(tough) love letter.

What’s your passion? If I ask you this question and watch you tense up and get all shifty eyed, I get it. Life is not about passion, right? Or, maybe I should say a mom’s life is not about passion. So I hate this question. It actually pisses me off.

I’m passionate about writing, but it scares the crap out of me.

I’m passionate about ice cream, but it’s genuinely guaranteed to at some point make me regret its existence.

(That happens when my fat jeans are tight. Current situation. Another post.)

I’m passionate about justice but it’s painful to talk about and think about and handle.

So basically, in my mind, I have turned passion into pain.

That’s depressing, right? Well, it’s hard to hold up the feeble flame of passionate pursuit of dreams when you have a deadening, doomsday, movie trailer baritone voice in your head that says things like “writing is fun, but will it PAY THE MORTGAGE?”

[cue your natural disaster footage of choice. i’m thinking one of those mansions sliding off the hillside after a rainstorm.]

So, yeah, I live in a world of pragmatism. I see the to-do list. I hear the screaming demands for my attention, from a rattling refrigerator that sends my anxiety into overdrive to children who need, need, need. I feel the pressure of a world that expects me to be everything to everyone OR to reject my desire to be everything to everyone, because they’ll both pull me apart if I am not careful. (Another post — how you’re not allowed to be a feminist who chooses motherhood.)

But here’s where I get even more pissed. Because I’m pretty sure that when I signed my first promissory note forr a student loan, I didn’t sign away my ability to dream. Or thrive. Or be lit up from the inside with joy.

Screw that.

But here I sit, sometimes afraid to just be who I am. Because what if I’m not enough? What if I never make it anything? What if I don’t DO THE THING?

in one of my favorite workouts, at the end, there’s this tai chi move where you push away both sides and you, in the center, are nothing. there’s no tension. you just are.

i almost always feel like i am having an out of body experience in this moment, because HOW WOULD IT BE TO JUST BE?

or to not feel torn in seven different directions?

So passion is painful. But you know what’s worse? Not having it. Or stifling it. That’s painful too.

Do you know that poem? The Dylan Thomas one?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

SO cliche, right? But really — when your children are born, that fabulous epidural guy didn’t kill your light. When they handed you those fabulous mesh underpants that you lived in for as long as you could (don’t lie), they didn’t tell you to give up everyone you were before you spent 10 months puking and waddling and giving up sleep. When you bought the car seat, nobody told you to sacrifice the part of you that gave you an opportunity to understand the world and MAKE IT BETTER so that you could try to fill that emptiness in your life by eating carbs or drinking wine or playing parenthood police on the internet so you can feel like you’re awesome.

Can we handle this now? YOU ARE ALREADY AWESOME.

You just forgot for a minute or a year or ten.

So…it’s time to tell the truth. Are you letting your light die? I have been smothering the poor thing for years. Sometimes I can feel it gasping.

When I realize I haven’t read a book in six months. When I see pictures of the stadium where I used to climb stairs for hours. When I see the pants that don’t fit.

This isn’t about my body or looking a certain way.

It’s about the emptiness of knowing that you are not who you could be.

There’s a part of me that says HOW DARE YOU NOT BE ALL YOU CAN BE? And there’s another part that says how dare YOU be all you can be?

So when you’re all torn up about pursuing your passion or doing the scary thing or talking to someone about something new or telling the story, I get it.

I get it — but the question is this: how do you want to be described? Someone who fits in or someone who leads? Someone who changed things or someone who was a really great follower? Someone who made a difference or someone who never made anything?

Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just…occupy the space.

Then go change the world.