Day 324/365 A Warm Pocket

It has been happening bit by bit…this change… 

My soon to be twelve-year-old daughter has one tentative foot into her adolescence, and one foot still carefully positioned in the land of childhood. Her dirty converse high tops straddle them both, not entirely belonging in either…existing in the in-between.

The metaphor I so readily conjure is that of a butterfly…

The green and gold chrysalis that has housed her – protected her – has now become translucent, allowing a first look inside at the transformed being that is to come. This beautiful creature must soon emerge, becoming more and more constrained within the space that has kept her safe and warm.

She is nearly ready to stretch her wings.

Part of me dreads the impending disconnection between us; my inevitable decline in importance in her world. At the same time I await with great anticipation the young woman she will become.

Who is this butterfly meant to be? 

Will she stop and rest for a moment before taking flight? Will she stay close?

butterfly
Photo by Monica Rodgers

Recently I had the opportunity to chaperone a field trip with her fifth grade class. She told me it would be nice if I came, but it would also be fine if I didn’t.

(One foot in, one foot out).

We didn’t have to leave for a couple of hours to where we’d meet her class, so we ventured to the beach to let the beast (that is, our labrador retriever) romp.  I smiled as I watched her run with the same look of wild abandon as the dog, freed from the constraints of his leash. She flew..head back, wild hair…entirely unaffected by the presence of other beach goers. Thinking of my own insanely insecure adolescent years, I wondered if she’ll stay this way.

I hoped so.

Once worn out, she sidled up beside me. It was a beautiful, but crisp, late spring morning; I had my hands tucked into my jacket pockets for warmth. As we walked she slipped her hand…still so small…into my pocket, intertwining her fingers with mine.

We walked that way for a while, the two of us sharing a warm pocket.

Soon it was time for the field trip. It was the first one I had been on in a couple of years, and I marveled at them all – this group of children – all so different, yet so connected. They are at that awkward age where most of the girls tower over the boys. They moved like a giggly, beautifully awkward amoeba.

As we meandered along, I kept my distance like a good mom who-was-allowed-to-come-but-it’s-okay-if-she-didn’t. I watched as my daughter flitted along with her friends, free and happy. At one point I was surprised to find her walking along beside me.

(I presume, just by habit) she slid her hand into mine. Squeezing it, I looked down at her and smiled. Suddenly self-conscious, she offered a quick grin and let go, running ahead to join her friends.

As she should.

I will always have a warm pocket…when she needs one.

Day 309/365 Knock, knock

I was doing some work on my computer while my dog, Louie, was experiencing yet another existential crisis as he desperately wanted to play catch with me…and yet was not willing to let me have the ball.

 

As this exchange often does, it got me thinking about control, and how grabbing ahold of (or pushing away) something so fiercely can sometimes rob us of joy in life.

I thought about romantic love. Perhaps the ball is a metaphor for all of the love that I have….I mean, um…Louie has to give. Innately, he wants to share it with someone else.

Yet…he won’t risk it.

I have this comfort zone of people whom I love and trust – it is a truly rich and wonderful place…and the idea of widening it feels…very unnerving. 

It seems like whenever I get a little optimistic about my readiness to do so, I get tested…and I retreat, hastily.

I met a man a few weeks ago. We hit it off and exchanged phone numbers, but by the time I got home I had already talked myself out of wanting to see him again. He hadn’t asked me to love him nor to let him love me. He hadn’t even asked me to go for a cup of coffee yet…but in my head I was already saying no to all of the above.

I was confused by my strong negative reaction after such a fun first encounter. I honestly wasn’t sure whether I was being intuitive and I just knew on some level that this guy was not for me…or if I was just being chicken shit. I suspected the latter. Nevertheless he failed to meet the expectations of how I thought he should behave (via text, no less) aaannndd…end of story.

Perhaps I dodged a bullet, or perhaps it was a bit of a self-fulfilled prophecy. I will never know, because I didn’t really give him a chance…not really.

I was not willing (or able?) to let go of the metaphorical ball. I am not even sad about that. I am relieved. Which, considering I do wish to have a relationship again in this lifetime, is a bit concerning.

Getting back to the video, if you watched it until the end you saw that amusingly, Louie loses control of his ball anyway, despite his best efforts to the contrary.

Sometimes when we refuse to let go, life finds a way of making decisions for us. I’d like to think that when the “right” person comes along, it will be something somewhat impossible for me to fuck up….but, I do see that this could be complicated by me being unwillingly to…share my ball, if you will.

While I was turning this over in my mind a quote popped up in my Facebook news feed:

“Sooner or later we will come to the edge of all that we can control and find life, waiting there for us.”  – Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Ah yes, there is a beautiful, rich life waiting for us as soon as we release control.

Maybe, and also…

There are really terrible and fucked up things waiting, too. Except I am finding that the bad things happen whether we think we are in control or not.

The good things don’t seem to have the same tenacity.

The tragedies bust down the door, while the blessings gently knock…perhaps only to be heard when we deign to listen…and to invite them in. 

Day 291/365 Let Go or Be Dragged

There I was, staring down at a rather long flight of concrete stairs.

At the top, tethered to me by a leash, was my 75 pound lab, quivering with excitement.

At the bottom was the dog park. 

img_4730

Louie (just barely) tolerates a leash as a means to an end. If either of us want to enjoy a walk, the leash must be used on an “as needed” (and preferably not frequently needed) basis. Therefore we usually choose to take walks on the least popular paths, at the least popular times of day, and (the best is) in the least favorable weather.

Give us a cold January day for a beach stroll, and we are thrilled. When we are alone, he is free to run in and out of the frigid water, and I am spared a dislocated shoulder. Thus we are both happy.

When we “walk” in this way, I let him off leash until I see someone else coming, and unless the approaching party also happens to be walking with an off-leash dog, I put the leash on Louie. He comes when I call him, sits, and let’s me do this…as if he knows this small concession ultimately buys him his freedom. (I know, you may think he isn’t that smart. After all, I do often find crayons and hair elastics in his excrement, but actually, aside from his ostrich-like eating habits, he is a pretty smart boy).

A couple of weeks ago, on an unseasonably warm Saturday, we tried to go to the local beach for some frolicking (I don’t really frolick, but he covers it for both of us). As we walked down the boardwalk I saw that the beach was absoultely packed. This was not the place for us.

I had heard of the local dog park but had never checked it out. I knew Louie would be thrilled to be able to run freely with other dogs. When he sees other dogs he gets so excited he cries. So I decided to give it a go.

May I just say that it is hilarious to people and dog watch in this enclosed space. So many cases of people resembling their dogs in appearance or in temperment. (I’m not sure what that says about Louie and me…). There’s the one dog who wants to hump every single other dog while the owner exclaims, “He loves making new friends!” There’s the one dog owner who pretends not to see his dog pooping (someone is bound to clean it up, right?). There’s the aggressive dog whose “Mama” keeps reassuring everyone that “He’s just playing!” There’s the dog who, bespite his owner’s words of encouragement, just sits at his owner’s feet – he’s the dog park version of a teen dance wallflower. There’s my dog who must pee on every single thing, and who despite being one of the biggest dogs there, comes running full speed toward me whenever another dog so much as growls at him. One time he was frantic at being chased by two bassett hounds. My 75 pound, boxy headed lab was fleeing from two bow-legged beasts who were literally dragging their bellies on the ground.

Oh I could write whole blog about the microcosim that is the dog park, but I digress…

Back to the cement steps.

There we stood at the top, Louie absolutely beside himself with excitement to get to the bottom of those steps. I had him tightly by the leash, as I felt I needed to be in control of him from the car to the park gate.

I looked down at an older man at the bottom of the steps, standing off to the side. He was looking at me like he was about the see a train wreck and he knew it. I said, “What do you suppose the chances are that I can get to the bottom in an upright position?” To my surpirse he looked at me, nodded his head reassuringly and said, “You can do it.”

The sick bastard.

Just kidding…maybe he recognized my strong inner will...or maybe he is into schadenfreude.  We’ll never know for sure.

In that moment, looking down those cement steps, I heard my Uncle Ed‘s voice in my head saying,

“Let go…or be dragged.”

It’s one of his favorite expressions. Meaning of course – you are not in control – and you can either give into that reality, or you can make things rather painful for yourself.

I have a really hard time with this lesson…I always have. You know how they say that you will keep being presented with the same lessons (in new and unusal ways) over and over again in life until you finally listen. When I look at all the ways that life has shown me how NOT in control I am, I can’t help but be mildly amused that this is even still a thing for me.

Must I be dragged down a flight of concrete stairs to reinforce this point?

The gate to the dog park is right at the bottom of the stairs. Louie, if let off the leash, was going nowhere but right to the gate.  He could not wait to play with his friends. There was no one else on the stairs that he could have inadvertantly knocked over on his way down…and my dog hasn’t a mean bone in his body. There would be no harm in letting go. 

I took a deep breath…and I held on to the damn leash with white knuckles, and I used every bit of strength I had to control the dog down those cement steps and to the gate.

What?

Were you expecting something else?

I said it was still a thing…

And so I await the next opportunity...to get it.

img_4715

 

 

Day 165/365 Ed’s Serenity

My Uncle Ed has been a sober and active member of AA for fifty-two years.

He has seen and heard a lot throughout those years, and he is incredibly succinct at cutting through bullshit, and getting to the point.

I am sure most of you are familiar with the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity 

To accept the things I cannot change; 

Courage to change the things I can; 

And wisdom to know the difference… 

Many years ago Ed offered me what he referred to as the abbreviated version of the serenity prayer, which was…

“Fuck it.”

We had a good laugh, but you know what? He wasn’t really kidding.

A lot of things can be dealt with by applying those two words.

Here are two types of circumstances in which applying “Fuck it” could be immensely helpful…

The first is in letting go. As in, this is not something I should be putting any more of my time and energy into…

Fuck it. I’m letting it go. Enough.

The second would apply to that which I am willing to go the extra mile, to give more than I think makes sense, because it’s so important to me…

Fuck it, I’m doing this. I’m not giving up.

I think some of our greatest pitfalls in life are the result of not making the proper distinction between those two varieties of Fuck Its.

Something to consider, no?

May we all recognize the times in life in which applying Ed’s serenity prayer is wise.
More importantly,

May we seldom confuse the “letting go” Fuck It with the “all in” Fuck It.

Tragic mistake.

Day 120/365 The River

I can remember when I was a girl, hearing someone use the word Grace to describe my mother – “she has such grace” they said.  It impacted me, though I’m not entirely sure I understood what that meant at the time.  The person said it with such admiration, I knew it was a significant statement. I knew it was something to which to aspire.

Ironically one of the ways in which my mother and I are very similar is our, in a certain sense of the word, lack of grace.  We are both clumsy and have a tendency to walk into door moldings, furniture…we discover curiously nasty bruises on ourselves and have no idea how they happened. I like to think that’s indicative of a strong tolerance for pain, but really it is probably just that we bang into things so often that it fails to register as significant at the time. By the time the bruise develops we have zero recollection of the cause.

Of course, that’s not what they meant when they spoke of her grace. They meant how she navigates life, and relationships…not um, space.

So I have aspired to one day be described as having grace – not of the spacial awareness variety – but the other kind.

And/But…

This buddhist quote haunts me:

grace

Hmmmm.

How much you loved…

Yes, I love big and generously.

How gently you lived…

Yes, I believe in living with kindness, gratitude and generosity.

How gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

UGH.

Two out of three ain’t bad, right?

I’ve got a real problem with someone else deciding what is “not meant” for me. Even if that someone else is…um…God.

(Pauses and waits for a lighting bolt to strike computer…)

Even though I know – I know, you guys – I know that what is meant to be, will be. I still hate that expression.  Seriously.

A friend said to me recently (okay, okay maybe it was a therapist…okay, fine – it was a psychic…ahem, anyway she said…) “You have to learn that the river knows the way, and it wants to carry you.  You are not the river. Grab ahold of a raft and let it take you. Otherwise you are going to get pulled under and die a terrible death.”

She didn’t actually say that last part, but it was implied.

I don’t think I’ll drown, exactly, but I know for damn sure that over the years I have expended a lot of energy trying to go in a direction that the river was never going to take me.

Perhaps even more energy has been exerted in holding on – to a job, to a relationship, to a belief – clinging to the banks of the river with all of my might – because I didn’t want to let go and see where the river would take me.

Why?

Two reasons –

FEAR – Even if I was suffering in my “holding on” at least I knew what kind of hell I was in.  What’s that expression, “What fresh hell is this?” I didn’t want any fresh hell thank you very much.  The hell we know is much more…cozy?

ARROGANCE – (see also – stubbornness, asinine-ness) Believing that I know better than “the river.” How could the river possibly know what’s best for me?  I’ll show that river a thing or two.

Umm, no…you won’t.

Time and again I’ve been reminded that the river does know, and it’s not messing around.

The river always takes me where I need to go – like it or not, and with or without my permission. Thankfully, the river is way smarter than I.

So, I’m working on it – letting go gracefully of what isn’t meant for me. One day I’ll find ease in it, and I bet life will flow a lot more smoothly then.

In the meantime I’ll buckle up my life vest because those assholes, Fear and Arrogance – they are so clingy and they are terrible swimmers.

 

 

Day 29/365 If Dandelions Could Talk

This dandelion caught my eye on a forest walk last summer.

You may have noticed by now my love of metaphors.

To me the dandelion is a perfect one for how we can begin to label things in our minds as ordinary, not worthy of our attention – even as nuisances.  However, when we stop to really see them, we may find that those ordinary, everyday things are actually extraordinary, remarkably beautiful things.

Lately though, I have pondered this image in a different way…

Having already been through a remarkable transformation,

This dandelion is a delicate, intricate thing of beauty.

Soon it will transform again, as pieces of it are swept far and wide.

Does the dandelion want to be completely dismantled in this way?

Probably not.

(Is the dandelion capable of thinking about what it wants? Umm…it’s called poetic license, you guys – humor me).

I imagine it might say, “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am! Why must I continue to change?”

What the dandelion doesn’t understand,

Is that its ability to continually grow and transform itself

Is actually magic.

So, it takes some cajoling by the wind,

Come, dance with me,” it says…

And eventually,

The dandelion lets go

(Perhaps not because it wants to,

but because it knows it must),

and so life begins

Anew.

 

 

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.