Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letting Go

I hate it. I hate letting go. I think it's why I retain all my bad habits. It's the loss of them - of anything - that I can't stand, even if what waits for me on the other side is good. I'd rather keep the familiar, thank you very much, and pass the salt.

I am sure this is because I had an overage of letting go when I was little. I attended three elementary schools over the course of eight years. I lived at home, I lived with my grandparents, I lived with my aunt. My dad was there, my dad wasn't there. I had cousins and then I didn't. I spent so much time leaving, leaving and saying good-bye. I hated it.

And I hate it now.

So I work very hard at not leaving and not letting go. So far, this has made for a very strong marriage, some great life-long friendships and some uncomfortable pants, as I probably should let some of the ones that haven't fit me for six years go. I'm sure my hips would agree, but who's asking them anyway?

Of course, the not-letting-go thing has made parenting excruciating, since all you do as a parent is let go. My children have learned to tug and pull toward the music of their own lives quietly, so as to not interrupt my symphony of psychosis. I know that's a little nuts, but it works for us and who's asking you anyway?

So I've got this carefully constructed life with the same house, same neighborhood, same pants. Same, same same! Yay!

The thing is, not everyone is like me. Some people accept, embrace - even pursue - change. These people drive me insane, especiallywhen I love them. And despite all my labors to the contrary, some of them go. I have to say good-bye and let go.

And I want to scream at them "NO! Don't go! You're going to ruin everything! You're going to make me cry and feel lonely and lost and I don't want you to go because I need you in order to keep my sameness SAME. Don't you see that?!"

I want to run at them inelegantly flapping my arms to catch their attention and then I want to clutch them close to me and transfer my inexplicable, unreasonable fear of change to them through the heat of my body so they'll stay and never go.

I want to, but I know it's the wrong thing. I know I must love those around me enough to allow them their choices without the burden of mine weighing them down. I know others' happiness belongs to them and I owe them comfort and confidence when they're off to pursue their dreams. I know that I can't change the fact that things change and sometimes I must say good-bye and carry on. I know that.

But I hate it. I hate letting go.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Be Thankful

I just went to visit my childhood best friend's mom. Today is her birthday. I spent about an hour with her, coaxing her into having a little something to eat. It's not easy anymore, as she's recently had a stroke so all her food is - in addition to being old-people gross anyway - mixed with gelatin. Yuck! I had to laugh when she managed to pull together a pretty convincing scowl, despite the paralysis in her face, so that I knew not to keep trying to push the pea-mush that was substituting for real food on her plate. It'd be easy to look at her situation and think 'This is awful, I'm so glad it's not me or my mom.'

I suppose that'd be one form of thanks, right?

But instead, I was grateful because as soon as she saw me there was no mistaking the delight in her eyes. The days since I went bounding into her house, sticky and sweaty from play have flown by in a flash. So I was relieved and glad that she took my hand and squeezed it, as best she could, to let me know she was so happy to see me. I'm grateful that she smiled at the flowers I brought and so, so overjoyed to have spent an hour with her, getting her to have even a few bites to keep up her strength and singing happy birthday to her so that she knew she was remembered and loved.

It's one thing, of course, to be loved by someone. I'm grateful, eternally, for all the love I receive from those close to me. But I have to say it's another thrill entirely to get someone else to see and appreciate the love you are giving them. It's especially meaningful when you know somone is at the end of their days, because we all know eventually the days run out.

I find this especially true today, not just because of this visit but because last night Tony stayed up late looking at old videos of our babies when they were brand, spankin' new. My beautiful Sara, rocking back and forth on those untried legs, doing everything she could to get into Lucy's 'big-girl' bed (toddler-sized, but huge to her). The ever-delicious Lucy in the background of every single video pleading, 'Can I see, Daddy?' and hamming it up for more face time. Sam, my earnest, eager Sam, bawling ferociously at the audacity of pause between placing him in the crib and handing him his bottle of milk. Those days have sprinted by, too soon. Of course, Sara is still trying everything she can to fit into Lucy's big-girl status, Lucy still chases Daddy around to dig into whatever he's doing, and Sam, embarrassingly, still bawls ferociously when we're out of milk. Some things, I'm told, never change.

And still, still, the days fly by.

So don't waste your days looking for something else. Be joyful in what you have today. You can stretch and grow and reach, but don't bemoan what is not in your grasp. Don't give time away to anger or regret better spent on thrill and song for what you already have. When it is your time to sit in that quiet chair waiting for a visit, those things won't matter. Don't place falseness or pretense in front of what is real and strong and true. You know what it is. Embrace your own flawed self with as much fervor as you do your most fantastic desires and share your truest self with those around you, even when you are weak and afraid. It is your honest love which is the most treasured by those who love you too. And be open and willing and reckless in giving your love - it is the one thing that always grows exponentially when invested. Everyone has a story to tell. Listen. Show fairness and reason and understanding. That too is rewarded and returned when shared.

And, above all, be thankful, as the days fly by.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is What A 10-Year Old Looks Like

I have two of them - well, had, until last year when they appallingly turned 11. I just hate when they do that - get a year older every year.

In an case, this is a picture of them when they were 10. We had to try the picture several times because the two of them kept goofing off. Little gigglepots with ants in their pants and a penchant for driving one another bananas. Also, it was a windy day.

I won't ever get that day back to try to retake this photo, so this is the best shot I'll ever have of that moment. That's because they'll never be 10 again and we'll never be able to reverse all the experiences they've had since in order to regain who they were on that day. See how Sara's leaning in to Sam? Being braced by him? And how Sam is standing tall, his arm around her back? He's pushing against the wind, doing his best to keep them both steady. He's protecting her. He's 10.

I don't know all the details of the mess at Penn State University. It's all a bit too sordid for me and I've got enough worry and pre-emptive pain in my head - parenting will do that to you. What I do know is that a 10-year old was abused, raped, by a grown man in a shower at the university locker room. This event was witnessed, reported, and then ignored. There's more to it, several boys, years and years of at least suspicion, if not knowledge, that this was going on. And it was ignored.

Now that some action has finally been taken, folks are being asked whether the adult men who ignored this situation should be treated with sympathy. Sympathy? A sad ending to a career? A career? Have we all gone mad?

I don't care one whit about this man's career. Does he care that these babies were violated, repeatedly, and ruined by the sick bastard he was protecting? Is anyone at Penn State marching about that?

Look at that picture of my babies. I won't ever get that day back. They'll never be 10 again and we'll never be able to reverse all the experiences they've had since in order to regain who they were on that day. See how Sara's leaning in to Sam? See Sam protecting her? He's 10.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Have Several Things To Say

The problem is, I think I've learned not to say what I want to say.

When I was younger, I not only blurted out every magnificent thing that came into my head, but I was encouraged to do so. My mother thought it was the best way to let me express my freedom as an individual. I was invited to speak my mind and my mom endlessly engaged me in thoughtful, provacative and often silly conversations on the most benign topics. This practice of exchange came back to haunt her in the 80s when I was a teenager and she was no longer keen on my freedom or my individuality and had long since tired of my provocation. Train. Station.

Later, my friends and co-workers egged me on. Friends, I think because many of them were too repressed to say what they wanted to say, thrilled at my willingness to scream the virtues of shaven hair at our prim all-girls college prep. Co-workers reveled in my multi-page memos on why I shouldn't serve coffee to clients, something I do for myself these days, so as not to be a total hypocrite.

Freed from the chains of social constraint on my teenage and twenty-something self (most of which I had ignored anyway) I embraced the full volume of my 30s wit and wisdom. I had opinions on every single thing and you heard them whether you cared to or not. I got a lot of attention that way, and if it was negative I was too busy blasting away to know it or care.

But now inching ever closer to the stands where the polyester print sweater brigade awaits my enrollment I find I'm less inclined. I find other folks who always have an air of authority seem immature and impatient to me. Was I those things? I see others who are opinionated well beyond their scope of expertise, or even exposure, and think, 'You look like a fool.' Was I so foolish? I'm eager to respond to things that I think require hastened attention, but I've found that if I sit back and wait the urgency dissipates. Was I always jumping the gun?

I've found I'm richer and more satisfied as a listener than a speaker. I find that even when the incompetence of others frustrates and slows me I can get past that and not feel afterwards that I've put on yet another lavish display of bull-in-china, the Carmen edition. I still feel that I'm better at an awful lot of stuff than other people, but I'm doing every thing I can to inform that arrogance with the experience of finding others' talents valuable and interesting and worthwile.

And I'm doing everything I can think of to keep some of my opinions to myself so that others can enjoy the sound and feel of their own.

I give it another couple of weeks.