Trapped in the Ideal

Is there anything worse than feeling trapped? Having to write a difficult exam because you have to be in school. Having to fulfill an obligation you hastily said “yes” to. Having to work at a job you don’t like because the bills have to be paid.  This feeling has come and gone in me over the past several years, but I can undoubtedly say that nothing has ever made me feel more trapped than motherhood.

Sometimes it hits me that I cannot get out of this thing of mothering. (Or at least I cannot get out of this thing without causing enormous pain and years of counselling on these little children of mine.)  And I don’t think it’s necessarily because I had my kids when I was young and “lost” my twenties to diapers and laundry and time-outs.  No, it usually hits me on days when I’d really like to sleep in, days when I know there is a world spinning around me and yet the four walls of my house are the world that I’m going to know that day (that week, that year, that decade).  The world is at my doorstep, but I can’t get out the door without the money to pay a babysitter who happens to be free at the time I want to go.

And it’s not just about being able to go out.  It’s about forever having in my life these little people to care for.  Sometimes thinking about just that makes me tired and really scared.  I hardly even remember what it was like to only have to think about myself.  For some reason it often feels like if I just had myself to look after I’d feel less trapped.

But I really don’t think that’s the truth.

What really makes me feel trapped is the feeling that in life we just continually mess up, hurt others, and get hurt back.  This is played out in such an exaggerated manner looking after three little kids all day long that sometimes it makes me feel hopeless.  Why can’t people just get along?  Why do we have to be bossy and watch out for our things?  Why can’t we share and be kind and love?

And yet, what I also see lived out in the kids is absolute, unwavering, unconditional love and forgiveness.  And even that makes me feel trapped.  Like I really don’t want anyone to love and forgive me unconditionally because that means they’ll have to know about all of the parts of me that I don’t want exposed.

Maybe if I could just isolate myself away from all of the hurt and all of the love, I wouldn’t be plagued with this fear.  But that doesn’t make any sense at all!  Fear would only increase.  There would be the constant fear of bumping into others, into life.  You would become immobilized.  And you would fear even more.

Marc and I watched The Hours last night.  Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf, and my favourite line from the movie (though many are fantastically quotable) is when she says: “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

And that’s it, isn’t it?  We spend our time dreaming about how things could be, could’ve been, should be.  We feel trapped in whatever circumstance we’re in.  But the truth is that the could and the should don’t matter.  The circumstances don’t matter.  Those aren’t the things that trap us. It is the love and freedom which we allow (or don’t allow) for ourselves in those circumstances which traps us.

In so many ways I’ve got the “ideal” life.  Yet, I’ve created this wonderful, seemingly inescapable, web of self-doubt, self-loathing, and guilt, that the “ideal” life is not ideal at all.  And it’s only when I allow myself to love and be loved, allow myself the freedom to make mistakes and live and commune with others fully, that the “ideal life” will be achieved.

The “ideal life” comes when our thinking changes.  When those things — demands, obligations, fears — that used to trap us and rob us of what we really wanted are, instead, viewed as the perfect places to live out our love.  My kids and all of their demands and inconveniences are not preventing me from experiencing life, they are the gateway to a better kind of life than I could possibly imagine or have ever hoped for.  The thing that trapped me the most can set me free.

Posted in Entertainment, Life & Faith, Motherhood, Philosophy | 10 Comments

10 Responses to Trapped in the Ideal

  1. Sarah says:

    me too.

    to everything you said.

    me too.

  2. lyn says:

    Dixie, have you ever considered giving yourself a morning or day per week out of the home, away from the kids to either volunteer or work? Now that you have 2 of 3 gone some days, perhaps you could find a sitter for Olivia and have some “you” space? The reason i ask is this, your thoughts today reminded me a LOT of how I was starting to feel last year after being home with Danica for only 8 or 9 months….and I have found that being back at work a couple days a week gives me the balance I need to love my time at home with her and also have an outlet from that trapped, 24/7 feeling (And this is just me with one kid home for one year, not with 3 kids for 5+ years!). I have more to say but this post is getting long, perhaps I should just email…

  3. Hey Lyn,

    Thanks for the comment (and please feel free to email or comment again). I have sort of thought about working a bit out of the home, and several people have suggested that for my own sanity’s sake. But lately this whole daily grind thing has changed for me. I don’t get overwhelmed like I used to.

    In fact, I was just telling Marc that I did this post today not because I felt like abandoning my family today, but b/c I felt like it just needed to be said.

    Lately it feels like I’m learning to accept myself and forgive myself (and yes, every other post I’ve been doing is just a different way of describing how I’m working those things out!)

    So, this “trapped” feeling is more about ME and less about where I am, you know? I’m learning to have a lot more grace with myself and am allowing myself more rest than I have EVER. And it’s really cool that I’ve been able to do that without having to leave the walls of my house. Sometimes it’s trial by fire, but it certainly is a purifying experience.

    Does that make sense?

  4. Carmen says:

    Dixie, your posts always make me feel “normal” and put a positive spin on those same thoughts that are running through my head 🙂 Thank you.

  5. Rebekah says:

    Hello my friend. Once upon a time you told me that you thought you might write a book. I think you’d do a great job. Pursue it!

  6. Rebekah says:

    You have a way with words and with being real and honest. I appreciate that. That’s why I think you should write a book. I’d buy one.

  7. mam V. says:

    “Carpe Diem” , pluk de dag!

  8. Collette says:

    everything you said in your post and in your comment, Dixie, I agree with! I know I’ve been negative in my comments in the past year or so, but I’m now finally realizing that you and I were going through the same kind of thing, but on different sides of the coin. you’ve felt trapped by your motherhood, and I’ve felt trapped by my lack of motherhood.

    anyway, you’ve now learned the same lesson I learned too – that it’s not about your circumstances, but how you relate to them. it’s the wishing that things were different that makes things difficult. it’s the fighting what is now that is making now undesirable. things are as they are.

    beautiful. I’m glad you’re finding peace my dear.

  9. Have your comments been negative on here Collette? (Maybe I’ll have to go back and check and be mad at your retro-actively.) 🙂

    You said it really well in the middle paragraph. And, yes, I you’re right I’m finding peace. And it’s great.

    Oh, and I just found your new blog. I don’t know why your livejournal stuff wasn’t going into my Bloglines feed… but now I’ll be able to get caught up.

  10. Collette says:

    ha! oh, I don’t think they were mean or anything. but you’d post sad stuff about you, and I’d turn it around to be about me…. you’d say “3 kids are so hard to handle!” and I’d say “ya, well I have no kids and I truly want them and I’m getting old”. stuff like that. it just didn’t really respect what you were going through, I don’t think. I’m glad that at least you don’t remember it 🙂

    oh, the posts on the new blog don’t feed through Google Reader very well. I don’t know about Bloglines. if you’re catching up, might be best to go straight to the site. and to make this confusing, I set up the new blog but I’m still waiting to convince two really good friends of mine to use it…. they haven’t replied, and I think they’re both dedicated to LiveJournal. LiveJournal is so stupid…. gah. I think right now I’m stuck updating both for a while. in the meantime I’m trying to teach everyone how to use a feed reader.

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