I will never know if I would have gone through with ending my life that night, or if it was just a step I was taking in testing this option . . . moving closer to it to see if it still felt like the answer. I will never know because I have never felt that way again. . .
Posts tagged ‘change’
Our every encounter with one another, all of our relationships in this life are holy. Each one has the potential to be a sacred exchange, whether it involves laughter or tears; a simple smile or even a sneer! We need only pay attention. There is so much divinity in the everyday if we have eyes that not only see but also perceive; if we can listen with ears that hear with an open heart. It is all gift. All of it. Keep watching, keep noticing, look and see beyond things. It really does expand your world.
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.
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.
My thighs used to be like two friendly neighbors waving to each other across the fence. Evidently, they’ve grown closer over time because they seem to have moved in together. This would not be such a problem if there weren’t so much friction in the relationship. Cripes.
For most of my life I have been blessed with an easy-to-maintain, healthy body weight. I worked at it not one iota. My metabolism burned high. My addiction to drama provided enough “weight loss through chaos” to send me into sizes smaller than my bone structure every five years or so. I still own the skirt from the time my first marriage was ending. I weighed about 100 pounds. But, my God, I was an actual size 4! I know. I know! Sigh.
Then two things happened. I began to shed my codependent tendencies. I fell in love with a nice, even-keel guy, and we had a baby when I was 39 years old. I was happy. No more size 4’s for me. By the time I had my surprise bonus baby at age 46; my stomach muscles were behaving just like the pouched-out knees of my well-worn sweat pants—not so elastic anymore. My breasts and my soprano voice set sail together on a nice cruise from a perky high C, to a low b flat as I waved a tearful goodbye from the dock. Bon voyage! And it’s true; you do get more forgetful with age. It seems I’ve also misplaced my waistline.
I am now 52. That last baby I had is 72 months old. The extra 15 to 20 pounds I’m carrying around no longer qualifies as post-pregnancy weight. All my efforts to get back in shape without the help of my old diet aids (misery and crisis) have failed. I couldn’t even manufacture enough angst, or pester a fight out of my husband dramatic enough to lose a lousy five pounds. Damn these healthy boundaries! What I wouldn’t give for a little old-fashioned passive-aggressive manipulation about now. I’m sure that’d be good for shaving a pound or two. Alas, no one will participate–killjoys.
After several failed runs at diet and exercise, I noticed that my relationship with my body had turned adversarial. I didn’t like it anymore. My motivation for getting in shape was to defeat this new enemy. I exercised (if I exercised) to conquer my fat, to berate my soft belly, to vanquish my bat-winged “Bingo” arms to the church basement. But my body has proven itself a worthy opponent. It does not respond well to self-loathing. Go figure. No, literally, there goes my figure.
Today I came across a photo my daughter took of me this summer. One I would never normally share because it is not the me I care to acknowledge personally, let alone publicly. But today I felt something different when I looked at the woman in the photo. I liked her and her gray hair, her crows-feet, her soft body and her warm smile. I realize now that any changes I make to this woman, me, have to come from a place of loving myself, including the body I have right now. This body that has served me so well, doing the best it can with what it has been given to work with.
I think I’ll invite her out for a little walk. I expect we’ll get along well, she looks nice. I hope she has a good sense of humor. She’s gonna’ need it.
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Many years ago, during my darkest hour, I held a small grain of hope that there would be days like today. A still, clear, quiet, sun-dappled morning--children sleeping in upstairs rooms, an old dog curled at my feet. A populated solitude. Alone but not lonely. This is a day extraordinary in its utter ordinariness. I had faith and I am here and I am grateful.
I am recycling this blog from just over one year ago, because rereading it now, it seemed so long ago that I was wondering what transformation this particular transition would lead to. But only 14 months later, I am the CEO of my own fledgling company, Mammaste! I guess I stretched myself enough to grab that next thread . . . and it was not easy, since I’m definitely not as flexible as I used to be!
“Transitions are hard.” my friend says to me as we watch the orange bus carrying my fifth and last child to school pull away from the curb. “They just are.” she declares, just in case I missed the sincerity of her point. These words are from my dear, no-nonsense friend. Her remarks are in response to the tears welling up in my eyes. She is not a cajoler or a hugger but she pats me on the shoulder, awkwardly, like one would a dog you don’t quite trust. I’m surprised by this physical gesture from her. The thought crosses my mind that I must look pretty pathetic for her to attempt a comforting touch, and this thought is enough to make me smile. I love her for that.
Transitions ARE hard–those times when we find ourselves un-moored and floating in that in-between sea of change. It happens to most of us in varying degrees at some point. It can happen as a result of divorce, the loss of a job, children growing up and moving out, or any event that causes us to reexamine ourselves and the direction of our lives. It’s been over thirteen years since I left my job to stay home and raise my children full-time. I appreciate the gift of being able to choose to stay home and I have (mostly) loved it. But what I am drifting away from has defined me for so long, I suddenly feel like a stranger to myself.
I’ve been thinking about how I became each new incarnation of myself through prior experiences of change and transition in my life. Each time there was a point when I took a deep breath and began to look for that next thread of opportunity to follow. What I learned is you don’t find that thread with your head down. It is always up there fluttering high above you, seemingly beyond your reach until you stretch and extend yourself just enough to grab it.
I am smiling now at the obvious sentimentality of that last statement and how it would make my pragmatic friend gag. Reason enough for me to leave it in here. She is as frugal with her words as she is with her money and she would probably say again, “Transitions are hard. They just are, damn it.” Enough said.
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