Free Will

shimmer

I have been working, oh so hard.  Emotions are complicated things, you see, and I have so many of them.

Betrayal for the fact that you poisoned what was left.  Fear at the thought of losing my most precious gift.  Anger at the way you so deftly twist my words.  Desperation and the need to make you pay.

You deserve to suffer for what you’ve done.  You deserve to be held accountable for the pain you have caused.  You deserve to be made to own up to your responsibilities; every single one.

But that is a deep dark hole of ilk and negativity and I will not let you drag me into it.  None of it will get me to my goal; what is best for her, what is best for me.

I will keep doing the hard work.  I can overcome the hatred.  I am more powerful than your betrayal.

It is a choice to walk into the light.  Free will is a beautiful thing.

Tunnel

Tunnel

I have lived my life in a tunnel.  Focused on fitting in; morphing to fit where I thought I should.

In junior high and high school, navigating friend groups so tenuously, never really convinced I belonged.

In college, becoming more free on one hand, yet tethering myself to a relationship I lost so much of myself to on the other.  I was convinced my savior would be for him to love me, and lost so many years chasing something that didn’t exist.

Later on, throwing myself headfirst into step-motherhood.  I loved those boys fiercely and crafted a family, solving crises and saving everyone but myself.  I over-achieved and succeeded in every way except my own.  I came out of it lost and broken, looking for solace and healing in the most desperate way.

What now?  Where has that focus and drive gone?  I float from day to day, issue to issue, still expertly solving and managing my professional and personal world.  But I’m still sacrificing; I’m still tunnel focused on everything but my own gifts, and where best to apply them.

Maybe it’s about time I kick the shit out of my coping skills, turn the mirror as inward as possible, and shake that brilliant girl upside down until she agrees to come out of that tunnel and conquer.  Her time has come; I just need to get over my own bullshit (fear of failure) and be brave enough to take her hand.

Metamorphosis

blue-morpho-butterfly

It was a hard day.  A HARD day.  Impulsivity was high.  Many missteps at school forced my hand.  Rules broken equals consequences.  Serious ones.  No TV, no computer and, in particular, no phone.  That one is the hardest: it is her source of information, her distraction salve, her lifeline to all of those that are important to her.  But it was necessary.

She was furious.  Yelling, lashing out, stomping and slamming.  But I stood my ground; I am the Mom, after all.  She accused me of being mean; I countered that I was being fair.  She retreated; locked door, silent treatment.  I gave her some much needed space.

She came out once briefly, peeking around the door while getting something to eat.  Not quite ready, but testing the waters.  I waved; was rebuffed.  I understood.

Later, she set up camp on the bicycle one room over.  Not together, but in view.  Reconnecting, in her own way.  Needing space and closeness, simultaneously.  Thawing slowly through the previous chill.

Working through her frustration, she pedaled and sketched for some time.  Snippets of conversation.  Occasionally a smile.  Finding calmness in her focus.  By bedtime, a whole different child.

She is an ever-changing contradiction.  Static and motion.  Anger and love.  Boldness and uncertainty.  Finding her way, on her terms.

How lucky I am to be a witness as she changes; I am astonished every day at who she is to become.

What Do You Do?

What do you do — when your child is hurting, but you don’t know why, or how to help?

What do you do — when her eyes plead “help me“, but her mouth screams “GET AWAY! DON’T TALK TO ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!

What do you do — when the girl you carried is now taller and stronger than you may ever be?

What do you do — when your solutions fail you, when your words are not enough, when you feel like an impostor in maternal skin?

What do you do — when the path is unclear, when the road signs vanish, when you both are so lost and can’t find your way out?

Love.  You love.  That is what you do.  You love, and try, and fall, and get back up, and love, and try again.

A Moment

GirlShe held my hand today.  We were hugging and being silly, then she held my hand as we walked into the kitchen.  This closeness is a rarity; a gift.

Often she is aloof; too busy becoming the teenage version of herself.  She is occupied with friends and music and YouTube shows and sketching and anime.  She is focused on feeling empowered; being the ‘funny’ one; sharing secrets and texts and songs.

She is my little girl long gone; she is my adolescent wonder.  She is more familiar to me than my own heartbeat, and yet an ever changing creature I must meet anew each day.

She is my heart.  And today, she held my hand.

Cornell

If I should be short on words, And long on things to say 

Could you crawl into my world, And take me worlds away 

Sonic imagery.  So vivid.  It pulled me in long ago, and kept its hold for years.  The timbre of his voice and intricately crafted lyrics soothed my heartbreaks; salved my rage; sparked me to live at my highest octave, full of life and energy and sound and light.  He had a knack for laying his struggles and imperfections out bare; I could listen to his words and voice and identify my own labor and loss in life.  It made me feel less lonely; less weird and fucked up.  I had a companion in my pain and struggle, with whom I could sing and wail at the top of my lungs out loud about all of it.

His music was the catalyst for many significant events of my life.  Meeting people that shifted my world; my way of thinking.  Introducing me to other artists who, quite literally, changed my soul.  Leading me, eventually, to the man I would marry; through whom I gave and received love, including three amazing stepsons and the creation of an extraordinary daughter.  And afterward, softened the blow of an unexpected path taken that led to new chapters.

His imprint on my world, like his music, will remain; in my heart, in the fabric of who I am.  I will miss what could have come next.

Why doesn’t anyone believe, In loneliness

Stand up and everyone will see, Your holiness

Teach

individual

My child works hard.  Every day, she works as hard as she can to manage the world, all that’s in it, and her related reactions.  At times, this is difficult for her; she feels things differently than others do.  More heightened, more visceral.  Sometimes it’s hard for her to control, but she’s learning.

At the same time, she’s working hard to become HER.  She is learning what she likes and does not, what makes her comfortable and does not.  She’s trying to find her space in her own skin.  I see it in her choices and actions.  Short, edgy haircut.  Preference for blue clothes.  Aversion to frills and dresses and pink.  The request to be called by a name of her own choosing.  She is diligently working to be individual.

She is also in the first year of junior high where, at times, ‘individual’ is often seen as: ‘different’, ‘strange’, ‘outlier’.  And still she powers forward, making every effort to be who she so desperately wants to be.  This causes a lot of internal conflict; I see it on her face and in her emotions.  Working to be unique and true to herself, yet consistently hitting the wall of others’ expectations.  It’s tough to watch, as her mother; I guide her as compassionately as I can.  I also reinforce for her that whatever she chooses to do and whomever she chooses to be is HER choice.  But a mother’s opinion only goes so far when you’re wading through an ocean of peer judgment.

This year she’s garnered some new friends at school.  There have been some missteps, but for the most part it’s going well.  Yesterday, however, she told me something amazing.  Well, both not amazing, and amazing.

The not amazing part was that some of the kids at school were giving her a hard time.  Because of her chosen moniker and her style of hair/dress, it seems some of the comments are that she’s “trying to be a boy”, instead of a girl.  (This is compounded by the fact that last year, her core group of friends were all boys, and she’s still close with them.)  You can imagine that this is a hurtful calling out for someone who’s just trying to be true to herself.  I could see that this really bothered her when she shared it.

As adults, we know that hair, clothing style and friend choice don’t determine who you are in your core.  And, for the record, I wouldn’t care if she chose to be a boy, a girl, or a frog, so long as she felt comfortable and happy in her heart.  But kids her age aren’t often that seasoned, nor that open.  So ‘difference’ carries a lot of weight.

Now here is the amazing part…  When these comments were made, she was with one of her newer friends, also a girl.  This friend – this amazing young lady – looked at the naysayers and said (per my daughter’s retelling), “Well, I don’t care.  I like her anyway.”

That.  THAT.  You should have seen the look on my daughter’s face when she told me THAT.  It was like joy and relief and gratefulness mixed all into one and lit up her being for the world to see.  She told me that after her friend said that to the other kids, my daughter hugged her until she couldn’t breathe.  I did my best to give her space to share without stepping on her story.  But inside I was jumping and screaming with joy at the top of my own (silent) lungs, just to see her face in that moment.

These things are taught:  Acceptance.  Compassion.  Inclusion.  Yet they are so hard-won and fleeting, particularly in the maze of the junior high jungle.  But when they appear, they shine so brightly as to provide a beacon for those who are struggling.  They light the way.  Teach them to your children; make them part of their world.  In turn, they will teach others.

Oh, My Girl

Girl Heart

Oh, my sweet, sweet girl.  I’m lying in bed at 5:28 pretending to still be asleep, though I was awakened by the beeping of her alarm clock at 5AM sharp.

It’s been a rough tween-attitude-filled few weeks at our house. Yesterday we had a heart to heart about humans, our limits, and how to help.  More specifically, Mama’s limits (both physically and emotionally) and how she could help more. How as a family, we don’t expect one person to manage everything alone. We help. We share the responsibilities. We love.

During our chat, Mama broke down a little. I used to think this was unforgivable, to show my child my limits. But some time ago I realized that by (carefully and safely) showing her and talking to her about the fact that I am not super-human, that I have bad days too, that I also need help, I am teaching her something valuable. I am letting her know that SHE doesn’t have to be perfect either. That it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to break every once in a while. Carrying the world and keeping it all inside is a damaging habit to fall into.

And I think, for at least a small moment, she heard me. Because sometime last night, completely un-prompted,  she set her own alarm for 5AM. This amazing girl who plays hard all day and sleeps like the dead, who I have to pry out of bed every morning and cajole and badger to get out of the house (usually late). I can hear her in the other rooms getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, getting her lunch packed, starting breakfast (mine, I believe). Some time yesterday, she made the choice to help. To be present. To give of herself and her own precious time.

At 11-yrs-old, this is not a small thing. For a kiddo with behavior challenges, it’s kind of a game-changer. It’s huge. Almost as huge as her beautiful heart.  Oh, my lovely amazing girl.

Not So Solitary

hawksLast week we took a much needed couple of days away at some family property in the country.  As we drove up the gravel road, two birds flew low above the car.  We originally thought they were owls; brown and tan in coloring, large wings.  It was majestic the way they flew and soared through the air.  I watched them go, then was distracted by the fact that I had to stop the car so as not to run into the house; you know, the little things.

We unpacked, got settled, and came out to take stock of things on the deck.  It was then that my husband noticed the birds again, this time alighted in a large tree about 100 yards off.  This particular tree, unlike the rest of the forested area, happened to have no foliage on it for some reason, so they were markedly easy to spot.  Not owls, we now realized, but two hawks of some sort.  My husband pulled out his spotting scopes and mounted them on the deck table so we could all take a really close look, which ended up being a fantastic idea.  They were beautiful, and amazing to watch.

What was most interesting was how fascinated I was with them even though they didn’t do much of anything.  They sat a lot, looked around a lot, one flew off with a loud cry while the other stayed.  But I was completely transfixed.  They seemed almost magical, for some reason.  So serene, so unaffected in their quietness.  It was like a meditation just to observe them.

The second one eventually flew off on a mission, so we took its cue and went off on one of our own, exploring for a while as well.  But later, as dusk settled in, so again did the hawks.  Same tree.

Before, they had been apart from each other, in different parts of the tree entirely.  But this time was interesting; they were on the same branch, quite close in proximity, almost like they were sitting together intentionally.  They stayed like that for quite some time, very still, not really even scanning around them.  It made me so curious; were they family?  Companions?  Mates?  Communicating in some way?

Eventually, one flew off, but the other remained.  I watched it for as long as the light would allow; it was still there, the last we checked.  My husband pondered if that was perhaps their roost.  For some reason I would have thought they would roost somewhere more sheltered (as if I have any kind of intimate hawk knowledge).  But maybe?  For some reason I have always thought of hawks as a solitary bird.  Maybe it’s because whenever I see them, I only ever see just one.  But our sighting certainly changed that theory.  These two clearly were a pair, and it was so beautiful to have had the opportunity to watch them together.

As the light finally faded, I found myself hoping that tree really was their roost, and they would be there again the next day.  Only dawn would tell…