I have been receiving a number of notes and comments lately about one role I play but haven't spoken of much ~ stepmom. I have hinted at it here and there, and written of some of the ups and downs I have experienced in this role, but for the most part kept it on the sidelines of what I share online. I have a strong sense of privacy regarding my family, but at the same time know that the stories we have created together are among the most meaningful of my life. Now that I have decided to at least try to create a narrative of our journey, it felt appropriate to claim and declare this particular title of mine more vocally.
So here it is ~ I am a stepmom, and my family and I always laugh when we use that word. Because the first half of that word ~ "step" ~ always feels incredibly foreign to us. Not only because age differences (or lack thereof ~ my husband's son is just four years younger than I am), but because all the accepted images and ideas of a "step" couldn't be farther from the truth of our existence as a family. This has not come easy; it has taken years of work, commitment, trust and mindfulness on the part of all of us to get where we are. But that work ~ the work that I am still called to do almost every single day ~ is my Life's Work. It is more important than Swirly, more important than book deals, more important than anything. It is my greatest passion, my proudest achievement, what I value more than anything else in the world.
The word family used to feel like a four-letter word to me. For most of my life I believed I was not meant to be a part of one, as every one I had known fell apart for one reason or another. I am still getting used to the idea that this is my family. Even saying "my family" in a sentence sometimes feels odd. I am still sometimes pulled back towards the old way of thinking ~ that this isn't real, that it will fall apart, that one day some detail will shift just enough that everyone will realize I'm actually not part of this family, and kick me out to the curb. These are real fears that I struggle with all the time.
So when I say this is my Life's Work, what I mean is this: That in those moments of prickly tension within my own heart, I am determined to choose joy. I made a commitment to myself to always move towards light, especially within the circle of my family, and this commitment has worked. It requires focused attention, determination, and it often requires me to stay the course towards joy even when my fears are breathing down my neck so fiercely it alters the pace of my breathing. It is daily work, it is challenging work, but it is my most important work, by far. It is work that enables me to say with confidence and joy ~ I am a stepmom, and this is my family.