Framing

A friend asked me tonight how I was doing, especially considering the first holidays without my mom.  She knew that our birthdays—mom’s in mid-September and mine in October—had been especially hard.

The closer it got to her birthday, then mine, the harder it got.  I was stuck in those feelings of darkness for longer than I wanted to be.

On Thanksgiving, embracing the spirit of the holiday, I was determined to be thankful.

My sister-in-law had volunteered to cook the Thanksgiving meal this year, and that was such a gift, in ways I am only now coming to understand.  Rather than scurrying to cook, we sat by the fire, read the paper, and watched Polar Express.  We never even turned on the Macy’s Parade.

I thought of my mom plenty, but breaking with tradition helped me focus on what I have in my life.  I allowed myself to let go of my ideas of what the day was supposed to look like and just enjoyed it for what it was.

Don’t get me wrong; I missed my mom.  But rather than being overcome by the feelings, this time, I was able to feel them and let them go.  I let myself really cry, and then made the conscious decision to shift my focus from missing her to being grateful for the love I have in my life, which, of course, is built on the foundation of love that she laid.

That felt like a good way to honor her love.

It reminds me what Karl says to Kai when a great time with friends is coming to a close and he begins to get upset about having to leave/end the play date.

“You have a choice to make, buddy. You can be happy for the time you got, or sad that it is over.”

Seems like that is a choice me make over and over in many different ways–two sides of the same coin.  Which do we choose to see?

De-sanitizing My Life

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Kai at about 10 months old. It is the first time he really felt the breeze on his face. I remember watching this happen and thinking, “Yep, I know that feeling!”  Sheer delight!


I call living at my mom’s “camping.” I say this jokingly, knowing that we are certainly more comfortable than we would be in a tent.  And, having travelled and lived in third world countries, I know that most of the earth’s population lives happily with far less.

But we are living in a house that does not have air conditioning, or at least not the full-house variety. In South Florida.

The notion of living with less-than-modern conveniences shocks people.  It’s funny to watch the look on the faces of some of those who come.

We have window shakers in the bedrooms, but there really is no way to effectively cool the common areas of the home.

Except for the breeze, that is.

The lack of A/C means the house is open, and, we are truly living the indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

We are not closed inside, keeping the natural elements at bay, controlling our environment. Instead, we are a part of it. We respond and adapt to it.

And it feels good.

Karl mocked me about the mystical, mythical breeze before we moved in, but now, he recognizes its power.

I spend so much time lost in my head, planning tomorrow rather than being present in the moment. The breeze makes me stop. I close my eyes and feel the coolness on my skin. I lift my chin, tilt my head back, and smile. It is hard to worry and fret about tomorrow when I am fully present in my body, engaged in the now. The breeze brings me into the moment.

When we first moved in, I decided that if we were “camping,” we would do without media. No cable. No internet. Karl and I had our phones, but we put them down until Kai went to bed, and even then, we used them minimally.

It changed our family’s life.   We went outside, listened to music, snuggled by the fire, and just hung out.  And, even though we now are “connected,” we try to head out back as often as possible.

And one of the things I’ve encouraged Kai to do is to walk the seawall.

The first time I suggested it, he looked at me and said, “Are you kidding me? You are seriously suggesting that I walk on that? Are you trying to kill me?”

I told him that it was four inches wide, the same as a balance beam in gymnastics, and that he was right. He needed to think and be cautious, but that his fear shouldn’t stop him. He looked at me incredulously.

I said, “Look, as your mom, I’m terrified. But, I remember what it was like to be a kid here. I walked that wall every day. And, I loved it. I gained more and more confidence and eventually I could run and jump.”

I told him he would be wise to walk it at high tide to begin with because if he fell at low tide, the oysters would cut him up badly. And, I told him that if he started to lose his balance, he needed to bend his knees, lower his center of gravity, and launch himself into the grass instead of letting himself fall into the water. He still thought I couldn’t possibly be serious.

Then, I told him that it was true that all of those things could happen, but that in all the years I had lived in the house and walked the wall, I had never fallen. Not once. I was smart about it, and I knew he would be, too.

I’m proud to say he walks the wall most days now as part of his “ninja training.”

Back to the breeze.. . it blows dirt and grit into the house. It is impossible to keep it pristine.   Nature is just too powerful.

So, I have a choice–resist or accept.

I’ve decided that there is going to be grit on the floor; whether we mop daily or not, there is going to be grit on the floor.  This life is a bit wild, unwilling to be tamed.  There is no perfection here.   Instead, there is joy and love and adventure and freedom.

When it came time to paint the inside walls and baseboards, Kai and his buddy Ian got to participate. Did they do a less than perfect job? Of course!  But who cares? What really matters is that they got to be a part of it. Regrettably, I couldn’t have allowed that before.

And, what has been most gratifying about our new life here is that our friends come to be with us. Despite the disarray and distress, they come and play with us in our house by the lake, willing to share in this unorthodox journey we have decided to take.  It’s definitely a take-us-as-we-are kind of venue, and we are most grateful for our tribe!

I don’t know how long we will be here, but I know this is where we are supposed to be for now, in our “incubator.”

Birth is messy, but so are some of the best things in life. Like babies. And food. And sex. And love.

So, there is value in the mess.  And, there is a cost to sanitization.  Freedom.

“Sanity” and “sanitize” share the same root, the Latin sanus meaning “sound, healthy.”   I find that ironic considering the insanity with which we try to sanitize our lives, both literally and figuratively.

I’m tired of making the “sane” choice. I’m working on de-sanitizing my life, knowing the muck provides fertile soil.

tribe

WHEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

It’s been so long since I’ve written. A few days passed, and it was harder to return. I felt like I had to apologize and/or to explain. And as more and more time passed, it just got harder.

There are so many things like that in life.

So, rather than beating myself up for what I’m not accomplishing, a regrettably all-too-familiar pastime, I’m going to just start back.

I found the following passage that I wrote back in August, just a couple of days after I had started back to work. I found it particularly difficult to be around people again; it was a hard transition.

Last week was hard.  Wednesday night and Thursday were by far the hardest days I’ve had since mom passed.

On Wednesday night, I was overwhelmed.  By my grief.  By all the change.  By all that must still be done.  By all that cannot be done. By my return to work.  By loss of control.  By fear.

When the tears and trembling started, I couldn’t catch my breath.  I couldn’t find a place for myself.  I paced.  I turned in circles.   And breathed.  Short and fast.  Long and slow.  I breathed like I haven’t breathed since labor.

Thankfully, I am in a much better place now. And, I am learning that grieving comes in waves.

I felt like I might drown in this one, but I didn’t. Much like in the ocean, resistance is futile and will only result in being trapped; instead, if I let it wash over me, without resistance, it will take me where I need to go.

Tonight, as I read what I had written two months ago, I was struck by my reference to labor. Birth.  Breath.  Death.  Breath. Rebirth.

Simply put, giving birth to Kai gave birth to a new me. And, so has my mother’s passing.

I’m sure that it has to do with my age as well, and the fact that it was impossible to watch my mother’s decline without considering my own mortality.

Mid-life is not a cliché. Or, at least not just a cliché. It is a shift in vantage point, and a pretty significant one at that.

What inspired me to sit and write tonight was a passage from Joan Anderson’s A Weekend to Change Your Life, a companion to her first novel entitled A Year by the Sea.

She begins with a quote from T. S. Elliot, “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” I love that.  What if we move beyond the mid-life cliché of the new convertible or young lover?  What if the journey begins with the internal landscape?  What if instead of trying to recreate youth, we recreate ourselves from the inside out?

She then goes on to say, “…if you have been yearning to find the real you, refresh your sagging spirit, be spontaneous, wild, and even free, enjoy the present, let go of control, recover a broken spirit or retrieve the buried parts of you…change your routine, depart from the norm, question the status quo, and take back some of each day just for you.”

“Change your routine, depart from the norm, question the status quo….”  Indeed.

Mid-life seems like the perfect place to let go of “perfect,” some made-up idea of the way things are supposed to be. I’ve spent much too much time “shoulding” on myself.

Contol. Perfection. Illusion.

On this side of the hill, I am learning to tilt my head back, throw my hands in the air, and yell, “WHEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

It’s as scary as hell sometimes.   But, stasis is scarier still.  So, I am choosing to figure out how far I can go.