Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Work. Grit. Determination. Labor. Creation. Those are all words that epitomize some of the central drives and joys of my life. Flourishing relies on them. You can’t just sit back and enjoy the fruits if you haven’t first envisioned, gathered, created, shaped, stuck with it, sweated some, and continued trying. If I can trust multiple citations on the net, there is a Charles Dickens quote I ran across recently that had me thinking: “The whole difference between construction and creation is this; that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”  I love that.  It applies to the grandest Creation of All as well as the most humble, and implies character and unity of purpose in the creator.  
I’m often inflexible, feel pressed upon and driven by the work that surrounds me; for so many years of motherhood, the work has been what it is with little or no input from me, a wasteland of choiceless time. But I’ve come out of the fog a little (both time and medication contributing, I think), and feel much more of that sense of purpose being fulfilled. The tension between the unfulfilled purposes of my hopeful mind and the reality of dishes and diapers, watching my husband thrive and learn and gain respect, was really hard and long. But I’ve seen my faithfulness, doggedness, even a little blindness consecrate those tears and bring me to a better place.
Another quote that stopped me in my tracks when I first read it was this, from the prophet David O. McKay -- "Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success." I feel incredibly, incredibly glad, lucky, favored that somehow these words represent me, that I’ve ingrained that quality of grit and happiness to do my duty and used it to build my abilities to bless and be blessed.

New round of ideas: I’ve got a trio of phrases that popped into my head, that we should pay attention, seek knowledge, and forge a purpose. These ideals are what make work a blessing – almost no matter what we do, even if it’s rote, can be uplifting and enriching if we’re doing these three things.
Recently in General Conference, there was a quote or two that reminded me of a testimony I’ve gained this past year or two about motherhood. The quotes were something about service being what converts the home to a divine institution, and that devotion to family improves every other aspect of our lives. My testimony, boiled down to its essence, is that I haven’t lost anything (talents, career, recognition) by bearing children and committing to raise them and help them flourish.
So, I cultivate that devotion, that desire for momentum, for progress toward happiness. This is what I give to my children, and my husband, and to myself: Attention. Knowledge. Purpose. When those ideas become second nature, habitual, you put it all together and find a deeper truth, you discover how to apply your observations and knowledge to your own life. You get purposeful. Or at least I do. That’s something that’s one of my particular strengths, and I realize that. But ultimately I'm convinced that purpose is what each of us crave, is what changes our work from unfulfilling to meaningful. It motivates us, builds our passionate core, and drives the flourishing process. It’s what makes external things a part of us, not just empty objects.
So, back to my testimony. I've been a good student, always blessed with an excellent mind and awareness of ideas, facts, truths, connections that weren’t always easy for others to grasp. When I started having my children, it was so painful, it felt like a kind of death to feel that mental energy slipping away and disappearing. I was convinced that it was lost and gone forever, that the space in my own head was permanently occupied by these little invaders and their myriad needs. But the only thing greater than that pain, at that point, was my firm bedrock conviction that the Lord needed mothers; and not only mothers, but powerful, intelligent women in particular to become mothers, though I felt like the one state ended up negating the other.
Let me tell you, I am so infinitely glad that I had that faith. There is no question in my mind, now, that my motherhood did not diminish me in the slightest. I’ve gotten to know a few amazing women over the years, and it should be no surprise that the faithful mothers who have stayed strong and committed are the most amazing – and humbly talented – of all of them.

It wasn’t until recently that I had another category to compare to, an active Latter-Day Saint wife who consciously chose career over motherhood. We’re about the same age, married the same length of time. I’m hopeful that this blog is too small to get back to her, and that my story is kind enough in any case. But it was specifically in getting to know her (mostly through visiting teaching) that my testimony of my own worth even beyond motherhood was really fanned into flame.
I realized that, although she had that paycheck (translate: resume and worldly credentials) that I craved, that free time that I yearned for, that inner sense of accomplishment that I seemed to be always grasping for -- she actually accomplished far less than I. It was such a strange, upside-down moment when I understood that! Certainly, I trust that Heavenly Father knows her much better than I do and that her virtues shine brightly to him. But in the sense of talents and time management, I had the amazing epiphany that all these years, I’ve been polished and driven and forced to choose what I wanted most and how to get it most productively, and that now I can do things beyond her wildest dreams. I’m not even including what I do as a mother, those activities and skills that directly benefit my family; somehow, my tiny spare time talents have blossomed and passed hers, and yet, it’s been a direct result of the time I’ve spent mothering, the commitment and grit I’ve learned in that capacity. I’ve dug in and magnified my life for my family, hoping that I would come out of it all intact, and around the corner I find that the Lord has held some of his greatest gifts in store for me. It’s humbling and amazing. I’m going to repeat how infinitely glad I am that I didn’t wait to make the sacrifice and the transformation of motherhood.

And all of it leads me right back to my core ideas, the stepping stones to that line-upon-line flourishing experience that I'm aiming for. Awareness, zeal, purpose, labor, knowledge, grit. Those all tie together in hard daily work that is for those I love. They produce real bonds, real accomplishments. Those of you who are just beginning this epic personal revolution that is motherhood, don't worry about getting wrapped up in it and lost. Work hard, pay attention, and make your days as intentional as you can; you will find that you have lived beyond yourself and grown into something even greater.

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