The value of being well-prepared is accepted at face value. You find it everywhere, from the importance of formal schooling, to the proliferation of informal classes and courses, to how-to books and articles, and in the cultural lexicon, with expressions like “Look before you leap.” One can inform themselves endlessly about almost anything they would like to do, learning about common pitfalls, reflecting on how others have handled similar situations. I’d always loved that- the looking part, before leaping, the luxuriating in possibilities, imagining what I might do, what it might be like, how I could get it perfect.
Then I fell in love with an Italian, far from my home and everything familiar. There just isn’t much in the way of preparation for marrying a foreigner and living abroad. So I simply lept, into the unknown country of marriage, across the ocean to root myself in Italy. In doing so, I found enormous reserves of strength and faith in myself and my continuity of character in vastly different circumstances.
Three years later I did the usual things to prepare myself for the birth of my daughter- countless books and baby web sites, conversations with other mothers, the standard birth preparation class and a lot of work to arrange the birth as I imagined it.
Not a bit of it prepared me for my daughter’s birth. Giving birth was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was also the hardest. But I did it. Perfect preparedness had no place in birth. My daughter couldn’t wait for me practice, to get it right- she needed to come out RIGHT THEN.
In opening up during birth I opened up to being a mother, itself scary and hard in different ways. And I’m doing that, too. Mothering is more flexible than birth, but its immediacy and intimacy still make books, intellectual knowledge and the idea of preparation in general much less relevant. It is a relationship, not a formula, and I have to just do it, learning as I go.
As my marriage prepared me for birth, and birth prepared me for motherhood, mothering has opened me up to a more confidently creative way of life. I trust myself to learn and adapt and succeed and so I’m trying new adventures without fear, jumping right in. Because even if I look before I leap, I can’t possibly see it all, and anyway I can’t know how I will react in the moment. In fact, looking too much can keep me from leaping, while by going ahead and leaping I learn so much. I believe in getting up, getting out and doing something, anything, even if it’s not the perfect thing, even if I am not perfectly prepared for it. I believe in looking WHILE I leap, keeping my eyes open so I don’t miss a thing.
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