A Mother of 8 Who Puts Her Wisdom to Music
Marie Bellet Says Dying to Self for Your Family is Not Stupidity or Victimization
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NASHVILLE, Tennessee, NOV. 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Love your children, forgive your husband and laugh at yourself. This is how Marie Bellet, a stay-at-home mother of eight, songwriter and recording artist, tries to live her life.
And what she tries to communicate to other mothers in her songs.
In the songs she pens, she admits her struggles in her vocation as a wife and mother, but recalls that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
Bellet, who has a master's in business administration from Vanderbilt University and gave up a career in health care to start a family, has now released three CDs (Elm Street Records).
She shared with ZENIT how she hopes to reach out to women like herself with her music and remind them that the sacrificial love of motherhood is a glorious transformation of self and a witness to hope.
Q: Why did you start writing songs?
Bellet: I started writing mostly because I couldn't help it. I was very isolated with five boys under the age of 5 and another baby on the way. I had no family in town and a husband who worked constantly.
I really needed to talk to someone and I wound up talking to myself. That is mostly what my songs are, except with a little rhythm and rhyme. I guess I started writing as a way to comfort myself.
Q: What are the inspirations for your songs themes and lyrics?
Bellet: Trying to make sense of everyday life. Trying to see the supernatural in the ordinary. Making sense of everyday life includes trying to see the design in it.
The key is always humility. Unfortunately, you can't just get it on tap. I tried to fake it while I still had the energy. No matter what came along, I was sure I could handle it. Pretty humble, don't you think?
Like most everyone else, I was relying on myself while telling myself I was relying on God. I'm sure I still do. But once you are on to that illusion, you know you just have to beg God for every ounce of faith, hope and love he can spare, and hope you don't block it in the transmission.
So I go to confession to stay in a state of grace and I throw up a few dozen aspirations during the day to keep my heart on Christ. If I am lucky and the kids aren't screaming in my ear, I do a little spiritual reading.
When I can manage a rosary, it brings peace. All the other mortifications are ready and waiting for you, right around the corner. I don't go looking for them.
Q: How does your faith play into your music?
Bellet: The Catholic faith is so real. It tells us that the boring struggles with the mundane are real dramas that take on supernatural meaning. You cannot compartmentalize a moment of it.
And the faith tells us that driving down any given road, eventually you will pass a building where the infinite, loving God sits in a box, a prisoner of love just waiting for you to say hello. How charming is that? How can you resist?
If we would quit trying to be so sophisticated, we would see that he really is trying to make it easy for us to understand that we need him. My faith tells me that no matter what, if I stay close to the sacraments, it's going to be all right. That helps me to keep perspective and it is that perspective that I write about.
Q: How do writing, recording and sharing songs with others help you in your vocation as a mother? As a Christian?
Bellet: I start writing songs about what is bothering me on any given day, but I can't finish the song until I have made some sense of the predicament.
For example, it was easy enough to start that husband-and-wife fight song called "Don't You Think I Count." I was mad. But I knew there was a wider puzzle. Men and women count love differently.
There is a real miscommunication underneath all the destructive self-pity. I don't think you do yourself or anyone else any favors by simply ranting and raving about how you wanted it to be. That is what the feminists do and it has been unbelievably destructive. I think God is asking us to go along with the gag and he will let us in on the punch line in the next life.
Performing has taken me to big audiences where strangers pour out their hearts and I see so much that we are all the same. Everyone thinks their problems make them so unique, and the Enemy has them convinced that the proper response is to isolate themselves in shame and rage.
The exposure has helped me to relax and realize that it is the human condition that makes the trouble, not my specific circumstances.
It has also helped me to see what our media culture tries to obscure -- that there are so many good people out there fighting the good fight. In fact, there are a lot of secret saints out there, so many individual lives of heroism.
Q: What messages do you want to send to other mothers via your music?
Bellet: Mostly I want to tell them that if their vocation is difficult, it is not because it is a mistake. There is a very Protestant notion in this country that, as they say in the South, if you live right, life will be smooth and easy -- as if righteousness were an insurance policy against pain. I don't know where you find that in the Bible.
Most women feel that if there is trouble in their families, it is because they have done something wrong, or married the wrong guy, instead of recognizing that it is normal; it is part of the deal, and it is not a mistake.
Crisis in marriage is on the schedule. As a result, often when religious women start having trouble, they are afraid it is because they are not holy enough, and that if they admitted their pain to another good woman, they would be exposed for the sinner they are. It is like blackmail.
Often, Christian music will make it sound like if you had any faith at all, you would be on some sort of emotional high most of the time. I don't think it is very charitable to put people in that position. I also don't think it is helpful to go on and on about how strong your faith is, when it is totally a gift and you have no business taking credit for it.
My music is not for Holy Rollers. I wanted my music to reach out to women like me, and touch them right where it hurts, then remind them of what they already hoped was true: that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
When you are a mother, you don't get to go out in a blaze of glory, you go out by dying to self a little more every year, until you don't even remember who you thought you were. Feminists think that is a grand tragedy. I say it is a glorious transformation and a great witness to hope.
If I were to put my message into sound bites they would be: Love your children, forgive your husband and laugh at yourself. Real life is good enough. There is no love with out sacrifice. Sacrificing for marriage and children is not stupidity or victimization, it is the noblest thing we do.
Q: What are the particular challenges for mothers of traditional families today?
Bellet: I think that when the modern world sees a large family they suspect ignorance, exploitation and a lack of ambition. I see generosity, loyalty, intensity, adventure and heroism. It is hard to be always misunderstood, but it is the promised lot of any Christian.
The challenges are what they have always been -- both parents have to get over themselves and spend their lives for each other and their children. This country is missionary territory when it comes to marriage and the family. No one wants to get stuck doing all the messy, stinky dirty work of love.
We have been told that if we are clever, we can have love without sacrifice. But there is no love without sacrifice. Sacrifice sounds very big and dramatic, but in real life, it is usually just ordinary and irritating. I think it is probably true to say there is no love without irritation.
The challenge to parents is the battle with the self. Coincidentally, that is the battle for everyone, regardless of vocation. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that freedom is in the escape from relationship. But escape from relationship is the opposite of love and a detour straight to jaded misery.
This culture of death makes ordinary love all the more dramatic by the sheer contrast. It is kind of fun to show up with eight kids and shock them all. What an honor to so easily be a sign of contradiction and witness to hope: to show that it is OK to just relax and let life go where it will.
Love is creative and risk-taking and always creates something beautiful. You don't even have to do anything unusual. We just have to get out of the way.