Yesterday for Mother's Day, I went to church. By myself. I do not get to my Unitarian Church on the Upper East Side as often as I'd like, or really ever. But I thought the holiday would allow me some time for peace and contemplation. And when the minister started the service saying Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, birth mothers, adoptive mothers, and those regardless of gender identity who have played a nurturing role in the lives of children, I knew I had come to the right place.
A mother in the congregation gave the sermon. She quoted a beautiful poem entitled Starfish by Eleanor Lerman who says life lets you "choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee". She spoke eloquently about how we had all arrived there, at church, at that moment because of the choices we had made. We chose to come there, we chose our method of transportation to get there, we chose what to wear, what to eat for breakfast. She talked about how so many of those little choices seem inconsequential, but when you put all those choices together, you have the totality of your life. She also pointed out that if we are unhappy with our life choices we have the opportunity to redefine ourselves at anytime.
Choice is a big thing for me. I try continually to instill the idea of choice into my children. To remind them that they choose their own actions and to never blame others for what they have chosen to do. All of us have free will. Like Mooana says, Every turn I take, every trail I track is a choice I make.
Choice and redefinition have particular significance for me at this point in my life. At the beginning of the school year, I made a decision that I needed to increase my sense of agency in life. I have written before about struggling with the identity of a stay at home mom, not because I think there is anything wrong with this role (indeed I think it is a very admirable one) but that it doesn't jive with my sense of self. And with two small children, born relatively close together, I have occasionally felt a lack of control over my life. The chaos of life with children, their constant needs imposed upon you, can be overwhelming. I love my children immensely, but I do have an existence outside of them. I decided at the start of this school year that if I was unhappy with something, I would change it. And I have.
It started off with small things. I missed the wine nights a friend of mine used to host, so I decided I would host them myself! I wanted to meet parents at Nate's new school, so I organized events with them and cultivated friendships which have already enriched my life and the lives of my children. Unhappy (to put it mildly) with the election results, I protested them. I write to my representatives, talk to my children about current events. I wanted to play the harp more and maybe even get paid to do it, something I had never done before nor even had the confidence I was talented enough. I used local contacts to get in touch with some neighborhood churches and started playing professionally. And then started playing on a monthly basis for the Giving Tree Yoga Studio. I am playing at a wedding next month. In response to the bride's request, I searched for Nirvana and Guns N Roses sheet music for harp. It does not exist. At first I thought there was no way I could play a piece on the lever harp without appropriate sheet music. But then I realized, I can do it. I found piano music and reworked it for the harp, sometimes quite extensively. I used this method for a number of songs, creating my own music niche since not many harpists play rock.
If something doesn't fit you needs, you can change it. I have found this applies to so much in life. If the instructions, assumed path, or conventional methods don't work for you, try something else. You don't have to follow each ingredient and prescribed amount in a recipe. Maybe fiddling around with different ingredients, you'll come up with something more delicious. Something more to your own taste. And why follow every note for sheet music when you can use your own intellect and creativity to make it sound more beautiful on your instrument of choice?
One of my favorite songs is the Mamas and Papas, "Make Your Own Kind of Music". The song states that "nobody can tell you, there's only one song worth singing" and that you've got to make your own kind of music even if nobody else sings along. I sing this song to my children (and Willa always joins in with her loud, joyful voice). I hope this message becomes a driving force in their life, as it is in mine.
This is what life lets you do. Things beyond our control will always happen to us. But we get to choose how to react to them. After church, I chose to walk through Central Park on my own. Twenty beautiful blocks through the park's trees and flowers. I made the perfect choice.