Sunday, May 09, 2010

Feeling like an imposter...

It's Mother's Day. I awoke to coffee made by my hubby. Then a gift bag full of goodies. A magnificent lunch a few hours later. Time with a new and dear friend while sipping smoothies on a gorgeous afternoon. Now I'm back at home. Reading. Eating key lime pie. Sipping ice water. It has been a fantastic day.

So why do I feel like an imposter?

From the moment I left the hospital with Kristiana and the birthing center with Daniel nearly three years later, I have felt like an imposter as a mother. Who me? Fully responsible for raising these kids? Then making the insane decision to homeschool them? When "the parenting police" find out about me, how disorganized I am, how infrequently I actually make lesson plans, how haphazardly I clean and cook and do laundry, then "they" will intervene and send "a real mom" to take care of these kids. And when these children, now teenagers, wake up and discover how deeply flawed and insecure and imperfect and downright selfish I am, they will contact "the parenting police," request reassignment, and kick my sorry self to the curb.

And not only that - what about this marriage thing? Who me? Spend the rest of my life with one man? Submit to him? Watch sports with him forever? Cook for, clean up after, and be responsible and accountable to one man forever? Endure the sounds and smells and needsand demands of one man? Forever?

Let me reiterate here - and not only because Steve occasionally reads my blog, but also because it is absolute truth - my husband is the most generous, kind, gentle man I have ever known, other than my father. He doesn't "allow" me to travel alone and take classes and go out with my friends and buy books and journals and art supplies whenever I want to. He ENCOURAGES me to do all of the above - often. But the dichotomy between what I think about marriage and the reality of my marriage is exactly the point: I often feel like an imposter in my own life. When he figures out how selfish and mean-spirited and ungrateful and resentful I am most of the time, he too will request reassignment and send me packing.

And don't let me get started on how much of an imposter I KNOW that I am every time I set foot into church. Who me? Obey all those rules? Be perfect? Love with unconditional love? Sing every verse of every song in tune? Attend all those classes and studies and live them out in daily life? Pretend I don't notice the imbalance of power and unbalanced leaders? Translate from one language to another in front of 350+ people on a weekly basis - when I'm not off playing hooky with family or by myself?

If those people only knew the truth about what I think and feel and believe...
No, let me restate that - WHEN those people find out the truth...

I am becoming more and more convinced that when the wall around my soul finally comes down, as I choose to reveal more layers of myself to my husband, my children, my friends, my cotravelers on this faith journey I'm on, as we all do that, tell our stories, share our sadness and our joyfullness, as we ask for help when we need it and accept it when it is offered, we will all breathe several deep sighs of relief. We will all see how flawed and beautiful and fearful and whole and strong and overwhelmed we all are and feel at times - sometimes all at the same time.

Currently, I'm reading a book entitled: Beneath the Mask of Holiness: Thomas Merton and the Forbidden Love Affair that Set Him Free. That title alone is enough to prompt a long series of journal entries and potential blog posts... but I digress.

In the book, the author explains the background to and the actuality of a relationship Thomas Merton had with a student nurse in the mid-1960's. The section I'm in right now is focusing on Merton's deep discontent as a monk, as a man set apart from the world, and as a person who felt he'd never learned to love women selflessly before becoming a monk and was uncertain if he could ever love God selflessly as a monk. He felt like an imposter.

I get that. I sooooo get that.

On page 134 of the book, Merton is described this way: The catalyst for Merton's final steps to truly loving God, and God alone, was the gift of Margie, but before this could occur, Merton realized he needed to cast away the dark side that had been shadowing him before and, most surprisingly, during, his days as a monk. Few had any idea such a blemished, flawed Merton existed since, as biographer Michael Mott noted, "[Merton] had always kept, and was always to keep, his inner turmoil from others. At most, they would notice that he seemed preoccupied." Father Basil Pennington called Merton "a very private person," and fellow monk Father Timothy Kelly agreed. After reading portions of Merton's private journals, he noted "[I never knew] the amount of struggle he was going through... none of this came through in a personal relationship. I had no idea all that was going on."

That's what journals are for. That's what friends are for. That's what silence and solitude are for. To provide and hold space for our selves and each other to peel off the masks of holiness and perfection, to process the flaws and scars and blemishes, fears and doubts, the sorrows and tears, the love and lust, all of it. We can be preoccupied sometimes. Deeply private at others. We can struggle sometimes. And walk with our heads held high at others. All the while, we grow and thrive and are being transformed in a safe place where we learn to love our selves and each other as we really are. Naked and unafraid. Laid bare. Nestled in a cocoon of love and patience and tenderness as we await the growth of our new skin and our wings.

The great thing is that as I take chances with telling the truth about what I need and want and dream and hope for, as I tell Steve, tell my children, tell my friends, and most importantly, as I tell myself the whole truth and nothing but the truth, gradually these feelings of being an imposter will fade. In actuality, they are already fading.

I am a wife. Restless and relentless.
I am a mother. Unprepared and unsure.
I am a daughter and a sister - and a whole lot of other things.
Complicated, contented, expectant, exhausted, hungry and hopeful - and whole lot of other things.
I am not an imposter.
I am the real thing.

PS. If you are interested in knowing more about Thomas Merton's forbidden love affair, read Learning to Love, the 6th volume of his journals. It is one of my favorite books.


Semi-A said...

I don't wish to know more about Mr. Morton's journal, at least not more than knowing more about my aunt here. I feel like I'm discovering gems with each entry of revelation you write. And with each entry you encourage me to stay real and faithful. I love and appreciate you for that.

Lisa said...

Yet another powerful, honest, brave post, dear Gail.

Right on track.

And *because* of all the things you mentioned here ~ you are one of the most amazing women I have *ever* had the pleasure of knowing.

Is it possible that this upcoming weekend will be long enough to share all we are discovering??? :-0

Maya Stein said...

Gail -
I think this was a brilliant post. I'm grateful that you wrote what you did. Exposure is such a dual-edged sword, but ultimately (I think) redemptive. I keep thinking of the words "coming clean," which are funny words because being transparent to others about one's flaws feels so darned messy.

And yet, this is the stuff of being human, isn't it? And why shouldn't we be messy? Life is messy. And that's the point because that's what makes it so interesting, what keeps us attentive to it, what keeps us moving and discovering and investigating and loving.

Thank you for outing your beautiful imperfections. I will use this post as my guide today, to see what it is to love myself with mine.

jena strong said...

This post touched me, especially here:

"When he figures out how selfish and mean-spirited and ungrateful and resentful I am most of the time, he too will request reassignment and send me packing."

A few weeks ago on the couch, Greg said something about me being one of the most compassionate people he knows. And I could feel myself bristle. And later I asked him, does he also love the stingy, selfish, materialistic me? And guess what he said?

So much love to you, and appreciation for your life's journey and your honesty. You inspire me.