A couple weeks ago Jordan and I were soaking in a hotel hot tub under the stars in Jackson, WY. It was so soothing and made me forget my broken heart momentarily.
Soon we were joined by another couple (Larry and Val) and we easily fell into simple conversation about Jordan's job, living in Utah, Larry's vacation home in Mexico, Val's job as a massage therapist, and after awhile the conversation naturally came around to me. I had been quietly soaking up the warmth of the hot tub, only contributing to the conversation superficially, and letting Jordan do most of the talking (which is his absolute worst nightmare, but he seemed comfortable enough taking on that role for a night). Eventually Larry asked me "Julie, what do you do?"
Such a simple question, but one I could not easily answer. What do I do? I found myself instantly debating how much to tell this new hot tub acquaintance. Do I tell him I'm a mom? If I do will he ask about Jonah, and then do I tell him that he died? Will he want to know more about Jonah or will the conversation take an awkward silent turn? And then will I start crying in this hot tub? Then will I have to get out of the hot tub? I was sure that the "childless mother" answer would be more than this pleasant couple bargained for, with such a simple question. So I said something about being a business owner...preschool...art classes...blah blah blah.
Afterward I felt so sad. Being a mother to Jonah is the greatest job I have ever had. It is the title I am most proud of...my dream job. It is the hardest job I have ever had. I literally gave everything to the work of being a mother, my body, my sleep, my mind, my heart. It required me to stretch my capacity and develop new skills. I had days when I felt unqualified, incompetent, and sure I had missed some important training meetings. Despite all that I wanted to be a great mother. When I think of the other jobs I have had they all seem so unnecessary, so trivial. It felt like a betrayal to leave motherhood off my verbal resume, just to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
So last night, I found myself in a similar situation, with new acquaintances. The question came to me again "Julie, what do you do?" This time I felt the same hesitation, and a twinge of sympathy for the one who asked. I said "I am a mom, to a beautiful little boy, he died 6 weeks ago. So right now I don't know what I do, but I'm trying to figure it out."
As you can imagine I got astonished looks, and condolences, and then the group slowly dispersed into smaller more comfortable conversations...not knowing what to do or say. I can't blame them, I probably would have done the same. They were not prepared for my answer.
It was awkward, but I felt so peaceful. It felt honest. I would rather have hundreds of honest awkward moments, than one comfortable yet shallow conversation. I hope you feel the same. When we ask someone to tell us about themselves, to tell us who they are, are we really prepared for any answer, or will we only accept the expected?
I appreciate people who hear my honest answer and want to know about my heartache. I am amazed by people who are not afraid...who ask about Jonah, even people who ask how he died. I know most of these people have experienced their own grief. I would rather walk from a conversation crying, than feeling the numbness of not mentioning his name.
I have promised myself that I will continue to tell people about my heartache when they ask who I am, because it is a huge part of who I am right now. I hope that when I ask you a seemingly simple question about "how you are" or "what you do" you won't be afraid to tell me the truth.