What do I believe?
What do I believe more profoundly than any thing else?
I believe that tomorrow the sun will come up. I believe I’ll have a steaming mug of strong black tea. I’ll indulge in something sweet for breakfast. I’ll clean my house. I’ll look out my window at my picture perfect neighborhood. I’ll feel at peace and I’ll thank God for my blessings.
I also believe that too many others in this world won’t want the sun to come up; others won’t even have clean water or enough to eat for breakfast. Others are prisoners in their homes, or they don’t have homes. Others do not know peace and others don’t know God for His blessing, they only know despair.
What I experience and believe in seems far removed from the world that most people live in. I learned this early from my parents who took me to Africa as a child.
Our family lived on the campus of Haile Selassie University at Alemya, Ethiopia. My father taught. While we lived there I observed the inequity between the poor and the affluent. I also observed exceptional individuals working to bring their own kind of justice to meet and balance that inequity. Men and women had come with their families as foreigners to live and teach. They had come to face ignorance and poverty in its most fundamental forms, raw disease, illiteracy, superstition, starvation, corruption. I witnessed this in a country that was and is still considered primitive.
Our family returned to the United States in the later half of the nineteen sixties. I observed how the black kids segregated themselves from the white kids in my Maryland middle school and black families lived only in a certain part of town. I was teased and called a “squaw” because of my Native American ethnicity. I was stifled by the public education system and entered high school with no ideals and unable to believe in any thing.
The shootings at Kent State University destroyed my faith in my nation. How could something like that happen in America? Young people were standing up for what they believed and someone innocent was killed. My father told me sadly that the National Guard was following orders, as if that might justify what I considered to be insanity.
When I graduated from high school, class of 1971, I refused to attend commencement to accept my diploma. Life in America seemed like a farce, so I tuned out and turned on like many other young adults and adopted an alternative life style dressed in shabby jeans and with long hair. I drove a VW bug and gas cost …what? …50 cents a gallon? I took a stab at being an art student.
I rejected my parent’s middle class values. Women had birth control and abortion was legalized. Divorce rates sky rocketed. Women challenged their exclusive roles as nurturers and expected their male partners to participate in birthing classes and to coach during labor. Women were free to go bra-less and demanded orgasms. I was very unhappy. Somewhere along the way I’d lost or perhaps had never claimed my soul.
My daughter was born at the end of 1977. My son was born 15 months later. I was completely overwhelmed by the responsibility. I had rejected what I now found myself drowning in, i.e. nurturing in the form of laundry, breast feeding, diapers (pampers were a luxury back then), teething, ear infections, and sleep deprivation. Family values had slimed their way all over my life like The Blob! A second and then a third daughter were born early in the 1980’s. I was suffocating.
I became Super Mom while my husband lost himself in his career. I was going to have it all, job and family. I wasn’t going to depend on a husband to insure my future. I’d go back to school; I’d have a part-time job to help make ends meet. I’d be at every soccer practice, school play and teacher conference. I’d bake cup cakes for birthdays, teach Sunday school, and sew prom dresses. What I actually became was a very angry, demanding, depressed mother and wife. My marriage failed.
What had I been thinking? I was trying to believe in something. I wanted to believe that I’d done the right things. Outwardly I had the American dream, a nice house, two cars, 4 healthy kids, and a dog. None of us had a criminal record. I was up to my nose hairs in middle class family values but it all seemed so vulnerable and I felt damaged.
At the beginning of the 1990’s our country was at war again, but people were supporting it not protesting it. My life was spent trying to keep up with teenagers. We were a family that lived in the car. I drove kids to school, I drove kids to sports events after school, I drove kids to jobs after the sports, and after the jobs I drove them to the movies and sleep-overs. I worked at night and kept the house during the day. We all survived and eventually my youngest daughter turned 18.
My children assumed their adult lives. They reflect my values and I have a great sense of accomplishment. I see them care about the same things I cared about as a young person. They care about injustice, poverty, ignorance, religious oppression, political corruption, prejudice, and mindlessness. They care about the environment and human rights. They care on a global scale. If they see on the news that people are suffering in Korea, they care. If friends are sent to Iraq to fight, they care. If families are homeless, they care and they want to be sure that Santa shows up for every kid at Christmas. They seem to believe in something and they have ideals. Sometimes they come to me for advice or guidance.
I can now believe that I have accomplished something. Thank God, we managed to save our marriage, our children live near us and we have our first grand child. Brother and sisters have become aunts and uncle. Our family life centers on adoring that precious baby. We have a fine home in which to celebrate holidays and birthdays. We enjoy life with many blessings.
And so I fall asleep each night believing that the sun will come up again and in the morning I will wake up and fix myself a mug of tea.
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