Saturday, February 23, 2013

Identity Crisis

I officially had my first pregnancy-hormone-induced nervous breakdown the other night.  I wish I could say that it was because I was watching a really sappy movie or reading a make-your-heart-ache book, but I wasn't.

I was reading an article about classical education.

(Back story: one of the many advantages to being homeschooled forever is that I have been exposed to many different types of home education styles over the years, thus making it clear which styles I would like to try with my own children.  Since I find myself leaning strongly toward a literature-based education that teaches my children to THINK, I'm reading what I can about Charlotte Mason/classical education in an attempt to blend the two.  We'll see.)

Anyway, I was sitting there reading my article about classical education and Steve was playing some Star Wars computer game.  It was an innocent-the-children-are-magically-asleep-before-eight kind of evening that we only dream about.  The article's author was illustrating the benefits of classical education by describing the achievements of her now-35-year-old daughter: she taught herself multiple languages in highschool, excelled on the SAT, received a National Merit Scholarship, studied English literature in Oxford, studied for her MDiv, wrote books, founded a publishing company, and was currently studying for her doctorate in American Literature while homeschooling her four boys.

That's when I started bawling.  Steve said, "What's wrong?"  I sobbed, "What's wrong with me?  There were all of these things that I was interested in and I'm just as intelligent of a person and I love literature and England but none of that stuff happened to me! I want to BE that type of person!  And I actually want to be Jenny Beavan, too.  Yet here I am in a sleepy, boring little rural Nebraska town, changing fifteen poopy diapers a day and breaking up fights and it's just the beginning!  And I can't seem to finish a degree in anything no matter how hard I try!"

I managed to stop blubbering and Steve said some things about how it wouldn't always be like this (except my mom says it will be if you have a million children) and I nodded.

But at that moment I did feel very very far away from the Amelia-that-once-was.  I felt eons away from the girl who read every Dickens book one summer and who wanted to get an English Literature degree from the University of London.  I felt immensely distanced from the person who pored over costuming books and magazines and websites and worked for months to create an intensely historically accurate garment.  I even felt far away from the more-recent Amelia who wanted to go to seminary and write books that actually made a difference in people's lives.  I felt like all of those dreams and ideas that I fostered Before Marriage and Children were now a lifeless, mostly-deflated balloon, barely able to bob above the floor.

What was the point of it all?

I think that the point of my sobbing session was to bring to the forefront of my sleep-deprived mind some important issues: where did I truly place my identity?  And how was I supposed to reconcile my God-given interests with my God-given circumstances?

Where is my identity?
Of course, I would say that my true identity is in Jesus Christ, having been ransomed from the punishment for my sin by his death and redeemed to live a sanctified, God-glorifying life by his grace.  And that is what I would say and that is what I believe to be true.  But I think that functionally I get a off-track sometimes by what I want people to see and notice about me...and not notice.

After Clara got married just six short months after me, we would get together and commiserate about how everybody still referred to us as "the Hajda girls."  But we weren't the Hajda girls anymore.  We were grown-up, married ladies, with new last names and new-ish lives.  Now, there's nothing wrong with being a Hajda (I'm quite glad to be one, you know), but we got rather sick of it being the only way people thought of us.  What about who we were as married women?

I think that I face a similar identity issue with being identified as a "mother."  Something in me bucks against the prospect of being only known by and associated with diapers and organic food and debates about circumcision and homeschooling methods.  Because while I can appreciate those things, it's not fundamentally me.  It's not Amelia.  So I want people to see me as being identified with something else: theological bents, literary intelligence, and the ability to conceive and write sewing tutorials that can spank the pants off of Prudent Baby.

The bottom-line, scary issue is that I desperately want people to see and appreciate ME as I've identified myself.  I functionally don't really want them to see Christ in me, as he chooses to place me in my current lay-down-your-life circumstances that are anything but glamorous or mind-stimulating or glaringly productive.  Suddenly my apparent "deprivation" is really just pride and self-righteousness...just sin.  Yikes.

But thankfully, because I really truly am identified in Christ, I can repent of that sin and experience his forgiveness and a change of perspective.  I know that such deep-seeded identity issues can have many layers and may take many different occasions to "work through," but I am grateful for seeing a glimpse of where the major source of my angst really lies.

Then the next question arose in my mind: okay, so I do have these life-long interests, that I believe are God-given.  What do I do with them?  
Do I wait until my millions of kids are grown up?  Do I just go ahead and pop my already deflated balloon and resign myself to the fact that debating cloth diapering methods is my only hope?  How do I deal with the daily grind of wiping little fish-belly-white bottoms AND touch base with those aspects of life and godliness that really rejuvenate and inspire me?

In short: how do I read more good books? Expand my sewing knowledge and design experience? Write thoughtful blog posts?

After mulling this over, three things come to mind:

1. Put my identity in the right place.
I don't have to put my identity in my ability to do all of these great amazing things.  I can just go back to enjoying these interests for their own sake.  That removes a lot of the pressure.  (In theory, if I remove my identity from my ability to sew, I should be able to redesign a pattern without wondering what people are going to think of it.  In theory.)  This is by far the hardest thing for me to do, requiring me to rely daily on grace for change and to not get discouraged from lack of response from the perceived "public."

2. Plan.
Last week I had about three blessed hours in which to sew or craft or do  And I spent those three hours digging around in my fabric scraps, and rummaging around on Pinterest boards all to absolutely no avail.  I was very crabby.  If I'm going to grow in my interests, I'm going to have to plan for them.  It's the plain and simple truth.  I need to select a pattern or design interest and buy or acquire the needed materials and set aside the time to work on it.  I need to figure out which book would be worth my while before spend an hour reading the potentially lame-o sample on the Kindle.  I need to keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas for a blog post, so I don't spend all of nap time tapping my fingers aimlessly on the keys.

3. Adjust expectations.
I have to face it.  Gone are the days when I can spend six hours on a Saturday watching Pride and Prejudice and meticulously hand-hemming hundreds of yards of pleated silk ruffles.  I simply can't indulge in a many-hour C.S. Lewis reading spree.  But I can learn to be content with the 30 minutes during naptime to finish another chapter or the hour or two during Steve's days off to make progress on another project.  And when I'm prioritizing interests I might just have to admit that my kitchen won't always be spotless, or we might just have to eat a frozen pizza once in a while.  It's all for a good cause, right?

This is getting rather lengthy, but it feels good to type it out.  I feel hopeful that I can get back in contact with those ideas and interests that once inspired me without placing my identity in them.  And I feel like I can continue to pursue what I love alongside of rather than instead of the responsibilities and circumstances that God has given me.

My children are starting to get restless, so I'd better scoot.  Have a great weekend!