Saturday, January 17, 2015

She Grows

One helluva masterpiece.
The ruler used to be my measurement. A door jamb and a ruler.

Her eyes, encircled in dark mascara and eyeliner, sparkle at me. It finally comes to pass. Three states, six schools, and countless boxes of macaroni and cheese later, her skirts are shorter, her tights are tighter, her ambitions, grander.

The day she came home, long ago, my head ripened with thoughts of firsts. First night of unbroken sleep (please soon), first bite of real food (mush), first word (no). The days widened and narrowed. She walked and talked. I followed and worried. I watched my independence give way to parental obligation. I left a job; she threw a ball; I took less and less notice of the news and more and more notice of her schooling. She grew and my world shrunk.

You throw yourself into something or it’s not worth doing. I would teach her: Quitting left everyone unhappy.

“Take that soccer ball and KICK it!”

“Read or there’s no TV tonight!”

“Play with your sister or else!”

“And, for God’s sake, share!”

There’s taking in the act of giving. If there’s no receiver, giving doesn’t work. Her young hands and open mind took from me. The good parts mostly. But, also the guilt. Have I done enough? And, the resentment. You take too much.

Her nose touches mine without her standing on tiptoes. I pretend to shrink and use a cane today, in my best granny voice, joking, “Don’t worry about me, my pretty. Just hand me my shawl.”

She looks away now more than looks up. She’s taller by an inch and a half. It’s a mountain to me, a skyscraper of “I hope...” and “I dream...” She uses her assertive sense of self as a metaphysical yardstick. Her eyes reflect words she doesn’t speak: “I’m done taking from you.” But, me, knowing, can see the marks I’ve already made.

Every birthday of mine growing up, my dad used a ruler to measure me against the door jamb in the kitchen. Pencil in hand, he’d stand up my brother and me and lay the ruler flat on our heads to the back of the wood. There, he’d mark the spot and write our age, making a scritch-scratch of lead on the wood.

I look him in the eye today.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What You Really Want

Answer this: What do you really want?

Maybe it's the pair of fuzzy leopard print slippers in the bottom of your closet. You want them because your feet are cold and you cannot sleep, the covers tossed.

Maybe you cannot sleep because you are thinking about the slippers, and their gaudiness reminds you of what you really want, which is much bigger and flashier. You are awake not because your feet are cold but because you're thinking about other things. You think of your breakfast of buttered toast and tea.

Food, what you may want, pulls you out of bed, and early, but there are the other ordinary things, too. The work laid aside once you eat and the shower and the putting yourself together for another day. You prepare for the day of wanting what you really want. You put yourself together and fixate only on the tasks.

The tasks are mundane but important. Papers to sift through, groceries to consider, weather to contend with, a car to gas up, animals to tame, people to calm, all considerations on the road to what you really want.

Underlying every move will be that want. You don't take it out much for inspection -- that seemingly unattainable goal or state of being. But it's what you really want and you nurse it daily, not consciously, but secretly, holding it apart from you and wanting it closer. You want it more than you can articulate, but articulating seems braggart and too bold.

Maybe it's time to start naming it and taking it out from behind the curtain -- this grand scheme of yours -- this thing that keeps you up at night -- tucked into a pair of slippers --
maybe light is what it needs.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Shall Live An Urgent Living

In the middle of the busiest street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, a long and tall blackboard is erected for visitors and locals, anyone, to write down their Before I Die ... wishes. A quick net search and I find that there are other walls of its kind around the world.

This makes me sad.

I believe it affects me this way because of the recent death of my husband. He did not want to die; I did not want him to die; I do not want to die nor think of dying. I want to live.

Maybe it's just semantics. Dying gives a body urgency. "The end is imminent, so baby, you better get to the living and in a big way." Why do we have to have doom hanging over our heads to declare that, yes, we shall take advantage of this precious time we have here and now? I want to live.
My favorite tree in Portland, Ore.

I agree dying strikes fear. Dying focuses our priorities. When someone you love dies, many realizations dawn. Life is fragile. Life is short. Life is filled with unnecessary complexities. Life is the people you love and the love you receive and give. Life begets life. Death, I believe, does not beget life. Before I Die wishes do not inspire life. I want to live.

A lifespan opens a window of infinite choices and opportunities. We are limited by ourselves, by our fears. For some less fortunate, the immorality of others limits life's potential. It is easy to write these words. It easy to comprehend them and say we will live fully and embrace the passionate ways and reject the heaviness that can accompany living. It is entirely something else to practice urgent living. I want to live.

Urgent living requires a vivid, unshakable faith that everything shall be okay. There is phrase in one religious practice: All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well. Most of us do not believe or embrace this concept. Because, many times, the path is cluttered. My path is cluttered. I have bills to pay and burdensome tasks to undertake and sacred obligations of parenthood to live up to. I want to live.

So I shall. It will be an imperfect urgent living. I shall not write in chalk on public blackboards those things that death inspires me to do. I will live needful of filling myself and others with beauty and potential, anything that inspires my motion-filled body to love in the doing. I shall live.