On living motherhood…

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Probably my favorite picture of us. I think she was about five months old.

Being a mother is weird. It really just is. I spend all day, waiting for her to go to sleep and then spend the time she is asleep wishing she’d wake up so we can play and snuggle. Chaos and clutter make me incredibly anxious, but the toys and clothes and shoes spread around the house are reminders that she lives here. The very idea of eating spaghetti with my hands makes me cringe, but watching her do it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Some days, she talks so much and makes so much noise, I think my ears are going to bleed. But some days, I just want to sit and talk with her. Her little voice is so sweet…even when she’s being “mean”. I want her to grow bigger, but I desperately miss how tiny she was. Every single day, there are a million little things that prove motherhood to be a neverending dichotomy.

My emotions always come in waves, one right affter the other. That’s still how I experience my emotions about 99% of the time. Anger then peace, sadness then joy. But I never knew it was possible to feel two things so deeply, so purely, at the exact same time until I held seven pounds of squishy perfection in my arms. And yet, this is what happens to me every single moment of every single day. I move through my days in a cloud of overwhelming compassion and viciousness at the same time. I want my daughter to know love that has no bounds…but I also know that I have the capacity within me to destroy anyone who hurts my child.

It’s a strange thing, really. I’ve always had both of those in me. I have this sense of empathy that makes it very easy to relate to other people, but I also have a wicked mean streak that runs through me. I could verbally ruin someone if I wanted to (and I have wanted to). Fortunately, the compassion and empathy win out 9.9 times out of 10.

It used to not be that way. I used to let my anger get the best of me. I’d wish for awful things to happen to people who hurt me. I’d try to think of all the things I could or should have said in the moment or what I’d say the next time our paths crossed. I’d write emails I’d never send (except for the time or two I did actually press SEND).

But ever since that wee human came screaming into the world, my sense of compassion has taken over in ways I didn’t expect it to. I hear and read about all the awful the world has to offer and I am, at once, ashamed and angry and…heartbroken. I read stories of people hurting other people, doing horrible things to each other and while there’s a part of me that wants vengeance for the victims, there’s a huge part of me that thinks, “That’s someone’s baby.” And I weep. For the victims, for the perpetrators, and for their mothers…who have to watch and know that this is what has happened to their babies.

Motherhood has changed me. I find myself increasingly subscribing to a philosophy of non-violence (which is often frustrating, given the fact I’m married to the military) and with that comes a strange sense of knowing who I am in my faith. I find myself falling deeper in love with Jesus…His mercy, His grace, His compassion. And because of that, I’m finding myself more and more drawn to living that in my own life.

I’ve said it a million times over…no one is beyond the reach of grace. No one. But if I’m completely honest, I’m usually talking about people I’ll probably never come into contact with…ISIS, racist cops, evil dictators. So yeah, it’s really easy to say that about people who don’t personally affect me.

But what about the people who have impacted my life in awful, horrible ways? What about the people who damaged and broke me like I never thought possible? What about the people that I want(ed) bad things to happen to? That I want to see get their due?

Yes. They deserve grace and mercy and compassion, too.

Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to say that. I thought I’d always harbor hatred and ill-will…that there would always be some kind of black smudge on my heart because of how badly I’d been hurt.

It took seven pounds, sixteen months (or eight years, depending on how you look at it), and one podcast to finally be able to let go of the anger and to truly let compassion and empathy take hold. Sure, it’s important for my spiritual and mental well-being to be a more compassionate person, but what I really want is for my daughter to grow up to be a compassionate and merciful and graceful person. The world needs more of that. And she’s going to learn how to be a decent person at home first.

She’ll grow up and her heart will get broken. Her body may even get broken. I want – no, I need – her to know that even if I am capable of viciously defending her, I will always default to compassion. I need her to know that when (yes, when) someone hurts her, being compassionate does not mean bad behavior is okay…it means that we continue to value people beyond measure. I don’t have to trust people who have hurt me. I don’t really even have to like them. I don’t have to welcome them back into my life. But I do have to believe and honor that they have unsurpassable worth and they deserve love and joy and peace.

I will probably always live in this dichotomous state where compassion is constantly trying to take over the viciousness and vice versa. That’s the problem of being human. But I firmly believe that it’s easier to live in compassion…and it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Every. Single. Time.

 

 

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