Do you ever wonder how different your life might have turned out if you had made one decision differently? I do.
I chose my college based on what was familiar, what was near to home…what was safe. My music teachers often warned me what pursuing a performance career meant: a total commitment to putting that ahead of everything else. I heard it so often that I got irritated with them.
But I wonder now if they were so persistent because they knew I didn’t have what it took to succeed—the guts and determination to barrel through all obstacles like a car in a Hollywood chase scene, heedless of the destruction you leave behind. Long ago I came to the conviction that if great art requires sacrificing personal happiness and peace, I don’t want it. God didn’t create us to be tortured geniuses; he created us to be happy.
Classical music, liturgical music, composition, fiction, nonfiction…these are the talents, and the interests, God has given me. When I was younger, and unattached, I could focus on each creative pursuit in its own time. But getting married meant that all other priorities got pushed to second place. (That, unfortunately, took me a little while to learn.) When Alex came along, everything had to slip back another notch, and with the arrival of Julianna, with her special needs, everything dropped back a couple more notches.
Or did it? I’m writing very consistently now, but I hardly ever practice my flute; I’m writing virtually no music, and I often squirm with guilt that on a day to day basis I’m diluting the attention I give my children, who should be my top priority, after my husband.
And they are. When I have to, I drop everything else to cuddle a child with the stomach flu or a boo boo. And certainly writing time is planned around their schedules. But any time they’re awake and I’m sitting at the computer, I feel torn, guilty—just as I do about the lack of composing, the lack of flute practicing. There are too many balls to juggle. At any given time, a couple of them simply have to rest on the floor and wait their turn.
Do I regret not choosing one area of interest, grabbing hold and not letting go? No, I can’t regret that. I have a beautiful, exciting life, filled with cuddles and discipline, inspiration and deadlines, field trips and therapies. And I have a husband who is the best partner a woman could dream of. My life is balanced. If I’d had the backbone to make it in the performing world, I would have had to sacrifice other things. That may not be PC, but the world is what it is. I can’t help thinking that the sheer singlemindeness it takes to succeed is why so many famous people go through three, four or more marriages. Their career demands so much; it doesn’t leave enough to make a personal life work the way it’s supposed to.
So I will continue to juggle my “joyful duties” (I love that line from the hymn “O God Beyond All Praising”—such a succinct, and true, phrase) with the passions that define me. My family, my marriage, my responsibilities, will continue to inspire my writing, creating the intersection for which this blog is named. No, I will never balance it perfectly—considering this is the third or fourth post I’ve written on the subject, I’ll probably continue to expend emotional energy trying to keep all the balls whirling in harmony. But I do believe that this is the life I was called to live. And I thank God for it every day.
Something happened this week, and my blog hits went through the roof. I’ve scoured the stats, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what I did to cause it. Which makes me think I didn’t…I just got lucky. So, to all of you who follow this blog, I want to say thank you. It means a lot to me to have the opportunity to touch lives through what I write. That is what all writers ultimately want to do, the reason we spend such ridiculous amounts of time arranging and rearranging words on a page—so that the thoughts given to us can, perhaps, make a difference in someone else’s life. I’m honored that you take the time to come here and read.
What a beautiful, interesting reflection! Thanks for sharing.
I think about life choices, too — especially the balance of marriage and work, being a newly-married woman who is passionate about her career. Celebrities do seem to illustrate the fallout when career takes precedence. Have you ever seen that show “True Hollywood Story”? There’s a line that the narrator dramatically recites in almost every episode that strikes me: “But as her career flourished, her marriage floundered.”
I pray for the grace and humility to always put my marriage first.
P.S. CONGRATS on the spike in traffic! Hope it continues to surge as more CCL members discover this great blog!
Putting the marriage first is the real trick, and it becomes all the more important when the kids come. I remember sitting at a parish mission with Fr. Simeon Gallagher, during our infertility battle. He said something like: The parent-child relationship is SECOND. NOT first. The FIRST human relationship is between husband and wife.
This did not sit well with me at that time, because my soul was so raw from wanting babies, and not conceiving, month after month. But on the other side, I understand, and he’s right. Children need parents who like each other, who enjoy each other. And it’s way too easy to get out of balance toward co-parenting at the expense of the spousal relationship…
Christina, you may have just sparked another blog post. 🙂
What beautiful thought-provoking reflections. Sometimes I wonder about the road not traveled but like you, I am thankful (and oh, so busy) juggling my joyful duties 🙂
Kate, you may not remember, but I distinctly remember telling you girls once that you can do all those things you are interested in, but you don’t necessarily have to do them simultaneously. You can do them consecutively throughout your life. Your blog is a precious history that will come alive once more long after you are gone as your children and grandchildren connect with you as you once were. And they may prove to save one of them after he/she has gone down a path that you wish they hadn’t. There’s a lot more of life left after the children are gone. I do hope one day your soul will call you back to practicing those wonderful pieces I heard you play in your bedroom so many years ago. A musical instrument played well is a delight to those who get to listen. Love, MOM