If you look closely, you can see the artist herself at the tippy-top.
Posts tagged ‘life’
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
from Standing by Words. © 1983
Friends, I am officially a Nursery School graduate. Well my son is, really. (He specialized in blocks and the alphabet. We’re very proud). Onto kindergarten in the fall. Which means that my nursery school days are done. I am, in effect, a Nursery School graduate. How would I even begin to explain the simultaneous well of grief and the sweet relief of having made it through?
I never think I’m going to get sentimental because generally, I’m pretty practical. Wouldn’t you know it, at the end-of-the-year “Sing-along”, I lost it good. My throat had begun its tightening well before I saw him filing in with his class, teachers arranging them on stage. Once the singing started, I couldn’t see him through the swarm of children.
Have you heard thirty-something very small children sing? *sigh*
Skinamarinky Dinky Dink was a highlight, but that song about Love being the only thing that when you give it away, you have more? Arrow through the heart.
I told him after, that I could hear him singing, because Moms have special ears that can hear their children, even in a crowd. He nodded his head, as if saying, Yes. That sounds feasible. Of course you could hear my beautiful singing. In his dreamy world, where not everything has a name yet, anything is possible.
My husband was trying to chat with me about something or other while we were waiting for them to come in. Because we’re old pros at this. We’re not the parents that got there early to get a seat up front with our camcorder. We’re all chill on our third turn on the carousel. I thought.
I turned to him, tears on my face, and said, I’m not available to talk about that right now. I’m kind of having a moment. And I don’t want to miss it.
Last year right around this time, I took a moment to reflect on the school year, and am so glad I did. Usually, I limp across the finish line in June feeling very little other than spent. June bleeds into July and by then, those last weeks of school are nothing but blur. I’m not sure if there is an entire story arc stretching from September to June, but certainly countless beginnings and endings scattered along the road. Most of the time, I’m just too busy to notice.
When I held my first son almost thirteen years ago, pressed my nose into his downy head, inhaling, I thought to myself, I will never forget this. Ever. I will remember every moment. It didn’t take long (probably three or so sleepless months) for the sad understanding to sink in. That I would forget most of this. That one day ran into the next, ran into the next week, the next month, and year. Most nights, I’d collapse in bed, bone weary, dreamless, and pick up where I left off, sometimes before sunrise. The tide pulled out, washing away the day before.
I was looking back on old posts (like this one and this one), feeling ever so grateful to have a record someplace that this all happened. Pictures capture life, but for me, not like writing it. Writing them down is like catching fireflies in a mason jar, only these stay alive, and somehow become even brighter as time passes. If writing means tasting life twice, I have found without fail, it tastes even better the second time. There is a sweet spot between living and writing about living. When I’m too busy doing, I can hardly breathe. When I’m watching the rain out the window in my quiet house, pulling up my chair to the feast of losses life can bring, fingers tapping keys, I can drown, too. I need both. One makes the other better. There’s a kind of faith I’ve garnered from writing some of it down. I get to choose what to keep.
Mothering babies called for holding on: hold their head to support their neck, their hand while they learn to balance on their feet, cross the street. Holding tight became like breathing. I had an urgency back then, of wanting to hold onto it all, keep it close, keep them little for as long as possible. One can’t go on like that forever, though. Sustenance and dominion give way, over time, to surrender. I will go, in the course of twenty years or so, from not knowing where one of us begins and the other ends, to a house with three empty bedrooms. From eating food off their clothes (I can’t be the only one) and wiping their butts, to being a guest in their homes.
Now, having walked through nearly thirteen years of holding close and letting go, my grip has loosened. Whatever those muscles are that a mother uses daily to hold them tight and push them out the door all at once, mine have become more supple. Not without aching, of course, but they do seem to know what to do. I get to sit back some, and marvel at who they are becoming.
A few months back, I came across a post from Goop offering sample schedules of high-powered, highly successful, working mothers, a day in the life, if you will.
It kind of set me off, honestly. Made me feel like a slouch. During the school year, I’m just trying to figure out how to workout/get to the grocery store/maybe write a blog post/figure out the meaning of life/be on time for nursery school pick-up. Though I admire their accomplishments, I think maybe these aren’t “my women”, you know?
So maybe I will never be the woman buying all birthday gifts in advance for the year, wrapped, filed, ready to go. And maybe my evening plans won’t include meeting up with Stella McCartney for a little “girlfriend time” after the kids go to bed. Or fittings with a stylist. I did make a mental note, however, that the equation seems to be this: extremely organized+ structured days=highly productive. Good childcare figures in heavily.
The post was like candy, kind of enjoyable but in the end kind of made me feel bad. I couldn’t resist it, though, as I am always wondering how the heck everyone else is doing this, whether they are working, working part-time, not working. Don’t you really want to peek into other women’s days, to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it? Is that just me?
From my small cross-section of friends, two things have become clear: one, everyone else is just trying to figure this out, too, and two, no arrangement is perfect. Oh, and that it changes over time. Just when you’ve found an arrangement that is working, a babysitter moves on/your career plans change/your now older children need you in different ways/summer comes, et cetera. There is no such thing as “having it all”. We are constantly making decisions about what is most important and what can go (at least for now).
I was so pleased when I came across the “My balance” series over at Cup of Jo. If you haven’t met Jo, you should pay her a visit. She has a lovely design-y blog. The series asks questions about work/life/parenting balance of many well-loved faces in the blog world. I’m kind of remedial as far as reading other blogs, but I was pleased to see that I was familiar with most of the women and admire the work they are doing.
If you, too, are fascinated with how women are making creative, productive work/family lives, check it out.
This one scared me a little (no offense, Jenny. But I need way more sleep than you).
P.S. In case you’re curious about MY balance, I started writing this while everyone was still asleep, but am finishing up having plied one child with my iPhone in the next room, soon after begging another child to give his littlest brother a bowl of cereal. Or anything. Please. Just five more minutes. . . .
As promised, a counterpoint post to my little fit about family vacations (see it here), I offer Part 2 (where I revel in the freedom of unstructured time with my family and have a come-to-Jesus on the mountainside).
What I most appreciate about family “vacation”:
1. The break from routine. Like the waking up at 5:30am and all the driving and coralling and cajoling and cooking and trying to get it all done. These are the things I do, not who I am. Vacation reminds me of this.
2. No Homework. This is related to #1, but the difference no homework makes in my life is so serious it needs its very own line. I would also make it #3, #4, and #5, but I think you get the point. Homework is not my friend. Friends don’t ruin every weekday evening.
3. Time to play Uno and watch Spongebob with my boys. Am I complete boob? But I really do like Spongebob. He’s such a fool and the show is just so crazy and creative. Love it. That and the sounds of my sons cackling together at all that is dumb and funny. Music, as they say.
4. Having my husband with us. Oh, the luxury of his company! I do like that guy. Feels like I hardly see him. And having him with us allows me brief respite from feeling like a single parent for 95% of the day. (Not complaining about his hard workin’, folks, just the facts, just the facts). And I do realize that his contribution adds up to way more than 5%. But I’m writing this equation, so that there’s the math according to me.
5. Sleep. Once the little guy was over his fever, there was some good sleep. Nine hours really suits me. I am closest to the version of myself I would like to be after nine hours of sleep. Note to self.
6. Getting to see new places, try new things. Maybe I need to look at my life and how it is currently set up (and I think I do), but it doesn’t leave much room for straying from the formula or being spontaneous. Every week can start to feel like a worn version of the one before. This vacation we went skiing in Colorado. Some days I skied, some days I didn’t (hung out with concussion boy). I actually enjoyed the two-hour car ride from the Denver Airport to the Ski Resort. I saw prairie dogs, buffalo, and big horned sheep by the side of the road. Also, abandoned mining towns that looked like everyone had packed up and skipped town one day and left everything just as it was, frozen in time. Did I mention wide open sky? My eyes need new food like this.
7. Getting some space to see myself, my children, my life more clearly. I believe we call this perspective. Turns out I quite like my children. They are lovely little people. Yes, when we’re all together in a hotel room or rented condo things can get pretty intense. Wow, they can bicker about anything. And like all children, sometimes they’re just plain annoying. But they’re my annoying children. And there’s not many other people on this earth that I’d rather be with. It’s hard to see that when they start to feel like a job to me, objects to be moved from point a to point b. Sad, but true.
Another example of #7:
My husband set up some ski lessons for me because I guess he was thinking that maybe if I were a better skier, I might enjoy it more. This is a good time to mention, we’re not one of those skiing families. We have skied. But we’re not that family with the coordinated gear who has the routine down. I don’t wake up in the morning stoked to hit the slopes. More like a little dread mixed with resignation. I don’t like lugging the equipment. I don’t like the cold. But we’re trying to figure out what kind of family we are. We’re trying out different things.
So I’m out there in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with my fifty-seven-year-old instructor David, and he’s pointing out to me where I need to be leaning forward instead of back, how I’m working way harder than I need to be, and as I feel my body make the subtle adjustments, I see myself in my life. Yes, I do always seem to be fighting the mountain, don’t I? Huh. That is so what I do. I make things harder than they need to be. The maneuvering can be easy and relaxed, just. . . like. . . this. . .
David explains and demonstrates for me, It’s counterintuitive, see, but you are supposed to lean over your skis, into gravity, not away from it. Bracing yourself against it only makes you slide down the mountain, see? You don’t need to be exerting yourself quite so much. . . see . . nice. . . and. . . easy. . . . When you’re doing it right, it feels like you’re doing nothing at all.
Like swimming, I say.
Yes, just like swimming, he agrees.
I followed in his wide rounded S trails down the powdery hill, moving with gravity instead of against it, for the moment, remembering that thing that a part of me knows but spends my days forgetting: How something can be doing and resting, in equal parts, at the same time.
And it was good.
I’ve been thinking about out Cindy Chang’s Before I Die public installation in New Orleans since I saw it, (online, silly. I’m still sitting in front of my computer screen, just like you). Check it out here. Chang is the co-founder Civic Center, an urban design studio where she “combines architecture, graphic design, and urban planning to make thoughtful public spaces and communication tools for everyday issues of city life. She’s passionate about redefining the ways we use public space to share information important to our neighborhoods and to our individual well-being” (quote taken from online bio here).
Though I love some of the high falootin’ stuff in museums and galleries (some of it makes me absolutely swoon, really), this kind of work also gets me pretty excited. Accessible? Check. Participatory? Check, again. The opportunity to actually learn something about the people around us? Well now she really has me.
How much do we really know about the people we see everyday? Imagine if we knew something about the hopes they hold for their lives. Would kind of change everything, don’t you think?
Some pictures (also lifted from here):
Thanks to Drew for sending my way.
What I finally came up with for the final transaction between Thomas and his Tooth Fairy: