*author’s note: It’s 4:07am Please excuse the mess.*
My father fueled my passion for music and dance. My mother fueled my passion for the visual and literary arts. But they didn’t start the fire. I was born with it.
I was born an artist.
Don’t get me wrong, my physical abilities and training, range from mediocre, to above average, in the various art disciplines. There is little of particular exception in my skills. I can play a tune, sing a song, write a poem, and paint a painting. I love these equally. I became the most proficient in painting. It was simply a matter of work combined with an adequate amount of coordination. My true, in-born talents lie in my taste, perception, and of course, passion. These are part of my character, inseparable from my being.
So when the question was brought to my mind, “What were you born to be?” I naturally thought. I was born to be an artist.
But the words did not fit. I was not born to be an artist, I am already an artist.
And so the question remained in my mind. What is my purpose? What is my meaning? What is my mission? What was I born to be?
Looking back to my earliest years, I remember how inspired I was by the patriots, matriarchs, and heroines of my people. Stories of Esther, Ruth, and Yael were ever present in my mind. As I continued in primary school the more modern and tragic figures Chana Senesz and Sarah Aharonson, molded my desire to be extraordinary. I shed many bitter tears grieving their loss. I wanted to be a soldier. To continue the fight for my people and my country.
And yet, I was not a particularly hardy child. Prone to tire easily, and faint in the sun, my tears were never far from the surface.
Somewhere around six, seven, or eight years old, I discovered science. I have always had a green thumb, enjoyed working the soil, and understanding the nuts and bolts of things grow. I read my first novel about a boy who hatched a dinosaur egg, and my love of the animal kingdom grew. I enjoyed exploring ancient ruins not to far from my home and dreamed of the people who once lived there. I didn’t have the words for botanist, archeologist, biological, anthropologist, zoologist. So I decided that I wanted to be a scientist.
And yet, I struggled with reading and staying focused. In middle school a C in science slapped me in the face.
My next obsession was boys. As my religions continued to indoctrinate me, and my longing to be loved by the opposite sex intensified, I became convinced that I was meant to be a good wife. Whether the wife of a Rabbi (my love of God was another in-born part of my being), or the wife of a returned LDS missionary. My sites were on being a wife.
And yet, I married very young. Too young. Not matter. I determined I would not lose my grip on this new purpose. More than anything I wanted to be a good wife. All aspirations of great heroism and academia were swallowed in my desire to make my marriage work. As the years went by, it became the only thing that mattered. My now completely LDS community nurtured this purpose, a purpose that naturally evolved into motherhood. I eventually gave up my successful and fulfilling art career to be a mother.
Amazingly, nothing came more naturally to me. I had never thought of myself as particularly incline toward nurturing. What a delightful surprise I found In my late 20s to suddenly have my latent maternal instincts kick in with such ferocity. I was born to be a mother!!
And yet, memories of childhood long forgotten, were penetrated my mind. Dreams and nightmares came uninvited.
I pushed against them with all my might! I did not have time to remember! My own children were more important! They would always feel loved and safe!
The denial spiraled into a new quest quest of saving foster children. Even art, my very being, was shoved aside for my one. True. Mission.
Be a good mother.
And so last week, when my new therapist touched on my deepest wound I flinched. Tears came unabated. I cannot even write them without having the salty wetness blur my vision further.
“You don’t forgive yourself,” she prompted.
“It’s unforgivable,” I answered.
You see, I was born to be a mother. Not a soldier, not a scientist, not even a wife. It was my mission, my meaning, my purpose.
And I failed.
IT WAS THE INE THING I WANTED MORE THAT ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD! I wanted, I NEEDED, my children to feel loved and safe.
I was born to be a mother. My children know I love them.
And yet, They have not always felt or been safe. I did not keep them safe.
As I write this, I realize that maybe I have no control over how my children feel. Maybe my parents had no control over the feelings of their incredibly sensitive and passionate artist child. Maybe no parent can control how their children feel, or even fully protect them. Maybe that’s what being a mother is really about…forgiving.
Forgiving our past, our parents and grandparents and ancestors as far back as far back as they may go. Forgiving our present, and our lack of control despite our best efforts. And forgiving our future. Both ourselves in the future, since we will surely make mistakes, and our children, who will repeat those mistakes or make all new ones of their own.
Maybe that is what it means when my heart tells me, “You were born an artist, but you were born to be a mother.”