Letting Go

I think the hardest thing about being a parent is learning how to let go. It seems like it would be an easy thing, particularly since children tend to suck up a lot of time, effort, and energy. I remember, when my daughter was a tiny baby, there were so many things I looked forward to: the time when she could finally talk and tell me what was bothering or upsetting her … the time when diapers would be a distant memory … the time when she would finally eat only “regular” food … the time when she would be big enough to explore and interact with her surroundings … and on and on.

my daughter ... around 6 months old, perhapsBack then, when she was still tiny and relied on me for everything — when she, literally, couldn’t go anywhere without me — I thought about the future with a sort of misty-eyed fondness. I thought about how it would be so nice to have more free time. I thought about how it would be much less stressful, once she could tell me what was bothering her, as opposed to trying to interpret various cries of distress. I thought about how nice it would be once I no longer had to carry that heavy diaper bag around. I thought about how lovely it would be to save on the expense of baby food, once she started eating the same things the rest of us ate.

I thought about a lot of things.

my daughter's beautiful smile, ~ 6 years oldWhat I didn’t think about was how hard — how absolutely terrifying — it would be for me to let go. I didn’t realize each new adventure and experience would take her a little farther away from me, along her path toward becoming a teenager and, eventually, an adult. I didn’t think about how I was going to feel, for example, standing on the curb and watching her walk into school the first day of second grade: the first time she told me, “No, Mama. I can go by myself.” I didn’t realize how frightening it was to be the person left behind. Sometimes, I feel like I spent nine months working to bring her into this world, and I will spend the entire rest of her life fighting the urge to stuff her back inside my uterus. Because, once your kids are out there, they are out there. They are part of the world, and you can’t always be with them.

my daughter getting donutsToday, my daughter headed off to Philadelphia for a school field trip. She has been excited about this trip for months, and she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and eagerness this morning. This is the first time, since she started pre-school, that I have not gone as one of the chaperones. And, over the week or so leading up to this trip, I came to realize my biggest fears as a parent are letting go and not being there. Perhaps, they really are the same fear, just all wrapped around each other. I don’t know, but I do know it took a monumental effort for me to smile this morning, kiss my daughter good-bye, and drive away from the school. I looked back and saw her standing on the sidewalk in front of the school, chattering excitedly with her friends and teacher, and felt like some invisible hand had reached into my chest and wrapped my heart in a vice-like squeeze. If I had been alone, I might not have been able to leave. Luckily, my husband was driving, which meant I didn’t have the option of turning around to snatch her up and run for the safety of home.

my daughter with snowBut I have this to cling to:

As I was telling her good-bye, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry, Mama. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home tonight.”

And so I drove away feeling unsure and inadequate, but also knowing I don’t have to learn how to let go all at one time. For now, this is enough, and the rest will come. Baby steps, which will teach me how to walk before I have to know how to run.

 

 

 

 

Lazy Days

When I was a kid, I often dreaded weekends a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I look back on things now and realize how lucky I was to live in the country. Now, I long for space and peace and quiet. Even as a kid, there were things I loved about living away from the nearest town and neighbors — things I wouldn’t have traded. But the weekend presented a bit of a challenge for my restless spirit.

fountain, meadowlark botanical gardens

My parents were not people who went anywhere on the weekends, other than church. My dad, especially, is a homebody. Even now, he hardly ever goes anywhere. My mom, if she feels the desire to see something other than the four walls of her house, will head out without him. He has mellowed over the years. When I was growing up, he was absolutely in charge of where we went, when we went there, and how long we stayed. At least, during the weeks when he was home from work. Even when he was gone for work, though, he was still kind of in charge because there was a very strict budget to follow. We didn’t dare step outside its lines.

The weekends seemed to stretch in front of me: this block of time, with a space carved out for church, that seemed almost impossible to fill. TV wasn’t allowed, especially during the day, and we lived in a four room house. Four rooms: two bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, and a combination kitchen / living room. It’s not like there were places to go for a change of scenery.

Instead, I changed the scenery inside my head. I read a lot. I wrote, although I was too shy to show my work to anyone. When the weather allowed, I rode my horse. I played with my dog and my cats. But I felt jealous of my friends, who lived closer to town or who were allowed to venture into town from the country. I felt lonely and bored and, often, more than a little bit trapped.

a frog reading a book, meadowlark botanical gardensToday, it often seems as if my life is too busy. I live in a large metropolitan area, where I am forced to deal with traffic and rude people — sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis, it seems! There is no quiet here. Our house is near the metro tracks and a highway. Even with the sound wall nearby, we hear honks, screeches, and the click-clack of the train well into the night from our bedroom upstairs. We live in a townhouse, so there isn’t much space. Our yard is the size of a postage stamp, and our house is connected to our neighbors’ houses. And we can reach restaurants, shopping, school, church, movies … and any variety of entertainment options … within less than an hour, depending on traffic. I am coming and going all the time. Some weeks, it feels almost as if I am never home, between school activities, church activities, and errands.

Even at home, there always seems to be something to do. There is something to clean. There are dogs to tend to. There is a cat box to clean. There are hamster cages to wash. There are meals to fix. There is a child to mother. There are expectations to fulfill. And laundry — of course, there is always laundry, laundry, and more laundry! Even writing devolves into some kind of chore, instead of the escape it used to be. It becomes harder and harder for me to turn my brain off to let the words flow, especially when people are counting on me to finish my writing projects. It’s a lot of pressure when people expect things from you. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’m  saying it’s something I am not yet skilled at dealing with regarding my writing.

fish eating cherry blossoms, meadowlark botanical gardensIn many ways, I now have the life I thought I wanted in my youth. Now, of course, I long for many of the things I used to have. I suppose human nature is like that. The grass is always greener on the other side, as the saying goes. But, one thing that has come out of growing up is that I appreciate a free weekend more. Now, when faced with a long Saturday — a day with no appointments to keep and nothing in particular to do — I no longer feel restless or annoyed. Instead, I think to myself, “This is Bliss.”

The Truth

When I started this blog, I told myself I would only put positive emotions in here. Positive words … positive feelings … good things. I really and truly believed I could do that. My previous blog, on Live Journal, devolved into nothing but a whiny rant-fest after several years of activity. That blog saw me through some of my darkest, toughest times. On the one hand, knowing this makes the negativity understandable for me. On the other hand, I just got tired of it. Negativity wears at you after a while. It’s subtle enough that, at first, you don’t notice it. And then, suddenly, you turn around and there are parts of you missing. Parts that make you “you”. Parts that you need. It’s a silent erosion of the soul and psyche. Maybe not for everyone, but for me. And so I thought to myself, “Hey … a blog where I put all my best things. Where I can show just the nicest parts of myself. Where I can, maybe, believe I am a good person, a worthy person. No problem. I can do that.”

But the truth is that I can’t. Because life just doesn’t work like that. Because people just don’t work like that. Because I don’t work like that. Because, sometimes, life spits in your face. People crowd in at you from all sides, until you want to tell them to back the hell off and give you three feet of personal space. Everyone wants something and they want it now and they don’t really care if it hurts you or not. All around you, there are sights and sounds and just … stuff. And all of it — every last little bit of it — whirls away, dancing beyond the speed of light, all of this shiny, beautiful promise that you want to reach out for but know you’ll never, ever, ever be able to grab. And sometimes, it’s too much. Sometimes, life is too much, and it chokes you until you can’t breathe. And you want to huddle in the corner with your face hidden in your knees and scream until someone stops this crazy, whirly-gig ride and lets you off. Right the heck now.

But you can’t get off, because this is your life. The good parts, the bad parts, the parts that make you want to claw your way out of your own skin — all of it. And, somehow … somehow, you have to find a way to embrace it and love it for what it is. It is beautiful and awful. It is crazy and stable. It is up and down. It is nothing and everything. As my husband loves to say: “It is what it is.” I’m still not sure that saying means anything. And yet, it feels like those words mean everything.

Disney Carousel

I haven’t kept a journal for a long, long time. Not since I was a little girl. Back then, someone close to me found my journal and read what I had written in there. It didn’t matter that those were my private thoughts. All that mattered to this person was that I had hurt them — not with my actions or my words, but with the private thoughts I had written down, which I had never intended to share with anyone else. And that person was so upset with me, so hurt, that they confronted me about it. It remains one of the most painful memories that I carry with me to this day. After that, I tried to journal. But, fearing I would again be discovered, I learned to censor my thoughts. I learned to pretend to be someone I wasn’t and to only write “nice” things. As a result, my journal devolved into a whole lot of entries that read along the lines of: “Today was a boring day. Maybe tomorrow will be better.” In the end, I gave up on it. And I gave up on my life, too, because it was a place where things didn’t happen. More than that, it was a place where I didn’t dare let anything happen.

Tonight, I realized I had fallen into this same trap with this blog. On days that were rough for me, days when I struggled, I avoided posting because I felt I couldn’t share anything “nice” or “pretty” or worth sharing. But I was only avoiding myself.

I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but me. Maybe it doesn’t, and maybe it shouldn’t. But it felt like something I needed to send out into the wilds of the internet, even if only to hear the echoes of it rumbling back at me. Because at least I had the courage to look myself in the face and admit that, sometimes, I am a liar. Or, perhaps, that’s too harsh. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m afraid of the truth.

I still think I’m a fairly positive person. But I have baggage. I struggle. Some days are good; some days are bad. After a string of “bad” emotional days, I feel raw and strung-out — like I’ve, somehow, managed to get turned around until my skin is on wrong-side-out and everything slices through me with a pain that is fresh and raw. Everything feels like nails down a chalkboard, and I just need some space from the world and from myself. And you know what? I feel like I should have figured everything out by now, but, really, I haven’t. I know less today than I did yesterday, and a heck of a lot less than I did ten years ago. And sometimes, I want to scream for the world around me to shut the hell up.

But, maybe … somehow … some way … all of this is “lovely”, too. Not the kind of lovely that  makes us think of teddy bears and puffy hearts or flowers. But its own, weird kind of lovely. Because it is the truth. Because it is life. Because it is my life.

 

Do You Remember?

Do You Remember? A

 

Not the greatest photograph, but I took it quickly with my phone camera. Just wanted to share this. It’s a page from my notebook of scribbles, writing ideas, etc. I carry this thing around with me pretty much all the time so that I can jot down stuff. Because “stuff” has the bad habit of occurring to me at the most inconvenient times. The picture is done with a combination of crayons (because that’s what I had at hand at the time) and a little bit of black felt-tip pen.

Here is the text of the poem, in case you can’t read it in the image:

Do you remember songs of the past

Golden childhood laughing days

Because I do not but wish it was so

Feeling empty and hollow where I should glow.