Middle age arrived on my doorstep some time ago, so one wouldn’t think I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Have you ever reviewed history on your timeline, wondering where you were and what you were doing when a particular cultural event occurred? You can’t imagine how you could have missed it, but realize after review, that you were elbow deep in changing diapers, assessing how to relax your sore shoulder during breastfeeding, reading about how to get your preschooler to eat, and investigating who would babysit your sick kids while you were at work, or something along those lines. Sometimes it seems like the past 18 years got lost in a sea of parental myopic household and educational “fires” that left me disoriented and with short circuited “reality” sensors.
I visited with a psychologist recently, who brought up the idea of my legacy. While not entirely a new idea, it has given me reason for pause. Merriam-Webster defines legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” The psychologist identified one legacy my parents passed on to me: their top criterion for selecting a church for our family pertained to the strength and quality of the church’s music program.
My parents were and are classical musicians in the finest sense. How freeing to see that they considered and met their need for top notch music when selecting their faith home. Music was important and sacred; theologies and preachers—not so much. If the music department endured a change for the worse, they would move to another church. Music was the ineffable, beautiful, ethereal, untouchable transmission that carried what words, ideas, information and people might only fleetingly and inadequately convey. Would my parents own this as their legacy to me? I haven’t asked them. But to this day they carry on their practice of getting their sacred needs met by choosing what they want for themselves: the finest of church music programs. And, I can tell you that to this day, I feel pure joy, tears, relief, and peace when I hear a perfectly played organ concerto or beautifully sung choral hymn. I know this is reverberating from my childhood, be it from my organist mother’s womb or from years spent singing in church choirs.
When I think of what I am “transmitting” to my kids, I cower. Raising children alone is certainly not an awesome ride in the Tardis. Not being “up” on “the Doctor,” I might be mistaken, but I think he usually rides with a partner. Having no second adult to share the trials and tribulations of parenthood has been a source of great sadness and stress, which is hard to disguise on a day in day out basis. And while living under the ruthless direction of entitled and omniscient teens, it is all too easy to transmit plenty of retaliatory frustration, anger, impatience, disappointment, and blame. Coupling this angst with career unhappiness does not make a proud legacy.
I’ve been advised to think about what I want to do for myself. What is important to me? It is my job to create my legacy, and my kids’ jobs to figure out what I’m doing. Lose the worry. Take care of myself. Identify what brings me joy. Do it. Life is too short. I can’t wait any longer. Can you?