Thursday, September 22, 2016

Say Yes: The Ages of Humanity


Part Two took a while. That's okay. At this stage in life, we often turn things in late. Keep reading to see what I mean!
 
I’ve always thought that humanity’s growth paralleled the growth of your average human being, even acknowledging that the average of anything is an abstract concept and doesn’t exist in concrete form.

It’s not a terribly new idea, but think about it. For a large part of humankind’s early existence, we kept pretty busy just trying to get from Point A to Point B, put food in our mouths, and not die. Sounds like toddler life to me. Then, by the “Middle Ages” we advanced to the lovely stage that includes bullying, a black-and-white take on matters of law, and a complete inability to deal with hygiene. Does that sound like second grade to anyone else?

I look at humanity right now and think, Holy crap, are we ever in the teen years.

Seriously, how many of these describe A. Teenagers, B. Our world right now, or C. Both?
—We have moments of brilliance
—We have moments of utter imbecility
—We argue endlessly about which is which
—We stay up WAY too late for our own good
—We put off taking care of ourselves because we’ll never get sick
—We ignore what we can’t see (Pacific garbage patch, anyone?)
—The internet
—We elect insane morons to be…well, anything…just because they’re popular
—We can be colossally shortsighted and inconsiderate
—Our hearts are beginning to stretch large enough to include others

No need to grade the quiz; I’m sure you’ve gotten the idea.

And it’s not just me! I’ve always thought the Bible, which has the advantage of being written during multiple stages of history, reflects that. If you’ve ever raised a toddler, admit it—you sounded a bit like the Old Testament God at times. You make these crazy specific and absolute rules about things you never thought anyone would NEED a rule for. In my case, “THOU SHALT NOT CARRY LEGOS IN THY MOUTH.” The Old Testament God had a thing about wearing mixed skins, etc. I’m sure there were reasons.

And, much like I’ve dropped the Lego Law in my house—it’s just not needed now—the Bible shows a new approach in the New Testament. Jesus, kind of like that hip church youth leader you get in middle school, says, “What if I told you the only law is love?” That’s when the twelve and thirteen-year-olds fall in love with how cool they are and start correcting everyone who doesn’t think the same way.

I’m not the only one who sees this, either! If you’ve got the time, check out this fascinating address by the Anglican Archbishop of Wales, who sees a similar progression of understanding.

Like many a teenager’s parent, I’ve often despaired for our future. I’ve had my share of Really? and You thought that would work because….? and Duh moments as I’ve contemplated our collective choices.

It’s always the case, in any learning, that the closer you come to mastering something, the more unpredictable your performance is. An orange belt in karate may miss the target on ninety-nine punches out of a hundred, but they’re mostly pretty ineffective punches. A brown belt, on the other hand, may misplace one punch out of a hundred, but it’ll have some power behind it. Which does more damage?

And, as teens approach mastery over large life skills, they get cocky and nearly die. As our human races approaches a point where we CAN, conceivably, meet the basic needs of all humankind, it seems like we’re killing people for such dumb reasons. We’re making those tragic, late-teen mistakes.

We are approaching mastery, though. This amazing Ted Talk cites research that shows our circles of compassion have gotten bigger in recent years—we care more about people we don’t know personally than we ever have before. That is awesome! Way to go, world!

I cannot say enough about organizations like The CompassionCollective that combine the people-power of celebrities and ordinary folk, leveraging it into a force for good. Or people like Brandon Stanton at Humans of New York who shares stories we’d never hear otherwise. Now that, people, means we’re feeling our power. We’re getting ready to lead a balanced life that includes compassion.

Hope lies on just the other side of this stage. Think of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a world where our shared home planet is safe and stable enough to let us reach out to other worlds. Maybe it would help if some Vulcans make first contact and parent us through this next stage, but maybe…

Maybe, like parentless teens in all times and places, we can see the consequences of our actions, pull our shit together, and let our hearts expand. I say, Yes, let’s do it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Say Yes: In the Beginning

I look for the light every day, with nearly every breath. Right now, that search has hit a magical plateau where so many things seem to be coming together--for this brief moment, I can glimpse the pattern. It is gorgeous!

I'm going to start you where I began. It's dark and there's a bit of language. And I almost skipped sharing this part since I missed posting on Suicide Prevention Day. That's ridiculous, though. We all share the dark at the bottom.

And it's always the right day to share the bits of light we find. Hang in there with me for the next few posts--I promise seeds of the light lie in the questions below. I'll try to take us to see the beauty blossom!

Always remember that love, light, and help surround us. Talk to someone. If you don't know who, find ideas here.


drinking
drugging
cutting
fucking
barfing
starving
choking
killing

new rites of passage
for emancipated women
in a brave new century

born innocent, born whole
each ego, each most partial judge
condemns each victim, each ego

self-on-self crime
self-condemned
self-executed

our shining victory
as liberated women
in a sophisticated century

is surviving ourselves
only almost suiciding
hearing our own cries for mercy

at that last moment
when there’s one last shred
one last breath, one spark

devoid of hope, devoid of dignity
but moving forward,
still forward for some reason

if momentum bears us
through that moment
we buy a second life

a chance to fight
--every day—
to love ourselves

but

why?
who?
how?

who robbed us
and how and, really,
of what?

what do we lack that
overflows in
the merest animal?

a will to live
a burn to be
a desire for the best, for

eating
nurturing
learning
growing
striving
sharing
rejoicing
loving

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Mother Poem

So I'm collecting some of my poems on the widely varied faces of motherhood to send to a contest. It's always educational to see where I was, how I felt, what I was thinking back when.

I've been thinking of this particular poem recently, anyway. I like it when something I've written comes back to me and I think, Yes, that's it exactly. It gives me hope as a writer!

But more importantly, this poem gave me hope as a mother. The measure of our pain reflects the measure of our love, like a pool of water reflecting the sun. And we all stand in that truth--together.


In a grey twilight arena
I stand
Face up and arms down
The blood of a thousand cuts
To my heart
Pooling at my feet

Clear drops form
And bead and trickle
Down my skin
My arms, my wrists
My fingertips

Morning tears of exhaustion
Course down my body
Chased by midday tears of tension
Meeting tears of evening frustration
And midnight despair

Motherhood flows over me
Rolls off my belly
And down my legs
Sliding silently
To collect on the stone

Ever expanding, ever silent
The current flows
Until
A shock races up me
A light snaps on
My arms rise up

I look left
Fingertip to fingertip
I stand
Recognition sparks

Another mother
Another pool
The same cuts
And toil and tears
And to the right
Another

The connection crackles
 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dumbo After All


Both of my children, blessed or cursed with vivid imaginations, struggled with movies in their preschool years. They’d fall into the movie, totally immersed in the story and its outcome. Any dubious outcome stressed them out, so I searched high and low to find low-suspense movies for them in those years.

With Little A. a newborn and Big A. traveling for work again, I really, really needed three-year-old S. to watch the occasional video. Don’t judge me. Dinner and a movie for her meant I could feed Little A. and eat my own dinner, too. Win-win-win.

So I tried her on all the lightweight Disney films I could think of—I mean, Cinderella has no bad guys, really. Right? It’s not the legendary source of endless children’s traumas, like Snow White or Bambi. Nope. She wouldn’t go for Cinderella. I tried movie after movie. Finally, she asked to see the Dumbo video we’d inherited from a friend. I had never seen the film, so I just gave thanks for my good fortune and popped in the cassette.

Well, if you have seen Dumbo, then I don’t need to say anymore. If you haven’t, well…it’s not my favorite movie of all time. So many aspects of that movie, while perhaps standard when it was made, are just…profoundly troubling to me. On top of ALL kinds of bullying, including “adults” bullying a child, this stunning children’s film includes an imprisoned mother, nefarious scheming, surreptitious drinking, hallucinations, racial stereotypes, and a disturbing look into the treatment of circus workers and animals in the past.

And my determined three-year-old daughter picked THIS movie to love over all others. She asked for THIS movie every time Big A. traveled for work…which was about once a week that year. And so I watched it far more times than I ever wanted. And she watched it far more times that I wanted her to, which worried me. What would she make of all thatstuff?

And yet, nearly nine years later, it occurs to me that maybe I owe Dumbo after all.

My daughter’s confidence leaves me in awe. Her amazing personal integrity gives her a rare natural acceptance of others. She’s literally so comfortable with herself (in most ways; no one’s perfect) that she just appreciates other people as they come. Okay, I hope some of that comes from her parents’ unending and unconditional love. I know her first school overtly encouraged students to love and appreciate each other in all their differences. And I give credit to her current school, where peer pressure reinforces individuality.

But, you know, Dumbo gets seriously dumped on from the moment of his birth. Yet the movie makes it clear that he, his mother, and Timothy have the right idea—Dumbo’s awesome. He rocks, no matter what anyone else says or does.

Best of all, Dumbo doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone but himself to succeed. Without even speaking a word, he finds his “wings” and soars. His unique abilities have value; he learns that without devaluing anyone else.

Maybe that’s not such a bad message to be exposed to over and over in your formative years.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Just Keep Doing



I did my best. I do my best.

Hard on the heels of the grateful euphoria I felt over returning home from a fantastic, long trip came…brokenness.

Yes, there’s a lot going on. Life’s logistical vagaries wait for no one. Banking, home repair, school, and extracurricular activities all clamor for attention. My work calls to me constantly. Housework beckons. Odd items acquired need to find homes; outgrown clothes must go. Windows 10 demands to be installed. There is a lot of noise.

I get that. I expected that. It’s always the unexpected that trips us up, though, isn’t it?

As the kids and I tried to take up our usual summer schedule in our first week home, things…faltered. Let’s face it, I faltered. A few variables here and there and I just couldn’t handle it.

We set up our summer schedule a few years ago to prevent nagging. Okay, yeah, there were some other reasons behind it, but that one REALLY motivated us me. We came up with a way to get all the stuff the kids wanted to do into our weeks, but still leave me time to work (since I work at home and it is NOT the glamorous life you may have seen in laptop ads).

The deal is that we do fun stuff together in the mornings, then they have “quiet time” in their rooms for part of the afternoon and then swim and have screen time for the rest, all of which I can supervise while working. And it works! Knowing they will for sure, definitely, almost always get to do these things keeps them from getting naggish. They can just look at the list and see when it will happen.

It’s pretty cool, actually. We have Chore Day, Movie Day, Library Day, Beach Day, and Adventure Day. Lots of summer fun fit neatly into one efficient and predictable package. Yay!

You know I forgot? Playdates.

Actually, I didn’t forget. They really didn’t come up that often until this year. And that one little variable, while an admirable and desirable thing in and of itself, throws the whole system out of whack. Or, let’s face it, throws me out of whack.

I have a lot of quirks and I know it. I’m an introvert, I crave predictability, I have a hard time concentrating when exposed to certain odd environmental conditions—the list goes on.

And that’s okay. I know why all of those things are true and I’m okay with it. I just don’t feel okay with it when my kids clearly feel disappointment because of my limitations.

I KNOW it’s not good for anyone to get everything that they want. I KNOW they need to learn to work with others. I KNOW I’m clear with them about what’s my issue and what’s a universal issue—“I just can’t handle this” vs. “No, that’s a totally rude thing to do to anyone.” And I KNOW they have pretty darn good lives. I just FEEL like the ultimate party pooper.

So here’s what I’m saying to me—and to them, should they ever wonder:
I did my best, kids. I do my best. I chose this profession so I could stay home with you 100% of the time. It means a lot to your dad and me that you've always had one of us around. But, yes, my job creates limits on us and now you’re old enough to feel them. Soon you’ll be old enough to be free of them. For now, just understand that I do my best.

And, yes, I have some personal quirks that limit us a bit more. I try to stretch myself every day—get out more, make more phone calls, try something new. I didn’t used to be very good at it, but you know what seriously motivates me? You do. I do my best because I love you, because I want you to see life as an opportunity to shine, because I want to be an example for you—at least on the first steps of the path.

I hope you leave me in the dust someday! I hope no fear or scar twinges when you spread your wings. I hope you soar around this wonderful world of ours, solving problems and creating joy. I hope you love and are loved, limitlessly. And that is why I do my best.

P.S. I felt all of the above at the time, but I didn't actually say it. I just kept doing my best. And you know what happened? One of the kids' friends was super happy to see me. My husband gave me extra hugs. A friend asked us to go to the beach with her, so we spent a gorgeous morning in little kid world. And life felt much more do-able.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Home, Happy, Grateful

Best traveling companions I know!

After my third round of travels in three months, I’ve come home. I feel that so deeply—I’ve come home.

It’s been twelve years since I became a mom and more than that since I’ve been away from my daily life as much as I have recently. The new perspective has taught me—is teaching me (I process slowly)!—many things.

Right now, I’m profoundly grateful for so much that I can’t turn around without being thankful!

I deeply appreciate
-my freedom to travel
-this amazing country—even seeing a bit of it filled me with new experiences!
-my friends and family
-inspiration
-hotel pools
-my roots
-the infinite variety of human beings
-summer produce
-laughter
-intellectual puzzles
-running
-tradition
-seeing childhood places through my children’s eyes
-exploration
-growth
-finding a good mechanic
-driving Green Car again
-fresh eyes seeing solutions where there used to be problems
-our amazing public schools
-my puppy
-our home

And this is just a partial list! We have amazing people in our lives, family and friends, who made our travels so rich. Home is where the heart is; I'm glad our hearts expanded on our journeys with you all this summer!

My favorite pun of the trip: "Hello from the otter slide!"


Adventures with friends.

Our camp home.

Adventures with family.

Travelin' on....

Home again! Doing what, I won't guess. But home.