My phone sits on our kitchen counter, buzzing. The dark red laminate counter that I’ve always tolerated frames my iPhone: an underestimated rectangle of information, connection, and distraction, bordering addiction. I make a mental note to add kitchen countertops to the very end of a long list in my mind of things to do, with those things that I merely wish were different, at the end.
Today, at the beginning of the list are things like: laundry, get sandwich bags, clean toilets, return library books, and write. The thing is, most days I can’t seem to get beyond the beginning of the list where the daily, never-ending tasks stay. Some days, I don’t even get through those, and my family takes turns all week fetching clean clothes from the dryer and picking outfits out based on which items have the least number of wrinkles. I hear people say mothers are superheroes, but today, I can’t even remember where I put my coffee cup.
By the time I finish thinking through my list, the phone stops buzzing. I add call sister back to today’s mental list and scratch off kitchen countertops from the bottom because in the end, it’s not a necessity, and I’m too overwhelmed to believe we could ever get there. I scroll Instagram and see someone’s renovated kitchen and someone else leading their own business dream with lipstick on and toddlers dressed like trendy teens in tow, while my own toddler calls from the bathroom for help wiping and I realize that one of my sons still isn’t dressed for school.
These thoughts enter my mind: I am the only one. Everyone else is getting it all done and living their best life dream-chasing in unwrinkled clothes. My gifts and dreams are at risk of being lost in the wash like notes and dollar bills we forget we had in our pockets.
I was told that motherhood would be lonely. It made sense in the early days of the first few years, and more recently, the early days the first-year post adoption brought us. But beyond baby blues and post adoption blues, when I hear mothers tooting their horns about whatever camps they fall in, from feeding styles to opinions on vaccinations to whether they are working moms or stay-at-home moms, or whether or not they hashtag their kids, I wonder if anyone else feels like they don’t fit. I was sure I’d figure out where I fit by now. Instead, even after a decade of parenting, of choices made by necessity, I am more like Harry Potter under the sorting hat, not fitting neatly into one school house.
It’s not just in motherhood or being a parent to little ones. It’s womanhood itself that often feels more like a lonely weight than a wonder.
There are division lines everywhere I look. I feel the temptations towards comparison, othering, fear, clinging to camps and labels, assimilating, isolating, and idolizing each other. I see the end game and how these temptations will lead us, one-by-one, to defeat.
Last week I watched Infinity War with my husband, and there’s a scene from the movie that I can’t get out of my head while I look for my cup of lukewarm coffee and tend to the laundry pile. It struck something deep in me.
The Avengers are in Wakanda, battling an army bigger than they’ve ever fought before, and there’s one scene where Wanda, one of the Avengers, is fighting this evil creature, Proxima Midnight, in a ditch by herself. Proxima overpowers Wanda, and as she does so, she says, “You are all alone, and you will die alone.” Then a second later, another woman says, “She’s not alone,” and Natasha (Black Widow) and Okoye show up on either side of the dueling women, ready to defend their friend. Together, the three women — Wanda, Natasha and Okoye — each equipped with different strengths, powers, experiences, first languages and skin colors, defeat their enemy.
Daughters of Eve, we were created by God to be strength, made by the only hand that’s held the oceans in its hollow and spread the stars out across the night sky while naming each of them. We are the embodied answer to the lie of loneliness, and we were not made to draw lines between ourselves.
Courage comes uncovered in our individual vulnerability, but our fiercest strength and victory against darkness lies in our collective fight as diverse but unified daughters.
I call my sister back and tell her that I am drowning in laundry. I text my friend Sandy about how I can’t find my coffee and tell her that I feel like I am doing everything wrong with my kids. I vox my Kimchi-Sisterhood friends and tell them how weary I feel being one of the only a woman of color at my local grocery store and my home church. I ask God why we are still living here.
The Holy Spirit reminds me to take a deep breath before telling my son to get dressed for the 456th time. Solidarity is offered. Empathy for a situation with one of my kids is communicated. Reminders not to give up and to know it matters if I do are spoken. These voices step in and fight with me. They speak truth straight to the darkness over me, saying, “She’s not alone, and she never will be.”