I am too busy trying to keep everything properly oxygenated to expend the O2 on chat. At 14, Molly does not have that problem. She can power up hill and chat. I can listen, nod, smile, but chatting is beyond me on the uphills. Some days Molly needs more interaction than the walks accord.
I fixed her some lemonade and handed her a pair of gloves.
This last bit she questioned with a tilt of eyebrows in that especially irritating way only teens have.
I countered with one of those don't cross that line Mother looks and resumed weeding. Molly smiled.
She likes it when I "act like a Mom".
Once we were settled into the weeding and the generalities had all been spoken Molly asked,
" Do you have a personal mission statement? "
I smiled at her and asked a question of my own,
" Are you studying Steven Covey?"
" Sort of. Not really. But I do have an assignment to write my personal mission statement."
I wondered if I had a personal mission statement when I was 14. That was back in the days when I went for early morning joy rides in my moms 500, when learning the latest dance steps seemed important and when a new zit was the emotional equivalent of a disfiguring plague all over my face.
" Are you seeking to define a mission statement for yourself? Or just to meet the criteria of the assignment?"
After an increase in the pace of weeding and a lengthy pause Molly said,
" It's a mess! If your Dad and your grandparents are your teacher how do you write a mission they might not like? What if it isn't noble?"
Like I am suppose to give my life over to pink ribbons and breast cancer research because of my Mom."
" Is that what you want to do?"
" No! And to tell you the truth I already have been started on the annual testing to see if I need to have all my girl parts removed . I know my reality. All of my years with a mother were ruled by cancer. I watched her die year by year. I hate the disease. I hate the subject. And I really hate the idea of it ruling the rest of my life too".
I looked at this pretty child, sitting in my garden trying to struggle her way through tough, tough issues.
I marveled at her bravery. To put into words that which was hugely painful and suffocating.
" Molly, is there some not noble thing you really want to do?"
I saw a shrug, caught part of a mumble and then Molly said,
" I really want to know if you have a mission statement and if you do what it is."
So we chatted a bit about what a mission statement actually is. Is it a map? A vow? A promise? A purpose. A statement of intent? I told Molly I could remember promising to do my best to always follow the 10 commandments before making my first communion. A sacrement . So yes, I do think that was a mission statement. I also took a vow when I married Blowfish and that too was a mission statement.
I made a promise to myself when I started on the path to a career in design. That too was a type of mission. Becoming a parent is a mission. Opening a business is a mission. Being honorable in all things is a mission.
Molly asked what I had taught Mermaid on this issue.
I told her Mermaid had taken an elective course on the Covey approach to life management.
An entire semester in the 9th grade. I thought it had been a fine thing for her. But Molly pressed a bit to ask again what had I done, as a mother, to guide Mermaid in making a mission statement or life map.
We did have discussions on having a dream and having a purpose. You might dream of one day being a great chef but first you have to cry your way through peeling and chopping quite a few onions. You cannot become a great chef just by reading cookbooks. At some point you have to get in a Kitchen . It is necessary to be purposeful about acquiring the skills and knowledge of a great chef. It is necessary,on any chosen path, to always pursue more. Stagnation is always foul.
I told Molly that upstairs in Mermaid's bathroom there was a message written in marker on glass. It's been there for a decade. It says,
"In order to 'live your dream' you must first prepare for the dream of your own choosing".
After reflecting Molly asked,
" Is that all?"
I did explain that in order to prepare for your chosen dream you had to first define it. Once it was defined then real plans and timelines could be applied. It was never sufficient to say " I want to have a good life".
You have to define what, for you, would make a good life. You cannot plan to win the lottery, travel the globe in your personal yacht and dance in the moonlight of the Greek Isles. You can plan on going to engineering school as a foundation for your desires to be an inventor with the goal of one day earning your way to the Greek moonlight. I explained many a life started out with the dream of becoming a great inventor but the reality was the life was lived as a successful engineer. Is this a failure or a success?
Molly still looked dissatisfied.
" I'm asking you again. Do you have a mission statement?"
" I actually like the one for the Army. You know, 'Be all that you can be', is more than a jingle on a recruiting commercial. It is a fine concept. We should all be striving to be all we can. When I was a child my third grade teacher encouraged me to ' use fully and share generously the gifts with which I have been blessed'. I have tried to always do that."
" Mrs. Fishy! Do. You. Have. A. Mission. Statement?"
" Don't get lost".
" Don't get lost"
." Don't get lost? That's your mission statement !!!!!!!!"
" Are you judging me Molly?"
" Well duh, it doesn't sound too exciting"
I would not have thought so either at 14. From my current age, it seems pretty challenging. I know now how easy it is to get separated from self. How hard it is to sometimes live an authentic life of your own choosing. To live a life in truth. To live a life which honors all vows and promises to self as well as to others. To live 'happily ever after' or to 'live the dream' . How even with maps and gps people still get lost. How all your personal resources can be expended meeting the needs of others. How it is damn difficult to make a joyful noise or be creative on demand when your life is diverted by a broken body or an unstable heart or a dying loved one or a crashed economy or a need to seek order in chaos by doing laundry. Or maybe because your mom died or your Dad has lost his way or you live with your grandparents and stare at your life in a PODS unit.
" Maybe not, but this is what I have written on the mirror in my bathroom:
'There are only two reasons dreams are abandoned .. the first is because it might be realized, the second is because it might not... without the dream you are lost'. I do try Molly, to not get lost."
Molly shrugged, put down her glass, shucked off the gloves,
" I better be going now".
As I watched her trudge up the driveway I felt regret. I had failed to give Molly information she could use.
Maybe one day our converstaion would rebound in her memory and do some good. I could pray. Then I heard a loud " Hey!" and watched Molly reverse her steps and head back down the drive. As she got closer she walked faster until she was close enough to grab my hand and stare into my eyes to ask,
" If I want to be a fashionista, live my life for me and all the girls who want to feel beautiful and alive, and not in service to my mother's death or disease is that not getting lost ?!?!?!?!?!?!!!"