We have these goofy phrases (clichés, really). We’re all taught them from infancy and we recite them like scriptures; ‘it takes a village’ or ‘no man (woman) left behind’, ‘friends don’t let friends…’ and of course the well loved and much used, ‘no man is an island’. We know all these little verses so well that they feel rather lame and silly. We excuse them and undervalue the truth they carry, because the truth is wrapped in cliché. But truth is still truth regardless of its wrapping.
I understand all the island and village stuff but I’ve struggled most of my life to honor the truth I’ve known. ‘Cause it’s scary to leave my island. And sometimes my anxieties get stirred up when colonists come round to scope out my village, mulling over whether or not they might want to settle. I sometimes long to curl up into a ball, knees tight against my chest and circle the wagons. I know that developing true, deep human connection isn’t entirely analogous to the wild, Wild West, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to use some early-American cowboy metaphors.
When we first moved to the Northwest, a year and a half ago, those early ‘getting to know you’ conversations with potential friends made me feel like a divorcée, fresh on the cold, cold Northwest market after decades of shelter and safety. I was terrified in the beginning; scared of being unwanted; worried I’d be rejected…‘naked and afraid’.
But now, all these months later, I have friends! These Northwesterners! They’ve weaseled their way into my heart. OK, if we’re being honest, all my buddies are transplants (I have a sneaking suspicion that no one here is really truly originally from the NW), but we all found each other here anyway. We met, and I let them in (little by little). I let them close and slowly I’ve allowed them to see my imperfections, and they’ve let me see theirs too. We didn’t open our robes to each other all at once like dirty flashers, but as trust grew and hearts grew, vulnerability took over.
Last week I was hanging with a precious friend and she was commenting on how she thought I was ‘such a good mom’. She was sincere and genuine and sweet but in my heart I couldn’t accept her praise because I’ve seen my ugliness in a way she never has…in a way no one has. She’s never witnessed me losing my brains with my four crazies. Yes, I’ve confessed my mom sins to her, because that’s what friends do, but my frazzled moments and unholy shrieks have happened in private; behind closed doors, in the sanctuary of my own home. I’ve only had 4 short, little witnesses plus a husband (non-working hours).
But then it occurred to me why my most ‘unholy’ moments have happened. Yes, my kids were driving me crazy because they were maybe acting crazy, but it was also because I was alone. If I hadn’t been trying to be lord of my own private island; trying to do life and motherhood in isolation, I might have had more patience, been able to maintain a shred of composure and maybe held onto my sense of humor. But alone (without a commiserator to roll my eyes with)…I’m freer in a way. I feel safe enough to unravel and maybe come apart at the seams a little…because who’s there to judge me…or strengthen me, encourage me or give me some time alone?? No one. So maybe I felt safe enough to lose my mind and let some ugliness flow out, but what about my kids…I bet they don’t feel quite as safe in those moments.
Occasional break downs are inevitable. Everyone falls apart sometimes. None of us are perfect. We all try for perfection, miss what we’ve aimed for and then punish ourselves for our humanness. Even in community, crazy can still happen. It’s just a little less customary because in the village there’s support and accountability and this makes us healthier more whole versions of ourselves.
But even though we may fail, reaching for goodness and righteousness is a worthy and valuable pursuit! I’ve come to this conclusion; I believe the makings of a good person are the same as the makings of a good mom: a truly good mom/person isn’t perfect but one who loves big, acknowledges her errors, apologizes humbly and learns from her mistakes (sometimes over and over and over again); plus community! Because we’re better together!