They’re not really related, but they’re what’s on my mind. (Is it really okay to use two contractions in a row? Seems lazy…but not lazy enough to merit changing anything.) I’m in a cabin on a lake in Minnesota–and thinking about how that bit of information probably isn’t specific enough for anyone to track me down, if they were so inclined, especially since my particular lake doesn’t show on most of the maps I’ve checked. Anyway, I’m on vacation, with lots of fishin-on-a-boat-with-nothing-to-do-but-think time, and so I’ve got something to say.
Here’s the first:
Motherhood is a fearful calling. Motherhood is a fear-filled calling, for that matter, and I’m not sure which description is more accurate. It’s certainly something that we get to be mothers…that we are entrusted with these little people, set free with them even if we’ve never managed to keep a plant alive, allowed to shape and mold them in the way we see fit. I’m always a little in awe of the whole deal.
But for me, there’s this continuous fear involved, too. I ride in the boat with one hand clenched around the strap of a shortie’s life jacket–not because I think she will fall or because she is afraid or even because I worry that a sudden squall will tip our boat over and drown us–but because I don’t trust the water. It’s a tricky thing, that water. I’m not afraid of it, really, but when it comes to the shorties, I certainly don’t trust it. There’s a myriad of other things I don’t trust: swings with really long chains, excursions into really tall trees, hikes along narrow mountain ledges, roller coasters…it goes on and on.
And yet, I find myself continuously letting go, giving permission, taking pictures of these adventures. Because to hold on is to allow myself to be conquered by the fear, to let it grow and control me. I fight that every day. I smile and click off another picture, try to seem at ease even when I’m sure the shortie is going to fall overboard, never to be seen again. I loosen my grip on the life jacket strap (even if I realize seconds later that my fist is already clenched around it again), and I think about these people in trusted to me, and I vow to let them go, to let them grow and discover and even fear for themselves.
Oh, and about those dirty turtles?
My dad had this saying when it was taking us a long time to get all loaded into the car. He’d say, “And we’re off like a herd of turtles.” I came to understand that it was a tongue-in-cheek comment about our speed. Other times he’d say, “We’re off like a dirty shirt.” I’m still not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I use both sayings here and there. Lately, I noticed that it has evolved to, “And we’re off, like a herd of dirty shirts.”