What gets me up in the morning?

To be honest, it’s usually the cries of my almost-two-year-old daughter. Call it maternal instinct or the human drive to stop loud noises in the small hours of the morning. I push myself out of bed and the day begins.

Depending on my attitude, the day can go in one of two very different directions.

Some days, I feel like a horrible, no-good, very bad mother. I let the responsibilities and crises of the hour drag me forward, throwing me and my emotions this way and that. Other days, I seem to be in tune with my inner being and in favor with God all at once. On those rare days of magical alignment, I can handle myself with thoughtful care, fulfill my duties with tenderness, and go about my day with joy at an even keel.

It all depends on my mental state. If I’m thinking about all the logistics, judging myself based on task completion rates, or just how I happen to be feeling at the moment, odds are, I’m not living up to my “expectations” of how a good mom should function.

That is my fatal flaw. Because, as Fr. Herbert Alphonso writes, “All motivation flows from meaning.”

When I lose touch with what it means to be a mother, I lose heart. It’s because when we see our vocation through the lens of “doing,” we have nothing to fall back on when things (inevitably) don’t go our way.

So, what’s the alternative?

In his book, “Discovering Your Personal Vocation,” Alphonso writes,

If my meaning in life does indeed lie on the level of being, far deeper and more radical than on the plane of doing, where I function, then I can find profound meaning in anything that is entrusted to me as mission.

That means when things don’t go “according to plan,” I’m still called to “be” the kind of mother that I have been called to be. When our life plans go awry, we’re still called to be the person whom God created us to be. Our identities don’t change when our circumstances do.

So, what does that mean for us action-obsessed humans? What are we supposed to actually do … er … be?

That question is only something that we can answer over the course of a lifetime. It’s not as easy as choosing a career or being assigned to your Hogwarts House. There are no easy labels to choose from — our identities are as unique as fingerprints, unimaginably different and intricate. No two hearts are the same, no two life paths look alike.

But the one commonality between them all is the connection between who we are and who Christ is. Each of us have been called, in our own way, to pick up the cross and follow Christ. That is a self-sacrificial act. For Jesus, he was called to die, to suffer humiliation and separation from God, because of who He is: the Son of God.

Over the course of our prayer lives, our lifelong relationships, and our professional experiences, we have to be doing the self-examination work to understand who God made us to be, so we can understand how we can best take up our cross and sacrifice for the good of others. We must uncover the motif of our inner and outer life. This is how we can discover “our own unique way of giving and surrendering self in any human experience.”

So how does that change things for me on a daily basis? It makes the little decisions so much clearer, because I know who I am. All I have to do is weigh the options in the light of how they reconcile with my identity as a child of God, who has been given so many gifts.

My identity is shaped by what God has given me as He created me and set my path. It’s not about what I can do, it’s about giving what I already have — overpowering love, overflowing imagination, and an overwhelmingly incredible family.

As long as I’m not too busy flipping through my personal playbook of what a perfect mother should look like, I can be at peace with my decisions and the ways things play out in the world — no matter how early in the morning the playing begins.

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