Saturday, March 31, 2012

Follow your passion

Everyone knows the mantra of the day: "Follow your passion." But how do I find that passion?

With Sam graduating from high school, I realize that I need to find a new focus for my time and energy. For the first 15 years or so of my adult life, I was very career oriented and I enjoyed it. Then I had a baby, and honestly, for the last 18 years getting him raised and helping him find his path to a life that would give him joy and satisfaction has been my primary focus. At first there was a transition period, but eventually I found that my passion for my career had waned, and my passion for turning out the best possible young man had overtaken it. When it got to the point where he needed a lot of extra focus, I was happy to give it.

Now, he has reached that point where I am confident that he is on the right path. I'm sure he will make many mistakes and have his share of missteps and adventures, but my work is largely done. He is ready to take over and find his own way.

In the short term, of course, God has given me a diversion. He sent me Warren at a time when he really needed a helping hand and I really needed someone or something into which I could pour my energy. But I realize that it isn't a long term thing. Well, I hope it is a long term relationship, but it isn't a long term project. Warren has already grown a lot and is becoming more independent of us even now. He still has a ways to go, but I know that in a few short years, he will be moving on to the next phase of his life, ready to face and manage what comes next. I hope we will always be close, but I know that soon, he will not need or want a ton of my energy poured into his life.

So I've come to realize, I need to find something that stirs my passion, something I can turn my focus to as my boys don't need it any more. But I don't know what that is.

Bob is more inherently good at finding such outside interests. He used to put countless hours into community theater, which gave him no end of joy and satisfaction. Then he turned to church activities and was extremely involved in the men's club. He provided them a lot of leadership and they gave him a wonderful, productive outlet. Now he has turned his focus to Boy Scouting, an organization for which he has great fondness that has a great need for movers and shakers such as Bob. He just naturally finds these healthy and productive outlets. I need to figure out how to find the same kind of thing for myself.

The problem is, it doesn't seem to come as naturally to me. Girl Scouts is where I work, but I don't see myself pouring my leisure time into it and finding that satisfying. I have been a Boy Scout volunteer for quite a few years and I admire the Boy Scouts, but don't feel a personal passion about them. My faith is important to me, but the Church has a propensity to drive me crazy, and I can't imagine myself turning my energy toward any Church organization that I am aware of now. I still have strong feminist leanings that date back to high school and college, but I don't see myself becoming active in feminist circles today – too political, which in my heart is synonymous with dirty. Thus other politics doesn't seem like a good option to me, either. I just don't know.

So on the one hand, I do think this is an important new insight. But on the other hand, I don't think it holds any short-term “aha” moments for me. I just need to accept it and set it to the side. It doesn't really change anything in how I live my life day to day, but it needs to be there, at the edge of my consciousness. And I suppose I just need to believe that all will be revealed to me when the time is right.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This year's Lenten observance

Most years, I take the whole Catholic teaching about how to observe the season of Lent quite seriously. I commit to a Lenten discipline and work hard to stick with it. I spend an increased amount of time in meditation and prayer.

This year has been an odd one. I did not commit to a specific Lenten discipline. I have been probably less disciplined about my prayer life than usual. Bible study has been a sporadic thing full of fits and starts. I have pretty much followed Church teaching about avoiding meat on Fridays, but compared to most years, it has been a weak effort.

And yet, I don't feel as guilty as I would anticipate, either. Because in spite of those apparent failings, I don't feel like I have failed God or let Him down. I just feel like my life is in a different place than it has ever been before, and that my calling is different as a result.

This year, my only natural born son is a senior in high school. He has matured wonderfully, and he is preparing to go off to college. My job is about done in terms of helping him mature into a healthy young man and giving him the freedom he needs to try his wings and go find his place in the world. I am sure college will have its ups and downs, but I think he has what he needs to work his way through it and find the path that is right for him. At this point, my role is about helping him prepare to make a strong start into adult life.

This year is also the year that our not-born-to-us son entered our life. I write about him fairly often, but I think it is usually about him, not about me and what working with him means in my life. But I really do feel that God has brought me to this point – that at this moment in my life, it is my calling to help this wonderful young man move through the transitions he needs to make and get to the point where he, too, will be ready to spread his wings and fly off into adult life ready and able to thrive and flourish. Working with Warren is very rewarding, but it is often exhausting, too. He can be inspiring and exhilarating, and he can also be challenging and frustrating. There are days when I feel like we are getting nowhere, and then there are days when I get glimpses of just what a great man he will be when it all falls into place.

Even though I haven't prayed as much as usual, have read the Bible less than usual, and have felt too harried to follow a specific Lenten discipline, I do feel that I am in communion with God and doing what I should be doing. And even though Warren and his lovely, intelligent girlfriend both currently disbelieve in God and are sometimes eloquent in their disbelief, I feel closer to Him than ever.

For me, this is the Lent of helping young men search for jobs and comforting them when they don't materialize; of taking a young man out for driving practice and his driving test; of trying to to foster good habits that will serve for a lifetime and being there to provide support when life gets overwhelming. It is the Lent of supporting my boss, my church choir director, my close friends as they deal with job stress, conflicting demands and the illness of loved ones. It is the Lent of learning to be selfless in a non-theoretical way; of putting others ahead of myself in the press of day-to-day life; of picking up the pieces when my loved ones experience disappointment or despair. It is the Lent of learning that my needs often come last, and that is not a bad thing.

It is the worst of Lents, it is the best of Lents. And I wouldn't trade it for any other.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sam's Eagle Ceremony

What a great day! Today Sam was awarded his Eagle Scout rank, in a beautiful, fun-filled ceremony with about 100 people in attendance.

There are several things about today that I will always treasure. First and foremost, it was such a great day for Sam. When he was actually awarded the rank, his fellow Scouts rose to their feet in a standing ovation that was just a joy to behold. He gave a wonderful, heart-felt speech about what Scouting had meant to him, and I was so proud of him!! The whole day just highlighted what a great young man he has become. I am so fortunate to have him for a kid!

The 100 or so people who were there were a wonderful cross-section from his life, and from ours. His Cubmaster was there, with his family. And tons of his fellow Scouts and leaders from our troop, of course. Two of the leaders who went with him on his trip to National Jamboree were there, and two of the leaders who were with him at World Jamboree. His music teacher from the high school came, and our priest gave the invocation and benediction. Both grandmothers made it, along with an uncle and a couple aunts. But there were also a couple of my work friends there, and several of Bob's buds from his Boy Scout involvement. A few close friends from church made it, along with a couple we've been friends with for about 20 years. The presence of all those folks from different aspects of our lives really warmed my heart. It made me appreciate, once again, how richly blessed we are to have all those wonderful people in our lives.

Warren deserves a special tip of the hat, too. He quit smoking 10 days ago and is still really struggling with the physical symptoms of withdrawal. So I know that sitting through a ceremony like that did not come easily to him, nor did the full weekend of being asked to do extra chores at home or dealing with a bunch of our relatives he didn't know. But he rose to the occasion beautifully. He seemed genuinely supportive of Sam in his moment in the sun and was very cooperative with all that was asked of him. Under the circumstances, I know it took a pretty heroic level of effort to achieve that, and I am grateful both for his effort and that he is a part of our family.

The day is over now. I have leftover food to put away, and tomorrow we pick back up with life as we know it. So it's back to the demands of work and school, to over-scheduling and too little sleep, to trying to lose weight but not too awfully hard. Warren continues to fight nicotine withdrawal and we continue to try to have his back. In many ways, nothing is changed. But Sam has a reason to stand a little more proudly than he did yesterday, and we all have a reason to remember how blessed our lives are. So in a way, everything has changed – it's just a little bit better!