I like writing to my roots, or the metaphor I’ve chosen to guide my blog, because it suggests a narrative that deepens as I go. It means that I don’t have to start with all the deep stuff first, but that I can move more gently to the sources of pain, and the sources of me.
Who says I have to go deep, you may ask? Well, definitely not pop culture or social media, which is oh so surface level.
It’s me (“It is I,” for my fellow English majors) who has chosen to go deep, because I write to heal myself and to help others. I choose to work gradually to my roots of pain and self-protection, because that’s how healing has to happen, and after healing, recovery. Recovery of our dreams, goals, and our true identities. We must take gradual steps.
As we do, we can unmask lies we’ve had about ourselves to finally embrace who we are meant to be. And that’s the point of the blog.
But before I chose Writing to my Roots, I planned to call this endeavor The Before Thirty Project, because that’s how it started. Originally this “project” included two goals in the last months before I turned thirty. Little did I know that these goals would expand as my writing took me deeper, little by little, to my roots—both pleasant and painful. Today I finish a series of three posts on a topic that I used to shun like the unwanted appendage I imagined it to be. Then, back to other topics I’m more comfortable with. I promise.
When I first vaguely conceived of my project at age twenty-five, I had two goals in mind: earning my master’s degree and publishing a book. It was probably my incessant talking about these grandiose goals, in fact, that had my high school students so frequently asking, “Are you ever going to have kids?”
The junior and senior girls would look at me in disbelief when I shrugged, “Probably not.”
For some of them, having kids was the goal of life.
But when they said things like this, I was the one fighting back disbelief.
Really girls? I thought. What was so glamorous and good about having babies?
Of course, being in a high school environment where numerous girls got pregnant each year, it was easy to disparage their dreamy looks and words. Terrible! We teachers said. Teenage girls getting pregnant! What a waste! What unnecessary hardship!
For a teenage mom, of course, it is an unnecessary hardship. To this day I would never advocate teen girls—or any female who is not married—getting pregnant.
But once a girl finishes high school…once she gets married…
Until recently, I still couldn’t advocate it. Not for myself. And honestly, not for anyone else. As my twenty-something girlfriends got pregnant one by one, it felt as if they were betraying me, one by one. How selfish, I know.
Because I couldn’t have this happiness (rather, couldn’t understand it as happiness), they shouldn’t either. Really, I would be doing us all a favor to save us from the inevitable heartache that must come with kids.
For seven years I told myself I didn’t want kids. Too much risk. Too much time that could be better spent elsewhere. Why risk such a hefty investment when you didn’t know what you were going to get? Never mind potential birth defects. What about angry children who decided to write you off because you screwed up their lives?
Today I can look back at sentiments like these more objectively. They don’t seem normal, or rational, or healthy, like I once stubbornly insisted they were. (My husband would just give me that same look I got from my girl students: You’re messed up.)
Maybe it was a problem with the kind of kid I had become over the years. Bitter. Angry. Sad. Detached.
I was not bringing any particular blessings to my parents’ lives. I had moved so far away from them that it was not strange to go almost a year between visits. At various points, I had barricaded myself from contact. Didn’t want a lot of contact, because contact hurt. It just all hurt so much—family visits, photo albums, phantom memories—that why would I ever want to perpetuate it?
Through writing and other miracles, God has taken me to a place where I’ve realized none of my self-protections can keep me safe or healthy. More than indicating a kind of logic, all my excuses, denials, and exercises in becoming numb indicate a sad existence. The guardedness (to the degree that I’ve had it) is not laudable; it’s lamentable. Would that we women could be smart about our choices—with healthy boundaries that keep us from getting pregnant when we shouldn’t (right, Kim Kardashian?)—but that allow us to be open to any possibility, should God suggest it to us.
After eight years of marriage, He has suggested it. And now I’m open. At this point, a baby could definitely be part of the “before thirty project,” if God wants it to be. That is to say, I’ve removed the barriers. I can conceive of getting pregnant. It’s up to God if I really will conceive. But if not, I’m okay with that, too. My being open to the possibility is the real growth—more meaningful than a baby bump could ever be.
Whew. Now that I’ve made some real progress with this root, I’m putting it to rest for awhile. (I’ll let you know if anything develops.)