Summer is approaching and almost every day, I miss my dad more. It’s supposed to get easier, right? Hurt less. It doesn’t. He was a summer man. jeans. tee shirt. outside from right after work until dark. On the weekends, all day. sometimes late for dinner. Never bothered by the heat. And as kids, our summer vacations started with a couple hours in the garden. Every day. In Ohio heat. even at 9:30 in the morning. Absolute torture. I don’t know what I learned from those mornings. (To this day, I can’t grow anything). But I would love to have just one of them back. I would love to see my dad knelt down in front of a row of green beans. Or just see him…
there is a road between bright white light of sky with endless possibilities and dark solid ground, where it’s safe. familiar. That road between wanting to share and needing to go alone. It’s the same road that lies between knowing I can do it and being lost and somewhat helpless. It’s being scared but exhilarated. Sure of some things and uncertain. Going slow, but with no time to waste. It’s a road of trust and faith. And resting and moving forward with both. Anyway, it’s a road. And I seem to be on it.
I read somewhere about people dancing in their cars. Uninhibited. Like children. Unafraid of how it looks. And though I only do that when I am driving with my kids because I think I am a little evil that way, I understand it. I want more dancing in my life. More movement in general. More decisions, no matter what they look like. A lot less fear. Or at least a lot less fear… of fear. It helps to be surrounded by people who are the very ones dancing in their cars. And I am. Surrounded. Utterly. surrounded. Maybe just laughing out loud at these people is good enough. I know I do that. A lot. And I don’t care how it looks. I think it counts.
The other day I had to talk to my son about a choice he had made and how that affected his sister, my daughter. His heart, and I knew this going into the talk, is soft and often malleable. So, he received my words, apologized on his own, chose to make things better. I learn so much from him. I watch how easily he receives and quickly he moves toward peace. He chose humility over pride. Listening over proving his case. We have choices. And we have the power to turn things around at any moment. Last night, I was faced with a choice. I could go down a road I didn’t want to be on, though in some ways it was a familiar route. Or I could choose to turn around. Right in the middle of the road. To see a different view. Go a different way. I’m finding that the great thing about choices is that they are always there. Always.
Along this path… to myself, I have been trying really hard to stay in this light. It’s light that allows me to see what’s inside. And what’s in front of me. Right now. I get to see things as they truly are. And occasionally I get a glimpse of what’s next. Just a glimpse. The past few days, however, when I look around I see shadow. I’m standing in it. Unable to move, really. In photography, shadows can tell the best secrets. They can add drama and mystery. They hold stories. But there’s a need for light. For exposure. To help tell the stories. Sometimes… sometimes, shadows simply block the light. Recently, in an effort to make something happen, I stood in my own way and blocked my own light…
I hate roller coasters. Literally and figuratively. I liked them as a kid but the older I got, the less I needed or wanted thrills followed by deep plummeting falls. But as even and calm as I like to be inwardly, life does throw those roller coastery things in. I still don’t know how to handle them. I don’t know many people who do really. Here’s what I know… that if I have to be on that ride, I don’t want to be on it alone. And I want to be sitting next to someone I trust. I want to hold that person’s hand even if it means squeezing really hard sometimes. I want to be able to bury my head in that person’s shoulder and feel safe. And I might even want to scream now and again when I have no words. And when the roller coaster is over, you know what I’m thinking is there? That’s right. Snowcones. And solid ground.
I hear about people dancing through life, and read about people being carried by the wind… free. And I wonder if I am doing it wrong. The words that describe my life are more like bumping into and tripping over. Stumbling upon. And cleaning up after I trip and stumble. It’s just messy. And I don’t know if I will ever glide gracefully. Truth is, I can get kind of discouraged now and again. And I let myself feel it. for a while. I just try really hard not to stay there. Yesterday, while in the dentist chair for three hours, I realized I had so many places I could re-visit that brought me peace. Times that gave me hope. There was a sweetness to those times. I am thankful for every one of them. Because they take me forward. And I decided that the wind is usually in my face or blowing the car door closed on my leg. That I do a lot more tripping than dancing. And I am so glad. I learn a lot from those times.
‘I am folded, and unfolded, and unfolding’… and there are layers that are my history. Done. And I feel like I have been opened up. Exposed in a way I have never known. Sometimes, it’s hard to to breathe through it and rest. It’s so new. But I started this. And in some ways it feels like going into fog. And it’s being burned off by the sun. Which feels good. warm. light. And it’s a little scary. Because I can’t see clearly what’s next. And I have to keep going because turning around isn’t an option. It’s funny, last night something happened and old patterns, once very familiar, seemed foreign. I’m so glad. I guess for me this journey hasn’t been so much about unlearning and breaking old habits as it has been about new learning. Letting it take hold. And I’m liking the new.
yesterday devoured me. I don’t know how else to put it. I got knocked off my feet by a couple things and I’m still feeling it today. It seems like something I really want… really want, is just outside my grasp. And what I’m faced with is that it might always be just that close. So, what do I do? Do I follow what is looking more and more like a dangling carrot or do I just cut the line when that might not be necessary? I keep waiting, right, for someone to come and pull me out of this place. To close that gap between where I am and where I want to be. But it looks like… that someone is me. And that raises a lot of question.
I read somewhere that the opposite of the truth is not a lie, but another truth. That used to confound me. Not anymore. In all this learning that has begun to take place on my very own little Odyssey, I have seen that I have not been living lies so much, like I originally thought, as other truths. I have been kicking myself for feeling like a fraud in some ways, because I have not really been living according to what’s inside of me. But I’m not a fraud. That’s too unkind. I have instead, just been living truths that don’t reflect who I am. Someone else’s truth. I tried. I was close to being that daughter. I’m not sure where I was as a sister. I wasn’t that wife. I tried for almost 19 years. The only truth I feel I have come close to living, in that way, is that of a mother. I can say that because my babies have, from the minute they were born, allowed me to be exactly me. They have only known me as me. They had no idea of what a mother should be. No expectations. Whoever I was… was true. and enough. All I had to do was love them and that was easy. I have lived truth with them. It’s all I know. And it’s a good place to start. Whether or not my children got gipped in the mom department will be between them and their therapists someday. Whole other issue…
As soon as I opened my eyes this morning I felt awful. Not physically. But something was bothering me. I started tracing it back to the source right away and found it in something that happened yesterday. I attended an event for work about an hour away and as I walked to my car someone was waiting for me in the parking garage. I met him at the event earlier and there he was. He seemed harmless and talked to me as I went on to my car. I kept trying to leave but he just kept talking. He wasn’t rude. But it was intrusive as I think about it now. Normally, I feel independent. I’m not easily scared. (except in thunderstorms). I can install ceiling fans, remodel bathrooms, change a tire and navigate international travel. This was a simple social situation and I felt cornered. Naive. I felt ridiculous… I felt like a child, not in good way. I try really hard not to hurt people’s feelings, yesterday there was point where being direct was more important than being polite. I don’t like being made to choose. I don’t like feeling that kind of vulnerable. When I got out of bed, I stood and looked in the mirror. For a long time. I think I do that sometimes just to make sure I’m still there.
I promised myself that this morning’s writing would be from my heart with no re-working. Kind of an experiment, I guess. It’s a little scary, but this whole journey thing has been about heading straight toward those things I normally veer away from. It’s not that I’m done with fear, just done with trying to go around it. I realize how much of my life has been about avoiding pain, avoiding things I am scared of or even uncomfortable with. But I have missed so much by doing this. I have lost because of it. And I don’t want to miss out anymore. I want to live this really true life. I want to see who I am and not automatically see a list of things I need to correct or fix. I don’t know if I have this kind of courage. I guess I’ll find out.
I did some looking the other night at who the influences in my life have been. I didn’t dwell on the negative influences, only the positive and how they have made me who I am. I have been blessed beyond measure. There have been a handful of people from whom I have absorbed so much love. And that love has shaped me. My dad is one of those people. In August of last year he got sick. Three weeks later, he passed away. Less than 48 hours after that I boarded a plane for Quebec City, Canada to shoot a wedding. There are a lot of reasons I left the warmth of my family to go to a city I had never been to in order to shoot a wedding of a couple I had never met. My dad was about commitment. About honor. About finishing things he started. And he did it with strength and love. I didn’t realize at the time how much of him I carry with me every day. I don’t know if I have the conviction he had, sometimes I grumble at the effort, but in the end I smile because he gave me this gift.
In Quebec City, I joined another man who has shown me strength and honor and love. He held my hand just at the right times. He knew when to talk and when not to. He let my tears fall without calling attention to them and scolded me when I was less than focused. Didn’t work, by the way, but I appreciated his diligence. He brought me back. Over and over. And I am so grateful.
As a rule, my kids put their cell phones away when they are with me. (It wasn’t easy for them at first). I couldn’t believe the speed with which my daughter could text. And while my son cannot, and does not want to, compete with her for this honor, the sheer volume of incoming electronic crap flying through the air made my head spin. Once. I was one of those ignorant parents who tried to wait as long as I could before getting them phones. They have never owned a game-boy or wii, playstation, or anything with wires that I could trip over. They have a computer. and it’s only been in the past year that my daughter has decided that we maybe we are NOT Amish. Parenting for me has been trial and error. A lot of errors. I count on this… that love covers a multitude of sins. And I do love them. And, right or wrong, I give them what I love. I give them books. I give them time. I give them hugs. I tell them about sunday dinners when no one answered the phone. About flowers not sent over the internet. About handwritten letters. Simple times, not more convenient. When it was personal and that was ok.
Now, for some more honesty… That was me sounding all wholesome. Here’s what you might hear if you asked them…
Mom won’t let us eat blue food. (because red and yellow dyes are so much healthier?) My pyscho mom keeps threatening to make me read To Kill A Mockingbird, what is that?! Does she really have to yell, ‘Make good choices, honey!’ when she drops me off at school? ( I have only done this once since she attended high school). And so on…
I was driving home from work. Tired. It’s been a busy time getting ready for a show this weekend. So, my patience is a little tapped. (for everyone who just made a sarcastic remark, either out loud or in your head, shame on you). Ok, I almost home. I can see the driveway and I’m already thinking about that cup of tea. And then… the school bus… just what you don’t want to see. And it is stopping. Lights flashing. I made that sound somewhere between a growl and throat-clearing. Of course… of course, the mother is there to greet her child. Standing at the door of the bus. And she begins to talk to the driver. My first thought, maybe my only thought was, ‘Really? Your child needs you to talk to the driver? Everyday? You can’t let him just get off the bus and walk ALL the way to the front door by himself? Moms today. Overinvolved. wow.’ Not completely unfair, right? Not a harmful thought really. A little judgey, maybe.
And finally her child, maybe all of 9 or 10 years old stepped off the bus. He had the gait of a child with cerebral palsy. I don’t need to tell you what I felt. I felt what you would’ve felt. And there were a few tears. and repentance. and I stilled my mind because nothing else seemed enough.
Albert Einstein said, “We are part of the whole which we call the universe, but it is an optical delusion of our mind that we think we are separate. This separateness is like a prison for us. Our job is to widen the circle of our compassion so we feel connected with all people and situations.”
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life…
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
I love this passage from, “Ulysses”. It is passion. It’s the kind of poem that needs to be entered into. Ulysses returns home from his journeys… and realizes for him, life is about moving. going. traveling. shining rather than rusting. and breathing. about archways and other places. other worlds. ‘… Life piled on life.’
This past weekend was a return home. For a rest. To meet someone with that same spirit of going out and going forward. And I suppose, even after diligently translating Homer’s Odyssey from the Latin ( I wish I could say I hated it, it might make me a little less geeky) , I could’ve misinterpreted Tennyson. But I know what it means to me.
There is a place called, quiet, that has never failed me, so it surprises me sometimes that I don’t go there first. I suppose it’s because, when I am unresolved about something, it still feels more natural just to hurry up and fix things. That’s usually when I become my own worst enemy. I try to talk it away, think it away, and throw solutions at everyone involved. From there it becomes a catch 22. Anyone who isn’t helping me solve it is a potential adversary, which creates more problems. It makes me tired just writing all that.
But I am so thankful for this place called quiet. I am forced to stop all my doing. Everything slows down. There is a lot of waiting, (not easy for me), and ultimately, surrendering. That’s where I unclench my fists and let go of all my answers and wait some more. That’s where I find this incredible rest. It’s weightless. Have you ever been so involved in a task, even if it’s just watching tv, and then you take this deep breath, and suddenly realize you haven’t been breathing, really breathing? It feels like that.
And then I start to see possibilities I didn’t see before. New choices. And sometimes you get the nicest surprises.
“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?” ~ Jack Kerouac (On the Road)
A year ago I was in San Francisco… or about to go to San Francisco… give or take a week. I’m not much with dates… But I do remember the feel of that city. I remember that even at 50 degrees, it was warm. I remember sunny mornings. I remember walking. forever. and back from forever. I remember the market with olives and bread and cheese. And memories are funny things. Sometimes like ghosts.
Yes, I know it’s line from Macbeth and not an uplifting one either. But I thought of these words this morning and saw promise rather than hopelessness. I know in the past I gave weight to words and sentiments and whole conversations that were, to use Shakespeare’s word, insignificant. I wasted all sorts of time on things that didn’t matter when I could have, should have been celebrating what was right in front of me. I should have listened more. Really listened. Trusted more. Let go faster. This is what I will carry into tomorrow tomorrow and tomorrow with hope. Not insignificant at all. But it’s Friday… so no more thinking…
This past week I faced some pretty big challenges, personally. If you have been reading my blog, you know, though I haven’t included a lot of details. (Sometimes details are like reasons, they just don’t matter). Mostly, I don’t see myself as someone who lets her life happen to her, but this thing did happen. I tried to stop it. I couldn’t. And I came to the point where I said what I needed to say and no longer needed to be heard. With that ‘chapter ended’, it’s time for me to start drafting a new one.
The new chapter will simply begin. And today the sun is shining. A perfect day to start new.