words between us

February 11, 2017 § 3 Comments

My son is in the luminous stages of love, the sappy entanglements of easy infatuation. Words of endearments tumble recklessly with an enthusiasm that spills unchecked across the miles and throughout his days. It is a lavish generosity of appreciation for which there is never enough time for him to properly gather his thoughts.

From a distance, I understand the fleeting forever in these moments. The logic that measures the optimistic reality of an uncertain longevity against the pessimistic expectations of a perspective cluttered with the jaded assumptions of age. Still, I quiet the caution and invite my own memories.

Early loves are great educators of the impossible. The unlikely certainty that allows us to leap against the unknown bound by promises and dreams that forever tether our expectations of love in pages of old letters freckled with daydreams that parade as plans.

It is the love that comes before the labor of love that is marriage, the work of navigating an imperfect partnership for the grace of unconditional love, and the epiphany of emotion that is unique to the experience of becoming a parent.

On this, a month for lovers and friends, I’m reminiscing old loves and honoring first loves, forever loves and family with memories of Valentines past. The clumsy card stock of elementary shaped hearts and finger paint handprints shaped into talismans of love. Nursery school rhymes and the poetry of true love.

in good company

February 10, 2017 § 5 Comments

This morning the library was a contrast of sunlight and shadows, soundless save for the quiet industry of my work; staccato keystrokes interrupting the gentle hum of a singular overhead light. The effervescent conversations that drift across Friday’s desks were replaced by the intermittent punctuation of unanswered calls as the telephone marked time with tones that wound through the air like the plastic cords I once twirled around empty thoughts.

I nestled into the noisy silence with the delight of my childhood fondness for the company of books, moving between the dust motes as I navigated well tread routines to a soundtrack of solitude. The occasional scrape of metal against the book depository or the weighted thump of materials tumbling into the carpeted recess of the cumbersome bins were mischievous reminders of my luxury. I was a child left to wander familiar nooks, curiosity curbed by the holiest of admiration for the sanctity of so many carefully constructed stories.

Hushed footsteps and squeaky cart wheels I drifted down empty rows of sleepy books, while outside the sun chased away the new fallen snow as the gutters shed their burden in pregnant raindrops against the concrete.

to my daughter

February 9, 2017 § 5 Comments

Tuesday someone treated you unkindly, a new harm in a recent series of unhappy events. This experience of manipulative acts of mean spirited aggression is not new.

The first time you saw a child mistreated, it was your brother. Standing up and speaking out you held everyone accountable to their words and choices. Later you would do the same for classmates when peers were unkind.

It was in elementary school that you learned telling an adult did not insure safety, sometimes it emboldened the aggressor with a language of entitlement and misunderstanding by explaining away unkindness with empty platitudes.

It happened at the playground, in the lunchroom, after school in organized activities, and in living rooms between neighbors.

Generic statements of kids will be kids and vague I’m sure they didn’t mean it. Instructions to turn the other cheek or forgive and forget. We quiet the words that call us to action because they make us uncomfortable.

I failed, too.

When other parents didn’t want to talk about bad behavior, I smiled away the harm with polite silence. Other times I named the unkindness but failed to hold other adults accountable outside our conversations. I let discomfort create a passive permissiveness, but you haven’t.

This week, in the face of unkindness, you voiced your value and insisted on respect. Even when tears threatened to fall and your voice wavered, you knew your worth and you didn’t disappear into polite silence.

You said that it’s not okay to treat others unkindly. Period.

I wish I could say that things will get better, easier, but I can only tell you that it gets harder to stand up for yourself once you settle for silence.

Love, Mom

practice

February 8, 2017 § 7 Comments

Today the sky emptied its clouds of delicate flurries that made the world feel new and I relished the promise of those first footprints scattered across a perfect canvas. I was reminded of January’s resolve.

So much of creating an intention for the year is inviting conscious action to hopeful expectations with small goals. The first month of the New Year enthusiasm and momentum upended more stagnant routines with the promise of controlled change. The novelty of work feels a bit like play and I approach frustration with curiosity and determination.

Living mindfully has meant rooting myself more firmly to the moment I’m in while still trying to create a plan for my time. This is where the work of practice has been essential to cultivating new choices into stronger habits.

Mindfulness, in practice, has given me a path to simplify larger ideals into smaller actions that nourish my well-being and connectivity. In particular regular exercise, sacred rest, and healthier food. I’ve turned my attention towards a definition of health that embraces a kinder sense of self-care.

When I was ill, this meant rest in place of play. In good health it has meant embracing new physical challenges for greater strength. I’ve become less apologetic in honoring my awareness for those foods that leave me tired or unwell with the same wholeheartedness I embrace those moments of celebration or comfort with food choices that reflect joy. Most importantly, I have begun to indulge in bedtime routines that carve aside time to unravel the day from my night.

Scheduling time to move and be still has created a more “awake” in between the busier rhythms of my day so that I am present among others. I am listening more intentionally and leaving space in my relationships for appreciation; pausing in gratitude rather than dwelling in anxiousness or frustration.

It is an imperfect practice, one that demands flexibility and forgiveness as insistently as routine and accountability. Moment to moment, one choice at a time; mindfully connecting the optimism of New Year’s expectations with the work of daily efforts.

accidentally on purpose

February 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

Last week I suffered ailments of comic proportions. Physically uncomfortable and persistently impatient, I was desperate to exercise against my better judgement. Having only recently gained the momentum of new muscle I was stubbornly determined to rest, productively.

I fell into a compromise that created stillness with a gentler practice of yoga.

It should be noted that I have failed colorfully and inflexibly at previous attempts in more public displays, but this past week was an accident in grace. Small pockets of time with unhurried devotion produced a new relationship with an old beau.

I’m playing at something I love with all the fussy infatuation of novelty in the comfort of well-groomed familiarity. Postures of strength and lines of submission.

More importantly, I am practicing without an audience; there is no mirror to reflect or compare, only presence.

In the uninterrupted attentiveness, there is only the gentlest listening as I open my body and mind moment to moment.

Accidentally, on purpose.

 

changing expectations

February 3, 2017 § 2 Comments

When we moved, our family began creating new expectations for one another and ourselves. The speed of change left us all a little bewildered and we settled into the discomfort of not knowing the otherwise predictable parts of our days with curiosity.

My children were used to me knowing what comes next. My routine circled my children’s in a way that kept me distractedly tethered to their needs with an invisible thread of communication between home and school. It was a once necessary open-ended energy that had been left running like a forgotten switch to a burned out bulb.

In our new space we had to trust one another to move through the murky unknowns, alone; to lean on strangers and navigate new challenges outside the familiar relationships of old experiences.

There were times it was tempting to exercise old habits, for myself especially. To draft messages that lent insight and history to our new community of teachers, but it was the occasions my children spoke for themselves or muscled through the difficult frustrations independent of my support that we fell into true appreciation and greater pride, humor and humility.

Some were substantial, like the morning the school called and my phone volume was muted because we no longer carry our phones like life lines. There were simpler occasions, too, of classroom confusion or forgotten materials. Then, there came the novelty of my decision to return to work and the subsequent patience and independence that guided my children to look further within when they might have previously reached out.

Yesterday as the hour of our daughter’s band solo neared, I marked the minutes with borrowed nerves; internalizing my daughter’s worries and dancing around a temptation to interrupt her attention with words of encouragement. Only, it occurred to me I was hijacking her experience with my eagerness to help.

Instead I waited for the impossibly long end of day to collect my daughter’s story in the lines of her posture and the angle of her smile. I listened as she talked about running late and loosing her place, the judge’s critique and the unexpected kindness in a stranger’s encouragements. Each moment was a gift I watched my daughter unwrap in her telling, something of her own to share.

It is perhaps an overdue epiphany, one I procrastinated passively out of a sense of purposeful self-importance. What felt like a kindness, protecting our children from emotional struggles, was quite possibly an error of affection. I’ve begun listening more than I speak, leaning quietly into a posture of faith that informs an expectation of strength.

Changing my expectations of self.

 

a question of quitting

February 2, 2017 § 2 Comments

There is no greater measure of truth than the weighted minutes of nervous anxiety on the eve of a much dreaded day. One year ago it was a time for my daughter to confront self-doubts and insecurities as she procrastinated preparing for her band solo by sounding out the language to quit. Not one for standing alone under a spotlight of attention, I understood her pause and kept her company as she waded more deeply into her discomfort.

Last year she found the notes among her nerves and conquered her fears in a messy and brave posture of determination. This morning my daughter woke early to another performance, but this year’s ghosts were dressed in last year’s doubts. Two nights ago she unraveled into a memory from last year’s experiences. One new to my ears, but well worn in the quiet of my daughter’s thoughts. Her teacher, counting out a song, begged a question. My daughter asked why the pattern was different to which her teacher asked, “Don’t you even know how to count?”

It was a criticism in place of a question, a small condescension that directed quiet and silenced my daughter’s learning. She didn’t ask again and has since created her own cues to find her place in a collective melody. As part of a whole, she has disappeared in the silence between notes, but on her own she is lost in the sequence of unanswered questions. Without answers to fill what she does not know, she is certain only in the deficit she measures in doubt.

Such a small space between learning and letting go, wanting to grow and giving up.

Last night I listened as she fought her way through her sheet music until she had exhausted whatever joy might be had from each success. It’s a sad truth, a weighted reminder – our answers invite questions just as clearly as our questions invite answers.

One person has the power to inspire or intimidate.

My daughter wants to quit as much as she wants to play, to learn as much as she wants to leave. For all the words of comfort and empathy I’ve offered, the balance of my encouragements and another’s criticism rests in the silence somewhere between the music.

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