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By Catherine Pavia

Me with my 4 kids: The “something” I found that has taken precedence over my career

As a teenager, I knew I was destined to do something great in the world. I knew with all the passion and surety in me that Heavenly Father had something for me to do, and that something, I told myself, would occur in the context of paid work, of a Career. But I wasn’t sure what career or field I should pursue. I had a lot of varied interests and talents, so I looked forward to my patriarchal blessing telling me where my avenue

of influence would be. I was completely devastated, when, upon receiving my blessing, it mentioned nothing about a career, nothing about what I should study. As Thorin, the dwarf, said in The Hobbit, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something . . . You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

This is a repeated theme in life in general, I think. I’m experiencing it again right now. We moved to Utah this summer so that I could teach at BYU, hopefully in a tenure track position when our youngest 2 are a little older. So far, though, what I was looking for in the move has not materialized. I’m wondering what the “something” is that I’m going to find—the something that may not quite be the something I was after.

I trust it will be good, though, just as the blessings of church service and motherhood have been, which is the “something” I found in my patriarchal blessing years ago when I did not find mention of my career. In hindsight, I think Heavenly Father knew I had enough drive and focus in me to take care of the career part myself, but that I needed Him to place the emphasis on what was eternally important and what I was destined to do that was great in His kingdom.

One of my favorite poems when I was in college was Edward Hirsch’s “For the Sleepwalkers”:

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.
That’s why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

I love this poem partly because of its imagery (to “know it is morning by feeling shadows,” for example) but also because of the message that I took from it about having faith in what you find in life—more faith in God, more faith to follow that “invisible arrow” leading us to choices that we feel in our hearts are right, more faith in ourselves and in our legs, to take that next step, to make that change, to do what we think we might not be able to do. I love the idea that our hearts, were they independent of our bodies, would soak up everything good that they could and would close around those things tightly and bring them back to our bodies to experience. And I like the description of faith as “desperate,” because sometimes it really is. Finally, I like Hirsch’s ending thought–that taking a risk, that holding onto that faith so desperately a
nd acting on it, has nourishing and surprising rewards, one of which is that we “wake up” to who we really are, we wake up to ourselves.

So tell me about “something” you’ve found that might not quite have been the something you were after. Tell me about the nourishing and surprising rewards of your own “sleepwalking” endeavors.
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About Catherine Pavia

(Prose Board) has worked as a cherry sorter, file girl, piano teacher, writer, editor, and college professor. She currently works full-time as the art director, events planner, chauffeur, and referee for her four children. She spends a good deal of her time running—be it down the supermarket aisle after an escaped child, around the living room in a heated game of flag football, or on early-morning runs/therapy sessions with her neighborhood friends. She earned her BA and MA in English from BYU and her PhD in English from UMass Amherst.

9 thoughts on “Sleepwalking”

  1. love you way of shinning a light on what happens to must of us in real life. the plan very seldom equals the reality. My backstage theater career plans some how turned upside down and made me a teacher of special education and a lover of family history, How I got here I don't recall but what I found here is a place to give and receive love and I am happy.

  2. I thought this post was wonderful. Gorgeous elegant poem, beautiful imagery, and I thought your analysis was perfect. I'll be thinking about this all day. Thank you, Catherine!

  3. I loved this poem and this post–I have also felt myself walking blindly through much of the last decade. I thought I wanted a career, then I found that I really liked staying home with my kids, and then when I found myself enjoying that I ended up working full-time and trying to find my way into a good career field. I have definitely been following promptings and trying to find that "invisible arrow" guiding me–I still can't see around the corner too far into the future, but I'm walking all the same.

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely poem and post today!

  4. Oh, Catherine, how I love this! You and I have had several talks on related topics, so you know that I know where you're coming from. I wonder sometimes if we do our youth a disservice to talk about a "chosen generation"–I heard that growing up (and I hear it said often to the youth now), and I think I internalized the message as meaning I was going to do something extraordinary–I was going to be special. And I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that I'm not, in fact, likely to do anything extraordinary and sometimes it's hard to accept. But maybe the real problem is that my "extraordinary" was based on worldly terms. And maybe when God looks at us, he seems extraordinary in entirely different terms.

    After all, it *is* extraordinary to be smart, and qualified and hard-working, and to make the sacrifice to stay home, trusting that God will make use of your talents in different capacities than the ones you initially envisioned. (I'm talking about you, in case that isn't clear! ;))

    I'd never read this poem before, but it is lovely. Thank you.

  5. It's a gorgeous poem, which I've been thinking about for the past day.

    For me lately, it's been the "waking, nourished and surprised" moments. I'm trying to remind myself to pay attention to that part (and not the footsore tiredness at waking) and exult in it.

    I really, REALLY like that poem!

  6. Jennifer, I love the simplicity and yet supreme importance of what you've found–a place to give and receive love. Thanks for sharing!

    Jessie, One of the things I love about that poem is the idea of an "invisible arrow," and like you said, the importance of just keeping on walking.

    Rosalyn, Thank you so much for your thoughts. I really treasure your friendship. I know that you are "extraordinary" to many people, including me!

    Kellie, I love your emphasis! I hadn't paid particular attention to that phrase before but it points to something I could definitely stand to incorporate more in my life.

  7. What a fantastic poem! I've always thought of myself as living so wide awake and aware, but then here I am at 57, thinking "What the heck?! Where am I and how did I get here?" Sleepwalking, apparently. However, I walk with desperate faith and trust in my own heart, willing to drink that stupefying cup of darkness, all for hope of the Dawn.

  8. I had a dream career for a long time. First, the finances weren't right, then the timing wasn't right, then the lack of support wouldn't have made it easy. I thought my dream matched my patriarchal blessing and thought it could only be one thing. When I let that dream go (for all the above reasons, plus one or two more), I found something else that fits my patriarchal blessing and I love. It's not a career most people would pick; heck, it's not even a career. But I'm good at it, I like it and it gets me out of cleaning the house (which I'm not good at! 🙂 ).


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