The Middle Moment

 

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I’m getting older. Like the kind of getting older when you look down at your hands and they mirror back crevices and veins you swear weren’t there the day before. The kind of getting older when you catch a glimpse at your reflection and start (really asking) ‘am I getting to that point when long hair looks more haggish then hip?’ (Not that I aimed for hip. More like: what takes two seconds and doesn’t embarrass the neighbors.)

But you get where I’m going.

I’m writing about time, the awareness of it, watching your “little” girl mature in nano-seconds and you’re still remembering “goo-goo-ga-ga“.

Not because you aren’t smart and can’t see what’s in front of your face. But because motherhood and clocks get warped the minute they’re born. Am I sleeping or am I awake? Am I feeding her or did I just feed her? And when was the last time I showered? I can’t remember. Do I care? No. Yes. No. Maybe. Okay, not really. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I hoped this would change…with time. (Pun intended). But of course it didn’t. I still prefer “non-binding” clothes and completely understand, now, my grandmother’s preference for polyester pants.

I’ll skip the polyester part, but those elastic bands…? Who are we kidding. We call them “Yoga pants.”

She’d laugh if she saw me now and tell me I’m just fancying up what she’s known all along: a mother needs to breathe.

Boy isn’t that true.

Especially in moments I call “the middle” or  invisible “parentheses.”

I’m writing about the space specifically between what was and what will be.

Anticipation that offers a wide array of opportunity for responding.

They can freak out, or fill up your Soul with a chance to recognize, remember, plan and prepare. Or some quasi-discernible blend of both.

Think of planting a garden. We purchase the seeds, prepare the soil, tend to it with light, water and love…and we wait.

While we wait we anticipate hope of good. Whether food, flower or tree.

Then comes an unexpected hail storm and freezing temperatures. Also known as disappointment, or devastation, or despair. Or all three (and then some.)

There was no bounty.

Our children weren’t what we ‘hoped’ for.

The probationary period for your new job didn’t work out.

A loved one never comes home.

And the space opening up in front of you does a 180. Sun gone, clouds cover light. We’re in a hard place.

Now the unknown ‘parentheses’ presented before us has an outcome we’re sure of. We decide we’ve had enough of hoping for the best. “Middle moments” are for the birds and we’ll teach our children something different.

Life is hard.

Life is pain.

Life is a let down – most of the time.

Yes.

And no.

No…no…no….

I don’t want to go there. I might live in the Granite State but that doesn’t have to resemble my heart. In fact I love it when I see growth pushing through stone.

Mother Nature knows.

Let’s tell our children that leaning towards Cynicism after disappointments rise and fall over and over is completely understandable.

We’ve been there. We can empathize.

Let’s also tell them we understand the small strange seed of Hope looks ridiculous against a mountain of experienced hurt and if we were to nurture Joy and Optimism we’d look foolish to some.

Who cares.

Let’s tell them Middle Moments are times we can lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for remembering the good things we’ve known and release the hurts of things that caused us pain.

Because it’s worth it. And do-able. And better in the long run.

Let’s create a life for them that holds Middle Moments in our arms, first, so we can provide the modeling and mirroring necessary for their own resilient hearts.

Because the world needs heart, over machine, more than ever.

We’ve learned such hard lessons in our journey’s. We’ve licked our wounds, bandaged up broken places and made private promises never to go, do, or experience ‘that’ again.

And we’ve learned we can break our own promises.

We are still loved.

We are all, still, so deeply Loved.

And so, as the school year ends for many of our children, and summer awaits, Sedona-Grace and I send, from the north country, lots of wildflowers, sunshine, clean air, quality time as a family and hope for memory making you can cherish for a lifetime.

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Friendship

 

14470376_1032266273550509_5090653346643797627_nDear daughter,

This area of your life has been on my heart for months but I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Then you went sledding a couple weeks ago, had a great time, until one of your friends did something you didn’t like and….you bit her. Hard.

Perhaps we start there.

Obviously we need to keep our hands (and our teeth) to ourselves. But that’s probably not enough if we think about it. We can hurt ourselves and others with a lot more and unfortunately – biting your friend won’t be the last time someone cries because of what you’ve done.

I’m proud of how willing you are to say you are sorry and your handwritten cards are priceless. They come straight from your heart. There is no better offering. But this is only the beginning my dear.

As you grow there are a few more things I want you to know:

  • When a friendship ends, it genuinely hurts – regardless of who’s “fault” it is. So, I encourage you to spend less time blaming yourself or the other person. Feel the pain and let it teach you what you need to learn.
  • Sometimes the most meaningful moments in your life can be shared with strangers who become unexpected connections. I remember meeting the nicest woman on a plane almost twenty years ago. We wrote post cards for five years. I still wonder how she is doing.
  • Friendship is never “on-command” – it’s a gift. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend (or doesn’t accept your offering) do your best to accept these decisions with kindness. There are other people out there in this world who would love to spend time with you. Find them.
  • If you hurt someone’s feelings try and apologize, in person, as soon as you can. If they aren’t open to your expression – do your best to move on and wish them well in the process. You did the best you could to take responsibility for your behavior.
  • It’s natural to want friendships to stay a certain way forever. Like spending time together every single Sunday afternoon until the end of time. But life will ask us to grow in different ways. Eventually we may have to spend our Sunday afternoons alone and you will need to find a way to enjoy those hours all the same.
  • Unfortunately you will behave badly again, even when you are all grown up, and some friends will walk away or stop answering your calls as a consequence of your choices. This is pretty hard to get through, but we have to accept and respect those decisions. Even if it hurts so bad you can’t breathe.
  • Unfortunately our friends my hurt us too and out of respect for our own hearts – we have to make a hard call of distancing – loving them with different boundaries than before. This is also painful. You’ll want to still call, make a memory, laugh with them and pretend nothing ever changed. But things did change and we don’t want to get hurt again.
  • Healthy boundaries equals healthy friendships. I learned this lesson the hard way and will do my best to teach you different.
  • If you live in different places, like I have, you will meet amazing people. But then you may have to say goodbye because your new home will be far away. It’s normal to believe you’ll stay in touch. (And you might for a while.) But your new life will require time, attention and adapting. The miles between will start to make their mark and those that live far away start to live more in your heart and memories. Trust that your true friends know distance may change the shape of your connection but it can never take away the bond. Ask my friend Patria. She and I have been friends for almost forty years.
  • I know social media is out there but I’m really worried about it. Studies are confirming what scares me the most. I want you to experience good old-fashioned interactions for as long as you are able. When you are with your friends  – keep the tablets and phones turned off because you are too busy having fun: live and in-color.
  • Become a true friend to yourself – as well others. This means learning how to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ll make. It might be easier to forgive others, let them off the hook, make up and be happy again. But you have to extend the same generosity and grace to yourself. This is essential.
  • If you are with a group and you see someone left out – invite them into your circle. Be the one who shows acceptance, inclusion and value.
  • Do your best to learn from whatever hurts experienced with others. Pain is a teacher.
  • Apologize when/where you can – in person, or as directly as possible, and above all: choose love.
  • Always choose Love.

I know about friendship, mama, it means: caring, sharing, being nice, and being kind to people who are in Africa or in the North Pole (some people live in igloos). You also can’t bite people at school, or on a giant hill, and you have to be nice to animals too.”  (Sedona-Grace Age 5)11059443_10204900071756237_3967762071365016168_n

Spring Prayer

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Quiet, in the last moments of Winter’s stillness and mountains of Snow, I search deep wellsprings of Discernment, Grace and Thankfulness because Perspective comes like a hurricane when hard, unexpected events happen – like the death of a loved one.

Suddenly everyone’s clear about what matters.

We hold each other’s hands a little tighter.

Prayers are less flowery because different words push up through constricted throats: the most necessary ones released.

We look into the eyes of others and see mutual humanity on another level because mortality made it’s mark once more and there was nothing we could do. Nothing.

I don’t often talk or write about my work. For one, I can’t – legally. For another, I just don’t. Working with people is sacred ground. I have learned to tread softly.

But every once in a while we are confronted by a situation bigger than our constructs. And we are left, after the fact, sitting at a random gas station for thirty minutes – just trying to breathe.

There’s no elegant way to describe what happened. Simply, I was tasked with the notification to two children their mother had unexpectedly died.

I can still hear their screams.

Joan Didion wrote about those instances where everything changes.

Of course this tragedy catapulted me back to 2009 when my brother completed suicide and a ‘new normal’ greeted our family like a (permanent) unwanted house guest.

Standing at the crossroads of  ‘what now’ I leaned towards the hope of healing and restoration. Because we’d endured the unthinkable. We’d love each other different, be angry less, forgive more, soften mindsets, build bridges.

Like tapers lighting up an abyss – I believed this lucidity would last and the deep darkness would diminish.

But then the Siren’s of habitual living begin singing. Their hypnotic melodies of homeostasis pull us away from remembering and the emotional gash transitions into just another scar from one of life’s gut busting sucker punches.

Off we doze back into our comfortable haze of sleep walking through moments meaningful. Rote and rigid, we miss the breath, the inhale/exhale of: Goodness, Kindness, Love, Warmth, Forgiveness, Peace.

At least I did.

No major reconstruction happened so that I could say I became a healthier, wiser or better person for the pain.

I just learned a new kind of haunting ache.

 

Meanwhile the Sun rises and sets on another day.

A new season arrives – indifferent to my struggle or any other neurosis born of our culture conditioning.

The winter winds calm.

New buds emerge – like Love transmuting the Unbearable into unspeakable Beauty.

The bloom persists – steady she unfolds in the warmth of the Sun.

She is coming.

Spring is on her way…and I bow my head.

Because no matter what I go through in this life as a woman, a mother, a professional, a friend, a wife, a daughter or a member of the community … all it seems we’re ever really tasked with is whether we would choose to let Beauty break open our hearts – allowing us to Love again.

And again.

And again.

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Around me the tree’s stir in their leaves and call out ‘stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches. And they call again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say, ‘and yes, you too have come into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.’ – Mary Oliver

 

“I love you one-hundred fifty-nine”

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For every word I wanted to learn, spell or put into a story – Sedona-Grace writes numbers: proud of her process.

Hungry for more.

And despite her artistic flair for people in motion – she is just as drawn, literally, to all things mechanically inclined.

(Hello upcoming math classes for Sedona-Grace. Good-bye Mommy having a clue.)

That’s our dance. My poetic yin to her Lego-building yang.

And for the most part I can figure out what she’s trying to communicate. But I’m only mostly successful when I get my own perspective out of the way.

Motherhood offers anchorage to one of the most important interpersonal life skills: to know our kids means looking at the world from their perspective.

Sounds obvious. Parenting 101.

This morning Sedona-Grace asked “Mommy, why don’t you remember what you just said? Is that because you are a strange human?”

I think I answered yes.

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Truth is, I will always be a little on the strange side.

am different.

I am other.

And the best way for me to find connection is by entering her world with curiosity, kindness and empathic attunement.

I believe I was successful  (maybe) twice last week. When she was sleeping.

Most of the time I’m battling dragons like Impatience, Stress, Impatience, Forgetfulness, Impatience or simply Getting-Out-The-Door – with no patience.

Which brings me to something spiritual I feel every time I say good night. Our day has ended. We’ve said prayers together and tomorrow is a new day.

And that, right there, is The Moment.

I’ve done my best as a mom, I’ve been forgiven for what I’ve done. And no matter how much I missed the mark I have tomorrow.

From the  open door and through the hall I hear her sweet small voice:

Good night mommy. I love you one-hundred-fifty-nine plus a thousand.”

Good night Sedona Grace. I love you one-hundred-fifty-nine plus a thousand, too.”

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“The way we talk to our children

becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pioneering

I don’t know how often this happens to you, but several days ago I found myself doing that thing where I wonder when life is going to stop throwing another curve ball.

It’s like I have a senior moment and my pre-frontal cortex rewinds to adolescence.

I don’t want to remember “the gray” of adulthood ….or “holding the tension of both/and” when it comes to dealing with the day in and day out.

I’ve got one finger stuck in each ear singing “La, La, La, blah, blah, blah—please shut it with your high falutin’ mature perspective.”

Because I want the scene from Stargate. I want to step through a threshold from one dimension into another and look around with awe saying “Yesssssssss. Exxxactly. My life is here because THIS (better) world was the new frontier.”

And no, I’m not talking about Heaven.

I mean now. On earth. In this lifetime.

Where all the craziness falls into place and life is experienced without a (couldn’t see that one coming) situation blinding siding your Wednesday morning.

I want three days, at a minimum, of life protected from an intrusive mosquito of a circumstance.

I know… Mommy’s immature magical thinking happened again.

Sedona-Grace says “Knock, knock. WAKE UP.”

Thankfully these mental road trips don’t last too long because 1) I can’t leave my daughter unsupervised for that long and 2) it’s foolishness.

I can’t speak for your situation but I accept that I’m  a geriatric single mom of a five year old daughter who’s ten times smarter than me with an energy level that puts my ancient self to shame.

And my “Arrival” to the “Right and Good Life” I needed to choose does (and will continue to) include toilets overflowing or a 2.5 inch screw in the wrong place of a brand new tire.

Because Pioneering towards “Healing, Peace and Contentment” on this side of Mother Earth will require responding to a washing machine that sounds like an old motorcycle revving up in your basement while Sedona-Grace is making “happy water art” all over the bathroom floor…and the only clean leggings I can find to put on, while racing up and down the stairs, are these bright yellow ones found at a garage sale that literally make me look like a big banana.

Oh. Well. A part of me thinks it’s pretty funny.

YELLOW leggings?

But that’s me and life with my girl: Gorgeous wildflowers, fierce hugs, chronic lower back pain and stunning views.

We are joyful, we are resilient and we are on our way.

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.
― Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grown-Up Yoga

I “thought” I got it. (Such an intellectual whiz).

This is the life-plan for right now?

This “pose” – for days on end?

Sure, no problem. Just place mat on the floor, position the body and focus….

And…

we’re falling.

Because I’m terrible with anything that even rhymes with Yoga. No matter how much I played the part with great tops from Prana and Lululemon pants – I was just a wannabe. The surrender of sitting still when ego says ‘that’s enough’ trumped every time. I went distance running for a reason. Let. Me. Move.

But God, family and friends weren’t kidding in September of 2012. Jennifer moved back home for lots of important reasons and running a 1/2 marathon wasn’t one of them:

Be with the heartache, the loss. They said. Be with the magic. Be with your girl. Be with yourself and a new job that offers different dividends. See the gift.

New beginning on all fronts? I got this. Brave face forward. Adventure: my name.

But that’s not what *this is. There’s no Reaching-For-Fantastic but rather I’m Anchored-to-The-Center-of-Stillness. And it’s not pretty. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m terrible at it. My attitude needing constant re-adjustment. I feel vulnerable *all *the *time.

Today I came home and broke down in tears. Not poor me tears. More like, I-can’t-hold-this-stillness-any-longer kind of weeping.  A general, pitiful whine.

Sigh.

This is the juncture of true surrender and commitment. The axis point of sacrifice. The thing my friends talked about when they described what’s *hard. It’s not the duty itself, but a tenacity to stay the course when old habits bang around in your head like disorganized sirens: Dream a different outcome. Change up your life so it fits better what you deserve. Blah, blah, blah: stop. Shhhh. Be quiet. Be gone. When the going gets tough – I’m not running towards ego’s gratification anymore.

I hear Mother’s voice. She’s coming down the stairs with sweet girl in her arms. I wipe the indulgent tears away and reach for my infant daughter. Sedona-Grace buries her slobbery little face into the crook of my neck and gurgles with delight: joy indescribable.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

And…

We’re holding.

Able-Souled

She said “Able-bodied and Able-souled…are two very different things.”

That hit like an anvil against my chest. Hot tears.

Yes, yes, of course. Capacity is not defined by external capabilities. Capacity comes from a sacred spot within. And no amount of confrontation or careful consideration, from an outside perspective, can awaken that part of our humanity.

It’s an inner light that shines.

Or doesn’t.

So, what is it with me and my stubborn nature struggling to accept truth. What is it about my heart that pushes against the awareness of those who are capable of love, like my dear friends and family, expending energy, instead, on pointless pursuits of hope. What delusion grips so tight?

I don’t know.

But it’s tiresome. I’m weary of it.It’s old habit of mind and it must end.

My daughter, surrounded by a deep wellspring of love, is provided for. She is worthy.

And so am I.

Now, am I “able-souled” enough to believe it?

I better be. She is watching and learning. It won’t be enough I work hard to provide. She already watches how I nourish my body, care for friends, worship God, value family, live vulnerably. She will learn how to forgive–by the standard I set.

Again…

Am I “able -souled” enough to show her?

The truth is many of my sisters have faced situations they could not change, or control. People who have let them down. Opportunities disappointing them deeply. But they did not lose their joy. And neither can I. The sharp sting of sorrow and grief will come and go. It’s to be expected.

I wipe my tears away and look down at this sweet girl. My baby. She lies in such perfect repose.

We will be okay.

Everything…will be okay.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” 
― Rumi