the work of joy

May 26, 2015 § 9 Comments

I think, too often, I anticipate joy will arrive in fleeting moments of superficial pleasure; something that acts upon me or interrupts the work of living. Some days I schedule excuses for joy, a cup of coffee with a friend or distracted escape into the pages of a new story. Yesterday pleasure came in measured efforts of work, tending to my home in tasks that I more often procrastinate.

Vacuuming the traces of a week’s busyness and pulling weeds that freckle my garden beds, washing my family’s clothes and sifting through cluttered paperwork were efforts that pushed against happier interruptions. It was only at day’s end that my muscles and mind relaxed into a content peacefulness that I recognized the work of joy; the purpose within pleasure that rewards effort.

Tomorrow I will undoubtably conjure new excuses to postpone those tasks I shuffle to the perimeter of my schedule, but for today I’m inspired to lean into the lingering places of neglect and dwell in a different sense of joy.

mothering appreciation

May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

In the earliest days of motherhood I met my husband eagerly with every fear, hope, and need. Tattered and terrified of all that I did not know, my husband held these confidences tenderly and we mapped our choices by need with love.

One such choice was to shun gifts of appreciation to model a less material gesture of celebration. I became so entrenched in the mechanics of less, that I undervalued the enthusiasm of more. My family demonstrated appreciation too quietly for my needs out of respect for what I presumably wanted. I had miscommunicated how I feel appreciated and the value of that need.

I don’t want anything is an unclear marker. It guides attention to what I dislike rather than what brings me joy. I was looking for those I love to navigate the intricacies of my silence rather than sounding out a subtext of need. Nothing was actually something; homemade cards and acts of care, words of appreciation and demonstrations of thoughtfulness.

On the eve of Mother’s Day I spiraled into a self-indulgent pity party. I had presumably changed the rules without talking through my wishes with my family and sabotaged my experience of happiness while cluttering my expression of gratitude with a need that felt shameful and greedy.

I’ve been trying to think about how to write this moment; questioning if it is important enough to take up room in my story. It feels self-serving to speak of my wants when addressing an occupation of the heart. So how do we, I, celebrate unselfishly and still my family in an expression of gratitude that validates my needs? And why is this important?

When I imagine my children one day parenting their own children or remembering my place in their childhood, I want there to be room for both joy and purpose. That requires that we know how to demonstrate appreciation and speak need.

This is where the answer required I shift my perspective. I was looking for validation and appreciation, to be seen where I might first need to guide sight.

Maybe this year my words and actions have not nurtured gratitude, perhaps my expectations of others have outspoken my words of appreciation. I am trying to recenter my actions to speak love more loudly. Remembering that to be appreciated we must first model appreciation. To be seen, we must first make ourselves visible and our needs known.

This year I am thinking of how we celebrate and honor those we love and spending a little more time consciously guiding my children’s eyes to the invisible places of care with greater awareness and appreciation.

therapy dog

May 24, 2015 § 1 Comment

There is no paper trail to validate this claim, no certification of care or qualification to our companion’s title. Instead there is only the quality of our days; the gentle, steadfast way she loves us. We are better people in her care.

Her affection is patient and kind, she nestles loyally into the perimeter of our attention when obligations distract us from play. There is no record of our errors, no anger in her posture; there is only the most innocent attentiveness to our emotions. She sits beside us in comfort and encouragement, a silent keeper of our worries and enthusiastic champion of good cheer.

She is the first face we see at the dawn of each day, a companionable shadow. The one who welcomes us home, with an unguarded pleasure. She moves cautiously between us and strangers with a purposeful sense of protection and, alternately, behind us with uncertainty.

Our children lean into her care, eager to tend to her happiness, but our service is deceptively unbalanced to her own. She draws us outside our rhythms of self into a sense of selflessness, from indoors to outdoors and from procrastination to play.

The part of me that resisted the unpredictable inconveniences, the mayhem of messes and the burden of need has found a greater dependency on her joy, a calmness in the chaos and a purpose in her need. I worried our responsibilities would consume our restfulness and freedom without knowing that she would rejuvenate us collectively with a reckless joy that jostled the expected into a curious new knowing.

sound & sentiment

May 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Sitting on folding metal chairs stretched neatly across a familiar gym room floor, there is a sound to this memory. Children shuffling nervously and parents settling into quiet greetings, a scraping and rustling as we nestle into one another’s company. We are near the end of our days in this season of elementary school gatherings and today my heart is full of sentiment for the sweetness of this time.

It seems like only yesterday I was wrestling a wiggly toddler onto the same uncomfortable chairs, begging stillness from my daughter while my eyes sought my son’s over the chaos of children filing determinedly into position. Personalities as different as their eye color and years between their songs, both children began every performance with an anxious seeking until their gaze would relax into a reassuring smile.

This morning I marveled at the dance of time, my oldest’s teenage limbs folded uncomfortably into stillness as we settled into his sister’s school performance. Gone is the madness of restlessness, the quiet encouragements and pleas for patience. We have moved collectively into a new togetherness and I was left to note the unexceptional sounds of a too often overlooked moment.

Today my joy and sentiment push against the music of my memories, the present and the past scraping into the folding metal chairs that hold our place even as we approach goodbye.

to my daughter

May 18, 2015 § 2 Comments

It is no secret that I abhor clutter; I am notorious for fussing over forgotten items interrupting the surface of my contentment. It would seem impossible then that I occasionally seek respite from the quiet of my days in the unapologetic chaos of your corner of our home.

Today I found myself willfully stranded in the center of your room, laundry in hand, marveling at the accidental harmony of your distraction. A newly acquired tissue paper jelly fish dangling curling ribbon tentacles neatly segmented your room vertically as it twirled beside a construction paper snowflake hung from your antique chandelier; a half-inflated pool float contorted just inside your closet like a clumsy, bloated acrobat. Your bedding is still crumpled as if I might find remnants of last night’s dreams in the folds of your duvet and misshaped fragments of paper litter your night stand with evidence of sleepy origami efforts. Miniature toys converge around impromptu Lego scenes, patterning your floor with stories while your desk is accidentally structured in want of mischief, your pens and scissors loyal soldiers guarding a space for play.

Illogical and passionate, fearlessly unconventional, it is the place in our home where the colors sound like your laugh and the stubborn contempt for order feels allowed. Here your treasures and curiosities speak loudly of your thoughts and I find myself forgiving the noise in want of your company.

In this island of disorder time stands still and sweeps in messy circles; stealing me from structure in a landslide of memories.

Love, Mom

on remembering

May 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

This year a woman I barely knew, a forgotten acquaintance from years past lost her battle with a terminal illness. The news found me last fall in the complicated algorithm of a social media news feed; a familiar smile disclosing the intimate heartache of a tragic diagnosis.

In the months to come I followed this woman’s story, cautiously counting my blessings with a guilty mindfulness for the unfathomable cruelty of another’s misfortune. I let her courage and kindness guide my attention.

Then I forgot.

Consciousness comes in waves. In one moment I am lost to my own distractions, caught in the machinery of the mundane as I move among my obligations. Then I remember the blessing of this moment, the complete irrelevance of so many cluttered details, and I unravel into a simpler attentiveness.

In these moments I say yes where I might have said no, I apologize or forgive where I might have lingered in harm, and I bend the rules to steal extra minutes with those I love. I’ve let the house get messy and I’ve been more adamant in cause for celebration.

I am trying to honor another’s life while demanding purpose and presence of my own.

We meet others at tender intersections of vulnerability and we invite their story into our own. In a world congested with differences, we are bound by the minutes of possibility between us.


legacies & lessons

May 13, 2015 § 4 Comments

It seems impossible that in motherhood I have found guidance in lessons taught by a woman with whom I shared mostly poorly concealed contempt. Discontent strangers trapped in an expectation of family, there was no warmth in my stepmother’s care; each kindness felt forced and every displeasure an unavoidable inevitability. I wonder, looking back, if she felt the same unhappy impossibility in my company. Two people bound by chance without choice.

Over the years I have forgiven so much unhappiness, it seems irrelevant in the scope of my contentment. Instead the beautiful fragments of old lessons remain as evidence of a time shared. Wisdom sticks to my choices even as I forget the shape of daily grievances.

I may never see this woman again, but if I were to speak my gratitude into the wind it would be this:

Thank you for teaching me to be humble in acts of generosity. You taught me monetary donations and acts of service were private kindnesses whose good was tarnished by the garishness of bragging. To this day I am uncomfortable with attention relative to charity. I donate my time outside the spotlight without expectation of acknowledgment. I do not play martyr to my commitments, but give freely and privately what I can. My children have similarly learned to give with an intrinsic sense of joy outside an expectation of recognition.

Thank you, too, for alerting me to the vastness of my irrelevance. I once thought it cruel that you would undervalue my worth and ability, but over time I have come to appreciate the blessings of inadequacies and the thief of comparisons. I find myself centered in a place of humility for imperfections and pride in tasks well done. My success is scaled against myself rather than others. In this same way I have come to mother my children to grow into their potential with a self-awareness for their abilities and selfless appreciation of others; they are not mired in hollow trophies of false accomplishment or burdened beneath unrealistic expectations of perfection. My children move in a world of strangers whose gifts and challenges unite them in diversity.

It is a funny thing these legacies that linger, lessons we sometimes learn too late. I wish you could know that there was some good in our time together, that after the teenage angst there was grace.





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