Have you ever wanted something so badly, and then when you got it you realize that it was yours all along, it just needed some tweaking? Oh man, am I having one of those days.
Teeth have been a lifelong struggle for me. First there was the teething. I don't really remember that part. After watching my daughters grow teeth, however, I've decided that it's a struggle. Then there was the losing of the teeth, which was softened by the sheer delight people took in me looking like a happy homeless beggar. It happened a little late for me, as many things did. I was still losing teeth in late high school. And one of them never grew back in. It was exceptionally handy for drinking through a straw. The teeth that decided to show up for class battled for space. It was guerrilla warfare, people. And I felt the sting of those unsightly suckers so deep.
One day we were at a baseball game (go Mud Hens!!), and some drunk joked that our daughter had more teeth than her mother. That guy was conveniently standing at the railing of a balcony so I chucked him over the ledge. No, I didn't. I'd never do that. But I wanted to. I also wanted to cry a river to drown in.
My teeth were my shame factory. They should not have mattered so much. They're teeth. I told myself this all the time. No one cared about my teeth. Well, the people who mattered didn't care about my teeth. The people who didn't matter judged my teeth hard, and vocally.
Staring strangers. Snarky smirks. Anyone with teeth anxiety will totally relate to this, I'm sure of it. It's so tender a topic that we just don't talk about it that often. Or ever. Also, it's easy to feel ridiculous for being hurt over the visible part of your digestive system.
Anyway, after years of shame and sadness over my totally embarrassing, but exceptionally healthy teeth, I had the opportunity to get braces. It was so hard to choose to get them. There were worthiness triggers and a whole lot of anxiety over spending so much money on myself. It took months and months of hearing my husband say, "This is so much more than okay. You deserve this, even though I'll miss your beautiful crazy smile." My longest term friends all told me I needed to do this for myself. I don't think there has ever been a decision I've made that I sought more reassurance for than this. And they're just teeth.
Well, the braces went on. There was surgery to make the stubbornly antisocial tooth join the party. There was teething at age 30. There was pain and blah, blah, blah.
And today they came off. I was so nervous this morning. For weeks I've been having these weird visual anxieties where I bite into an apple and my teeth fall out. Or I look in the mirror and my lips are all deflated. Today while the orthodontist was grinding off the adhesive I started giggling, partially because I was happy, and partially because I was imagining myself with no teeth at all. What a shame to spend three years with braces just to end up toothless.
I wasn't really nervous that my teeth were going to fall out this morning, though. I was nervous about receiving. This has been an enormous gift. This is burying those old sad stories. And maybe my teeth wouldn't be pretty, but they'd be all there. I didn't know if I could stand being so blend-in-able, which was all I really wanted. I wanted people to look at me smile and not go, "Egad!" I wanted to be able to smile without feeling small or weird. I was nervous about receiving the gift of a smile that blends in.
Could I bear it?
I wish I could say that it's not a big deal. That in the end I was bigger than my teeth and that I learned that it doesn't matter, like a highly evolved person would. But it so matters to me, and I am so happy with this smile.
What is the most shocking of all is that, not only is my smile blend-in-able, my teeth are the ones I always wished I had. Can it be? When I'd look at someone and think, what a nice set of chompers, I had no idea that my teeth (once forced into a peace treaty with each other) were exactly the kind of teeth I wanted. Oh, happy day. I got home and took a good look and then couldn't settle down for hours. I thought it'd be hard to bear. No. There has been literal heal clicking joy in this house.
And the thought that has hit home brightly and definitively is so cliche it has me rolling my eyes so hard they might fall out of my head: I had what I wanted all along. They just needed a little tweaking. Click your heels, Dorothy. Voice what you want. Say what you know. Open your arms. It's already there. You're already there. Show up. Let it be what you want it to be.
Allow Goodness to win. For Goodness sake.
Can it be? Yes, it can.
While there is certainly a whole lot of happy going on about my teeth, there is also this enormous sense of relief. Today, I know that I can receive exactly what I want, what I choose, what I fight for and work for, and even what is gifted to me--with joy. Maybe odd for lots of folks to even think that receiving could be challenging, but not all of us.
To those, like me, who sometimes think receiving is a game for someone else, but not for you:
It's safe for us to receive. It won't make us jerks. It's safe. It's safe. It's safe.
Love to everyone,
Especially to people with crooked, crazy smiles,
ps~ Don't think I'm out of the crooked family. My orthodontist didn't know whether to align my teeth with my nose or my chin. There's still a whole lot of crooked going on. ;)
Ever since Fierce Solidarity was published--only three weeks ago--I've been thinking of it as a beginning woman's book. My initiation into womanhood was unexpected motherhood. As I've said to many of the emerging women in my life, "It was exactly what I needed, but I wouldn't recommend it." Motherhood was absolutely my invitation to mindful living, though. It catapulted me toward what I wanted to be, and through it, I gave myself permission to learn the things I wanted to know; experience the things I wanted to experience.
In a way, Fierce is an invitation to all young women to embrace the power they have to create the life they want. As a young woman I felt limited in so many ways. Looking back, it's disheartening to realize that it was all in my head, or rather, in my thinking. Well-established systems of control, limiting ideas, fears, and trauma had all worked together to build a pervading sensation of inability and even hopelessness. They were not stronger than the messages of encouragement and empowerment I was also surrounded with; those messages did win in the long run. They gave me the audacity to face the things that were damming up my river. It took a solid decade.
Writing Fierce was a journey into the how of my experience. How exactly had I maneuvered through that early minefield of choosing a partner and emerging into womanhood? How could that transition have been made better if I had known then what I know how? Now that it's finished, I'm beginning to think a lot about the why again. Why do things happen the way they do? I'd thought this through a lot in the micro sense, for my own situation and through my own healing. But now, I'm looking at the thinking that was holding me back. It was much, much bigger than my personal situation. It was systematic. Sure, it was the micro-culture, but it was also the macro-culture.
It wasn't just me. And it wasn't just people like me.
That little truth has astounded me over and over. Every time I realize I'm not the only one I'm overwhelmed with relief and grief. What's really astounding, though, is being able to walk through life feeling so alone when we're surrounded by people.
It's not hard to see why. Throw a hot-button issue into a crowd and the wagons will be circled in their opposing corners in a jiffy with a war of ideas engulfing the middle--everyone shouting so loud they can't hear themselves think. If thinking is even a thing at a moment like that. In those moments the only value of the cultural togetherness is the swelling pseudo-power. The crowd dances to the beat of I'm right, I'm right, I'm right. And puts someone else in charge. Someone they can throw stones at later when things don't work the way they thought they would. Anyone that doesn't love the I'm right rhythm starts feeling freaked out by the crowd, and after the wave of rightness has passed, the participants have to dig their faith a little deeper into the cause to quell the insecurity that wells up. Nobody knows who is who when we're all thrown together out here in the world, so there's a lot of tiptoeing and courtesy. The louder of us have bumper stickers and t-shirts to clear things up a bit. But, connection?
Hmmm. . .
Who's gleaning the real benefits of the community, these days? Where is the big human system that works?
It could be argued that the system that works is everywhere. Little micro-systems. A community here, a family there. Leaders and teachers everywhere. They are everywhere doing their thing. Living for Goodness Sake. With the loudness of macro-dysfunction ringing in my ears, I forget all the time. The voice I'm supposed to be listening to is still and small as it ever was. It led me through the micro-questions. And it'll lead me through this.
So for the rest of the day, I will be listening hard and soft to the stillness. I will pay attention to the tiny things that are functional and good and helpful, even if I have to carry around a horde of magnifying glasses and otoscopes. I see goodness and pull it to the spotlight, just for today.
Leap years are great. Who doesn't love an extra day? This time of year has always been one of my favorites. Winter still feels cozy. Fresh fluff is welcomed with open arms. Everything is visually softer. The mounds of snow cushion the landing--whatever your eyes are falling on. Winter is lived in, not crispy fresh, but turned over and over; settled in, relaxed, and not going anywhere anytime soon. Tire tracks crackle brown snow over white, a steady stream of snow boulders make a promenade of the alley, lively snow families distinguish the lucky yards, planks of snow curl off the roofs here and there. There seems to be a universe for the snow itself. No flake or formation exactly like its neighbor, but they're comfortable enough living side by side.
Winter isn't the best time of year for lots of folks. I was fairly concerned when we moved up here about how we'd survive the long, dark winters. It's been the least of the transitions, though. Not one of us has struggled with it. We do candles, sometimes real, but the pretty plug in candles are always, always on from October at the latest until at least March. We do vitamin D, which makes a significant difference. We exercise and eat root vegetables and get fresh air. It all matters.
Knowing that in a couple of weeks I'll likely be in a completely different frame of mind is making me sink into the coziness as deeply as I can. I'm already starting to feel the pull toward a late winter clean and purge. For now, though, mid-February is giving me the warm embrace that I'm so used to now.
That little recharge of rest to push me through the later and sometimes more tiresome weeks of winter. But it's okay. I play tricks on my mind in March that keep it happy and ticking. These are the perks, I think, of having lived with yourself long enough to know your quirks and weaknesses. You know when to pat your own head and say, "there, there," and when to give your self a rousing talking to. In March, I am my own leprechaun. For now, though, I'm keeping things as soft as a snow bank.
Usually we get along. I smile condescendingly when other people post Monday whiner posts. Well, Monday, you got me. You're on steroids. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
Actually, after two hours of getting nothing accomplished I'm starting to feel leveled off. They did, in fact, make it to school on time. Appropriately dressed. Even though someone grew five inches last night, and the tights crotch was down to the knees and the dress hem up to the hips. All three dress hems, in fact, that attempted to parade out the door after the parade had been sent upstairs to put on some jeans--twice. Apparently they're all in the pile of dirty laundry lying on the floor next to the empty hamper. Pink corduroys were found. Too short and too big around the middle. But better than saggy tights.
I can remember literally nothing else that was stressful about this morning, and this seems funny now. I take it back, Monday. This letter is not to you.
Mondays are never your enemy. They are transition. You had a really great and messy Valentine's Day, and that's why everyone was so tired this morning. It was messy in all the ways. This is what you like about life, remember? The mess. The challenge. And the way that the joy and sunshine burn almost unbearably bright after the struggle. So what if you think joy should not be so hard to bear? Too bad. You're joyful. And raw joy hurts. Say thank you, thank you, thank you until it feels like peace and light in your arms and your belly. Then gear up, because life slows down for no one, and you have work to do.
Sincerely & With Sincere Love,
I'm torn today. I want to work hard and get lots of writing done before it's time to bake all the birthday and Valentine party treats that will be heading out the door tomorrow morning. I also want to drink coffee and watch Gilmore Girls and lay around like it's 2005. On top of the usual desire to hang out at Luke's, I just now found out that Gilmore Girls is coming back as a miniseries on Netflix. First Full House, now this? The nostalgia is strong. It takes little to please me. This is just over the top. I'm going to skip all day.
It's cold here, folks. Negative teens cold. My face hurt by the time I made it back to our house this morning. Even with the frigid temperatures, I love that morning walk down the alley. Whether sunbeams guide the way, we're trekking through a frozen haze, or snow bits are pelting our faces it's always delightful once I'm actually out doing it. I love the crooked fence that's barely standing up to the weight of this year's snow, the crunch of snow under our feet, and following the tracks left by the critters. It was too cold for the birds this morning. They were huddled up somewhere thinking of their happy place, wondering why they didn't make the trip to Florida this year.
Lots on the agenda today. My work on the Flowchart of Action (my plan to get Fierce Solidarity out into as many real, live hands as possible) has lagged this week. Illness has been making itself comfortable in our house for months now. The last week that both girls actually made it to school every day of the week was back in early December. Tomorrow, there is a birthday in the house. I make it a point to do only absolutely necessary work on days that I gave birth in the past. Seems fair. To account for this, the FlofA needs my attention today. FlofA, cake, brownies, finish drafting amazing chapter about a rug and the issue with the post--all in the next four hours. So doable.
Sigh, Gilmore Girls will have to wait. It's fun to imagine that I'll sit around watching tv all day. Some day.
The last of the Christmas decorations, who must have hid their way through the Christmas clean up, have congregated on my writing table. A glittered reindeer is currently leaping out of a valentine vase. And a streamer of felt candies, made by our youngest and I one day after preschool a few years back, is still hanging behind the sheer curtain. I just noticed it a few days ago, though I sit here every single day.
The leftovers of Christmas aren't overshadowing the valentines around the house, though. I love Valentine's Day. It rises in the ranks of my most beloved holidays every year. I went through this phase where I loathed the exploitation of love and commercialism and blah, blah, blah. Now I'm like, "Whatever. Bring me chocolate. Bring me flowers. Let's dance." Because love is hard, folks, and it deserves a holiday. Besides, during one whole month of winter, red and pink and hearts and flowers make life more colorful. They keep the heart beating when it might want to hibernate. As much as I think bear life sounds amazing, I'm a human, and full on hibernation is not what we do.
One of my favorite books from childhood is The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett. LOVE it. I paid a ridiculous amount of money when our oldest was a baby to add the book to our collection of storybooks for her. It was out of print, so I hunted up a used copy which is now lovingly tattered, as it has been read and slept with to the point of softness. A mark of high privilege and praise for a child's book. Lucky for all of us, it's back in print now. I think I'll get a couple copies and put them away for the girls when they're grown.
Mr. and Mrs. Bear know love is hard. They go the extra mile. They show up for each other, even though they're bears and hibernation really is their thing. Mrs. Bear thinks Mr. Bear isn't going to show up, and she's not having it. Valentine's Day is happening. Even though other creatures are still sleeping, or are watching her like she may be crazy...Mrs. Bear is doing this thing. Mr. Bear is, of course, being a prankster, and has prepared for the day, too. They laugh. They hang out. They eat. They go back to sleep until Spring. All of this happens against the backdrop of 1985 earthy softness. The colors are soft and somewhat muted; greys and reds, mostly. The effect is bewitching and soothing and enlivening all at the same time.
This book still delights me after close to thirty years of reading it. I remember my mom and my grandma reading it to me. I read it to myself. I read it to my daughters. I listen to my husband read it to them, too. Now that I have a lived in, weathered love, I recognize this book as the metaphor for seasoned love that it is. A celebration of going to sleep and waking back up; reviving love and letting it rest over and over again. Letting love go through its phases of sleeping and waking is not the easiest part of loving someone deeply for a long, long time.
We were just talking, my husband and I, about how our culture doesn't support this model of love so much. New love? Yes. Old love? Yes. Middle love? Not so much. Old love is romanticized to the point that the dying that's happened over and over is barely acknowledged. We've been together for a dozen years, married for nearly eleven. One marriage made up of dozens of different relationships. We're always recommitting. Recalculating. Adjusting. And every time change comes around, something that was once beautiful is laid to rest to make room for what's coming next.
We held on to new love for ages. We really did. We thought we were winning at life. Beating the odds. Beating the system. Our love will never die. It'll never happen to us. We were so cute. We were so determined. And so foolish.
The first death was bewildering. The second, excruciating. The third, numbing. The day I realized exactly how the couple in Stepmom fell apart, even though they so clearly loved each other, I got seriously scared.
Then, ever so slowly, I began to pick up on the art of rebuilding. Constant remodeling, that's middle love. Standing together and bashing apart something that hasn't been working can be fun. Cleaning up the rubble, meh; it's necessary. Building something new, maybe not as fun as it sounds, but so much better than the alternative. What's going to work to keep us together? How can we make sure we're both getting what we need while we're working so hard to take care of our responsibilities? That's middle love. It is so much work, but the worn in, weathered feeling--the sense of accomplishment--the knowledge that your kids are the ones who are really winning--it's so worth it.
Now, middle love is no excuse for lack of romance. I used to think that romance was evidence of love, not I think it's love's nourishment. Valentine's Day is our friend, and I am counting down the days. Me and Mrs. Bear, we're making Valentine's Day happen come hell or high water. Pretty sure the mister has some plans, too, because a mystery box showed up at the door yesterday, and I've been ordered to open no packages that come in his name. Ah, romance. I'll take a triple serving, please and thank you.
As a ministerly type of person, I spend a lot of time thinking about what heals us. I've studied herbs and aromatherapy. I've tried all sorts of lifestyles that claim to be the most healthy lifestyle ever. I've dreamed of being a raw vegan doing yoga with my bare feet leveling out my energy with every step. We've done all natural, all organic, all earthy. . .all to no avail.
Sometimes the method is the madness, or the method makes the madness. I don't know. What I do know is that when I finally uncovered the source of my own body's consistent distress and began meeting the immediate needs of myself and my family, life got better. The question:: Is this killing me slowly? was replaced in my mind with:: Will this make me or my daughters immediately ill? This may seem like backwards motion, but I have not experienced it this way.
We still eat healthfully, but in a home with as many food restrictions as ours has, the mindfulness changed from fear to support. I no longer stare warily at foods that are deemed unhealthful, but which pose no immediate threat to my body. I am no longer afraid of white potatoes. I no longer replay the list of warnings in the back of my head when I consume chicken nuggets. When you know that certain foods will make you violently ill, it really puts things in perspective. Food that gives you good energy is good enough.
This is not to say that we run around eating with no sense of discipline, because we are very disciplined. We simply eat without dogma. No hippy dogma. No establishment dogma. I mean, food is pretty simple, and I made it complicated for years by trying to follow all the rules. I just couldn't stop.
I'm pretty sure that the most important rules of all things--food, spirit, life in general--are so simple they're easy to bury under ideas about how we're supposed to implement the simple guidelines that keep us steady. This is where I falter over and over again. I make a plan instead of sitting and listening. I stress when I could be letting some beautiful view soothe my nerves. I chide myself for little treats instead of enjoying them alongside the abundance of nourishment in my belly.
The fruits of the spirit have long been my guidance for a check in to see how I'm doing. Am I producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? If not, where am I stepping off the path? Am I living in judgement of myself or others? Am I neglecting to savor nourishment? Am I resisting enjoyment? Am I treating myself and others equally? Is my standard for treatment of myself and others appropriately set? What am I missing the mark on? Most of the time, for me, the miss is that I'm taking an axe to my sense of worthiness. Not worthy because of x, y, or z. X--I used bad creamer in my coffee. Y--I was snippy with that person. Z--I haven't mopped for months.
Do you know that I just now realized that there is nothing anywhere close to "perfection" on the list of fruits of the spirit?
It can be a vicious cycle. Judgement and Perfection are in love with each other. They are in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. The beauty is that we are worthy because we are worthy. You don't need a reason to claim worthiness. The vicious cycle becomes the beautiful cycle when love becomes a practice; when joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control become the practice. I forget this all the time. I fall off the wagon and then climb back on again. The way back to producing good fruit is applying the first fruits to my own soul. I love me. I will be joyful today. Peace is the queen of my heart. I deserve my own patience. Kindness comes in many packages, I'll open one from me, to me today. In me is goodness. I'm going to feel it today. I faithfully walk the path that leads to my well-being, which is not even distantly related to perfection. I treat myself with gentility when I step off the path. I exercise self-control to stay on the path long enough so that goodness, and all the other fruit will pour out onto others.
Sometimes, this whole exercise happens over a cup of coffee. They say coffee is bad, and on top of that, I'm using the bad creamer. It's full of carcinogens. . .anxiety builds. . . fear is the opposite of love. I'm going to enjoy this. I'm not going to let anxiety wreck this hour--one I can choose to fill with peace. I'll be patient with my imperfection. Kindness means I won't judge myself. I'm still good even if I'm making an imperfect choice. This cup of coffee does not represent what I consume all day long. I faithfully nourish my body every day. It is okay not to be a perfect consumer, so I'll be gentle with the allowances I make for myself. I'll have the self-control to only have two cups today, just like every other day.
Sounds like a lot, but it's really very quick. It steadies me. The practice, not the coffee. That, I just enjoy. Carcinogens and all.
Ten years ago today was our first daughter's due date. I was 22 with a horrible haircut. It was so bad. In January of 2006, roughly 2-3 weeks before the due date, our baby was still in breech position. The OBGYN says, "No problem. We'll turn her. You'll go to the hospital and get hooked up to monitors. I'll force your baby around the right way by pushing on your stomach. I'll even get on top of you if I have to. Oh, and if she has a good reason for being positioned the way she is, like if there's a cord issue, we'll just do an emergency c-section"
"Hmm. Let me get back to you on that," I say.
We get home. We weigh the options. We Google it, and get completely freaked out by horror stories. Cord issues was a horribly cool acknowledgement of the risk factors of this particular procedure. We sit in the baby's room. I'm 22 and can barely take care of myself. He's 23 and hadn't planned on being a father. We are still in the insane stage of love. High on life love. Googly eyes, catch a shooting star and ride it to the moon love. We sleep in the twin sized bottom of the bunk beds I took to college.
And we are committed to this baby. Committed. Committed enough to get our lives together.
What do you think?
I don't know.
I need a cheeseburger, like, now.
What do you think, Baby? Do you want the doctor to force you around?
Baby says no. Let's trust her.
Okay, yeah, I agree. She knows what to do. Let's go get cheeseburgers.
That's how we decided. I mean, our faith in this kid was strong. She was wiser than us, this much we knew for sure. We were pretty confident that we could keep her alive. We were determined to, at least, do no harm.
Later, days past the due date, doc says, "I'm going to strip your membranes to see if we can get this moving."
Nothing moved. Except my eyelids which raised dramatically in response to the sudden ripping of inner flesh. If your doctor ever says she's going to strip your membranes, do not expect a massage.
Anyway, baby was not intimidated or impressed. Ha! You cannot make me come out, lady.
Then, days later, it's late, and I'm like, "Hey, something is happening."
The next morning I'm doubled over in pain saying, "I don't want to go to the hospital." Hospitals are for people who actually give birth to their children. Mine obviously wanted to stay in me for all time.
Pain or no pain. Having a baby inside for the rest of my life suddenly seemed like a better option than having a human to keep alive. Too bad. It was happening. He called my mom who agreed that it was really time to go.
The doctor on call was annoyed. She was fairly shallow, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was annoyed because I was a 22 year old mother with a bad haircut. I laid there imagining that if I were a mother with great big hair like hers and professionally manicured fingernails that the doctor would not have been so dismissive. She did not hide her disgust well. Everyone was yelling. It was the classic television scene with the doctor yelling, "Push!" and the mother screaming, "I can't!" Only, in Lamaze class they told us that wasn't the way it was actually supposed to work. "It's never like it is in the movies," they said. I was as angry as I've ever been that day. I felt unsupported, and bathed in judgement. But something clicked inside of me, and I think it was her.
Tap, tap, tap. Mom. I need you here.
I shut my eyes; shut out the noise, the regret, the anger, the disappointment, the shame.
Just you and me kid.
Those minutes were like magic. She was born and I was born and the rest is history.
As soon as she was born I started yelling at the doctor. Give her to me. I did not want her fancy, fake hands anywhere near my baby. But those hands were expertly unraveling the cord from my baby's neck. It was wrapped twice and tight. Once she started crying, the kid raged. Red as a tomato and loud as a lion. She was not amused by her birthing experience any more than I was.
It didn't hit me right away. Cord issues. Like an umbilical cord wrapped snugly around the neck? Yes, exactly. The cord wrapped around her neck was not the only thing threatening my child's life, though.
It took everything inside of me to stop listening to the expert in the room. It took everything to stop reacting out of shame and anger and blame. Dropping everything and listening, and being willing to stand up to my responsibility alone was the hardest thing I'd done up to that point. It was necessary for both of us. It made me a mother through and through.
I'm a big believer in miracles and angels and stuff like that. We've had too many divine interventions in our family not to be a believer in being rescued by Grace in big and supernatural ways. I'm also a believer in all the events of our lives being largely symbolic. If we're willing to look at our experiences from all angles, they're bound to teach us everything we need to know. Life is the most profound teacher. Some moments are so loud and raucous that it takes years to hear below the noise.
There was a cord around my neck that day, too. The two plies were disappointment and shame. I'd disappointed everyone, and the shame I felt about the direction my life was heading in was so thick I could have suffocated in it. Those moments, just me and her, were the first glimpse I had at my personal power. It changed me irreversibly, and eventually I gathered all the tools I needed to cut the cord around my own neck. She was my motivation every single day.
I once told someone that my daughter's conception had challenged my destiny. Would I lay down and die or would I rise up and live? Once she was born the question became: How will I choose to live? Big difference. Miraculous difference.
It's snowing again. Gorgeously. My heavy on the weather talk blog posts this week are reminding me of conversations I had with my grandpa. We'd get on the phone and the first thing he'd ask or talk about was the weather. I would humor him and try not to let my voice reflect my colossal boredom.
I mean, what is it with weather talk? It must be one of the signs of true adulthood when you begin to actually like talking about the weather. Also, when having bird feeders that are visible from the kitchen window begins to feel like a necessity for your heart health; this is more proof of adulthood. Is it a Midwest thing? I don't know. All I know is that I love talking about the weather with my parents. I tell them about the snow and the temperature, which they already know better than me, because they have a fancy set up on their television where they can (and do) watch the weather forecasts for all their children. This is so endearing to me.
Also, it's comforting. If a freak storm comes and buries us to the rooftop in snow, kills the internet and our phones and we're stranded, it'll be okay. Mom and Dad will have watched the weather. So they'll know we're trapped in our house.
It's the little things.
When life was starting to get busier for our little family, there was a sharp sense of longing in my bones for the slow, homey flow of the earlier years when everything moved to the rhythm of a baby's needs. Sometime in 2012, I picked up this book, The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox. I cried as I read about why our repeated actions matter so much, and about actions as metaphors and symbols. I'd thoroughly studied rituals as they pertain to religion and religious identity. Applying these rhythmic and repetitive practices to the art of family building transformed the way I approach my role as a mother.
The book is full of wonderful ideas, and we've adopted a few of them. Most of all, though, I revisit this book for a recharge. To be reminded that human beings need rhythm and rituals in each layer of their lives to create a sense of meaning, belonging, and place. When I'm getting frustrated by folks or groups that use their own devout practice as the ruler against which all others should be measured, I forcefully remind myself that that the ache to belong is at the core of their words and actions, as poisoned as that longing might have become. They began as a child who wanted to be nourished by the comfort of family.
Oddly enough, weather talk stirs the deep roots of my heritage. I grew up with two grandmothers who would burst into their own rendition of Harvest Moon when they noticed a full moon in the sky. We were all farm people, so the weather dictated daily activity to an extreme. Of course we're weather people. They needed to pay attention to the sky. Now I do, too. Not for my amazing farm (non-existent), but for my amazing heart.
There may be innumerable things creating separation in our families, neighborhoods, and communities. Enormous things that seem impossible to mend or even understand. Broken hearts and meanness and differences of the most fundamental opinions. At the end of the day, though, we rely on each other, even if only for a sense of place.
Rituals that seem lightweight are so often what carry relationships through the daily struggles and the big ones, too. They're the easy bridges over troubled water. They help us maintain connection in relationships that have been stretched a little too thin. I mean, truly, Friday night pizza night has given our family steady rhythm through 5 years of transplanting from one town to the next. It should not mean so much, but it does.
There are little things in every relationship. Keep doing the little things. Even when the big things get tough, and boundaries must be set to keep the relationship healthy. Even when your voice comes out patchy or strained, say, "It snowed again today." Even when making pizza dough sounds like death, just put the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Don't give up on what has proven itself to be good. It's how we save the baby from the bathwater. One intentional moment at a time.
By the way...I just got off the phone. Guess what we talked about?
Weather talk is everywhere.
ps - Abusive relationships cannot be healed with rhythm, traditions, or rituals. If you've read Fierce Solidarity you know how I feel about handling abusive relationships.
pps - Strained relationships, in my brain, are healthy relationships that are suffering for having been stretched too thin.
It's days like this that I'm grateful I do everything from home. This cold and flu season has been particularly harsh on our daughter. There hasn't been a week since before break that both girls have gone to school every day. There's no scrambling to get my bases covered on mornings when sickness disrupts the plans. I'm just here. Home base. I feel lucky about that now that both girls are in school. Of course the quiet, work filled days are amazing, but so are these days when someone is home watching cartoons while I get a little work done. Between illness and growing pains, last night was a classically sleepless night of motherhood. You think those are going to end someday, but they just don't. Though, mercifully, they are fewer and farther between than they used to be.
Lack of sleep means two things: great creativity in my writing and a 50/50 chance that tomorrow my amazing creativity will look like a mess rivaling the one in the craft room. It's worth the gamble.
Just sitting is one my mothering tactics when the girls are sick, so I'm looking forward to an afternoon of setting everything aside and reading or watching a movie. Either activity will involve a little excitement and a little mystery for this particular sick daughter, which sounds just right on this beautiful winter day. We had gray, we had snow, and now we have sunshine. Speaking of sunshine, we're gaining several minutes of daylight every day. This year I can imagine that winter is not actually eternal. Perhaps because it started softly toward the end of December instead of like a raging maniac at the beginning of November.
I keep pinning pictures of foxes jumping and diving for their prey. I can't for the life of me get the widget to embed, so here's the link.
It's fascinating me right now. I mean...the height! The verticle-ness! I don't even know if I stand that straight on my feet, and they leap from the ground and come back down vertically. What is that? Amazing.
Anyway. It's sitting time. Me sitting. Fox leaping. I guarantee I won't be sitting as strait as that fox is diving.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.