I see you on the train with the run in your black tights and the blob of soggy Cheerios hanging from the pocket of your over-worn sweater. I see the disappointment. It’s written all over your face. You never meant to be here, stuck in this crowd of early morning commuters. You were a go-getter, a straight A student, someone with creativity and flair. You were going to start your own business, work for a NGO, be a best-selling author, change the world with your brilliance and drive. But you became a mom too soon and had to go to work for a paycheck rather than for a passion, and it’s killing you. You are full of little resentments; resentment that your husband isn’t the provider you were hoping for; resentment that he’s never around to help with the house and the kids.
Let me tell you, resentment is nasty, because it sits in waiting like a poisonous snake. It’s not like anger that attacks in an instant and then makes a hasty retreat. No, resentment festers and seethes, and you are full of it, dear lonely girl. It is making you old, and you hate that most of all. You used to be pretty and you felt the admiring looks of others, but no more. You’re beginning to realize you’ve become an aging mom. No one looks your way, and this makes you feel invisible. I know you so well. I can see your life, the clutter of your home, the chaos of your thoughts, what it feels like to be in your overweight body.
I can feel you, because I was you. I loathed my job and couldn’t stand the person I’d become because I was forced to work a job I hated. I tried never to let on to the outside world, though. Good girls don’t get depressed, good girls are always happy. I plastered a smile on my face, just like you are doing now. But inside, I felt the weight of a life poorly lived.
I was like you, but, dear lonely girl, I was wrong. I wish I could take you and shake you by your shoulders and say, “Wake up!” Wake up to your life, you won’t get this time back. Believe me, I know. I spent so much time wallowing, that I missed important years with my children. Yes, I was there physically, but mentally, I was so focused on my suffering. My kids are grown now. They’ve moved on, and I miss the soggy Cheerios and their noisy chatter and their youthful bodies. I miss the chaos of a growing family, and the rare moments when we would all just sit quietly together.
I spent so much energy lamenting the tedium of my job and mourning the changes to my face and body. I see now that I didn’t spend enough time enjoying my children and dwelling on their beautiful young faces and taking joy in their neediness of me. Please, dear lonely girl, you are not your job, your worth is not measured by whether your husband lives up to your too-high expectations of him, your life is in the miracle of creating other lives and guiding them on their way. Your joy can be found by opening your eyes and your heart to it. It is there, every day it is present.
Today you can choose to be grateful — that you were blessed with children, that your husband, while he might be far from perfect, is always there for you, that you have a home and a job and that you have carved a unique and wonderful life for yourself. The quality of that life depends solely on your perception of it. Please, try, for me, to see the beauty that I missed, the beauty that I can see all too clearly now that it’s too late.
Rebecca Shafi is the mother of three grown children, a leader of women’s circles and retreats, and a corporate marketing manager. She has a BA from the Academy of Art, an MBA in Marketing and a MIM, Master’s Certificate in Intuition Medicine. Rebecca fell in love with words at a young age. Memoir is her favorite. It gives her the chance to live twice – the second time much more beautifully.