4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
I am not someone who makes resolutions. The only resolution I made was in 1989, and it was to lose weight. In retrospect it wasn’t so much what one would call a resolution as an eating disorder. My people just don’t make resolutions. They look backwards, not forwards.
My husband keeps a journal. It’s not for the sort of navel-gazing that I, and every other “My So Called Life” junkie, popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. And it’s not a daily log of what he’s done or where he’s been. It’s a place where he records his thoughts at momentous times: our marriage, the birth of our children, miscarriages and the loss of a parent, birthdays, and yes, New Years. It’s a battered leather journal I found for him on our honeymoon, and on special occasions he’s read to me from it. In this journal he reflects on what’s passed, and he looks forward, too.
My husband once had a piece of paper taped over his desk that read Daily Decisions Determine Destiny. And you can probably already hear me teasing him about it during the newlywed years of our marriage. During the infertility years I looked at it with quiet sadness and resentment. One day, pregnant, I think with our oldest, we talked about it as we walked through the woods along the Wissahickon River in Philadelphia.
It went something like this: How in the world can anyone believe that Daily Decisions Determine Destiny?! If you need proof of the improbability of this, exhibit A is my mother. An only child raised by a cold father with just enough money in the house to get by and a mother who worked full-time as a waitress in a diner? Then she marries her dream man at 21 and shortly thereafter gives birth to a severely retarded child? Then two babies later another child who would battle to master multiple disabilities? And then shortly after that her husband goes into the hospital one man and returns another due to a doctor’s mistake?! Clearly, there’s no exhibit B needed. That’s like a Royal Flush. You can throw that down, take your money and walk away with that one.
And my husband totally got it. He folded. We were still in the throes of our fertility struggles as far as we were concerned and I think he either sensed that it wasn’t right to challenge a hormonal woman or more likely, he understood that for me, being told that Daily Decisions Determine Destiny felt like I was being told to fix the impossible, to plan away the unthinkable, to strive for something other than the inevitable.
But here’s the thing. In his journal, when my husband looks both backwards and forwards, he is taking a minute to measure the past and record it. And then, he is moving forward. He is taking his future in his hands, hoping and planning and leading the way. And damn if he doesn’t invariably set a lofty goal, whether personal or familial, for his school or his health, his children or his wife, and then meet it. His looking backward and forward, laying out the path, has allowed him to put into his mind, then onto paper, then into his future, our future, the improbable.
That day along the river path, he said that my mother is a strong survivor in a way he couldn’t imagine being, and that he sees that in me, too. He said he plans because he couldn’t imagine surviving such things. But we survivors need warriors and explorers to conquer the future. And don’t be mistaken, my warrior, he is a survivor in his own right.
Sometimes laying out a map, even an imagined one, is probably a good thing.
I have no journal, but I do have a blog. So in a loose and inexact non-specific psuedo-resolution noncommital way, I resolve to be even kinder to my children, to tell my husband more often how wonderful I think he is, to write and make art more (and more honestly when I do) and to be a better friend. Really it’s just me resolving to be me, but hopefully a smidgen better.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year where you can accept the things you cannot change, and that you have the strength to change the things you can, and most of all, that you have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. (Oh, I should totally trademark that last bit. It’s good.)