Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grinding Teeth and Bleeding Cuticles on Nights Where Sleep Eludes

Sometimes I feel like I’m existing in a blur. In the fuzzy black spots you see when you close your eyes after a bright light shines in them. I feel intense and present but at the same time disconnected and strangely pulled to a different place. To the place beyond the fuzzy black spots—the place where they are bright circles of light.

I am in conflict. Compelled by the circumstances of choice and love that I have in my present life and tempted by the fantasy of an alternate reality where I live outside my current bounds, and have crazy, untamed hair and live off the kindness of strangers.

It makes no sense. It has no base in reality. But it is a comforting and disturbing recurring image of an alternate reality that will never exist, but is worth daydreaming about.

I have to believe that I am not unique. That everyone has some glimmer of fantasy/escapism in their life. That we all imagine a life lived differently after an un-made choice, a leap of faith, a decision made or not made. And it is not a symptom of discontent with current reality, but an awareness that other realities could be possible.

It may be a waste of time, but at times I am consumed by such thoughts. Seduced by ideas of alternate realities and an other-ness that doesn’t currently exist.

Driver's Licenses, Sixteen Candles & Friend-boys, O My!!!

What a week!!

My first-born daughter, first-born blessing, first-born gift has moved into a new phase that I had never fully conceptualized. I had pictured life through age 10 quite thoroughly...but beyond that it has all been fuzzy, blurry, half-baked. Yet here it is--delivered in a bright yellow box with a glittery bow on top.
Saturday was the big bash--Sweet Sixteen Carnival party--with friends, urban aunts, grandma and emotionally-wrought mom in tow. Sunday was the actual birth-day. The day celebrated 15 times previously, and the story told ceremoniously over and over--and now reaching a culmination of sorts in the magical number 16.

A number of significance for not obvious reasons. The major new privilege previously denied is yourself...unsupervised...without an adult...without me. Cue Tuesday: the day we went to the DMV and Savannah walked out a proud and fully-licensed driver. She took her first solo drive over to her "Friend-boy" Mike's house, and then to Taco Bell to get her sister two tacos. She's a good girl. And still, I have the motherly impulse to worry, to fret, to cry over the wonderful years gone so fast and the precious few left to our unique, intimate family unit. For better or worse, it is ours, and ours alone.

I have recently found myself sharing more of my inner thoughts and emotions with Savannah. More than I thought wise up to this point. More than I think wise still. I have so wanted her to have a childhood--to have innocence and naivety and simplicity. And she does...and has. But I have these moments where I slip, and I tell her more than I would like, and the words are out of my mouth before I can take them back and she knows more of the grown-up part of the world than I wanted her to know. But she does not seem affected--she is cool and calm and unflappable. She reassures me that these things don't bother her and she would rather know where I am coming from and what is affecting me than wondering and worrying about what it may be.

She is gracious. She is smart. She is intuitive and sensitive and bright. She is still the beautiful 6 pound 11.5 ounce bundle of possibility I brought home from the hospital 16 years ago--and yet she is more self-aware, confident, and wonderful than I could have ever hoped or imagined. Although this new era of our lives scares the shit out of me (her driving is no small part of the scare factor) I am also excited. Eager to see how the rest of Savannah unfolds. To see her triumphs, her heartaches, her struggles, and her successes. She is and will continue to be the best parts of those who have contributed to her development and at the same time is able to accept and appreciate the weaknesses and humanity of all of us--and herself.

I am simultaneously elated and overwhelmed by my daughters--both of them--and the way our life is blossoming. And I am eternally grateful for their faith, forgiveness, and love toward me and each other as we fumble our way through it together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School

It is the first day of school, and already everything is playing like an old routine.

No one’s alarm went off except mine, and the irritated teenagers of last nite who felt oppressed by my assurance that I would check and make sure they got up on time, had to be grateful for my motherly intrusion.

A spat over who will shower first ensued, with one daughter insisting she takes longer to get ready with hair and makeup and; therefore, deserves the first shower—even though she had to kick out the other daughter who beat her to it this morning. This could be easily resolved as we have two showers, but apparently using my shower is like drawing the short straw, and completely undesirable. Once again, I imposed motherly order on the situation, declaring that whoever is in the shower first gets the first shower. (I strongly recommend that those who take longer to beautify themselves for the day make sure they get in the shower earlier or deal with the consequences.)

Mutterings of disgusted responses accompanied (I am sure) by eye-rolling are the fruits of my motherly ministrations to the small disasters of mornings. And this morning, above all mornings, is significant and my presence an extra (although secretly desired) nuisance.

I used to be an integral part of the back-to-school routine. Helping pick out that all-important first day outfit. Overseeing the preparation of the backpack. Double-checking lunch money or making a lunch to be proudly carried in a new lunchbox. Sharing flutters in the tummy of that first day anticipation—excitement and anxiety churning like a loop-the-loop roller coaster in the pit of the stomach.

Today I sit in the background. Waiting for my big turn to participate: driving my daughters to and fro. And as I listen to their getting-ready sounds, I picture them walking into a new year. A year with nothing yet written on it. A year to be whomever they choose to be. Get the grades they want. Hang with the friends they want. Grow up and away from me and into themselves a little bit more. I feel each stretch toward the undeniable sun of independence and adulthood acutely these days. I am ever-aware that my time in my role as a daily caregiver and influence is limited. My days are numbered. The things that I perceive to be in my control, ever-more restricted.

But as Gabi stands before me, still dripping from the shower and making small-talk about how we each slept last nite, she throws me a bone:

“Do you want something to eat?” I ask.

“Nah,” she replies, “I always feel a little funny…upset in my stomach on the first day of school. Thanks, though.”

She opened the door of her experience a sliver and let the mom come in for a few seconds. Time to see that she is still a little girl and she still needs reassurances and, maybe—even though it can’t happen where others may see—that little reassuring squeeze from my hand to hers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wisdom of Pooh (paraphrased and interpreted by Rebecca)

One day Tigger bounced right into Rabbit’s garden, where Rabbit had just neatly stacked his recently-harvested carrots. Rabbit, carrots, and wheelbarrow all went flying and Tigger continued bouncing enthusiastically away.

Rabbit had finally had enough. He called a conference with Pooh and Piglet and shared a plan to un-bounce Tigger. The plan was simple: they would invite Tigger for a walk into the woods. Once they had gone a ways, they would “lose” Tigger and leave him to wander lost and alone in the woods. Later, they would come and “rescue” Tigger. Rabbit reasoned that this would create a humble Tigger, a grateful Tigger, a Tigger who would no longer boundlessly bounce through everyone’s life leaving a wake of chaos.

The plan seemed to be going along well, and before long Tigger was no longer with the rest of the group.

“There!” Rabbit said. “Tigger’s lost. Let’s head back home so we can come back later and rescue him.”

Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit turned around and started walking back home. And they walked. And they walked. And they walked.

And they walked.

After quite a while, Pooh spoke up, “Do you see that sand pit?” he asked. “I believe we have passed this sand pit before. Many times before. We keep looking for home and finding this sand pit,” Pooh said. “It seems to me that maybe if we try looking for this sand pit, we will find home.”

“Ridiculous!” Rabbit exclaimed and stormed off into the woods to prove that of course he could walk straight away from the sand pit and straight back if he were looking for it—it would NOT lead them home.

Pooh and Piglet sat and waited for Rabbit, who did not return to the sand pit as he predicted. Eventually, Pooh felt rumbly in his tumbly and followed his hunger home for dinner. Pooh and Piglet found their way home. Tigger was already home (Tiggers NEVER get lost!) and as bouncy as ever, if slightly worried about his missing friends. Rabbit was lost all night and later rescued by Tigger, whom Rabbit had never been happier to see come bouncing his way.

This story has been one of my favorites for years—and a guide in my life for a plethora of reasons. I first discovered the powers of this story while reading it to a very young Gabi one night during a particularly trying time in my life. These are the lessons I learned from this story, and still use to help me re-set my mind, spirit, psyche, course, etc.:

  1. We cannot (and should not even want to) change other people: un-bouncing them is a silly notion—let’s celebrate one another instead

  2. We should, however, pay attention to ourselves and start recognizing the sand pit(s) we are circling

  3. Our sand pits are a great gift—once we recognize that they merely exist (let alone, that we keep coming back to them), we instantly have the power to make a different choice—keep looking for home, keep trying to un-bounce other people, start looking for the sand pit, or storm off into the woods. It doesn’t really matter what that different decision is, as long as it is different.

Take some time today to bounce, notice sand pits & make a new choice, celebrate your differences, or simply revel in how it felt to be a kid whose whole world could have been the Hundred Acre Wood, full of soft, comfortable, furry friends and exciting adventures!!

Create something magical today & make a difference not only for those you encounter, but for yourself!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Late nite rambling

I started a new book in the bath tonite...and I like it, and I know I will love it. Everything about the first few pages filled me with the hope and anticipation of a future not yet written. Not yet known. There is a profound peace in the possibility and boundless nature of the future. A peace and hope that doesn't always surface for us in our day-to-day existence. There is a soaring freedom that exists when we allow ourselves to dream and to imagine and to hope. Hope is a word that keeps coming up for me, and throughout my life it has been a recurring theme. I will not abandon hope. I will not start to play the refrain of "Closer My God To Thee" as if my ship were sinking. Even in times when I feel or fear that it is, I will not grant credence to such devastating and final a judgement. As long as I take another breath, and God grants me another sunrise--made even more resilient by the smiles of my daughters--I will not despair. I will ask for grace and forgiveness, and guidance as I navigate another day, another week, another month in which I can learn something, make a difference, be an instrument for good in the world. I like to lose myself in the minor worries and petty distractions of a life lived in a country and culture of indulgence and plenty--and woe is me when everything is not as easy as I would like! But at the end of it all--and in the face of all of the love and compassion, forgiveness and grace that is granted me daily by God and the interaction with those I have been blessed to love and be loved by in return--I am grateful, humbled, and in awe of the unconditional love I receive; from this world and the next.

It has been a hard week. A week of questions, frustrations, fears, and tears. And I love and at the same time am ashamed at the blessings I experience daily. I should be slapped in the face for my ingratitude, but I am embraced in loving arms instead. I don't understand this mystery, and I won't endeavor to explain it-- but I know that I am loved and that I am protected and that I am blessed--and as I pray my thanks, I pray also that I will remember and that I can ask daily for a strength beyond my own to make a difference bigger than me in the world around me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blast from the Past

Today I got the wild impulse to organize the cupboard under the stairs. I found some boxes of photos and other memorabilia that I haven't looked at for who knows how many years. I decided to drag them out and take a peek.

I found a box that held (among other items) late 80's and early 90's pics (see photo, right), prom pictures, summer camp pictures, letters from camp friends, letters from my brother (who used "Skater Bro" as his return address), and one essay from an AP English class. Reading this essay, I was struck by the familiar voice--making me fear that, perhaps, I have not grown or evolved that much in the past 18-ish years. However, I thought that it was worth sharing as a glimpse of the writer in a (hopefully) more raw form:

by Becky Jenkins

I always know when THAT TIME is approaching. I can see it coming a mile away. THAT TIME always fills me with a sense of impending doom. There is just no way to get out of THAT TIME. (At least not until you reach that special age.) THAT TIME is the most bothersome time in my life; it's dirty, inconvenient, and unavoidable. Right now I am in the middle of THAT TIME--yes, that's right--it's my week for dishes.

I know I am not the only one who hates doing dishes. Nearly every person in America is terrified of it.

Why? you may ask, is this everyday necessity so terrifying?

Why do people go to such extremes to avoid it? For example, the other night I had to get my dishes done before I could go over to my friend, Michelle's house to work on a dance we are going to be performing. Needless to say, I was not pleased. In fact, I was just a little bit on the furious side. In my fit of anger, I offered my little brother money, favors, my favorite tape, a movie, and even my love if only he would do the dishes for me.

Looking back, I question my reasoning for going so totally out of control. I believe the fear of doing the dishes is a much more serious problem than most people realize.

The fear of doing the dishes is one of the main reasons for the decline of the nuclear family, and the trend toward divorce.

There can be no harmony in a home where everyone is fighting about who will do the dishes next. But, where did this fear come from in the first place? That question must be answered before anything can be done to alleviate the fear and restore the stability of the American family.

In exploring American history for the answer to this question, one discovers that since the birth of our country, people have feared the dishes. In the Old South every home, no matter how financially unsuccessful, had a slave for the primary purpose of doing the family dishes. Since that time families have always had housekeepers and maids, or more commonly, children, to do the dreaded task.

The fear began with the discovery of bacteria and germs. When sweet southern women discovered that they could contaminate their delicate hands or any other body part, for that matter, they immediately dismissed the practice of washing the dishes themselves.

In more recent years, the fear has been exemplified by the women's movement. Women refuse to do the dishes for fear that they may not be considered modern and liberated if they did do them, and men shudder at the prospect of doing the job because they are afraid of being accused of being a chauvinist if they admit that the "job just isn't in my blood," or the fear of being a chauvinist if they do the job and end up getting accused of trying to show up a woman.

These fears are embedded in the minds of America's youth at a very young age and it is passed on from generation to generation as children are always made to stoop and do the humiliating task.

The main problem with this comes in with newlyweds, when there are no children in the home yet. This means that either the wife or the husband must do the job, and neither wants to. This often leads to the first spat, and later to the divorce. It's no wonder that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce when one hundred percent of all married people hate to do the dishes.

As long as there are still dishes to be done, there will be divorce and domestic unease in America.

(I added "THE END" so you would know the ancient essay was over and it was the present me now talking.)
My teacher loved the opening paragraph, writing "clever!" in the margin. He also liked the comparison of children to slaves and the part about feminism. However, I only received a B+. The thing that scares me most about that grade (which is a surprise as English was my top subject and I did earn A's come report card time) is the similarity to my current narrative voice and style, and the fear that in the end, I still have a glaring B+ staring me in the face.