happy Saturday! Ray let me go back t bed until 10 and took the kids to the airport all by himself. Bless his heart!

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