Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is There Anything?

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Is there anything in the world not born vulnerable?

Soft-boned birds hatch wet and shivering
fluffs of wrinkled feathers and wide-open mouths
exposed to the air and its unexpected emptiness.

Trees drop seeds that crack open to the earth
sending skyward delicate leaves easily crushed
ground into soil by boots and paws and claws.

New ideas in a swirl of rainbow bubble
held in midair by the thinnest of membranes
invisible protection between it and extinction.

Horses and cows drop to the earth in a bag of slime
stumble to their feet in search of sustenance and warmth
beginning already their long journey to death.

Butterflies in cocoons and bugs in their casings
crawl to the air and solidify their wings and outer shells
a mockery of protection against those that might devour them.

Human babies, caught by strange hands (if they are lucky)
wail against the cold or the heat or the bright lights
and the sudden aloneness
without fangs or fur or hooves or wings
to carry them to their ultimate destiny,

Condemned to plod madly along the earth,
with no defenses anywhere,
un-fanged, un-winged, un-feathered, un-clawed
only a soft body with no protection
except that which it can make itself.

So I ask you: Is there anything?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In a Mother's Heart, Part 3

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The other thing I point to, when I worry that I have not been a good mother, is that I have my own life.  In all honesty, I have not sacrificed much for my children...except my freedom. Frankly, there wasn't much to sacrifice, since I started life so far behind your average person educationally, financially, emotionally and spiritually, that any more sacrifice would have required nails. Hell, I had a child at 18 as a high school dropout and a single parent when I was still a kid myself, putting me even further behind the proverbial eight-ball.   Some days it feels like I've clawed my way here to Lexington, to my almost MPA...and some days I still feel like I don't have much to show for all the clawing, all the striving. Some days I want to say, hey wait, where's my Victorian? Where's my Jaguar?  Where's my trip to Morocco? 

So yeah, when they are all moved out, I will still have a full life, because I have my own life.  Quieter, cleaner, and less boisterous and smelly, but it will still be a full life.  And although I admire this having-a-full-life thing in other women, women who are sad but not devastated when their kids are gone,  women who are not left wandering around stark-eyed like refugees trying to find their center when their kids move out, it feels like a flaw in me.  But I have chosen to ignore that internal voice, the one that whispers, “you should have sacrificed so much more,” and just live my life anyway...because the only thing I had to sacrifice was my freedom, and I think that counts. I think that counts a lot.

I am always shocked by and slightly envious of women who are deeply, blindly in love with their children.  They brag as if their children's successes were there own, as if their failures were theirs.  They are not, I want to tell them. They are theirs, your children’s.  Let them have them!  Oh, I have my blind spots about each of my children, whole swathes of their characters or personality flaws I have made excuses for or simply chosen to ignore, expecting God to some day duke it out with them.  I believe their ultimate soul development is between them and their God. Do I have a hand in that? Absolutely. Every day I have a hand in that.  But I am not the only influence in their lives, and I refuse to pretend I am. I don't have that kind of energy to devote to being omnipotent.   I trust that they are each on their own journey, messy, beautiful, flawed and powerful, ultimately landing in the arms of God. I see glimpses of their destinies every day, even as I see their messiness.  I have learned not to fear the mess so much anymore, because who isn't messy?  Who isn't destined?  

I have certain favorite photos of each of my sons, which capture them at a moment in time.  There is the one of David, my almost 20 year old, at about four or five running toward the ocean (and away from me) in his blue bathing suit, his arms flung wide in a gesture of welcome.  There is the one of Matthew at a year and a half, the boy who is now (gasp) almost 18, leaning over the kitchen table from his high chair seat, with his 'Heat Miser' hair and red shirt, sticking his tongue out as he looks directly into the camera with a sense of playfulness. And there is the one of Christopher, now 28 and then also about four years old, upside down on my mother’s couch in Florida, happy, blue-eyed and blonde, his upside down self a precursor of his skydiving future.   Those boys still live in my sons’ grown-men bodies, and they live forever in my heart, the heart of a mother whose job it is to let go and let go and let go…and hold on.   

Monday, February 4, 2013

In a Mother's Heart, Part Two

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When I was a little girl, I didn’t play much with dolls, although I did have one that is long gone now that I cherished. And I didn’t spend much time imagining what it would be like to have my own children or to get married or have a house some day. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to want those things.  I mean, the message I got as a child somewhere along the way was that women have better things to do with their time than spending them on domestic chores.  What captured my imagination then and still does was adventure, not domesticity.  So cooking and cleaning were a real effort for me and a big drag (ask my ex-husband) when my boys were younger, and they are still not high on my priority list.  I would rather tromp through the woods or play with legos or go dancing or throw paint on a canvas (who wouldn't?) than sweep a floor or wash a dish or cook a fancy meal.  

Admittedly I have not made a big deal about passing on these skills to my boys (although they know how) because, well…I sweep when I can't stand the dirt anymore. I vacuum when I notice that it needs to be done and have Matthew do some of it.  I shop when we are starving (OK, it’s not that bad, but some days it’s pretty close). Some women do this kind of thing on a schedule. They have a routine and a rhythm about it all.  I don't.  I have tried to impose one on myself.  I have tried to shop on the same days of the week, to plan menus, do my laundry every Tuesday or whatever, cook dinner a certain number of predictable nights a week, but it never sticks. I can't do it.  It feels pointless to put that much effort in to getting it "right."  Some day I will stop bothering myself with this and accept it, or maybe some day when my life is less full it will just happen.  My sons have had to get used to it (and I think they talk about me behind my back), because they’ve had to. Ask them how many times they have had to say, “Hey Mom, you going shopping soon?” Or, even better they say, “Want me to go?” 

 Because I am not domestically inclined, as soon as my boys could reach the washing machine, I taught them how to use it.  In their teenage years, the two youngest boys have learned to cook, mostly as a matter of survival and partly in self -defense.  I mean, I was once asked by a lover as we were beginning to cook a meal together in my kitchen why I was suddenly so nervous. I told him I am not at my best in the kitchen. On some level of my interior being, the fact that I am not a consistent housekeeper is one of those things I point to when I think, "I must be a bad mother." I know this is a lie, but I think it sometimes anyway. 

So I was never the kind of mother, thankfully, who thought a clean house and a gourmet dinner represented love.  I would have failed miserably if I had. Instead, I have taught my boys (I hope) that what really matters in the end is not how clean your house is or how you look from the outside, but how deep your level of integrity is and who you are as a person, a friend, a son, a brother, a father, a customer in a restaurant, even. What matters is how you treat other people and how you treat yourself.  I hope I help them ask the right questions, like these:  Are you honest in all your dealings with everyone? Are you lying to yourself about your motives?  Are you trying to get away with something you shouldn’t be? How does it feel when you act like that?  Forget other people’s opinions, how does it feel?  Are you proud when you behave like that, or ashamed and embarrassed?   Can you forgive me? Can you forgive them? Can you forgive yourself? Can you live with yourself if you make that choice?   In what way are you contributing to the world?  How are you making a difference to other people?  What do you think about God?  How should we treat the planet?  How do we actually treat the planet?  Are you using your resources wisely?  What’s your passion in life?  What really excites you? And the most important one of all: Dude, who left these smelly socks in the living room? 

To be continued....