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Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a Good Idea to Honor Your Major Commitments

I missed the 60s having babies while friends of mine were burning their bras. I was thinking this morning that I got way off track in the 1970s due to a heavy intake of new-age thinking and women's liberation telling me I didn't need to waste my talents cleaning kitchen counters, and wiping kid's noses, and above all I should be "true to myself." What did it matter that I already had four children?

It was perfectly all right to get a job, hire a nanny, or put the kids in daycare, get out in the "real world" and climb the ladder of success to become a CEO or found my own company. My first venture was trying to be a singer/songwriter. I learned to play the guitar, I bought a tape recorder, and though I got so far as to actually have my songs under contract to RCA in NYC, and to see a story about my trip to Nashville in Redbook Magazine, none of my songs ever sold.

I can't tell you how many failed business ventures I engaged in over a period of ten years. I started an advertising company, I started a Shopper's Guide for a tourist town, I started a catalog company, I owned a framing gallery, I sold real estate, I opened a gift store, I started a greeting card company,I bought a franchise for "Pop wheels--sandals that could turn into roller skates when you pulled the button.

It took me much too long to figure out that "doing whatever the Hell I felt like" could be mistaken for "being true to myself." Meanwhile my children were not doing well in school, my marriage was falling apart, I stopped setting the table for dinner, I was always "behind the clock" and if I could describe myself in one word I would have to say "driven." I also had to take some time out from these "manic" activities to spend a week or so, now and then, as I "took to my bed" with depression.

A single phrase woke me up as I was driving to work one day--"you should honor the major commitments of your life." I never thought of that before. That wasn't part of the feminist movement or new age philosophy. I kind of hung out with that phrase for a number of years and it was helpful.

When I rededicated my efforts to my marriage and my family, I realized how much time it actually takes to achieve a pleasant "lifestyle." How much creative effort it takes to run a home so that it is clean, attractive and unrushed-- clothes washed, dried and put away, kitchen counter uncluttered, with time to chat, make a cup of tea, and share the day's events.

Then when my family was pretty much grown, I went back to graduate school to become a therapist and help myself, because the depressive episodes kept getting worse and worse. I do look back and wonder why I didn't do better when I was younger--now I know all about raising kids, keeping priorities in order. I'm babbling on here. What's the point? Not sure. Everything turned out fine for me, all five of my children are successful, good-hearted people.

Perhaps the point I want to make here is that sometimes, when you're on the fence, that little phrase might come in handy--"you should honor the major commitments of your life."

Or maybe my point is this. I heard a woman recently say that she worked outside the home because she, personally, didn't get any big thrill from shining her stainless steel sink. And I realized how lucky I am that I do.


Ginger said...

Beautiful essay!

Yes, we want life to be meaningful, fulfilling & important, & have been brainwashed into thinking that it is impossible to find meaning, fulfillment & import in "mundane," repetitive events.

Consider the language we often use when describing the "daily grind." We don't see "chores" as opportunties for renewal. We see them as "thankless, boring" tasks that are a "drag!"

But perhaps it is in the routine & everyday that we find the greatest possibility for transformation.
Many "spiritual" practices are done repetitively. I'm thinking of prayer, worship services & saying the rosary. Is there a clue here? Could our simple, repetitive cleaning, cooking, gardening, & other ordinary chores also connect us most intimately to the divine *and* to one another?

A. .B. Curtiss said...

Well said! A. B. Curtiss