ImageIn my late twenties and early thirties I was somewhat of an asshat a big shot. I was all about appearances. I had a great job as a consulting art director in a big city, I had a beautiful house, a hot red sports car, and I only wore designer clothes. I chaired meetings and sat on judges’ panels for awards shows. I worried constantly about what others thought of me. I imagine the general consensus was not particularly favorable.

As the years have gone on, I’ve discovered that there is so much more to life than material possessions and outward appearances. I’ve tailored my job so that I work odd hours from home, leaving me wide open to do volunteer work at church, my son’s school, and various neighborhood organizations that I consider to be worthwhile. I am involved in political activism and social justice works. I am a member of several terrific organizations working toward change in our society. I sing in the choir and serve on several church committees. I also get to take time off to spend with family and have discovered that is the most important thing I can do.

A few weeks ago I was having an identity crisis of sorts. I was overloaded with laundry and cleaning and trying to figure out what to make for dinner yet again and I wound up throwing a pretty fabulous pity party for one. It seemed to me that I had been reduced to “wife” and “mother” and that’s all there was. I took stock of my daily routine and it suddenly felt so humdrum to me. The gym, the freelance work, the chores, the shuttle bus I run for my son’s activities, the endless grocery shopping and meal preparation…. I felt that Liam had this exciting life filled with grad school and speaking engagements and preaching and his transition. Everything in his life seemed to be about what might be, what could be—and everything in mine seemed to scream “this is what you have to look forward to for the next 20 years.” I felt lost and without purpose and ridiculously sorry for myself.

As so often happens when I mope about and wallow in my own mudhole of self-pity, I began to get bitch slapped upside the head with messages from the divine Creator. We attended a funeral for a friend’s mother that weekend and one of the pastors quoted a line from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” She talked of Helen’s love of even the most banal. She truly appreciated everything she was given at that time. I began to feel ashamed of my fretting and fussing.

Then today our pastor delivered a sermon about redefining who you are based upon the fact that, in light of our present (and future) economy, the American Dream is crumbling around our ankles. He spoke of letting go of that which we once held dear—all the possessions and stuff that used to mean so much to us—and embracing other ways of being in the world that are more meaningful. He talked of home and feeding and caring for one another. He talked of being present in ways that are about doing rather than acquiring. He talked of my life (just to me, of course!) just as it is now and made me feel grateful and joyful that I have been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Glorious non-tangible gifts that speak to my heart and nourish my soul.

We have a lovely house, it’s cluttered and warm and comfortable and in need of repairs that we’ll get to when we have time. I have a really good steady job that barely pays the bills and affords me lots of time to be there for my son when he most needs me during these formative years. I get to meet and work with amazing people in my call to ministry and my call to action, and I get to feed my family and stretch my imagination and budget every time I put dinner on the table.

I am not in physical transition like Liam, but I do feel that I am in somewhat of a spiritual transition. I don’t care much about what others think except that I do want to honor what is appropriate and good in the world. I’m done with trying to be perfect, I’d rather just be growing. I will never be rich or thin or particularly beautiful but our needs are met and I’m starting to make friends with my curves and my steel gray hair. I imagine I’ll still have times of self-doubt and a moment or two of “Bitter? Party of one!” but I’m learning, I think, to find grace in the mundane. I’m learning to realize life while I live it.