Beverly S. McIlwain
My mother has a small life. She wakes up. She makes sure the dogs, Diesel and Rory, go outside and are fed before she makes herself a pot of coffee. She feeds her indoor cat, Apricot, and the very shy, homeless, outdoor cat that everyone has abandoned but her. We have named him Professor Walt Whitman-- Whitman or the Professor ,for short. She sits at the dining room table and fills three journals simultaneously with her favorite scriptures-- handwritten-- to be able to give each one of us, children, a copy when she is done. Her eyes are fading and she wants to be sure this project gets done before she can no longer write. She sweeps the porch and keeps the gardens growing and looking beautiful each day. Somedays, she walks down to the store to pick up a few treats for herself and the pets. Somedays, she has piano students that come for an hour or so at a time and fill the house up with a bit of music. Somedays, a neighbor needs an ear. Somedays, just the mail comes. At 5pm, she settles in for the news and eventually falls off to sleep on the couch with each dog at her feet in their beds during any show that has the untimely slot after 8pm. She loves her home and it is beautiful and quiet. It's non eventful compared to so many lives that are led.
I have always wanted so much more. Travel the world. Go to amazing places. Meet amazing folks. Dance among the stars. Inspire lives to fight for good in this world through any means possible and demand that it pays well,too. Is that too much? Not for me. I saw too much darkness that I didn't understand growing up to sit idly by and allow its effects on myself or others to not be understood, exposed, and reversed in some way or another. I am also guilty of running in circles to try to be what the world considers useful, important, successful, desirable, and self sufficient. I have lived all those things but just as I almost seal the deal on each life-- it would hit me-- What's the cost here? The fantasy of each of my desired and attainable lives quickly revealed a less than stellar reality when I realize there is always this weird, nasty serpent in the room that I must be ultimately be contracted to, before realizing the riches. So, I go to the next ideal in my head, then the next, then the next …… Until I am out of my own will, my own ideas, and my own money. And there is my Mom smiling quietly as she holds down a fort of love and constance, no matter what. But in the world's eyes, it seals my failure fate. I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't willful enough to make my own dreams come true. Cause that's what we are told to do thanks to Disney, right? I realized so many worldly "dreams" we are inspired to become are manufactured fantasies with a very real cost in losing your character, your innocence, your voice, and your courage. But even still, coming home, I felt like this life I left in Pittsburgh so long ago, was a final dead end. She wanted so much for me to share these daily activities of hers with joy. It was terribly difficult for me. But she was happy. Was I ?
I slept. A lot. I felt like my will was broken from battle and I was terrified of truly trusting a will of my mother's God who seemingly put her through a wringer of things. But hadn't I put myself through a wringer more than a few times in my own willful ways? I saw so much more of the world's dark underbelly than she ever had and just didn't know where to place my energy any longer to make a difference-- a big difference. I had finally been disillusioned in finding real beauty and goodness any "successful" road in life. And I searched! And now I was tired. She allowed my endless sleep. She just wanted to make me food. She wanted to spend time together. She wanted me to feel safe. She wanted me to be there with her in her simple, quiet life. I was thinking, " HOW can I get back out there and try to BE somebody and not be a burden?!?" I was supposed to be the one doing for my Mom, not the other way around. I fought her appeals to give to me because of guilt for not being able to give as I had in the past.
Growing up, I saw her humble approach towards others as a reason for them to feel undeservedly superior to her, at the very least, and someone to try to take full advantage of her, at most. I watched her peaceful understanding of others, who just wanted to manipulate her , as a necessity to become her watchdog and my own. She always said, " His will be done," and smiled amongst the chaos. I wondered, as so many people do, how can God make such a beautiful woman go through so much adversity? Why isn't He blessing her, of all people, with the prosperity and comfort these (false) prosperity preachers talk about? I mean... most t.v. evangelists ain't got nothing on her! Too many are creepy creepsters and do more damage to kids than Rammstein. Why is her life so small when so many "great" people live so comfortably by doing less that good things? What is going on? I saw her joy amongst terrible circumstances as an inverse inspiration to take my own life by the horns and fight for want I wanted, to have a "better" life (in my understanding of what that meant) and then fight for others to create a better life for themselves, as well. I was saying, "Let's make Heaven on earth." I decided my will be done come hell or high water to avoid getting hurt in life as she had so many times. But I realized in my fervor, I held others to such great expectations, they would always let me down, even when they didn't mean to. Why? We are far from god-like without accepting the true God as inner source. No one is perfect. And well, my mom is a hard act to follow.
We have had plenty of talks by now. We have had plenty of coffee, too. I had been searching for people like her in the big and intimate circles of my life to no avail. It seemed the more I got into the world and all the various perspectives, the less commitment to real caring I experienced as they called it good and success oriented. I saw more of an increase towards marketing faux care verbiage for profit, distrust, self promotion, exploitation for gain, controlling pervs, and self love. And the more I fought for living my own life as I saw fit, the more I lost it along with the joy to live it. Everyone was cheering on at my will to create as I was dying inside. With all my questions, she said this…
She told me she is humble to make others feel uplifted if only in her presence and, maybe, no where else in their lives. Even if it may be received poorly and unappreciated, she knows what she is doing and that it is good. She told me no matter what she really thinks of a person or what nonsense they are selling at their worst moment, she continues to think of how her own words in a moment of anger could hurt them even more. They are angry because they are hurt in the first place so keeping silent or repaying them with kind words can only be the best solution. She told me she knows that through this life we are not promised comfort and riches for walking in grace just because we think we deserve them for ourselves. This life is a testing ground to learn to be worthy of the grace that God ultimately gives each one of us regardless of how cruel we can be to ourselves and each other. The goal is to try to learn His grace and to be as much of a reflection of that to each other. The more we try in this world to walk in truth, the more adversity will be thrown because this world has fallen from its original intent. We all fight to be our own gods, as the dark side promises us, and lose sight of Who we should be keeping our thoughts and focus on. Our base nature is to do what is easy, feels good, and that true love in its original intent is not the popular road. She could have had it all. She doesn't miss the fancy clothes, the ability to go to fancy places, or to pamper herself, as so many do and pay a cost. The more we fight for our own desires in this life, we lose and become controlled by those desires. The more we listen to His Word and grow to trust His will, the more life we gain for eternity. The fight to change the world is not a fight we can win on our own or according to our own imperfect standards. It is His ultimate fight. We just have to know whose side we are really on and know we are cared for enough, as is, so we can look beyond ourselves and care for others while we are in this world. She told me she never thought much of herself. But she knows His will has been her strength to live in joy and love in an imperfect world. Well, I think the world of her. I wish more people could see that she is a true Queen. He has blessed her with what is most important in life and has blessed everyone who has had the honor of knowing her. He has kept her safe and able to focus on others. He has blessed me, my very willful self, most of all, by allowing me to call her mother. She has earned her title a thousand fold, just as I have earned the title of child in equal measure.