Wandering

When I was a child, I liked going my own way around things. I moved differently than the way my family moved, either faster or with a different cadence, and so I went ahead of them many times if I knew the general direction we were going in—if I thought I knew where we were headed. I kept track of where they were by looking back every so often to make sure they were still going my way. 

It almost never failed. 

Almost. 

I always assumed that they were keeping an eye on me. Following me. But occasionally, they turned when I had kept on going straight. And I looked back, and… They weren’t there anymore. No longer following me. I was no longer ahead of them. They were nowhere to be found. 

Well, at least for a time. Shortly after I figured out they were not behind me, I would find them, and it seemed that it had been my fault that I had gotten separated. To them, at least. I always felt that it was at least a joint effort, our disconnectedness. 

Perhaps so. Perhaps not. 

I remember feeling deeply wronged in being blamed for being separated. It was as if I had willfully separated myself from them. I remember being told not to wander. 

And what is so strange in revisiting these memories is that I still have that visceral urge to defend myself, to defend my own walking pattern, that I had not changed what I was doing, that they were at fault for leaving me, rather than me for leaving them. 

I imagine that my memories from twenty-five and thirty years ago have colored with age. 

I know that we were both mistaken. 

I thought I was leading. I was not. I was walking ahead… but still following, still under the guidance of my family. And at some point… I was no longer aware of the guidance, and our paths diverged. For a time, we went our separate ways.

For a time, I was lost. 

Or at least… not where I was expected.

My family was not where I expected them to be, either. 

And for however long it lasted, we were lost from each other. 

The two times I explicitly remember, it wasn’t for more than a few minutes, maybe a turn around a corner or two in a grocery store or on a foreign street corner. 

And then we were back together, and I had to shift my cadence and walk with them more carefully. I was the one who had diverged, and I had to change what I was doing so that I didn’t leave them again. 

That still feels harsh. Or rather, both my need to change and my judgement are harsh. As I look back, I have a recollection of my feeling of betrayal, of feeling as though I was blamed for getting myself lost when I felt that at least the fault should have been equally laid on each of us, me for being alone and them for having gone in a different direction than I thought. 

Even now, I don’t know exactly how it happened, how we got separated. I don’t know how I ended up in a different place when I thought we were all going in the same direction. I thought we were all following all the same rules, or at least the same guidelines, even if we travelled with different patterns. 

Eventually, we managed to reunite, to come together, to end up in the same place. We arrived at our destination, as one group, as a family, together. No longer lost. Perhaps a little wiser from the experience. Maybe a bit jaded, learning my own independence in the midst of discovering the limits of my agency as a child. 

I still have to balance my agency, my independence, my need to stay with my family, my cadence, and my exchanging leading with following. It’s funny when each of these revolving influences cycle in importance, some balancing their crucial necessity with the next in line. 

I still travel, but these days, I’m the one keeping up with the little ones, rather than being little, myself. Dear ones, if you wander, let me know where you are headed, so we can find the new places, together. 

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Catching Moments

A year and a day ago I took a photograph of the tiny face of my sleeping twelve hour old Roar. It is currently the best photograph I have yet to take. The light is streaming in behind her, but diffused in the gentleness of the sheets and covers surrounding our nest of warmth. We are gently resting from the ordeal of birth the night before, but resting in our bed together, beginning the journey of learning from each other how to nurse and feed, how to ask for what we need and how to get what we want. 

Both girls when they were very young made this delicate huh-huh-huh sound to say please can you feed me now. It faded over time, and now all I’m left with is a fading memory of the sound. She was so small, and for such a small amount of time, quickly growing through sizes as she smiled for the first time, discovered her hands, and found her ears. 

I took a replication of that photo this morning after laying her down for her nap, her hands curled around her face again, the light, now, different, the covers patchworked under us as their color brings a vibrancy that mimics the way Roar plays now with us, her family. 

Photographs of Rebel, her sister, have worked to capture the innocence of that shot, but this one photograph is simply perfect. One of the reasons I like it is because there is actually no way to do it again. We are in a different bed in a different house facing a different direction. I’m not having another baby. There will never be another twelve hour old Roar. It is incredibly precious for that. She is precious, for certain, but while I have this photograph, I remember the way she taught me what she needed when she was so tiny and delicate. 

Roar is certainly not delicate, even though she continues to be precious. She’s substantial, and surprises us with her joy and emerging personality. As sisters, Rebel and Roar laugh and play, together and alongside each other. She’s watching us, keeping us in check, and making sure that we never leave her out of the fun.  

Claiming Hope

On the eve of your baptism.

Dear Roar, on Saturday we will be baptizing you, naming the claim that God has on you, the promise that the Spirit washes over you, and the grace that Jesus comforts you with. We will gather with people who love you, who want the best for you, who will be celebrating you as the beautiful child of God that you are. 

We will be baptizing you at the church your father is currently appointed to, Shiloh, the place in scripture where the Ark of the Covenant resided in the Tabernacle for the last time before moving to the temple of Jerusalem. And in that, we are claiming both a permanence and a transition. In the action of baptism, we are naming that you are a member of the church universal, a valuable, chosen, intricate member of the body of Christ. We also know that this will not be the only church you will ever worship at. You have already moved from one congregation to another, and the promise is that there will be people who don’t know it yet, but they are making a promise to guide and support you in your faith and life as you grow into an adult. 

We don’t do it as much for baptisms, but when your father and I celebrate Eucharist, we state that this table is extended beyond the confines of the present gathering, beyond the limits of the United Methodist Church. We say that the table is Christ’s and all are invited to taste and see that the Lord is good. The promise we will be claiming is in the gathered body of worshippers, not necessarily this appointed congregation, but the congregation that this gathering will represent. Not of the United Methodist Church, that’s not the first thing we claim, but of the church universal. 

We will make this promise now, so that you will be equipped to make this promise when you are older, when you claim the promise of God for your own, either gradually, or instantly, or a mix of both. 

We don’t know what the future will bring. We hope the church will look different when you are an adult, we hope that you are one of the ones who will shape the church as you grow into the footprints of your faith. 

As you learn to take your first steps this month, we pray that you will continue to deepen in your understanding of our love for you, and soon, by extension, the way that God loves you, irrevocably.

Be ever curious

Eye Levels

I caught the edge of the sunrise a couple days ago. The snow was glowing pink and gleaming orange. I went to the blinds and peeked through the slats up towards the sky, muttering to myself, “red sky at morning, sailors at warning.”

I rarely catch the sunrise or sunset these days. Not for lack of being awake during the gloaming hours, instead I’m generally busy caring for one of my two daughters: breastfeeding, fixing the seventeenth snack of the day, changing a diaper, adjusting clothes or shoes or socks, helping find a lost toy, or making sure the little one hasn’t crawled herself into a corner. Or cooking dinner.

I spend so much time looking down at my children, caring for their needs, watching them learn about their world, that I have limited time to observe the world above my eye level.

I miss the sky.

I miss stars.

I miss being able to go out at 3 in the morning to watch a meteor shower.

I miss the deep blue sky of a clear day.

I miss the sunrise.

I miss sunsets.

I can’t see any of it from our house, we live along a creek bank with tall trees, good for many things but not sky watching. And I never open the blinds in my bedroom—something I’d have cringed at before having children—I have to leave them closed so my daughter can eat and sleep without distractions.

When I’m outside, I’m often watching to make sure that the little person holding my hand is doing what she needs to do to keep up. Or I’m taking the time out to let her explore her world.

“Plane” was one of my 3 year old’s first words. Sooner or later she will look up and see the plane, and ask me about that cloud.

She discovered the moon a while ago and if it’s in the sky we find it if we are out. Soon she will ask about the stars, and I’ll be able to teach her about constellations and the planets we can see.

I’m so hungry for the time when I get to rediscover the sky through the eyes of my daughters.

We’ll skip school and work just so we can see the Leonids. We’ll camp out away from the streetlights and bask in the Milky Way. Maybe I’ll see my first green flash holding the hands of my daughters.

In the meantime, I’ll be patient. I catch the edge of the sunrise occasionally, and even the edge of god’s paintbrush inspires awe. The gift is waiting for me, god relentlessly renews the opportunity for us to wonder at creation each day.

I look forward to watching the skies through my daughters’ eyes.

Love Me Like This

What is your radical act for today?

Today I woke up and knew I needed a better day than yesterday. 

Yesterday was not a good day. 

Yesterday was a day of going on a walk to yell at the universe.

Yesterday was a day of rummaging through the pantry to figure out a meal at the last minute rather than putting together a meal plan and going to the grocery store with two kids and being creative. 

Creativity wasn’t going to fly yesterday.

And then today I woke up and my pants didn’t fit. And my shoulders hurt. And my right pinky is sore again. And my right hip is tight from where my daughter sleeps. And my scars were bright red again, which hasn’t been the case for years. 

Sometimes I need the reminder to live into my body as it is. Whatever it is doing at the moment. It does work. I need to thank it for the work it does. 

My imperfect feet

Sometimes my body is asking to be loved as it is. Just like this. She whispers gently, as if she isn’t sure she’s allowed to ask for things for herself. “Just like this, please. For now. Before we begin the checklist. Start with love.”

And then, sometimes my mind is lying to me, telling me that I am unable to do anything. Telling me that the world is beyond salvation. The family is too much to handle. The house will never be good enough to live in. 

The time is too thin for any… time… to breathe… 

Caring for my self begins with loving my gentle edges and soft curves as they are. But sometimes, I need a glass of water and a sandwich. Or an orgasm or a hug. Sometime she cries out because I have forgotten to care for what she needs: the yoga, the water, the protein, the fruit, the caffeine, the sleep, and the movement that keep my emotions stable enough for me to be able to love those who live with me. 

The poem isn’t saying those things aren’t good. They are good, but they are not an end to themselves. 

Loving my body as she is, like this, is an end unto itself. But it’s not all I need. I want more than what the gentle animal of my body wants. I need more. To feel my body do all that she is capable of. I need more. 

 

This piece is a response to “Today I asked my body what she needed” by Hollie Holden. I ran across this a while ago and my writing partner, Heather, shared it with me again as our prompt. I love how someone else’s words can spark and influence my ideas and creativity. I find it valuable to hear what someone else needs and to consider my own needs. Reading poems like this gives me permission to need things for myself. Not that I don’t think I need things for myself, but often I feel guilty for needing things for myself. I am reticent to allow myself the space to dream big. 

It’s better to not feel guilty when I dream. It’s better to let go of the “should”s and limits when I set down to dream of what I need to give myself. And it is better to see where I need to give myself permission to do the things that are healthy when I can let go of artificial restraints. 

Sometimes all I can give myself is the ability to ask for what I need from someone else. But that is so terribly huge. It is not something I have been able to do very well. I’ve had to learn how. 

And now I’ve learned how to ask in a way that healthy both for me as I ask and for those from whom I need help. It’s a give and take, of course. A partnership. And it is still in flux. I don’t have it all perfect. But I don’t need perfection. I simply need something I can live with. We cooperate together to create a life worth living. It’s worth the work.