Sunset on Roe V. Wade

As the sun sets on on Sunday, June 26th, two days after the fall of Roe V. Wade, I’m trying, only partly successfully, to gather my thoughts into something coherent.

I think the first thing to do is allow a little more time to process any emotions around the enormity of this. This is huge, stunning, appalling. Take time to be with that, reach out to supportive friends, treat yourself kindly as you would after any emotional shock. Rest, drink a lot of water, exercise lightly, or heavily if that is your thing for stress management.

I don’t feel particularly emotional or shocked. We knew this was coming. And for me, shock and despair came back on November 9th, 2016. I can still feel viscerally the sickness and dread of waking up that morning and seeing the election results. And I knew in my gut and my soul, though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, that we were at the beginning of end of even the pretense that decency is a national value. So I have been processing this for years.

Right now what I feel is some anger, and most I feel fucking steely with resolve. Maybe one of the gifts of trauma I’ve experienced is that I learned that I had to acknowledge what was really happening and get really clear on what an effective response would be if I wanted any hope of getting out of it.

We need to rest and then we need to get busy. We need to educate ourselves as to how far reaching this could be and not let that happen.

A Supreme Court has never in the past removed a constitutionally granted right. Let that sink in. That’s huge. If we allow the precedent of federal protection of rights to dissolve imagine what might be next. We don’t have to imagine. Clarence Thomas is already telling us. If we allow states to decide on abortion, do they also get to decide about same sex marriage?access to birth control? Segregation? How far backward can we slide? I’m not sure there’s a limit.

Over the next weeks we need to determine what effective action we can take. I’m still parsing that out.

In the now, if we have resources, we can support boots on the ground organizations that are supporting women who have lost access to abortion.

What I want from men is for you to care about this as much as we do-and show this by taking action. We can do it without you, we have before and frankly, we’re used to it (no offense to those who are already in it, of course). Because we’re going to keep going but we’re tired. And we can’t rest while we’re shouldering it alone.

If you’re anybody who cares , I want you not to see despair or complacency as options. I want you to take a few more days to lose it if you need to and then I want you to get busy.

But until then, rest a bit and ready yourself.

Where does the time go?

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It’s graduation season and all over social media mamas and papas in my circle are proudly posting photos of their offspring in their caps and gowns. My own oldest completed the first of two graduations May 24th and will speak at her high school graduation in just a couple of weeks.

And repeatedly the refrain is “where did the time go?” We ask it as if we’re surprised, or as if we don’t actually know. And maybe, we’re so busy sometimes we really don’t know where it goes. Maybe somehow we can’t fathom that we’re actually here in this moment- that we’ve all made it to this threshold of their adulthood….and we can’t seem to remember how we got here. Except, I think, if we stop for a moment, we know.

We got here by staring sleeplessly at their glorious newborn selves, wondering how this beautiful creature could possibly have come through us and how they could even be real. We got here with every endless night of all night feeding, and teething and fussing and long days of them falling over trying to walk where we were both astounded by the magic of watching them grow and change and at the same time were grateful at the end of the day that they made it through intact. With every sleepless night, checking to see if they’re still breathing, applying compresses to fevered brows. With every set of sweet chubby cheeks and runny nose we wiped and every skinned knee we bandaged, we got here. We got here with the first day of pre-k or kindergarten, maybe excited, maybe tearful, maybe both (for them and for us), and then we got here with hundreds of more school drop offs and pickups, or loading onto and off of buses, some of these frayed and frantic moments when we were just grateful we got going for the day in one piece, and some when we had the presence of mind to squeeze the little hand that still wanted to hold ours a bit extra, knowing that wouldn’t last forever.

We got here baking birthday cakes and preparing and cleaning up after thousand of meals, peeling grapes and cutting off crusts, and cajoling them to try new things, and nudging them to eat their veggies. We got here washing umpteen loads of laundry, watching over the years as the tiny clothes became medium clothes became clothes that could be mistaken for our own. We got here when they started complaining that that shirt wasn’t clean and “why wasn’t it!” and we decided it was time for them to do their own laundry.

We got here answering the oh so many whys from tiny chipmunk voices, and playing with playdough and singing silly little songs, and learning to ride bikes and learning piano or drums or cello. We got here combing out lice and breaking up dozens upon dozens of sibling squabbles, wading through homework and getting them to do housework and questioning ourselves at least a hundred thousand times and feeling impossibly under qualified for the job but showing up every day and doing it all again, maybe with some tweaks and course corrections and often some regrets, and still we kept showing up for this task of raising tiny humans to adulthood which has no true guidebook.

We got here by cheering them on at their concerts or plays or sporting events and with dropping them off and picking them up countless times, or while oohing and awing over a thousand sweet drawings that came home with the 27000 other things in their school folders. And just as much as celebrating their triumphs, we got here holding them up when they stumbled and soothing them through all the heart aching realities of real life not always going as planned or as it does in movies and fairytales but knowing this, too, is part of becoming more real and more human, and hopefully more humane.

We got here by navigating with as much grace as we could muster, sometimes better than others, that shift from when we were their most favorite, most special person in their world to somehow the most clueless, annoying, and lamest. We got here by dealing with the whiplash of that and by taking deep breaths and we kept remembering these aliens who were once our sweet babies still needed us and especially to know that we were still there even if they Did think we were totally lame. Because we were Their totally lame parent. And so we kept showing up. And eventually, if we were lucky, we became less lame again, if not entirely cool, and we finally exhaled for a moment and realized we’d made it, just a little bit.

We got here by taking them to their first jobs, and by teaching them to drive, and then by learning ourselves how not to panic all over again as they took yet another step out into the world and away from our protective arms. We got here sending them out, bit by bit and more and more into a world where we knew full well that some of the people weren’t the people we wanted anywhere near our precious children, but we did it anyway, knowing that if we tried to protect them from everything, we would be robbing them of life itself. So we took lots of deep breaths and sometimes cried when they didn’t know it and we did it.

We got here knowing we were supposed to soak up every minute, but also realizing our own deep humanity meant we wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly, so we just soaked up as many moments as we could when we were able, and recognized that would have to be enough even if it didn’t always feel like it.

We got here by suddenly ordering caps and gowns, when all of that other stuff felt like 5 minutes ago, and by helping them plan their next steps all the while knowing these steps would take them further away from us and into this world we’re not sure we’re ready to release them too. But we took those steps with them anyway, as shaky ourselves as when they were taking their own first steps so many years ago. Because this is the stuff of life, the best and the richest, the most joyful and also the most heart wrenchingly bittersweet.

And that, my friends, is where the time goes.

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Sensory

For some reason today senses are really heightened for me. Maybe it’s simply a matter of being rested enough to feel more fully in my skin. And also regularly having some gratitude these days that I can smell things. I spent a period of a few years with fairly chronic low grade congestion which was chalked up to allergies. The thing that I noticed most about it is that my sense of smell was really dampened, when previously it had been fairly sharp.

Somehow, through no real action on my part, or at least nothing I’m aware of, it has cleared up and I’m smelling things all the time again. Mostly this it great except of course when it isn’t – like all of real life it’s a mixed bag and of course there are some odors I’d rather skip.

Earlier this morning , in a quiet still sleeping except for me house, I made scones. And I was struck by the rich scent of the pumpkin, the sweet spiciness of the nutmeg I had just grated and was sifting into the flour with my fingers. For a few moments it was delicious to just breath it in.

And later in the morning – I had a coffee. Called a Hot Cinnamon Kiss and offered only seasonally in February at Wegmans, it’s essentially a cinnamon latte with a bit of cayenne for extra kick. I mostly stick with regular coffee but I love this one and order it in season as an occasional treat. And today, the taste of the cinnamon transported me back to my so much younger community college days and a cinnamony drink called a Delaney which was my favorite order, back to another era when coffee houses were a pretty fresh concept and so was all of life.

And then, still with cinnamon, further back, to my younger teens and traveling to DC to visit aunt Sherry, who is not a fan of chocolate but loves most if not all things cinnamon, and added cinnamon to the morning coffee we drank daily that week. I was 15 when Sherry invited me to visit her, set me up with metro pass and told me where it was okay to walk and what places to avoid and left me free to explore all day while she worked. And with that gave me a sense of autonomy and freedom I’d never before experienced and took too like second nature. She gave me a window into her world, that of a powerful and confident working woman. This was so foreign to me compared to my other influences that I was never as a young woman able to see myself in that role, but I have wondered often since becoming an adult how my life might be different if I had had more and/or more regular role models like this.

This afternoon I felt and saw the warm sun coming through the window as I dozed on the sofa. Dozed and felt the warmth of the sun and weight of my little dog sleeping on my chest, drifting in and out and intermittently hearing the soft snuffling of his breath.

The best of my days are almost always the simplest, soaking up this kind of loveliness in all the small things.

Lost Futures

I’m having one of those moments where I want to do the cliché thing and tell everyone to hold their loved ones close, tell them you love them, that sort of thing. Because I just lost someone and I’m in that raw, open place that happens when something breaks down my walls and I’m more feeling than intellect for a moment or two….

But then after a bit I start thinking again, trying to process loss, which for me is really a combination of feeling and thinking it through, always trying make sense of everything from the deepest part of me I can.

The hollow feeling that opens up inside when someone dies can probably be attributed to a multitude of causes, but what I keep coming back to today is lost futures.

I don’t know about you, but I imagine forward, and there are people there. People I expect to be living in that fast forward with me, people who are supposed to show up.

This friend I was going to travel with, when life opened up a bit, and she would have been part of the old lady Golden Girls commune I’m planning (I really am planning this) if she wanted to be. We were going to grow old together, or, at least, older.

This early goodbye, it, wasn’t part of the plan.

When life opened up a bit….

I’m not sure that it does, open up a bit. Or, at least, there are no guarantees of this. And here’s where that cliché part of holding everyone close comes in. Except I’m not sure that’s a fair or reasonable thing to ask of ourselves. I think we do the best we can, and love A LOT of people. Maybe we should love fewer, so we can hold them closer? I don’t know. Maybe the point is really to be as present as possible in the moments we have, which is tough, but somehow feels more attainable.

Futures are lost when someone dies, at least those ones. But the present remains. So maybe instead of reminding everyone to hold their loved ones closer, and tell them you love them – because we’re doing this already, right? We’re that wise already? Maybe we take an extra moment while we’re holding them to breathe in the scent of their hair, to listen to them when they’re speaking of mundane things and important ones, maybe we just try and soak in the present a little more.

Tourniquets not Band Aids

We are very near the 2020 presidential election and the stakes are high. I am voting, but I always vote. I plan to vote early, in person. I really want to hedge my bets.

I’ve been thinking about the mindsets of those who are considering voting third party, or not at all – if you’re voting for Trump, well, that’s for another day. I’m wondering what you hope to accomplish with that approach.

I am voting for Joe Biden. I am not thrilled with him as a candidate. I am not thrilled with our 2 party system, I recognize both have deep flaws. I am not pretending to myself that all will be Roses when Joe is in office. I’m neither delusional nor in denial. As a more mature adult, I lean toward pragmatism with a hint of wishful thinking that sometimes creeps in.

These last years have been partly, at least for me, about smashing the illusions of the greatness of this country. There are some great things about being an American, we’ve done some great things. But there are some enormous wrongs that need to acknowledged and righted, many many things to fix.

I don’t think the election of Joe Biden or any other person will magically correct the many, many things that need to be addressed. I do not think anything will be perfect or magically fixed.

I do think though, that we will begin to return to some semblance of decency, of respect for our systems and processes and That is a worthy goal right now. One could argue that there have been many terrible things done under the guise of decency, and they would not be wrong. But I believe there’s some value even in that guise, even if some of it isn’t real, if some or much is pretense. Because if that pretense exists, then the implication is that there is some degree of right and wrong that we want to attempt to adhere to, even if, as a culture we sometimes (often?) fail. We at least indicate that we understand that focusing on our own narcissistic desires and acting from that place doesn’t acknowledge our inherent connection to and therefore our interdependence on each other.

Here’s the thing. Under Trump, we have a gaping wound that has to be addressed. We are bleeding hope, decency, compassion, bleeding out environmentally, bleeding out socially, bleeding out respect and confidence in our democratic (still flawed, yes) election process for goodness sake.

A non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party candidate either ignores or throws a few band aids at the gaping wound bleeding openly in the USA – it fixes nothing and changes nothing. The stakes are too high. With Biden and Harris in office we at least put a tourniquet on the wound and we have some hope of saving the larger system before it fails entirely.

Weightless

close up photo of brown feather on sand

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Like so many people, my mind is working overtime trying to absorb the rapid changes we’re facing as COVID-19 continues to spread at a rate that frightens me. What started as a problem elsewhere (China) has suddenly dramatically changed many lives globally at a speed that incurs emotional whiplash.

About 10 days ago, I was digging into airline change policies in order to deal with the spring break trip we are no longer taking, before I knew for sure we wouldn’t go, but already feeling in my gut this was big. And I came across references to the impact the 2001 9/11 attacks had on the airline industry (which wasn’t profitable again until 2006), and suddenly I was flashing back to that time. That time when the world, at least for Americans, was suddenly upended and I felt that same whiplash. I sat transfixed and crying in front of the TV for three or four days, trying to absorb it, traumatized by the photos and videos and stories, but unable to look away. I went to work, then as a massage therapist for a convention hotel, and worked on stranded guests who couldn’t get flights home. One gentlemen told me two of his clients had been on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.  The world suddenly felt simultaneously too big and too small, and impossibly vulnerable.

And in the days and weeks that followed, my ex and I answered the phone again and again to calls canceling all of the work we had booked  – we were both self-employed then and dependent on the San Diego convention industry, and suddenly no one was flying and there would be no work for us. And we had some reserves, but they were not plentiful, and I wondered, feeling selfish to think of it when others were dealing with unfathomable trauma and loss, how we would possibly survive it, how we would continue to have a house and to eat.

Somehow we did. I’m good at being frugal, and I picked up some bar-tending shifts (nobody stopped drinking then), and he found some small construction projects, and then a big group of Quickstar folks (Amway) kept their November conference date once planes were flying again and kept me busy  for 3 weeks doing 30+ massages a week and tipping me heavily, and then it was the holiday season and there were holiday parties to work, and things were lean but we made it, and life began to right itself again.

But it wasn’t the same as it had been before. A “new normal” emerged, one in which we felt so much more vulnerable, knowing that the rug could be pulled out from under us so easily, where we could be attacked on our own soil and not see it coming.

Over the past week as, I’ve continued recalling all of this,d I’ve had this distinct feeling that we are amidst another life defining and changing time. I felt this before the numbers started climbing so dramatically – I’ve been watching the numbers on the Johns Hopkins site since Friday, March 13, again both traumatized and transfixed. On Friday morning, the death toll was just over 5000, and as of this writing, this morning, Wednesday, March 19, the number is 8241. It was 7905 when I went to bed last night.

I’m listening to our governor’s new conferences and feeling the waves of rapid changes wash over me as schools and businesses close and people are told to stay distant and stay home as much as possible. I’m watching many people work as hard as possible to comply while others are crowding beaches and bars and pie shops (pi day!?) in ignorance or denial.

5 or so years ago I left an employer I’d been with for almost 7 years for a new position that turned out to be a really good move for me. But I was leaving something familiar and in some ways comfortable, even though I knew I had outgrown it. And at the time, I described the feeling as weightless.  An un-tethered feeling of floating between the familiar and the unknown. But that time I chose the change.

This current period of intense change is not of anyone’s choosing, I think it’s human nature for us to look for constants, for the people and circumstances we feel we can count on that feel solid and secure.  The nature of life is consistent change, but it’s not often that it happens so quickly and dramatically for so many of us all at once.  And we’re all searching in our own, weightless way now, to find some solid ground, in whatever ways we can.

I saw this as I went grocery shopping last Thursday. I left work a little early, feeling behind the 8-ball with getting food and supplies. I was already hearing of shortages throughout the week, but hadn’t had time to do any shopping until then.  And I got to Wegmans and it was controlled chaos. More crowded than the day before Thanksgiving and many shelves nearly bare. I needed basics, my regular items were low, let alone any extra. I was able to get most of what I wanted and didn’t try to stock up much (no toilet paper), and as I made my way through I saw the same stunned, determined looks on everyone’s faces.  The need to just get things to feel prepared, the need to hold onto that feeling, that feeling of, at least I can be prepared for I don’t know what.

I saw this again yesterday when I went back for some fresh items, but this time people seemed calmer and more weary. And kinder.  The shelves are largely empty, there’s no toilet paper, no peanut butter, almost no meat. My little one was hungry and melting down as we made our way through (our schedules are off kilter, like everything), and a college student stopped to tell her everything would be okay. We know that no one really knows this, but the message was sweet and clear, “I see you, I’m scared too. We’re all in this together.”  We received kind glances from almost everyone we passed. No one looked at my cranky child with impatience that day, everyone seemed to get that we’re all at loose ends.  Instead we’re looking for some solidity in each other’s eyes.

These are the times when heroes rise (and some villains too) I’m seeing such goodness, in so many people. The ugliness too, the hoarding of necessities to resell at a profit, etc. But the goodness is real.  I see people reaching out make sure our neighbors are fed, that they have necessities if they can’t get them themselves. I see people reaching out to those that might be the most lonely to at least connect through phone or text. I see some politicians really rising to the occasion and taking steps to minimize the impact on the vulnerable as much as possible, and doing so with decency and humanity. I see employers scrambling to make sure their employees are safe, and wherever possible, can still work. I see fear and panic, but I also see a lot of people rising up and showing up.

I  don’t know for sure where we’re headed from here, but I do know that things will be different when we come out the other side of this. I hope that the one big thing many of us can take from this is the solid realization that we Are in this together, we really are connected, whether we would rather acknowledge it or not. The choices I make today can literally have life or death consequences tomorrow for the people around me. This is always true, but we don’t usually have such a concrete example.

I believe we’re in a collective experience of weightless now, as our familiar routines and situations and comforts are yanked from us and we’re left to craft our own parachutes on the way down. And as with 9/11, life will be different when this is over. My hope is that it can be better. We are all being forced to slow and, and we have the opportunity to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. We will all endure losses through this, some will be more painful and more tangible than others. My hope is that, through this, we will emerge with more capacity to see and hold each other, and lift each other up. I hope we will have more desire and willingness to do this for everyone, whether we know them or not. I hope this crisis plants more seeds of love and compassion for humanity than anything else. I hope the stability and constancy we find is in our trust and faith in one another.  We need that, and I believe we have the capacity for it.

 

From Frodo to Gandalf…

The last 7 or so years of my life have been full of turmoil. The loss of my mother, and subsequently  the demise of my marriage sent me reeling through a storm I never imagined navigating, couldn’t possibly have imagined, having no context for much of what I was going to experience.

And as I’ve finally been coming out of this lengthy storm,  rather than feeling joy and relief, I’ve found myself bottoming out in way I didn’t anticipate. I’m exhausted, I cry A lot.  I have thoughts of wanting to give up, though not of Really giving up. Or somehow just giving in, to what, I don’t even know. But mostly, I’m just not sure how to move forward.  How does one do normal, when normal has left you by the wayside and continued on?

I have had so much support through all of this, therapy, many friends and family members who have shown up repeatedly to help me through this. Love, in it’s many and varied forms, carried me through.  I am not alone. And yet this particular journey has been intensely lonely. I am not unique, but I also haven’t come across a multitude of people who have left a mentally ill spouse, who know what it’s like to become the target of someone’s delusions, and have them fixate on you as the source of all of their problems.  And to keep coming at you with all of their crazy, again, and again. And undermine the hard work you are doing to create stability for your children. So while I’m at the phase in life where many I know have been or are divorcing, not so many can relate to my particular circumstances.

And so I turn back to the lessons, the stories really, from my youth. I am lately more and more aware that my core values came not just from the parenting I received, but also from the literature I was immersed in, all through my growing up.

I was home-schooled and  I spent many a content hour on my own devouring books. The richest of my memories of that time however, were from when my mom would read to my brother and I. I’m pretty sure this happened in all seasons, but what I remember best is cuddling up on chilly (for southern California) mornings, still in pajamas, with my mom and brother, drinking large pots of herbal tea and listening to her read to us. The characters became part of our lives for that time; we laughed with them, sweated with them, rejoiced with them, mourned with them. This exposure instilled in me a deep love of words and language, and an appreciation for their power. And because many of the stories we read were epic, heroic tales, the morals and values I hold as truths came from these.

Mom’s selections were mostly fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin were some favorites. I have never been much interested in Science Fiction (Le Guin being a crossover exception), much preferring to be immersed in the classic battles of good vs evil. Harry Potter came along later and my younger siblings got to experience these with her.

In my younger years, though my actual trials were few, I related most to the hero characters, to Frodo, and Harry and the Pevensie children and their counterparts.  The heroes don’t know what they’re getting into. They are generally thrust into something they haven’t chosen, and, because they are heroes, they manage to deal with it, taking their hits, oft-times bemoaning their fates, but rising to the challenges just the same. And being forever altered by the trials they live through. I’m not sure this did much to prepare me for life’s true challenges, but it did give me a deep sense of goodness and of who I wanted to be, in my own tale.

Recently, I have become more fascinated by the sages in these stories. Gandalf, Dallben, Dumbledore, Merriman Lyon. The wise ones, the mentors draw me in. Maybe this relates to my own aging, or my own search for wisdom and grounded-ness. But what I am loving most about these wise men (I wish there were more wise women in these stories), is that they not only rise to the occasion, they know what they are getting into, and they show up any way. They have lived enough to understand that sacrifice and loss are as essential to the fabric of life as love and gain, and they go forth, into the fray, willingly, knowingly.

I did Not enter this recent phase of my life willingly. When my life took the unexpected turn it did, I would have run screaming in the other direction if I could have. I would never have chosen this path, but I have survived it. Like Frodo, I wish this had never come to me. But it has.

As the dust finally begins to settle, I am left with the questions, how does one learn to live normally again, peacefully again, after so much turbulence?  After ending a marriage. After ending contact between children and their father due to unchecked, untreated mental illness. After trying to deflect incessant accusations of every ugly thing imaginable, and some unimaginable. After so much hope followed again and again by heartbreak. How does one begin again to just live?

It feels arrogant or dramatic to liken myself to say, Frodo, who’s journey helped save civilization, or to Taran, who, from humble origins, became high king. My journey was simply about my children and myself, about conjuring strength and stability out of chaos. After all of this heartbreak, I am left to mostly be just mom, and maybe something more.

Going back to these stories (did you know that Tolkien and Alexander used the same Welsh legends for inspiration?), when the adventures end, the heroes are rewarded with a journey to a restful place. To the Summer Country, or Valinor, to peace and immortality.  Frodo and Bilbo, Gandalf and Gwydion, all went off to rest when all was said and done. Taran was given the gift of immortality, but chose to stay. Taran looked around at the beautiful people he knew and loved, and felt called to stay with them and rebuild a life for them all.  And thus took another step toward maturity.

So while rest sounds infinitely attractive right now, I guess I get to be Taran. To hang on, and stay.  And start to breathe again, and work with what comes next.  I don’t know how to do that really, but a happily ever after of peace and immortality aren’t exactly on the table at the moment, and anyway, seem rather hollow without those I love alongside me. Maybe the goal is really alchemy. Maybe part of maturity is morphing from hero to sage. From the one who says please no, and dances as hard as possible to keep the bad things from happening, into the one who recognizes that sometimes bad things do just happen, despite our best efforts to the contrary.  And still says yes, here I am.

In the middle of a recent round of crazy, I said, shakily to a friend, that I’d like to become impervious to it, to any attacks.  She responded, wisely, that this sounded like enlightenment. And yes, we’re all reaching for that. But the journey along the way is much more the point. So, onward with the journey. Onward with shaking and doing it anyway, onward with accepting that life sometimes really really sucks, onward, knowing more losses are coming, onward amidst so much goodness too. Onward with living and loving bigger anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Children are Not Your Children

2013-05-10 13.16.02

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I first read this when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, and I cried for the sheer beauty of these words. Truthfully, I cry nearly every time I read this. I have more than once thought that this would be a beautiful graduation reading, but I could not be the one to read it – I can’t get through it without my throat closing with tears.

I approached motherhood with a lot of intention – my children were not accidental, I called them forth with everything in me – I wanted them. Foolishly, arrogantly,(and I have since laughed at myself over this with a few good friends), I was sure I was going to get it all right. I was going to learn from my parents’ and others’ mistakes I’d observed, and know what to do and do it, better, just right. I was blindsided by the realities of raising actual real live people. They didn’t respond and behave they way they were supposed to, and I failed. Failed and  was humbled and learned and have to keep learning that life really doesn’t follow the best laid plans (there’s a reason why this is a such a well known saying) most of the time.. And it has been a worthwhile failing and humbling that continues to stretch me well beyond my comfort zone all of the time.

When I first realized, or maybe it’s more accurate to say over the many moments where I began to recognize that I was going to be raising these girls as a solo mother, my focus narrowed. I was slammed hard by some of my personal failings and poor choices, and realized that from that time forward, I was going to do everything in my power to create the strongest, stablest base I could for these girls to leap from.

I think the reason I love these words so much, is that for me they give focus and meaning to this very intense process of raising small humans into someday adults. It is exhausting and trying at times, and sometimes feels incredibly thankless. It is so very easy to get caught in the minutiae of everyday life that I forget what it’s all about. But when I read this, it brings me back to center. I come back to the bigger picture of parenting, which my mom used to say, quoting Haim Ginott, is to raise strong, humane people. So when I read this poem, I remember.

I remember that although we are on this journey together, it isn’t all about me. That although I sometimes I have the urge to cling, parenting is about so much letting go, so they can be who they are meant to be, outside the shadow I cast.

I remember that talk is cheap and actions are everything, and frankly, I talk too much a lot of the time, and they would rather have me just show up and be with them, and show them by example how best to live, whatever that means in the moment. This is a Tall order, because what one person knows all of that? But ultimately it means being present and being as decent and strong and humble and honest as I can be, so they can learn that too.

I remember, in moments, what it was like to be 7 and 14, and I attempt to merge these feelings with some of what I hope is the wisdom of my nearly 5 decades and come up with something that makes sense in how I relate to them. Sometimes this even works.

I remember that there were many things my parents taught me that I pushed against, and some which I left behind, only to come back around to as life experiences and maturity have led me back to the importance of some of their lessons. The really important stuff they gave me stuck, the stuff of how to treat others and how to treat the world around me, and how to eat well, and how to be open minded and open hearted, stuck, it worked. So as they grow and push against me, I remember that some of this is the normal part of becoming one’s own self, and that, hopefully, the important stuff is already in there, and will solidify when it’s time.

I remember what my mother said, what so many have said, about putting your own oxygen mask on first. And sometimes, I remember to do this. But especially lately, I’m getting that doing this for myself is a gift to them both because I’m a fresher, more inspired mom when I care for myself, and, if I do this for myself, they get to learn the importance of doing it for themselves also, before they have children, if they chose to do so. This is a work in process, for sure, but a worthy one.

I remember, on my best days, how rich this journey is, how quickly it goes, and how much I want to savor it. And on my not so best days, well, eventually I remember this again and come back to it.  I look at their fresh faces, smell their hair (when I can still get away with it), and breath it the simple goodness of loving them.

 

 

 

 

 

Cocooning

 

nature macro butterfly larva

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Not long ago, I was on a wintery walk with my beautiful friend S – S is the kind of friend I can have deep conversations with, without effort. They just happen with us, I think because we resonate mutually at this level. I love this about our friendship.

We were discussing our teenagers, and specifically the apparent need for them to spend a lot of time holed up in their rooms, away from family members. S, I think, referred to this as spending time in a cocoon. Which, when I thought more on this, makes so much sense. Teenagers, are working on pulling away from their families, of differentiating and developing their own sense of selves, more and more independent from those of us who gave them life. We see them through our own lenses, but they need to develop a vision of self that is their own. They emerge, eventually, as something, someone different. Hopefully, ready to fly, but, at least in my case, I want my butterflies to know they have a  place with me to come back and touch down and rest now and then, if needed.

I made the comment, at one point during the conversation, that I wish I’d been less sheltered, and had the opportunity to explore life a bit more, while still in the warm cocoon of my parent’s home.  I’m honestly not sure whether this would have changed much for me, but it was an interesting thought. And as a parent, I’m doing my best to walk the line between giving her the cocoon space (she’s in her room on her own as I write this), and pulling her back out a bit to engage in our family and in the life we still largely share, and throw in my two cents here and there, hopefully in a way she can hear, but sometimes not.

All of this made me think more about the concept of the cocoon, or cocooning, if you will, and that there have been a number of times in my life when I could have really used this, the ability to pull in completely for a bit in times of intense transition, and with any luck, emerge transformed and more whole.

Early motherhood comes to mind – I can think of few times more raw and tender for me than this. This time when my body was completely altered, and exhausted from bringing forth life. And then trying to know what to do with this person I created, some of it coming as pure instinct, and some of it feeling completely foreign and unknown. There is this perception, still I think, that we’re just supposed to know what to do as parents, we just become them. But wow, did I Not feel that way after my first was born. I had a lot of support with this early on, and didn’t work right after she was born, which I’m really grateful for. But so many don’t have this option.

After a loss  – I think we need this so much after a loss, or maybe just after any major transition. After my mother died, and again, when my marriage disintegrated, I wanted so much to be able to stay home alone for a week or so and curl into myself, and weep for all that was no more, and all I had to become, like it or not.

Nests – I think when my “nest”empties, I will want this again. I feel it already a little, this shifting in my very being, with this first girl of mine, who is stretching and spreading and needing me so much less – we talk frankly about this lately – I will need to become something new when my intense work of mothering is done. I have some inkling of who I may become, but it’s really more of a soft lump of clay right now, and when a little definition begins to emerge, the wind shifts and smooths it back over. Not time yet.

Given that the opportunity to completely withdraw for a bit hasn’t manifested in my life, I’m thinking now that following my teenagers example might actually be smarter and more realistic. So today, instead of jumping into that endless to do list, I dozed on the sofa with our Ginger (kitty) and listened to the kids in the background and felt some things unwind and reform, into what I’m not yet sure, but I am sure it was right.

Back of the House

red and brown floral stair carpet

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you’ve ever worked in the hospitality industry, the term Back of the House means something to you. To those not in the know, Back of the House refers to the behind the scenes areas where all of the magic happens. The kitchens and prep areas where beautiful food is prepared, where dishes are washed, where serving items and decor are stored and made ready to use, to create the magic of an event or dining experience.

When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I worked as a banquet server. I started off at a very middle of the road conference hotel, and later was encouraged by co-workers to apply at some better places. One holiday season, I was hired by the Hotel Del Coronado, a lovely seaside Victorian resort hotel, famed as the location of several well known Marilyn Monroe movies, and which hosted many elegant events.

The hotel was under restoration at the time (during our orientation, it was stressed that we were to phrase this accurately to guests as a restoration rather than renovation, the distinction being significant, apparently, to the marketing of the hotel).

The hotel boasted some very lovely event spaces and ballrooms – the Crown Room is known for having hosted prominent political dignitaries. All of the areas guest could access were lovely and elegant, some being, as it were, restored to previous splendor.

The back of the house….not so much. I was initially shocked at how shabby the back of the house areas were. Old, faded, chipped paint, cracked tiles. None of the facade we shared with our guests translated to the behind the scenes work spaces. Functional, for the most part, they were. Attractive, they were not.  If you’ve ever lived or spent time in an older house, you’ll know what I mean when I say that even layers of fresh paint in some areas couldn’t cover up years of grime and wear and bumps and scars. The true history of the space was readily apparent in those walls and corners.

This makes me think of the facade many of us present to the world, and how imperfect our personal back of the house areas can be. But in many ways, this is where all the work happens and where the real magic comes from, where the real gold is mined.

Somehow,  in my growing up, I made the determination that my flaws were bigger, or worse, than those of the average person. Why else did everyone else seem to have it so together, while I felt so awkward, inelegant and clueless about the things so many seemed to know about? I was and am an intense overthinker – how could I possibly stack up and have something worthy to offer, compared to so many people who just act and move forward with ease?

Not long ago, someone I had recently met remarked upon what they considered my poise. I laughed aloud (still laughing at this,really). Can I really have outgrown that utterly awkward ugly-duckling self I have identified with for so long? And then someone I consider accomplished, elegant, and inspiring, let me have a peep into their “back of the house” and whoa! Come to find out, in many ways, so similar to mine. At this point, at the ripe old age of my current ripe old age, that shouldn’t be surprising to me, but it was, and it made me think about my perception of myself, and think that maybe it’s time to rethink it once again. Maybe we all should.

More than anything, what I’ve started to recognize how important it is to show up and just live, warts and all. There’s so much to do – we have so much to give, and so little time, really. Self-acceptance is an interesting journey – I myself have made some massively foolish life choices, with my head in the sand and guided more by my heart than said head. But here I am “poised” and ready for the next chapter. Join me?

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PS –  A scene from my current, actual house. Ahem.