The car clock says 7am as I turn right on PCH, Aaron in the passenger seat next to me, on our way to school. We are tired from sleeplessness related to this unconscionable heat wave, and to Grandma Lilli dying. … Continue reading
We entered singing. My sister and I had ascended the stairs into the “great room” of Belmont Village to visit our grandmother, and the joint was jumping. Residents had gathered to hear the musical stylings of a guest singer. It was impossible to refrain, so why try? We opened our voices and danced over to her. (It is easy to spot her, the redhead, from behind, or really from any direction.)
When she saw us, she bestowed her perennial gift, a contagious, nearly-crying smile that says better than words can, “I’m so happy to see you.”
I needed that. Then the singer said, “Remember, music is the best medicine.” I needed that, too. This past Sunday, at dance class, the music, the dancing, the singing along. I need it. You know you need it, too. These are trying times. Play your music loud and often.
Without further ado, a (starter) playlist for stressful times. Play loud. Play often. Dance. Sing. Repeat.
- Michael Jackson (just about anything, but let’s go with Wanna Be Starting Something
- And another Michael Jackson, Black or White
- American Authors, Best Day of My Life
- Marvin Gaye, How sweet it is (to be loved by you)
- Stevie Wonder, Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
- Kinky Boots, Raise You Up
(And, for a change, try a nice quiet 10-12 minutes with the Calm App gratitude meditation. Be grateful for your lungs, and legs, and all the other parts needed for dancing your stress away.)
We time-traveled to 1991 last week. It was our 25th college reunion, and it filled my well. For a bubble of time, my husband and I and many friends reverted to being occupied primarily with having fun together – asking what we want to do next, dancing, staying up too late, eating cheesesteaks at 3am.
In the week leading up to it, trivialities crossed my mind: What will I wear? Is there time for a facial? How can I have a pimple in a wrinkle?
Christopher’s wiser thought: “I’m so grateful we are still here and healthy, and able to see so many friends who are still here and healthy.” Yes, that.
As we reveled, our younger son and his grandparents binge-watched one of their favorite shows on the Smithsonian channel: Air Disasters. By the time we were flying home from the reunion weekend, he was well-acquainted with the aviation science behind a dozen different crashes. We thought of each of them during the abnormally shaky take-off, and mid-flight bumpiness.
I can’t be the only one who things about life and death in those instances. Death scares me. And I hate that scared feeling. It’s the second worst part of dying, I’d venture. In those terrifying moments, I talk myself through why I should not be afraid. It comes down to gratitude for my life so far.
Let’s start with loving parents and a protective playmate in my sister. Ample resources for food, shelter, and ballet lessons. Good teachers in good, safe schools. A mostly unscathed adolescence, with enough social pain to help me guide my children through their bumps and bruises. Glorious teenage friends, and yes we did own the world for a time. I had letdowns, and silver linings, and learned that you can’t always tell the difference between a blessing and a curse in the moment.
I had the grace to choose a career I wanted, and to make friends who continue to inspire me. I had the brilliant luck of finding Christopher, the love, the caring, the tenderness, the support, the babies.
Oh, the beautiful delicious babies, so big now.
There are many things still to do, many more words to write, hugs to hold onto. I’m greedy for more more more. But even if I live to be 120 years old, it may never be enough.
So I try to remember this:
If we are souls incarnate, and if souls are mysterious energies spinning around in the universe, this one universe in a hundred thousand, and if we get to land on Earth for a while, in the midst of millions of galaxies, in all of creation, then we ought not complain when the ride is over. We have to try to be grateful we had the ride at all. It’s like going to Kauai: You’re sad when you leave, but you were lucky to have been there at all.
I turn my head and look out the wide glass doors of my house to the trumpet vines beginning to cover the trampoline. The blessed beauty of chlorophyll, of greenest leaves and caterpillar temptation. The radical genius of hot coffee and sweet cinnamon dough. The miracles of being: A kiss. Soft skin warm. Baby faces and little-boy-bellies, blossoming young men. Tickles that still yield laughter. Oh rapture.
For my family, 2015 has been an “interesting” year. Before I head out to the market with Thanksgiving shopping list in hand, and before the days tumble over each other headlong into December, I wanted to sit and give thanks.
Thank you, readers. For inviting my words into your minds, letting them linger and simmer and blend with your own thoughts and experiences.
Thank you, writers. For brilliant words that inspire me to try harder, for sharing what you’ve learned on your path, and paying it forward.
Thank you, booksellers. For graciously welcoming me this year. For selling books. You do it because you love it, I know, but I thank you anyway.
Thank you, She Writes Press. For your innovation and vision. For your community.
Thank you, my old friends. For holding in your memories a “me” from before motherhood, the one who was funnier and less serious, so that I can sometimes catch a glimpse of that girl. Thank you for still being near.
Thank you, my “new” (e.g. of the past 15 years) friends. For lighting the way forward. For being an extended family to mine. For carpooling, for venting and listening to vents, for the occasional “Moms night out.”
Thank you, music.
Thank you, dancing.
Thank you, my sons. For teaching me how to parent you. (I don’t mean the little things, like “can we please have Grand Theft Auto.” Sorry, that’s a no, because I can’t handle “virtual” violence on top of the actual violence we know about in the world.) I mean, thank you for telling me things like, “We need more of you than you’ve been giving.” Thank you for giving me the chance to do better.
Thank you, my husband. For your creativity. For your incredible parenting. For your humor. For your positive outlook. For singing in the house.
Thank you, my whole family — my sister, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and especially my parents. For being present. For being cheerleaders. For being healthy and thriving, even though that’s mostly up to chance.
Thank you, good fortune.
Thank you, dumb luck.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
If words could build a force field around us, if a prayer of gratitude could keep us safe, healthy, fulfilled, and loved…
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The bees are having an orgy with our bottle brush tree. It’s blooming like mad. Needle thin magenta red flowers are exploding all over the place. They land in my hair as I trim its branches to unblock the backyard gate – … Continue reading
It’s hard to get out of ruts in thinking and behaviors. With New Year’s approaching, I’m preparing for a big resolution to do just that. I share it with you in the hopes that you’ll help me stick to it, because lordy lord lord I am going to need a LOT of help with this:
I have wasted so much energy (we’re talking powering-every-household-in-California-for-a-year energy) stressing about the amount of time my kids spend playing video games (not violent ones, mind you—just innocent and fun sports games, for cryin’ out loud). My motivation is pure; I think they’ll benefit from varying things up a bit, getting a bit of Vitamin D. Using the lonely trampoline. Nonetheless, my obsession is a complete waste of time and has caused unnecessary anguish in our home.
Hold that thought, and pair it with this: Yesterday I mentioned to a visiting friend that our boys still like to read with us at night before going to sleep.
She stopped me, went wide-eyed and repeated back: Your boys. Like to read. With their parents.
I smacked my forehead (again): Duh!
Why do I not instead expend energy dwelling on that sweet fact? Or a million other sweet facts about my boys?
And why does it take other people to point out what’s right in front of me?
My older son is the person who most consistently points out my failings, and 99% of the time he is on the money, so I appreciate his constructive criticism. Ironically, it’s the things I do trying to be a good mother that mostly mess up. Irony sucks.
My friend, psychologist Lana Benedek, recently offered parents at the elementary school a Mindful Parenting lesson. Here’s some of it, and what I will endeavor to commit to my soul’s memory for my New Year’s resolutions:
- Honor your child’s sovereignty, accept his or her unique abilities and needs.
Let go of what I wish they would do or be and see that they are so perfect as who they are.
- Let go of perfectionist standards in parenting, and accept that even with the best intentions mistakes will happen.
My kids are funny, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, inquisitive, silly, smart and above all else, entirely themselves. They are more than anyone could wish for. And I don’t need any help at all remembering that.
Happy new year to all.
Morning confession: I let my son watch television all afternoon yesterday when he should have been at a sports practice. (I’m not saying which kid, or which practice, so they can both maintain plausible deniability. ) He was tired, he needed a day off, it was plain to see. I know, I know: here was a chance to teach him the value of digging in and working to fulfill a commitment to a team, to himself, and he would have learned that exercise can make you feel better, he’d be happy when he was done. But I was tired, too, tired of schlepping and lugging. Tired of being mindful of what lesson I should teaching.
Let’s call it instead a lesson in when to take a breather. A lesson in the value of down time. A lesson in me listening to his expressed desires and not superimposing my idea of what’s right.
It’s all in how you look at it. In fact, that’s the most important lesson I want to teach my kids: the power of perspective. We can control how we see things, and we can strive to have a perspective of gratitude, to have a world view that looks through lenses of appreciation.
The author Andy Andrews’ new book, The Noticer Returns, has a lot to say about perspective. (I had the chance to interview Mr. Andrews for What The Flicka, which you can read here.) Without spoiling the book for you, here’s one example of a positive perspective. A character is in debt up the wazoo. But he views this depressing situation from a different angle, and comes to see his credit unworthiness as a positive: He will not go into debt again. He will do things differently going forward.
The “perspective story” I’ve been re-telling a lot lately – because it’s short, sweet, and involves baseball so my kids will listen – came from Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben:
A little boy wants to show his Dad what a great baseball player he is. He tosses the ball to himself and tries to hit it with his bat. Three times he swings and misses. Before his father can console his son, who is clearly not a natural, the boy exclaims with wild joy: “Dad, I’m a great pitcher!”
I think of this story when circumstances feel glum. I’m corny, but for me it works. It makes me consciously find the positive. No matter how much I’m dreading something, if I do this I always find something positive, some small different way to look at a situation. It’s flexing my appreciation muscles, and they are getting stronger, more supple and quicker to find the positive glimmer each time.
So instead of seeing my boy’s afternoon of mindless vegetation in front of the tube as a mothering breakdown, I will appreciate the rare joy of him thinking he’s got a “nice” mom. I’ll take that whenever I can get it.
Want more “Confessions of Motherhood”? Get Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, the best-selling collection of true stories. Read reviews. Get Kindle here, or paperback at Amazon.com and select independent bookstores.