I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Wha…
It starts with a girl. It always starts with a girl.
She presents herself as unafraid but she is fearful or we know or suspect that she will become so as she ages. As her innocence fades, wears thin. As the eyes of men and boys weigh upon her bones. The judgment. The lust.
She meets a stranger. She is enlightened, emboldened.
She learns why she is special.
(Be wary of people who tell you you are special. Tell her that. But you can’t tell her, because you are writing her. She belongs to you after all.)
She doesn’t know what she’s capable of.
She is 11.
She loves the woods.
She is at home there.
She is the one who saves everyone.
She saves herself. She saves her father. She saves her mother.
Saves the town. The world.
(Maybe that is going too far. No. It’s not too far. She saves the world.)
It starts with a girl.
It starts with a girl in the woods.
Her heart is big and open for now.
It always starts there. With a girl in the woods.
Here is what I have come to after a year of learning: my job as a parent is not to teach my child how to live a life of perfection. Rather, my job is to teach him how to thrive in times of imperfection and adversity. My job is to teach resilience. Basically, as painful as it is to realize, the goal is to teach him how to one day live without me.
Not including those brave and strong parents whose children will never be able to be independent, I see a lot of modern parents struggle with the concept of letting our children grow and push forward for themselves (I struggle with this myself). Given my current life situation, I have had to let go of a great deal of control. I have had to enlist trust and acceptance and as such I have come to believe even more fully and wholly in my child and his abilities even more than I already did (and I didn’t think that was possible). As such, I have watched my child grow in ways I didn’t even know he was capable of yet. Through it all, I have seen him retain his loving and trusting heart. I have seen him survive, thrive, even.
On mother’s day I see much lauding of the perfection of motherhood, of the sacrifice, of the dignity, of the beauty, of the devotion, of the selflessness. As a mother, I have always felt myself on the outside of such praise. I knew I loved my child wholeheartedly and that I was the very best mother I could be, but I never felt as good as the other mothers. I felt undignified, sometimes selfish, often tired, sometimes frustrated, often anxious about my abilities. I felt wholly and completely flawed and unlovable. When my child expressed his love for me again and again, I couldn’t believe that he could love me despite everything that I felt was so utterly and completely wrong with me.
Today, I want you to consider that perfection is a crutch and that embracing your own imperfection and imperfections of others is, in fact, your liberation. Let go of the need to show the world only the pretty pictures of your family. Instead, show the outtakes. Your true beauty lies in those moments when your child is embracing you and you forget that you have a cigarette in your hand and that your laugh lines are showing.
As for me, I embrace my imperfection. And now more than ever, I believe fully and completely in my ability to mother. I have mothered my child through change and adversity. I have mothered my child with everything I have. I will mother your children. Give me the world’s children. I embrace them all with the brave heart my mother gave me.
*** The title of this post comes from this poem by May Sarton: For My Mother.
Once I was an alien living here. A child brought here by my parent. Like so many of your neighbors brought here as children, I didn’t choose to live in this country, but this was where I lived. It is my country and I love it as much as you who were born here love it. Seven years ago I became an American citizen and then became one of the privileged, the voters. It took me longer than it should have to become a citizen. It was, clearly, not a decision I took lightly but it’s one I’m happy I made.
Even before citizenship, as one who resided within this country, I still had rights, paid taxes, paid social security (even though I would not have gotten it back), and loved this country. I could have also served in the military, had I chosen to.
I don’t take the power to vote lightly. It is, indeed, a privilege. What I will be considering when I make my vote in the Massachusetts primary today is which of the candidates has the best record on issues of gun control, social justice, equality, the environment, education, health care, protecting and caring for the disadvantaged, and peacemaking.
As for you, I know that if you are in a Super Tuesday state, you will vote with your heart. I know you will make a choice based not on fear, but on creating a better world.
Citizens: You have the power.
Where there are walls, I know you will break them down.
I know you build a bridge and hold out your hand to those on the other side who need you.
For the past couple of years I have been posting a year in preview as opposed to a year in review. It was meant to be both tongue-in-cheek and hopeful. Clearly, I had no idea how much hubris was involved in these posts.
In my defense, I never posted absolutes. It was mostly about the emotional life of a human. But even that, as we know, is not so easily plotted.
In fact, the beauty of malleable human emotion is why I am a writer. We are both predictable and unpredictable. Done and undone in a moment.
In the last half of this year, people have approached me with dismay, with pity, with compassion, with anger, with empathy, with sadness, with disdain, with happiness, with warmth, with love, with fellowship.
Then there are those who have simply drifted away as though that had always been the best choice. Maybe it was.
I am both ghost and bleeding human. My heart beats and is extinguished. As does your heart.
All I can tell you right now about the year ahead is that the people I love best are alive and living. That our lives are full of lightness and dark. Happiness and anguish. Our lives are like all human life: Both extraordinary and blissfully ordinary.
All I can tell you for sure is that we are in a constant state of becoming.
So my wish for 2016 is this: Become with me. Become.
Blessing. Bless you. Blessed. God Bless. I am blessed. You are blessed. Bless.
The word, in its many forms, is overused. Hashtagged. Blown into the wind like an air kiss. Tossed away.
Get up off your knees and walk.
Use your hands to climb, to build.
My arms are open and ready to receive you. Not as a god would, but as one with faults and bruises.
You are blessed. God bless you. Bless.
A word, useless.
Instead, take these words of blessing and use them: For every one who discards you, another will hold you more tightly.
Today, and every day, I hold my hand over your heart.
I bless you.
You would cry that night and it would take a long time for anyone to hear you but when she did, you mother would listen about the overdue library book and what would happen if you weren’t well enough to get to school tomorrow? What would happen? What?
You never got over that library book. That you had made someone else suffer by being sick and by not getting that book back onto the shelf when it was meant to be. That you had been the source of another’s pain.
But this. This time of waiting was about being sick on the couch when you were a kid. Actifed. Your mother spooned it into you, laced with codeine so that you slept a brilliant, bejeweled sleep. Your nose tight. Your stagnant breath, still sweet to your mother only.
Sick on the sweaty couch, you never believed you would feel better, that this would end. You’d hear the kids outside at the end of the day and feel worse. Earlier, you’d been entertained by Match Game and The Doctors. By Coronation Street. You hadn’t thought about the other fucking children enjoying their lives and yet there they were out there doing things that you could not do.
Even though you felt so much better now. Your forehead wasn’t even hot.
Fever spiking. Weary mother, making dinner for the others, offering you a popsicle with the wrapper tight around the stick to keep the sticky ooze from your fingers.
Your mother with her cool cloths and her vaporizer and her cigarettes.
You felt weak when you stood up to go pee. Saw fireflies, spinning around. Fireflies in the tall grass at the edge of the lake. The sun pushing its flat palm down onto the water, asserting itself. We are done. Go to bed. The day has passed. But the fireflies became their own suns. The fireflies, reaching, seeking, the grass, an escape from the sweaty hands, clutching, wanting to hold onto something beautiful and finding
Your weak legs and the voices in the street outside playing kickball and the kids in the apple trees and your fucking mother and the pork chops.
And the fireflies. We are here. We. We. We. Are here.