This past weekend, I was invited to attend a flute recital, presented by my daughter's best friend's mom, Kate, and partially accompanied by her pianist husband.
We have known this family for awhile now, and it was truly one of those matches that simply must be. They have four children, we have three. Their oldest son is the same age as mine, and they both attend the pull-out gifted program at school. They also have a three year old, perfect for Baby Girl.
The reason we connected with them, however, is because of their daughter, Julianna. I could write a lot here about Julianna, and how thankful we are to have her in our lives. But that's another post. The short version is that she and Amelia have become best friends, and for that, I am grateful. Oh, and she has Down syndrome.
Their family is easily one that you'd look at and think, "Oh my, you have your hands full." And while I'm certain that's true, who doesn't really? The size of their family, and the issues that come with raising a daughter with special needs is not the whole of their story, and they make that quite plain. It is their ordinary, as it were.
The details of their lives are theirs, but what I came to notice is how Julianna's mom continues to focus on her work. She is a writer, both of words and music. (www.kathleenbasi.com) She plays the flute, yes, but she actually plays it regularly. She writes, yes, but not in her free time. She makes time for it. It is her work and she dedicates time to do it.
We went to Kate's recital on Sunday afternoon. I ended up taking my son because Amelia was not in the mood to sit still in a church for an hour, best friend or no. My son plays the cello, and I figured it was a good chance for him to see what a real life musician looks like in the world.
But I'll admit that I was really there for me, and he was my tagalong. I wanted to see her play. Because, see, this concept of taking your talent and living and breathing it every day is kind of new to me. And here I have this example of a woman who shares an eerie amount of circumstances with me and yet, still makes time for flute recitals and paid writing gigs.
I've had to pause here and ask myself if I feel jealous. Would I love to make money on my craft? Of course. And here in front of me is a woman who is doing exactly that. I don't guess she's getting rich, but she is doing it.
But what I feel is not jealousy. I feel inspired.
I looked at Kate's mom and dad during the recital and thought about them. Raising four girls on a farm. Her dad told me a funny story about working in the fields the day before with his grandson. I can't imagine what they said to her when she told them she wanted to major in music. I do remember the questions about my English degree with the creative writing emphasis. The arts are hard majors for parents.
Here's what I think my trap has been. Writing professionally always seemed like a pipe dream to me, like playing professional baseball. Only the best make it, right? So if you're not the best, there isn't a place for you. That's what I thought anyway, even if no one specifically said that to me.
But here's what I'm realizing. There is so much more room than I had thought. It is unbelievably egotistical to think that you will be the very best at what you're good at. We really can't all be in the Olympics, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have fun being good at what we're good at. Even as an adult.
And there's the rub. Even as an adult. Even as a parent. Even as a parent of a special needs child.
I can hone my talent. It is crazy to think that anyone will suffer by me doing what I know I was meant to do. If anything, it sets a good example for my children. One, that they are not the center of the universe, which is an important lesson to learn. And two, that passions are worth pursuing. And three, that Mom is a person outside of being a mom.
Listen, I was meant to be a mom. I know that.
But that's not my whole story.
And maybe, at 35, I'm just discovering that I am the one in charge of writing the rest of that story. Literally and figuratively.
It helps me to have women like Kate in my life. Women who refuse to say, "I used to do *blank* when I was younger." But who proudly share their talents, ones that they continue to improve upon.
I'm still learning. And, honestly, I hope I never stop.