do your duty.

about a month or so ago, a couple of our regulars came in looking completely exhausted.  i know they have two young kids and a baby, and immediately thought about what a treat it must be just to get out for an hour for a quick coffee date, a luxury i take for granted.  for whatever reason, this began to trigger a line of thoughts that ultimately led to “i don’t think i’m unselfish enough to have children.”

when i confessed this to my friend and coworker, she reassured me that maybe that was a good thing to admit…but still it broke my heart.

a week or so later, i nannied for a little one, just over a year old and teething.  from sun up to sun down for 3 days, the little tyke and i trucked all over the southeast corridor, hitting up coffee shops and grocery stores.  i came to notice little aspects of his personality, how he would play with my hands as i pushed the cart or how quiet he became in a public setting, or even his attempt at signing “more” when he was eating.

then came the post-afternoon nap.  he was teething and having such a rough go of it that he would wake early, screeming fitfully, and could only be soothed by being held.  and listening to soft music, preferably Frank Sinatra.  for an hour and a half on two of the days i danced and held and cooed and whispered, just trying to hold back his tears for a minute.

needless to say, i went home exhausted.  but i discovered something about myself: i could be selfless.  i could do my duty.  i may have to take a 10 minute nap in the car before running into the grocery store, but i could still wake and pull myself together and change a diaper in the parking lot.

i could be a mom.

which is nice, but i’m not.

and the whole “duty” thing began to bleed over into nearly everything else.  it is good, it seems, to fulfill your duty–to love your kids, to care for them, to do the laundry or clean the bathroom, to see thru a confrontational conversation, even to forgive.  but then it feels as though everything is a duty.  even those things i love.  even those things i once dreamed would happen.  they all feel like nothing more than an endless succession of duties.  and it’s not even that i have a problem doing my duty, but that i can feel so disconnected, so full of doubt and questions, and still do my duty.

i’m having a bit of a Jimmy Stewart-like crisis.

questions lie at the root of all of this, particularly “why?”  “why does it matter?”  “DOES it matter?”  “do the tedious little actions i once touted were so important really make an impact?”  “why does my heart break for this when i’m powerless to change anything?”  “why do i continually throw myself against this, only to be broken on the rocks?”

and then, where do i go from here?

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2 thoughts on “do your duty.

  1. I feel like I’ve become very used to the freedoms in my life (sleep in, stay out, sew all night) and to be able to use my time how I’d like to. I almost wonder if living with others has stunted my growth, because after giving in to what the group wants, it’s like I want to make up for lost time and find out what I’m really about. I sometimes wonder if I’m too selfish to have children.

    Duty… I just called for jury duty. 😦

  2. yes, Linds, i’ve felt that way about living in community too. i don’t want to. i want to hold tight to the conviction that living in community is good, that it’s good to give up my will, to live for the good of others. but now that i’m not living directly in it, i find i only want to be alone or with one other person most of the time….

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