The Fear of Regret

photo credit: Danger...Danger via photopin (license)
photo credit: Danger…Danger via photopin (license)

Do any of us have the luxury (curse?) of never being required to change? Is it possible to choose static? To never expand, bend, elongate? What does this rigidity look like, this staying small within ourselves?

Regret. Probably in the top five on my greatest fears chart. The fear of regret, the unknown consequence of choosing wrong. Who can win when this is life’s motivation?

This cusp of change I’m perched upon feels precarious. I have had this particular life path for enough years that it is a comfort to me, the determination of my days as wife and mom. However, I am sensing a call to take steps in a new direction. Probably to the outside observer, one would not notice much, but the internal environment is like shifting sand. I have been awakened by a tinge of general resentment trying to rise, not toward anyone in particular…yet.

I recognize how tempting it is to choose predictable, familiar, safe. The voices speak regret. Or, rather, fear of regret. The what-if of regret.

The life I lead is a good one. I have decided well, I have birthed beauty, I have partnered with remarkable, I have learned wisdom and discernment in many ways. Life is full, but many days are too quiet, too restful, too predictable. The babies need a mother where it’s not just about them. The babies are too reliant on this bored mom, who has few excuses why she can’t do it all. The babies need to learn to fly, too. Are they pushing? Yes, they are pushing. They need to have enough independence to make their own mistakes, to grow, adapt, and change in their appropriate ways.

I have to risk not being needed. I have to risk that maybe they will survive and thrive without me here all the time, as a regular back-up. I have to risk that someone might screw up while I’m doing other things. I have to risk that my marriage may become one of equals, one of partnership, not indebtedness. I have to risk bringing my desires, my dreams, my hopes to the table…not just buying into everyone else’s. I have to examine my own calling, responding to the inklings before they reach fever pitch and I’m reacting poorly. I have to risk being tired, cranky and possibly difficult. This people pleaser has strived for years to be amenable, adaptable, low maintenance. It is time to let her go, as the primary method of gaining approval.

I do not want to choose busy as my purpose, but I do want to recognize that some seasons are naturally out of balance. To seek constant balance is short-sighted and additionally stressful.

What is the price of silence? Good question, unknown answer. I know the price I will pay, too scared to live, too scared to chance, too scared to change, resentment toward those I treasure. The price will be me uniquely showing up, owning my story, my journey, missing out on the collective sharing of beauty made possible through uncertainty.

The excuses are too easy and they are running out. The excuses are growing up, gaining independence and driver’s licenses. The excuses, my deepest loves, should not be excuses, but joys. I want my family to launch, even if it means I work myself out of a job.

Regret. Who the hell knows if we will feel regret or not. It seems like a silly motivator, but can be a powerful dictator.

Memorial to a Good Hen

How does one memorialize the life of a chicken? Our Truffle Hen, a source of great joy, laughs, and surprise went to live in Chicken Heaven on Easter Sunday. Of all days, the target of a determined canine.

Truffle was faithful to our yard and disliked deeply by the three sister-hens. Aside from nights in the coop, she preferred to wander the yard alone, living truly off the land, free to pick and peck through each day, of her own accord. Since escaping the fox and sacrificing her toe, she had been venturing bit by bit away from home base. More dog than chicken, when she had a request, she made her pleas known through getting underfoot  and chirping until we received her messages. Often, we talked back, engaging in a discussion that seemed to mean something. She routinely cocked her head in understanding, peering out of the corner of her eye as if to say I get it, I totally understand. Now, would you please provide me with some scratch? I could really use a treat.

The other three hens do not challenge our yard system. They go about their days eating, drinking, laying, pecking, in the fenced yard safe from predators. Truffle was not to be contained. She, if she remained in the fence, was targeted, chased and under-appreciated by her own kind. Her puppy-like skills were not treasured. She was required, for her own survival in the system, to leave. The three sister-hens were not going to be reasoned with, especially the broody one. She was determined to let Truffle know her place in the pecking order.

The benefits of our chicken’s freedom will be remembered. The nutritional impact of her eggs – priceless, small but perfect, the yolks a deep, almost fluorescent orange from foraging through fresh grass, fertilizing in the process.

Could we have forced her to stay in the fence? Sure, we could have reinforced and fashioned a ceiling of sorts, but at what price? Truffle’s only chance for a happy, healthy life was to leave the comfort of the coop and the fence. She had no other choice.

I’m not sure how much I believe in past lives or reincarnation, but if I could, I will go so far as to say, she was sent here to be my example. Not only to show me that chickens have personalities too, but to reveal the beauty and risk in living as an outlier. All of us are outliers. To assume there is a “normal” does us all a disservice. How many layers of masks do we have to wear to appear normal?

Most of us prefer the comfort of our fences, our friends, families. Some of us are thrust out into the world whether we want to be or not…but we are given a choice, to continue our safe, comfortable lives, or to seek out our calling. There is no wrong or right answer. The lives of the other three hens are deeply appreciated, also. Their eggs better than anything out of the grocery, their unique personalities also known to us. The comic relief not present, but their faithfulness to the needs of our home and life? Absolutely noted.

It seems, in our culture of extremes, that a life lived “extraordinary” is better than that which is loyal or simple. Not true! There is no formula for a life lived well. All of us are called to different things, based upon our unique abilities, our life experiences, suffering, joy. I want to live into my calling. Do I wish I was okay with choosing a safe life, sequestered and cloistered in the predictability of my days, the comfortable tasks, the ease of regular roles? Of course, sometimes, but when I see the fruit of lives lived challenging assumed norms, the deep grooves in the lines around eyes, the tears that have run the lengths of those furrows, this is what I want…a life lived by feeling, through knowing, scared to death, believing, daring.

Our Truffle. We kept a regular eye on her. We were surprised by her and clearly she brought many stories and laughs to our lives. The Easter Sunday morning we were gone, she died.

Will she resurrect? Probably not again as a chicken…but maybe, just a little bit…in me.

Middle Saturdays

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I am stuck, stuck in the middle, stuck in Saturday. Today, the day between Good Friday and Easter. The day between two pivotal, remarkable bookends. The day between death, defeat, unimaginable cruelty and life, glory, light. What are we supposed to do with these middle Saturdays?

After a teary Good Friday, being reminded of the greatest love we can ever know. The greatest example of a Man, killed by his own, loving to the very end, surrendered. I’m not ready for Sunday yet. I’m not ready for new life, for light, for glory. I’m still heartbroken. I’m still in my questions, asking ones that quite possibly have no reasonable answers. I’m still in my human mess, unsure what is me, unsure what is someone else.

Have I learned to circumvent pain? Have I tried to weasel my way out of the middle Saturdays and slingshot from the Friday straight to the Sunday? The middle Saturdays are the work, the grief, the feeling. They are the wrestling, the learning to rest, the longing for new joy, hope. It is easier to dream about the Sundays or stay stuck in the Fridays, than truly, honestly living in the Saturdays.

I will courageously choose to witness how the sun’s rays hit the frosted grass, the lone chair left out  from a lunch eaten in the yard, the leaves starting their unfurling process on the cottonwoods, leaving a greenish tinge when viewed from the perfect angle. I will choose to be present with my family, to crack jokes, to laugh, to run or swim or bike or not, to clean the muddy footprints from the sloppy week. I will choose to feel today, to cry when needed without fear, to eat good food while sitting down. I will hopefully find others who, on this middle Saturday according to Anne Lamott, could use a cold glass of water on this journey of ours. Weary travelers on the road with whom I may share the load.

I don’t want to spend so much time dreaming about Sunday, fantasizing, that I fail to do the work on Saturday. It is very easy to live for the next thing, rather than be in the present. The sweetness of Sunday may pass by if I too easily race through Saturday, or remain stuck in Friday. I pray for the fulfillment of which I am longing, but it is a risk, for it may not happen how I think I want. Maybe the dream of Sunday is less about getting though Friday and Saturday, and trusting the work, the process, the teacher, the journey, to be able to see Sunday.

Sunday is about resurrection, renewed life. The only way to get there is walking through the valley of death. Letting go, saying good-bye, walking forward while looking back grieving the loss. This Saturday is my necessary work, holding loosely to the promise of fulfillment, looking back at the heartbreak of confusion and pain. Trusting in hope, reminding myself to see the beauty in the simple, staying small for today.

Today is about good work, holy work.

Messy, middle Saturday work.

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Broody Hens Revisited 

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How does my Broody Hen know? She sits upon her nest, angry, feeling unlovable, ready to battle anyone or anything determined to remove her from her slot. How does she know? How does she know to sit upon an unfertilized egg, waiting, hopeful, defending the possibility of new life? She is mean, intolerant and driven to find a pile to sit upon. She physically needs to move through this process..to brood, to discover new life, to nurture and launch babies into the world.

While I am not awaiting new life from my body, I feel the same. I feel like I’m stuck at an intersection, the one at 4th and Main, that says “Wait. Wait. Wait” in threes. The triplet syllables running through the background of my consciousness. “Wait. Wait. Wait.” I feel like something new is waiting to be hatched from my being, the desire is present, yet the time is not right. In a culture of producing, of measuring success based on a variety of parameters, to wait feels so wasteful, so useless.

I have to believe there is no perfect way to wait, that I don’t have to follow a prescription, for if this is the case I am miserably failing. This recovering perfectionist reverts to the need for black and white law, to measure productivity by following a specific set of rules. My head knows this is not a requirement, that truly it is a matter of surrender. Sometimes it comes down to getting through, calling out the head chatter, switching the station, changing the mantra.

In reality, all I have to offer myself for any solace in this broody stage is self compassion and kindness. Changing the station to a semblance of SNL’s Stuart Smalley. Doggone it.

Talking with a friend this week, we realized self compassion is our lynchpin, the key to living abundantly, to accepting mercy, to allowing for grace. Why do I believe God’s voice is the one that’s cruel tempered, judgmental, and condemning? Why does this need to be His/Her voice? When I switch the station and hear kindness, mercy…this is the place I long to stay, the pillow on which my head will rest.

Fast runs, lap swims, clean house, conversations with beer or coffee in hand, Mumford and Sons on loud…finally a glimpse of momentary stillness, a reset, if just for a moment.  Freedom settling, a relief from broody condemnation. Meditation, breathing, gardening, all provide moments of respite.

Do I run from the chatter? From the questions? From the feeding frenzy in my head? I try but no, for it is my consistent companion, rising and waning through these days of wait.

Do I choose numbing? Maybe in some ways, but I prefer the tenuous line of feeling, of aching, of misunderstanding, than create a problem that will result in deeper consequences and severe-er, pain to be felt later.

What to do with my broody hen? Unfortunately she is living a lie. She is angry, with no answers. When will she get her sustenance, her food and drink, her relief? I don’t know. We may need to wait and see how she manages.  We may have to hand feed her, we have been known to do that for our precious hens. Even though she’s angry and taking up valuable real estate, I still love her. I will continue to provide for her. She doesn’t have to prove herself to me, I know she’s a faithful bird. And I am such a flawed bird owner.

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Grace

My experiences and thoughts over the last couple weeks have been very raw and necessary. I spilled it out, and I was right, there was great healing in being myself, unedited (for the most part) and hitting “Publish”. I so appreciate the friends who reached out and gave me a kind, knowing look…”We are in this together.” It is also nice to know that fifteen year olds should be considered insane. So should 42 year old moms pushed to the brink. We will all figure it out as we go, often flying by the seat of our pants, trusting.

In light of these events, I have learned some things of Grace as I observed her showing up, asking me to invite her in, never forcing.

Grace is polite, an inkling. She pops her head through the back door, where there is confusion, anger, unreasonable-ness, mostly fear. She waits her turn, she waits until we glance in her direction. When all is desperate and nonsensical she makes her move. She provides opportunity for us to dare for better, for light, for hope, for freedom, mercy, and release. Do we choose her? Do we accept her invitation or keep digging in our heels to make our point, to stand firm in our position? Most of the time her offers make no sense. “Really?! I need to submit to my child, friend, husband, parent, etc? Really? You want me to make the first move toward understanding? But, I’m right. I have  to take a stand here. I have to make my point”. In the heat of the situation, glancing in Grace’s direction, succumbing to her gentle pleading, I realize we don’t have to proceed down this particular path. I can rest in knowing, that letting go, surrendering, may actually be the best.

Grace begins as an imagining. She challenges me to imagine different, alternate, the flip-side. I may not be required to maintain my hard line, whether it’s with my child, or spouse, or on an issue. I see so much of this in our politics, our churches. What if instead of staying rigid, fearing for our security, we let go and trusted and allowed Grace to settle over? What if we stopped needing to have the answers?

Grace is possibility. Is it actually possible I don’t have to know everything or be the one to call people out? Just maybe, what I have assumed is my job, actually is not.  Grace provides the opportunity for freedom, to truly live in love and be the hands and feet of Jesus without the need to figure it all out…to be available and present. Grace enables me to imagine that God is actually enormous, vast, working in ways unbeknownst to any of us, revealed in the most minute of ways, that blow our puny, human minds. Could it be possible? Could it be possible that I don’t have to continue to operate in fear, control, anxiety and confusion? Could I be loved for being myself?

Grace is a choice. We can choose our punitive moment or we can choose to let go, loosen our grip, retract our claws and enter into the unknown, beyond our control. We can choose to release our pride and not have to know it all, not have to be the gatekeepers of Truth.

In the context of my parenting, when Grace is not invited in…not only am I a raging lunatic, a conspiracy theorist, a terrified mother, my child is unreasonable too. It takes one of us (me, since I’m supposedly the adult) to stop, breathe, let go, accept new information and believe maybe I don’t know the whole story. It takes one of us to break the cycle of fear that causes me to believe there is no hope, this is forever how it is, it’s never going to be good again. It takes one of us to look at the other and say, “I love you, what do you suggest, clearly this isn’t working.” Will I automatically have an adult conversation with my teenager? Hell no, but at least there’s softness again. At least there’s openness, if even the smallest of degrees. A small crack of light, revealing the shadow of fear that clouds reason and hope.

I will leave you, to extrapolate this to the areas of your own lives, to your marriage, parenting, friendships. To your community, your schools and churches. To your towns, states. To our nation and world. The choice of grace is ours. The choice to allow the notion that maybe we don’t have the whole story…maybe there is an opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we are motivated by fear rather than the revolutionary power of Love. Maybe our own expectations are causing us to lose perspective of mercy and leading us to control.

In my experience, control has never been my friend. Control has only made me have to work harder to stay on top. It’s a miserable existence, where Joy really is just waiting for me to step down, give up the fight, and enter into life-giving Grace.

Thoughts on Parenting in March

*This post is more raw than I care to publish, but there is great healing in taking the chance. Please reserve criticism…it is a tender time.

The voices know how to melt my core. The voices can kick me in the deepest, most soft of places, in the depths of who I am. The voices I don’t know how to decipher. Some are mocking, some are encouraging, all are definite…moving me toward conspiracy, toward trembling, toward believing these voices and knowing the truth beyond a shadow, regardless if it’s actually the case.

Where do these come from? Are they our modern day demons that Jesus went from town to town exiling? Are they the words of shame? Are they what we imagine actual people are saying? Are they our conscience? Is it God?

What is so wrong with standing firmly in self-compassion, in grace, in do-overs and second chances? Why is everything so final, it must be done perfect or not at all? When I stand firm in anything it blows up, shards lancing every beloved soul and body within radius. Firm stances work for some and gain results, gain temporary results. I’m really talking about parenting here. We can talk about shame can’t we? I can force my child to stand there and take it, take whatever I believe he needs to hear, whatever point I’m needing to make. Does it change anything? The only time I see change in him, in us, is when there’s a bend, when there’s softness…not in forceful words or definite paths or “I’m gonna win this one.” Sure, short term results. But how does this prepare a child to be gracious, kind, compassionate, empathetic? If we don’t model it directly with them, how do we know they will know what this is?

I can’t do it. I’m crying uncle. Yes, there are consequences and discipline. Don’t get me wrong..not throwing the kid to the wolves just yet, however, it’s not about living perfect on the outside to gain my approval so I can brag in a Starbucks to a long unseen acquaintance all the incredible ways my children are succeeding in life. It’s about formation, growth, and not me.

I will take a chance on grace, on letting go the tight fisted grip, on results. I will take a chance on my child learning the paths that are best. I will take a chance on my child really screwing up. I will take a chance on letting my child go. It’s the only way to keep the relationship, to let him become who he was made to be.

I have never done this. All I have in my back pocket is how I was parented. It is now my responsibility to set it all down, in a pile, grab a chair and pick up each piece one by one…dust it off, turn it over in my hand, examine each facet. Which bucket will it go in? There are three: Save, Discard,  Later (aka. therapy). I am now the adult, raising the children. I have a choice. Go bull-headed forward with what I think I know, or choose grace and self compassion to not have to be perfect, to not have to be rigid, to reserve the right to change my mind. I am taking a chance.

Control isn’t working for me or my family. In fact, it’s ugly and I have become a raging lunatic.

If you see me in a Starbucks and tell me all the wonderful things about your kids, and I grunt in response and say, “We’re fine..the kids are still alive.” Don’t feel sorry for me, because I will not spell out all of the accomplishments and accolades. Those are reserved for the most trusted who will not use them to measure the worth of their own parenting. Nor will I spell out my fears and concerns, unless it helps you in some way. I will not be a part of promoting the competition, the measuring, the weighing of worth.

I will not.

As Ann Lamott says, as a writer there are always shitty first drafts. It’s important to write, get it down on paper or hard drive. As a parent, my first drafts are also going to be shitty. I’m not talking about my firstborn..I haven’t lost all hope. I’m talking about attempts, at first reactions, at things said but not exactly vetted, choices made in anger that produce regret. These first drafts, some are initially brilliant. Most are shitty, flawed, failed.

There must be a God, because there is always redemption. It may be today, it may take thirty years, but there is always a working together for good..always. Even in this mess, this stink, this pain and angst, regret and fear, there is redemption.

A New Path

Woke up to another snowy landscape. I love snow, I’m finding winter might be my favorite season..if I can stay warm. I like the excuse of staying inside, of not feeling pressured by the warm sun to have to be outside if I don’t want to. I guess I am more of a homebody than I would care to admit.

In this season, my soul, mind, body..all adrift. We have a houseful of construction. My child is in a necessary stage I don’t like. Church life, nonexistent.

This morning my view is the snow laden backyard, icicles hang prolific in random places, ice omnipresent to make any venture treacherous for this aging body. I gaze through the gridded window upon the backyard. Squares, each when focused individually offer a microcosm view. One, on the top middle portrays the garage roofline, with neighbor’s tree branches rising above, little humble birds sitting atop. Another square offers our half dilapidated chicken coop addition, where our wandering Truffle likes to perch, her halfway house as she pecks through the yard. Sitting in the silence of early morning, watching the full moon span squares, tree branches, power lines, while illuminating the frigid earth.

My walk with God is shifting. My faith journey, once so certain, is sprouting legs and taking me to places I once reserved for the backslidden, the lost. The faith lens, the grid through which I observed the world is leaving. The parameters, guidelines, rules one attributes to God-pleasing, dissolving. The earning of Heaven, the avoiding of Hell no longer interesting or essential. I am left with this vast landscape…no walls..everything is up for question. Dare I say, few absolutes?

The beauty of blanketed snow, how it falls and sits until disrupted by the beaming light of day, or a skittering creature. The beauty of freedom, imagining, wondering. The beauty of being open to loving all, to accepting each person where they stand. The rest in knowing judgement is not my job, my paycheck does not reflect this responsibility. The promise of spring, unfolding flowers, trees and vegetable sprouting from the desolate boxes. Miraculous, each one, morning newness abundant.

All of this I know. I have done this for enough years to know my faith goes beyond what I feel. My sense of bereft-ness is happening because without the certainty of rules and boundaries, how does one know if they are off course, or just alone? I have followed, through my life, the leader. I have also been the leader, albeit many times a bit of a rebel. I have walked easily and willingly with others, in fellowship. I have sought out approval from the powers that be, truly believing I am honoring God with my life and devotion.

Years ago, I completed my first triathlon in Denver at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I knew I was a decent swimmer, but never having raced before, I didn’t know how I would compare. My only gauge the poor unknowing soul I would compete with in the adjacent lane at the Rec Center.

I swam along, nervous energy faded, breathing on every third stroke as a good swimmer does. Murky water, goggles fogged, blind. I, while bilaterally breathing, noticed I was alone and actually believed I was in front.  Me in the lead. Incredible! I succumbed to the voice-in-my-head temptation, “I am amazing, Wow!” The illusion came crashing when I was shaken by a booming, megaphoned voice, “MA’AM, YOU ARE OFF COURSE!”

I had taken my own line, I had veered out of the triangle path designated. I was all alone. The kind race volunteer allowed me to de-fog my goggles, catch my breath and resume the race.

I am trusting in grace when I feel I am off course, or alone.  When I have presumed too much or entertained untruths, I hope to be steered by a megaphone, a gentle nudge, or a push…all motivated by love. My questions will continue to be posed, with abandon. I trust that living outside of the well-trod path I will discover new understanding, or maybe a faint path trod not by the majority.  I long to, through humility, follow, grow, become –  knowing that whatever path I’m on, wherever the journey takes me, all of it leads to the common ground of love, grace, mercy, empathy, compassion…free from shame, condemnation and fear.

Breaking Up with Fight

I was a fighter. I was a goal setter, a rule follower, a planner. I could follow a training plan like nobody’s business. I could set aside rest, celebration, life, in order to accomplish. I could hang with the best of them in discipline. I was a fighter.

Yesterday, I looked around and discovered my fight left, probably for good. Fight has been on it’s way out the door for awhile, I have been unwilling to own this. I haven’t wanted to recognize my will, my heart, my mind no longer care to fight for the fight. We need to break up.

When in Gunnison, I have a specific route I like to run. I warm up for a mile and half along County Road 10 where I gather my gumption and confidence before turning onto 743, an undulating dirt road that winds mostly up. I can choose to go as far as I want, depending on how many miles I need to get in that particular day. I usually set my mind to run the whole thing, to not stop and walk.

Yesterday, my mental and physical resolve decided to stay at the house, lingering at home with a cup of coffee and warm stove. The once latent pain in my back was knocking on the door of acceptable comfort, legs each holding a 10 pound weight. Usually, I can fight, I can scrap, I can set aside discomfort and fatigue to plow ahead, to force my way to worthiness.

Fight has learned to take advantage of me, she can tackle me down in my weakness and insecurity. She knows when and how to elevate herself, through my comparing.

But our relationship hasn’t always been like this, we had a lovely thing going…

She taught me so much about who I am, about what I can accomplish when mind and body are put to the test. She led me through training for and completing nine marathons, an Ironman, and countless other races and adventures. She brought me through a wonderful education, long days and nights of three blessed babies, marital challenges, tragedy. What a gift she has been to me. Fight has helped me to overcome, to be brave, to stand firm while fear nearly ate away my resolve, to move beyond status quo and achieve. I am so grateful to her for revealing my dogged determination, for beckoning me out of bed for early training and studying bouts, relentlessly calling to do more, be better. She has truly been a gift, revealing me to myself, my capabilities, my capacity.

Unfortunately, Fight doesn’t show up alone. At first, she appears strong, powerful. She is admired and envied. She produced things in me that proved my worth, elevated my standing (at least to me, in my eyes). But after awhile, Fear made an entrance. When Fight and Fear are paired in tandem, a perfect storm forms of striving and proving. Fear is a contender, a game-changer, diabolical almost. Fear is nonsensical, doesn’t back down easily. Fear/Fight took over my kindhearted nature and drew me into believing ridiculous, inane lies. Fear marked itself as Pride, Worthlessness, Shame, fanning the flame of what once was a wonderful accomplishment, into a drive, a need for more, better, more than, better than. Fight can become an addiction when in the context of Fear. This addiction can become the relentless draw to Next…the next race, the next diet, the next goal to prove worth…to rise above, to be noticed.

Fight and Fear are being ushered out while I welcome Strength, Discipline, Wisdom. Instead of scrapping and proving and rising above, I want to settle in. I want to live with Strength of character; with Discipline to accomplish lasting, sustainable things; with Wisdom to know when to buckle down and when to let go. I want to rest in me being enough without Fight, without the pursuit of more and better. I want to rejoice in witnessing others rise higher, accomplishing greater. I want to be a cheerleader, in the arena, okay with sacrificing standing and admiration. I want to be side by side, arm in arm with fellow humanity, championing causes, righting wrongs, and loving severely in the darkest and fiercest of times. I want to say goodbye to being better, more, better than, more than. It is time to hang up the boxing gloves. It is guaranteed my pride and ego will take more hits as a result, maybe beaten to a bloody pulp.

It’s fine with me. I’m ready. They haven’t served me much lately.

Upslopes

5410103711_dbedf5b3df_bColorado has been fortunate this winter, some cold snowy days, but February was a string of warmth. We have had a winter storm warning for the past three days, starting midweek, getting ready, waiting. Apparently, the liquor and grocery stores were packed on Friday, people anticipating. I had a little “wait and see”, but I longed for a good snow dumping. The beautiful thing about Colorado weather, is you can try to predict it, but until it happens? Well, better to just not say too much.

Mid-morning Saturday, with an inch or so, the streets were only wet, temperatures balmy in the 30s. My mom, daughter and I headed up north for a little shopping and lunch. By this time, folks on social media were mocking the weather, and raining down veiled insults upon the sacrificial meteorologist lambs. Many believed the bluff was called. While in J. Crew, my daughter having the time of her life debating denim choices, we watched the storm barrel in like a brakeless freight train. The roads once only wet, were now icy and packed down, visibility just barely, cars inching along with little to no traction. This upslope was a contender.

These powerful storms, all eventually leave, but when they are central to your existence, nothing can channel thoughts elsewhere. Upslopes gather moisture from the south, rotating clockwise slowly, wrapping the region, bumping up against the foothills. The energy stays on the Front Range, where snow can fall in feet down here, while the mountains may be sunny and warmish.

What about the storms I face? My upslopes?

I have issues that regularly wrap around and back, with insecurity arriving from the north, purposelessness gathering steam in the south, to collide perfectly at my center: food, weight, body issues warning of impending record-setting events. Yes, I can sometimes predict when they will show: spring after cold winter months of eating comfort food; after very busy life seasons; during grief, new kid stages, certain marriage events, holidays. I try to anticipate, but these upheavals can still come unexpectedly, and with force. The force is sometimes more than I can manage. It seems these life events wrap around, coloring all of my existence, my faith, my hope, my purpose. They bump against what I know, what I’ve learned, the strength earned. Gaining momentum or losing it, depending on many factors, mostly fueled by my choices toward surrender and control. Some are here to stay, creating in me a new existence, a new manner of viewing the world, challenging me to my core. Not moving out anytime soon.

If I get so focused on the fear of the next uprising, the howling wind, the cold, I lose the opportunity to see beauty. How the snow falls when it has settled in, the naked tree branches perpetually reaching higher as if awaiting a pat on the head for the effort, birds on wire in defiance. The opportunity afforded to rest in the unknown, to acknowledge the change in landscape, finding a new place to discover oneself. Life-giving moisture for drought-prone land.

These upslopes in my life and heart change and switch, move and shift. Some show up unexpectedly, and some predictably. Sitting, twisting, churning and moving out. They always move out, it might take a few years, but we all eventually reach a new normal. After the spectacular show, a gap is present, small or big doesn’t matter. The terrifying suffering is more behind me than in front, a return to normal seasonal temperatures, dry weather, regular days, stepping in time. And this is me. The upheaval rocks my world, sends me into a spin, challenges and discomforts. It always leaves…with me anew, changed, adjusted.

What do I do with the gap? The regular and settled in days? Do I take what I learned and water others? Do I move to a new place in my faith journey? Do I recognize the risk of vulnerability and take more chances? I hope so. I hope I don’t just stand braced for the next one, but instead, live my days with gained truth, from a place of fresh hope, surrendered strength, muscle ready to fight for what I now know.

There is always new life in the aftermath. Green, sprouting, fresh, stored up energy for the next journey, the rising day, the long-awaited rebirth. There is always hope, even in the bleakest and severest. Let me remember to cling tight when the cold rattles and re-shapes my bones, when life will no longer, ever, return to my idea of normal. Let me grow stronger, taller, ever-reaching, reinforcing the old supports. Settling in with grace and confidence, trusting the strength of not me, but the strength of the One who holds me fast.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81474147@N00/5410103711″>Snowpocalypse Chicago Snowmageddon 2011</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

The Last One

Snow falling in clumps like wet Kleenex, ground slushy and puddled, chimney across the way pumping out smoke. Kids finishing procrastinated homework, hanging with friends, gearing up in snow clothes for a ten minute play outside. Laundry humming along, hot chocolate steaming, a long run to work out the cobwebs. Dog covered in local dirt road mud, bounding at first, lolling at end.  A day home, holiday celebrating Presidents. A surprise egg, from our infamous Truffle Hen who defied a grisly fox-death and sacrificed a toe in her harrowing escape.

All bits of one day, moments held briefly and so easily forgotten. Reminders of those gone by, rejoicing and grieving simultaneously at children growing and becoming, differentiating and leaving. Ten years like dust, when baby number three emerged, to join what seemed like two big kids then, recognized now as toddlers. How perspective shifts and bends, grace withheld for all I thought I should be doing, rather than just getting through some days, with coffee and Diet Coke as my only joys. I hear folks say, “Don’t survive, thrive”. I want to wring their necks and have them sit in my then-home with three baby-toddlers and make them write it out longhand thousands of times on the slate of my sanity.

Boy now, gangly, sinewy, lanky and lean. This ten year old body, on the cusp of separation, still allowing tender moments between mother and son. Hair shaved, eyes and ears too big for face, pants at ankles, instead of nicely folding over the shoe. Child with his fair share of suffering, for a privileged white middle class upbringing. Great heart and head for understanding and mercy, compassion and reflection. Is this learned? Maybe, but feels more like instinct, a soul discontent early from being unable to spell out his burden wreaking havoc inside.

This Last One, seeing him across the room, wondering, “Is that really my kid?” The changes all of a sudden ganging up on this mother, not wishing it any different, but taking pause, taking notice. A mother’s heart has to defy all logic, all fear, all slashes that come from carelessness. These children, take my naked and vulnerable heart, with no understanding for the pain leveled when they hurt or hurt others. This ache is felt constantly, ebbing and flowing with circumstantial life, conjoined with relief for the freedom. Oh! to no longer be the parent of baby-toddlers! Yes, they are becoming, this is the natural order of things, but never chosen with ease. Mothers across the globe, spanning all time and space have fought and lost the battle of keeping our children small and held tight, with very good reason.

My greatest mothering work is to relinquish, to allow the emotion and feeling to wash over, to settle in, to release, once processed, into the abyss of the collective grief and feeling of all mothers.  There are probably enough tears to power entire countries with this weight…of longing, hope, relief. Tears of pain and joy, equal, salty, flowing, some waiting for redemption, for forgiveness, others redeemed and forgiven.

My beautiful boy, high pitched screams and shrieks, just three years from deepening. My beautiful boy, my youngest child, sealing the door just behind him on this parenting gigue that has been both beautiful and obnoxious. I hear often, “Once a parent, always a parent…the fear and concern never leave”. I don’t like it. I’d rather they say that all my hard work will pay off, all misunderstanding will cease and none of them will do stupid, damaging things. An impossibility, I know.

Lazy home days, taking notice, remembering, forgetting, appreciating the mundanity, the divine in the smallest and most insignificant of moments. This holy work of parenting, mothering, is not for the weary or faint of heart. Let us all give grace freely, recognizing none of us has a corner on this crazy market of letting go. Let us mothers notice one another and cling tight for these days are short. Our children will leave, some peaceful and some in fits and tantrums. Hopefully, they will return as friends, people with whom we may grow, generously and respectfully. People who challenge, teach and question us while providing for their own young families, repeating the wonderful, necessary cycle of raising up and letting go, honoring and learning the truths that come from this holy, messy, beautiful work.