>> Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Happy Wednesday, friends. Hope you're living full and well.
Happy Wednesday, friends. Hope you're living full and well.
It's 10pm on Memorial Day. I should be drifting off in clean sheets, breeze dancing through the open window, but instead I can't sleep, a ball of anxiety settled into the base of my belly.
It's illogical, irrational, unreasonable, but I sit with a dreaded feeling that something bad is going to happen to my kids. I realize how dramatic it sounds, how silly and even sort of crazy it is, but undefined thoughts and worries swirl around and mash up into a nebulous ball of yuck, and here I sit.
It's the tornadoes ravaging towns and families, it's wars raging in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq. I think of the mothers. I think of them all -- all who are touched -- but it's the mothers who spring to the forefront of my mind - the mothers trying to comfort through the storm, the bombs, the fear. The mothers whose lands are ravaged and war-torn, the mothers whose sons and daughters fly off to combat, the mothers of the innocent and the guilty, the mothers of the fallen and the fighting, the hungry and the hurting.
I feel too lucky. And my naivety has worn thin; I know we are not immune to pain or tragedy. I feel simultaneously lucky and guilty. Who am I to sleep soundly in my comfortable house when storms and bombs rip families and life apart?
I can't keep them safe. It's not in my hands. I think of them growing and gone, on their own and me giving it up, giving it up to God and fate and prayers for good choices. I remember my mother worrying when we were late for curfew as teenagers, when we didn't call and she worried to the point of feeling sick to her stomach that we were "dead in a ditch". And she did - she held those fears in the pit of her stomach and the back of her brain, and really, she probably still does. I rolled my eyes then but I get it now. I get it now.
Today I couldn't find Eli. We were visiting friends, and hoards of children and several adults were sprawled out and filtering in and out of their beautiful home, wandering the property, coming and going. I could hear his scream coming from far away, and I couldn't place it. I scanned the crowd and saw all of the other kids, saw my husband, and no Eli. He was alone, that much I knew, but I didn't know where he was. Was he stuck somewhere? Trapped somewhere he couldn't escape? Was he hurt? And then I couldn't hear him, and keeping the panic from my voice I made it clear that Eli was not with us but that I had heard him screaming and we needed to find him NOW. And we scattered and searched, and I called for him everywhere and heard nothing echo back, and then I ran down the stairs and I found him in the basement, trying to get out a door to where he thought the other kids had gone, and he was fine. Of course he was fine. But of course he might not have been, and it's that knowledge, that acceptance, that looking lack-of-control in the eye that does me in.
It's the releasing, the letting go of the illusion of control that is at once freeing and terrifying. And I have no closure here, no wrap up or lesson learned at the end of this, but I knew that I needed to write it out, to get it down, and put it out there because facing fear head on is the only way to take away its power.
I will go upstairs to my older two and kiss their cheeks and tuck their sheets and feel their chests rise and fall before I head back to bed, to my sleeping littlest and my husband, sprawled out in our king with the breeze dancing in through the open window. I will lie there and watch them and rest my hand on my baby's back and tuck my feet between my husbands knees and I will let go and I will sleep.
And to all the mothers who are hurting because your children have been hurt or are in harms way, my heart holds you tonight. And I think it probably always will.
The other day I wrote on facebook:
I snuggle in bed next to him and he knows I'm too tired to tell a story tonight so for once, for once, he lets me off the hook from the usual magic metal pipes hiding under chimney bricks that lead alternately to underground lairs or to Mars. I curl into a parenthesis around his comma and I am bursting from my heart, out my eyes, through my arms -- none of me can contain the simultaneous blend of joyful-love and inexplicable longing. Longing for the impossibility of letting them grow while holding them here, longing for them to always feel this safe and this happy, longing for them to always love me as much, as fiercely, as fully, as uncomplicated-ly as they do right now. It's a drink that puckers my lips but leaves the sweetest aftertaste, this conflicting concoction of sheer joy and crushing weight.
I tell him a couple minutes more and he says count to 200 and I tell him I'm too tired to count out-loud and he says I will. And he does, this the first time I hear him soldier on past one hundred and I remember my father telling me how he remembers the moment in which he realized that he could always add just one more number and keep counting on and on as high as forever, and I think of my four-year-old and wonder if he'll remember these quiet nights in the dark, the swell of pride, the welling up of confidence, the delight of discovery as he counts in his perfectly articulated one-hun-dred-and-twen-ty-two, one-hun-dred-and-twen-ty-three, one-hun-dred-and-twen-ty-four....
My oldest son doesn't sing, he claims he can't sing, and three nights ago he laid in the dark and let melody spill out from his soul. They are learning Woody Guthrie in music class, and this seven year old boy was smitten with the redwood forests and the Gulf Stream waters. We blended voices and sang verse after verse back to chorus again in the dark and I told him it makes me so happy to hear you sing, and he said I really like the song and I like the way the guy's voice sounds when he sings it, the guy who wrote the song and I smile in the dark remembering that I played the guy's music for him as a toddler at naps and bedtime and I wonder if somewhere in his subconscious he remembers this, and I ask him why he wouldn't sing before and he says that this is the first time I like the way my voice sounds. I like how it sounds when I sing this song. And he tells me how another seven year old complains when the class sings that they are off-key but my boy tells me as sure as he's ever been about anything that it doesn't matter if you know the tune, it only matters that you're singing loud and having fun. We talk about how music touches our hearts, he tells me how it makes him feel good to sing, how the music is like a good kind of poison and when I tell my husband, he says like a drug? and I know that what they've said about music all of these years is true and I feel the swelling and the tightening, grateful for teachers and music that touch the hearts and souls of little boys.
My littlest calls to me in the depths of my sleep and I go to him, lifting him up and close, tucking him in beside me and he whispers roll over and I do, as I have done since he was the teeniest of babes, but this time without nursing him first, and my back is to his tiny body, his little fingers twirling my hair until his fist is at my scalp and thumb in mouth he mumbles I love you, Mama and together we drift, weightless.
They bloom before my own two eyes, in all their time-lapse brilliance.
It's 9:00pm. I just read through my piece for Listen To Your Mother in front of the mirror, and then again for my patient husband. I finally picked out something to wear for the show that won't make me either disappear into the dark background of the stage or create the illusion that I am naked behind the podium. I'm think I'm good to go.
I'm really excited for the show -- to share my piece and its message, to listen to my fellow cast mates, to listen to the audience, three or even four generations of (mostly) women, as they laugh and cry and sigh with the recognition of seeing themselves in the stories that pour out from the microphone.
I'm excited for the show because it is so important, so valuable, for mothers -- for women -- to share our stories with each other. For us to reflect light into the shadows, the hidden or forgotten parts of each other's lives, for us to start seeing our commonalities and our uniqueness, for us to stop judging and start remembering that every person out there carries a story with her everywhere she goes. For us to realize that we each have a story to tell. One worth telling. Worth hearing.
I think that if we were all more open, more honest about what we carry around in our heart's pockets that there would be far less judgment, less envy, less hurt, less worry. If we shared our vulnerabilities and our humanness, our unpolished, imperfect selves; then we could all stop trying to measure ourselves against the false ideal that is really just a conglomerate of the best parts of every woman.
The most gratifying part of writing publicly is the notes or whispers that tell me, I feel that way too but never had the words to describe it, or thank you for articulating something that I hadn't even realized I was feeling, or I feel so much better knowing I'm not the only one.
This phenomenon is not unique to me. If you start sharing your stories, you will understand and be understood. You will relieve and feel relief. You will feel less alone and help someone else realize that she is not alone. You will give and receive so much more than you ever expected.
Sharing stories is an act of empathy, of joy, of validation and compassion.
That's why I'm so excited for the Listen To Your Mother Show. I cannot wait.
I can't believe that I haven't mentioned it here yet, but I am thrilled to be part of the cast for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER:MADISON this weekend -- Sunday -- MOTHER'S DAY -- May 8 at 3:00pm at The Barrymore. Billed as 'readings by local writers on motherhood', the show is so much more than the feel-good mushiness of a greeting card. Creator, director and producer Ann Imig explains it beautifully on the Listen to Your Mother Show blog, and I share a few of her words here below:
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
I understand the range of emotion. But I am uneasy by some of what I have seen and heard. Patriotism skates close to the edge of something scary. And there are questions, hard questions. About justice and revenge, wars still waging, accountability.
I had lunch today with four colleagues in our office break room. One from Denmark, another from Spain, a Canadian woman, and another American.
The world is watching.
I am uneasy with what are giving them to see.