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I Want it All

By Maralise Petersen

Often it happens in the early mornings while I’m studying. Or after a busy day of kids’ activities, preschool, grad school, therapy. I’ll notice it start with a quiver, a tiny movement that stops my eyes mid-sentence. Or I’ll detect a tiredness in my back that seeps through my arms making them keep time to some unseen conductor. I try to stop it. I think, “I’m just over-tired” or “I’m too young” or “Please, no.” Sometimes I pretend it’s not there, I shift positions or dismiss it. Is it slight? Yes. Is it undetectable to my husband, my children? Yes. Could it be nothing? Yes. But it’s terrifyingly real to me.

You see, my dad has Parkinson’s disease. And so does my thirty-six year old brother.

Justine Dorton in her witty and delightful essay, Guilt says, “I don’t believe the mantra that women can have it all.”

My reaction to reading this statement is similar to Marlin’s response when he and Dory realize that the miraculous and lovely light in the depths of the ocean is the lure for a terrifying predator. He says, “Good feelings gone.”

For some reason, admitting that we can’t have it all (a pretty easily accepted fact for both women and men whether healthy or not) feels like giving up before the game even starts. Shouldn’t we at least try to have it all, make hard decisions along the way, own those choices, and keep trying?

I know that for me, I want to shake while watching my son’s T-Ball game (if shaking is indeed in my future). I want to shake through my classes. I want to shake while reading James or Austen or Walcott. I want to shake while taking pictures, while wandering in a public garden, while working, while mothering, while speaking in church. I want to shake and laugh and cry and be. I want it all.

About Maralise Petersen

(Emerita)

8 thoughts on “I Want it All”

  1. From believing I had inherited wonderful sight to finding out I had family history of hereditary adult-onset blindness (from a previously undisclosed father – another story!), it's made me more appreciative of what I can see now. There's no surety that I will go blind, but if I do, I want to have seen it all, and "have it all" stored in my head.

    I believe we all have something that we dread happening to us physically, be it blindness, Parkinsons, growing hair, losing hair – whatever it is, we all have a fear. Thanks for this post to remind me what we do in spite of it, not because of it.

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  2. Maralise, I don't think I'm selling out when I say I don't want it all. I really don't. There are plenty of things I do want — experiences I want to have, people I want to know, things I want to learn — but there are a lot of things I am comfortable without.

    I really believe that the Spirit guides us all to the things that we can do in this life. Those things, whatever they are, should constitute each of our own "all". We can each have all that we want if we are living close to the Spirit. That very guide though, might change our definition of 'all'.

    I, for example, do not want to swim the Amazon river. I do not want to see the North Pole; I don't care to find out how much I can drink before I pass out. I'm ok without orbiting in space…you get my picture.

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  3. Mara, that was beautiful. Thank you. It made me think.

    I really love this quote by President Faust on having it all (Ensign May 2000 p.95). He's speaking to the Young Women in the church, which is why he explains what "sequentially" means:

    "Women today are encouraged by some to have it all: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world. For women, the important ingredients for happiness are to forge an identity, serve the Lord, get an education, develop your talents, serve your family, and if possible to have a family of your own.

    "However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. You cannot eat all of the pastries in the baking shop at once. You will get a tummyache. You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent Church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially.

    "Sequentially is a big word meaning to do things one at a time at different times. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under … heaven.” 12 There are ever-increasing demands on women that challenge their traditional role of caregivers. But as women, the roles of wife and mother are in the center of your souls and cry out to be satisfied. Most women naturally want to love and be loved by a good man and to respond to the God-given, deepest feelings of womanhood—those of mother and nurturer. Fortunately, most women do not have to track a career like a man does. They may fit more than one interest into the various seasons of life."

    I love the idea of seasons of life. We can have all things in their season.

    For me, this means that one day I will return to school and get another degree. It may not be as fabulous as I imagine it to myself; my danger has been in thinking so much about that future fabulous season that I forget to enjoy the season I've got now.

    Along the lines of what Justine was saying, this is from Elder Richard G Scott, BYU Devotional Talk "Have No Regrets," given September 12 1999:

    "This example [he's referring to a talk by President Kimball] has taught me that there are currents of divine influence in our lives that will lead each of us along the individual plan the Lord would have us fulfill here on earth. Seek, through the Spirit, to identify and carefully follow the current of direction that the Lord has placed in your life. Align yourself with it. Choose, willingly, to exercise your agency to follow it. Do not be overcome by concentrating solely on today and its challenges, difficulties, and opportunities. President Kimball called those things the relatively insignificant surface winds and waves of today. They are the preoccupations that must not capture your interest and attention so as to consume your life."

    I just love the idea of aligning myself with a divine current of influence. I hope I'm where I need to be. I may not have it all, but I can have all God has planned for me, and trust that it is superior to what I would have chosen without His influence.

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  4. Mara, I love your courage and determination. I love how you envision yourself not surrendering to the downward pull of mortality, but rather to keep fighting it. I can see you carrying on, doing great works, to the very extent of your abilities, with or without chronic illness. Yes–you will have a full life, overflowing, no matter what challenges you face, because you want it.

    I think your point here is not that we should seek to experience every possible thing in life, but that we should not let our desires be dampened by adversity. We each have our own configuration of what we want in life–should we try to have it all? I answer YES–as long as we are open to the influence of the spirit.

    I love the "pastries" quote–I've thought of that often ever since Pres. Faust said it. I love the "divine current" idea too. I do think that the divine current can often lead us to do extraordinary things, though. I don't think we necessarily have to sit back and say, "I can't do that now, it's not my season." The spirit, combined with our passionate desires, may enable us to do more than we might think. Remaining open to the current, submissive to its pull, is the is key–and it's not always easy…

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  5. p.s. I meant to say that I don't think Justine was advocating any kind of wimpiness–rather, self-awareness, integrity to what matters most to you, not falling prey to living a life based on what others think. For each of us, that means not regretting our spirit-led decisions on how to structure our lives. And that doesn't mean our lives will look the same as our neighbors'.

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  6. I'm with Kathy. And I hope I don't sound "oh-I'm-so-pious" or anything.

    Truth is, I pretty much don't have a clue about most things. I agree that my life will change as I enter different seasons, and I love how Pres. Faust put it. That's why he's the big-guy at the pulpit and not me. The idea that we can accomplish great things in their own time is where I comfortably lie.

    And Mara, don't we tell our kids all the time not to be afraid of hard things? I find that I need to tell myself that, too. Let's be strong women together. Be strong, honey, because if you can do it, you can help me do it too.

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  7. I agree that there is a time and a season for everything. But, sometimes I get sick of hearing that. Because it often feels like an excuse to put off things that are hard or it's a place where our fears of the unknown reside, and sometimes it's a way to hold ourselves back for no good reason. I'm not saying that everyone needs to have the same goals/ideals/agenda. I'm not saying that we should run faster than we have strength. I'm not saying that we need to ignore the spirit. I'm saying that we all should live more. Feel more. experience more. love more. know more. be more.

    I love this concept. I think we can have it all. How we define "it" is of course subjective. But, whatever "it" is for each of us, we should work to get it.

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  8. Just ran across your post. Sorry to hear about your father and brother, and about your fears. I have Parkinson's too, and though it's not fun, there's a lot of hope. Just this month I've heard of research on three potential cures. If any of them pan out, there should be a cure within 5-10 years. There are also new diagnoses that might catch Parkinson's early, which is good, because then you can start treatment that might delay progression.

    And you're right not to want to hide if you get it. You've got to live. And I believe you can have it all, just not all at once, and not all in this life.

    For an interesting perspective on Parkinson's, you should read Michael J. Fox's LUCKY MAN.

    Rick

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