The In-Between

It’s very easy to make much of oneself; to feel one’s position is utterly unique and isolating, and that (with great melodramatic flair) ‘noone could possibly understand me!’ In a little corner of the romantic idealist’s heart, we want to be misunderstood. So I’d like to begin by laughing at myself. Don’t take me too seriously, and I’ll try not to either.

As long as I can remember (though my mother tells me otherwise) I’ve wanted to have a family - to be a mother. Deep in me has been rooted an honour of the art of motherhood - because of my mother’s strength, and her mother’s stubbornness, and my paternal grandmother’s resilience, and the vast love, and wisdom, and elegance of them all.

Because of Mother-Love (and Father-Love, too!), Home has always been the most important place to me. The greatest number of hours of my life have been spent there. And because of the love, and the time, and the safety, and the beauty, and the joy, it slowly became a dream to some day build a home that would be a haven to welcome not just my own children, but others who needed respite, comfort, and light. A tall but worldly-humble order for myself to fill.

I truly dreamed it when I was quite little, in the most tangible dream I’ve ever experienced. I slept with my mother, and one night I thought I awoke, sitting up in bed. On the red and white patterned Greek rug at the foot of the bed, there was a small house glowing. In every window was a child holding a joyously blazing candle, and at the wide open door was a woman, a Mother, lifting her candle to light the way Home. That was all. I woke up sitting up in bed, staring at the Greek rug.

And I never forgot.

But other dreams come, and grow (or devolve?) into ambitions. My childhood of simply singing gradually became a womanhood of Being A Singer. A singer in a conservatory setting where one was constantly being asked “What are you going to DO with your training? What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Oh goodness. I came here to …learn, because I was taught that learning is good. And, well, I see myself with a home and a family, and people for whom to sing, I would say, half nervous of judgment, half stubbornly proud of my lack of worldly ambition.

That is to say, I feared that deep down I might be very ambitious, and that it might hurt me, and compromise my older dreams. But I also knew, and know, that when I don’t sing for joy and for giving, my voice grows tight, and withers.

As the years of conservatory and graduate school passed, more and more of the people I’d known at home had babies, made homes, settled one place or another, appeared enviably ensconced in familial warmth, and its uniquely private joys and pains. All while the people I was in school with planned careers, won competitions, sang in operas, went overseas, and began bravely forging their professional paths - eye on the prize, single-mindedly. (For perception of others is beautifully naïvely one-dimensional.)

Observing these two groups of very different people, my heart ached, and envied both. But I have been very good , as self-consolation, at disdaining each group, too, and feeling oh-so-unique and superior. How much we enjoy self-righteousness as humans, and oh, how human I am.

The fact remains that I am stuck in between two dreams and desires; drawn now one way, now the other; never feeling I could have both, however much my friends, and the 21st century, insist that I can “Have It All”. In my singleminded nature, the two desires feel threateningly incompatible. And being ‘in-between’ often makes me feel I could never make real progress in either desired direction. Some days I feel as if I’d like to make some drastic move in one direction — throw caution to the winds — just so as to break the pattern of the see-saw.

But the fear of falling is so weighty, and falling always feels so public. Moreover, drastic measures taken impetuously are rarely organized, and fizzle out or fall apart very easily. I am learning to recognize how much progress is dependent upon order. Chaos may be able to create fascinating tableaux, but it is not good for growth and fruition — human or vegetal.

I don’t have answers, solutions, or decisions. But if anyone else (whom I have assumed to be comfortably forging ahead on their one path) feels stuck in-between two paths, which may or may not be able to converge, I hope this can be some small consolation.

We are never as alone as we feel.

Red Hook Cottage

October 11, 2019

grandma and mum