(Warning: Long, rambling, and probably pointless)
Yesterday, I talked with a friend who had been a guidance counselor. I had asked his advice regarding one of my kids who needed a little direction.
“What’s your goal?” he asked.
I answered with the goal I have for the child in question.
“No,” he said. “That’s your goal for your child. I want to know your goal for Sally.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Just think about it,” he said, and waited about 2.5 seconds before he moved on. But he circled back to that question a couple more times.
“This feels like a guess-what-I’m-thinking question,” I said one of the times.
“What are you looking for?” I asked another of the times.
In the end, I felt incredibly frustrated.
What’s my goal? Sheesh. (I wrote that just before bed last night, still trying to process the whole conversation. Then I wrote about another 250 words expressing the same sentiment.)
…What are we even talking about? Are you asking about my goal as a parent — which has been my primary job for the past 38 years? Are you asking about my goal at the gym? Or at the house where I still have a thousand things to do? Is it my goal for today? This week? This month? This year?…
To be kind? To be a lifelong learner? To love my family?
What’s my goal? Seriously? I don’t know.
This is going to make me crazy.
I walked to the post office this morning. It’s about two and a half miles there. I thought and thought and thought while I walked.
Karl once told me that one of the doctors he works with has three goals for every day: to learn something, to teach something, and to laugh. I wish I was clever enough to come up with three succinct goals like that. Even if I had, I don’t think it would answer the question being asked by my friend.
Anyway, my three would be something like to listen, to see, and to be kind.
Again, I’m sure it’s not what he was looking for.
I copied another Thomas Merton quote into my journal the other day. “Therefore if you spend your life trying to escape the heat of the fire that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self, and if you try to keep your substance from melting as if your true identity were to be hard wax, the seal will fall upon you and crush you. You will not be able to take your true name and countenance, and you will be destroyed by the event that was meant to be your fulfillment.”
Merton was talking about sealing wax and the way it will crumble if it’s not adequately prepared for the stamp. Mary had just sealed a bunch of envelopes with wax. In fact, that’s what I had walked to the post office to mail. The seals were beautiful because the wax had been melted and was ready to receive the imprint.
But to say that preparing my heart for God’s imprint on it is my goal doesn’t sound right either. Plus, I don’t think it’s what my friend was asking.
Walking is such good therapy, especially walking on a country road, where the deer bound off into the woods when they see me coming and the ducks fly out the giant puddle in the cornfield in groups of 6 or 8 quacking and complaining at the inconvenience of my passing. A deer skeleton lay in the ditch. Last week, it had probably been covered with snow. A small collection of broken car parts were strewn about the ditch a little further down the road. A lone Lexus symbol at least told me what kind of car it had been. I wondered if the deer and the car parts came from the same mishap.
In the churning of thoughts about all these things — the deer, the ducks, the skeleton, the Lexus, the hawk circling over the field, the winter’s worth of garbage now revealed in the ditches — I kept circling back to the question: What is my goal?
Career goals for a stay-at-home mom are not a thing. Some days feel like survival. Some days feel like you won the lottery.
When my oldest son was born, what was my goal? To see him grow up, become independent, productive, happy. To help him discover what he loves and what he’s passionate about. In the late ’90s, he loved computers and knew he wanted to do something related to them. We had dial-up internet and I told him that if he wanted time on the internet, he would have to get up at 6 AM because I didn’t want him tying up the phone line all day. Doggone if he didn’t get up at 6 every morning so he could have his hour on the internet. Now it’s his livelihood.
For each of the kids, that has been the puzzle. I would watch them and ask them, “What do you love?” Two have gone into nursing. One works in the realm of outdoor recreation. Three are currently in college or graduate school. One is still figuring it all out.
I feel immense gratitude at the fact that most of them have found their way.
I love talking to them all on adult levels. I love when they call me. Or come visit. I love family Zoom calls and game nights.
I think my goal, maybe, has always been to have adult children who still love me in spite of the thousand mistakes I have made as a parent, to have children who are settled and happy with the choices they have made with their lives, to have children who still occasionally want my advice, to have children who share their lives with me.
I’ll try that goal on my friend and see if it works.
I doubt it.