I was frightened by the things I could see. I wanted to explain them away. I felt reassured when my thoughts about them faded with time. No more. Today I fully embrace the mystery that is spirit. The possibility that we are all a part of something larger than this earthly existence. The clues are all around us and I am no longer afraid to see them, to claim them as the miracles they are, to write them down here so I never forget.
There are times when something in the present moment triggers a memory in my heart so deeply relived that I suddenly see the power that experience had in affecting so many of the choices I made thereafter. In a crystal clear instant I envision each day of my life as one watercolor brush stroke on a single transparent piece of paper as thin and fine as a Bible page.
Each painted day, normally laid-out in linear time, begins to float into an orderly stack, one atop the other in perfect register. It is then I glimpse the entire landscape of the earthly existence I am painting with my life. There in the blending of all my days.
With this new perspective I can free myself from dark, repetitive patterns I had not even realized I was laying down; layer upon layer over time.
In these rare flashes of overlapping clarity, I understand the way each experience colors and informs the next. How every kind or harsh word; every choice to be happy or sad; to feel love or anger; to forgive or to punish; to fear or be fearless; shapes and shades the larger image on the canvas of my life.
These moments of insight are always fleeting. And as the image fades, I am mindful of the masterpiece I am capable of creating with every thoughtful stroke I paint, on every delicate and precious new day I am given. Like this day. Right now. Today.
There is so much divinity in the everyday, every day.
There is a sweet little drawing of a smiling face scribbled on the wall next to my bed. The artist is my youngest child when she was about three years old. At the time I calmly told her that walls are not for drawing, and then complimented her on her artwork. I left her original graffiti there on my wall because it is beautiful, and because it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned since being a new mother of one child, to a seasoned mother of five children–a span of 19 years between the oldest and youngest.
When my oldest daughter first drew on a wall, first cut her own hair, first filled the toilet with non-toilet items, first lied to me, I did not yet know that all children do these things (or some facsimile). I did not realize then, as I do now, it’s part of growing up; of curiosity, testing, exploring, imitating or avoiding. I was harder on her because I was young and didn’t know better. Her actions were not personal, but in my own immaturity as a parent I perceived them as direct affronts. I would overreact and make a big deal out of ‘bad’ behavior by shaming or lecturing her at length for what I perceived as big infractions. By the second, third, fourth and now fifth child I know better as a mother. I don’t claim to know best, it’s just that I know better the mother I choose to be.
As I sat on the edge of my bed looking at the smiling graffiti, I was thinking how much I wished I could change the parent I sometimes was to my oldest child. Then the phone rang and there she was, on the other end of the line.
I shared with her all I had been thinking about. I told her I was sorry that when I was raising her I wasn’t as calm or as mature or as wise as I am now. I told her I wished I could talk to the mother I was then and tell myself all that I have learned so I could do better. I apologized. She laughed and acknowledged having to “pave the way” for her siblings and she told me I was forgiven. In turn she apologized to me for her teen years. We laughed together about pay-back. I loved her for the grace of absolution she blessed me with so easily.
I can’t go back in time and give myself the wisdom of mothering that I have now, but I can share it with you. (Lucky you!)
First: It’s not always about us. Our children are growing, stretching, testing. We can love, guide, offer reasonable consequences and did I mention; love, love, love them? But there is no need to bully, shame or just generally freak-out. Second: If we do freak-out or overreact (because we all do) it’s okay to forgive ourselves and do better when we know better. Third: It’s less okay when we know better, and we don’t do better. That’s when we rationalize, make excuses for ourselves or place the blame on our children for how we choose to react. We’ve all been there, let’s just choose not to live there.
And lastly: There is great courage and love in risking vulnerability and humility. There is no shame in admitting fault. Fallibility is an inherent quality of the human condition, especially in parenting. Instead of defending our less flattering behavior to suit our need to see ourselves in a better light, admitting our mistakes as parents is important in validating what our children experience, of honoring their truth.
A close friend said to me after I told her this story, “Do you know how many adults would love to hear; ‘I’m sorry,’ from a parent? It would heal so much for them.”
Wise words from another seasoned mother.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
Along the way I have struggled with the challenges any journey of creating the life you imagine is really about; facing your fears. It’s about wresting that baton from the conductor in your head, the one that keeps playing the same song of fear, doubt and failure over and over, and giving that baton to the maestro of your heart.
Immediately I was pulled to the dining room as if there were a string attached to my heart, and I stopped in front of the dining room table. I noticed a slight wrinkle in the tablecloth and I suddenly knew. All the hair on my arms stood up and I slipped my hand under the cloth and felt . . .
And then she told me her story. She told me about preparing for the very real possibility of her death as she fought Cancer. Of meeting a man at a laundromat where she had to use the cart to steady her frail and weak body. He asked her to coffee. Later, she explained to him her dire situation and the futility of new beginnings in the face of a life ending. He told her it was not the end. He told her she would live and they would marry and have a daughter. Against all odds, he was right.
When my oldest was about four, she was trailing behind me into the bathroom when I turned to her and said, “Honey, could you give mommy a little privacy while I take a shower?” To my surprise she replied, “Sure!” and left.
As I stepped into the shower, I could hear her rummaging in the hall closet. Soon she returned, yanked back the shower curtain and announced, “Mom, I looked everywhere for your privacy, but I can’t find it. I don’t know what it looks like.”
As every mother knows, truer words were never spoken.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
I like to imagine that during the short interval of days between her death and my son’s birth on the day of her funeral, they met each other in that mysterious place in-between this life and the next. I envision them together, with heads bent, foreheads touching, sharing the secret of the amazing gift that awaited me with his impending birth.