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.

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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. 

Parenting Together

Cuddled together in our partnered embrace, all I see is the echo of a semblance of a face. Too close to see and the whole of my vision, we twine ourselves together in comfort and comforting presence. 

Reminding me that we are together, we are one, we are on even ground even though we see things differently. We learn as we go. We make our own way. We grow together. 

We’re tired today. The baby will cry again soon, the toddler will ask for another wet kiss. Another day is coming of constant requests and continuous conversation. The “why”s have begun. Patience is a never ending attended skill. Parental responses must be immediate, while the preschooler can take ten questions to find a single answer. 

Even so. Even still. I’m glad I’m doing this with you. We partner and parent together, learning from our two girls and from each other as we go along. 

The challenge is to not lose our temper. The challenge is to offer grace to our daughters, each other, ourselves. 

It is not impossible, but it is very, very hard. 

And so we steal fifteen minutes between bedtime and the first time Roar roars to rest in each other’s arms. It’s doesn’t seem like much. But the touch is different than the constant contact with out children. We offer each other a resting space, a time to be off as much as possible, providing touch that doesn’t ask for anything but what we exchange. 

The presence is healing. Your presence is healing. Comforting. Restful. Good. 

Eventually fifteen minutes will be only the beginning. For now, it is enough. What we have to give each other is enough. More than survival, we have enough. Thank you for enough. 

Learning from Each Other

When John and I were getting married, Jason Byassee, our friend whom we asked to officiate, gave us these instructions in the midst of his wedding homily. 

“Repeat after me: I’m sorry, you were right, I was wrong.” At least I think that’s what he said. I don’t remember the words that way, but this is what John has borrowed for each wedding homily he has preached over the last seven years. I, having never had the opportunity to preach a wedding homily, didn’t have to call them to memory as soon, so I re-wrote them in my head to echo Derek Webb: I’m sorry, I was wrong, I love you. 

I like my version better… because I really don’t want to say someone was right if I don’t think they were, and I am far more capable and comfortable in claiming my wrongness than in granting someone else their rightness. (Yes, yes. This is a growing edge. But regardless.) 

I also really like ending with the statement of the foundation of the relationship: I love you. It says that the most important part isn’t that we argued, it is that we are deciding to continue to live more fully into our relationship. But we need to say we are sorry, too. It’s probably one of the hardest parts of a relationship, saying “I am sorry” and meaning it, knowing that I really did do something that was harmful or hurtful. 

“I’m sorry” and “I love you” are both critical for relationship, but what has surprised me about what I need to hear from my husband on a more regular basis in the last couple of years is “I hear you.”

One of the things that is most aggravating about the personality differences between my husband and I is that I feel and experience just about everything at eleven, and he takes things in, turns them over in his head, and processes them at a gentler level. (I don’t know, sometimes it feels like he’s hitting a three, at most.) For example, I’ll be terribly angry about something in the news, livid, even, and he will say: “but, what about this side of the argument?” 

He’s not being unreasonable. Not really. But in that moment, I don’t want to hear it. I’ll come up with the seventeen reasons that whatever issue it is has me basically on the balls of my feet in excited rage, and he will be looking for the rationality of all sides. 

I’ve learned to express when I need him to respond to my emotions before going towards rational disconnect. (What a radical idea, asking for what you need in the moment.) I’m also working on learning from his ability to rationally disconnect. I need that side of his perspective. I don’t always use it, but it has helped tremendously when I need to take apart an issue and look at how all the different pieces connect. 

He’s really smart, and anytime I bulldoze his processing for the sake of mine, I lose out. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still am processing on my level. And he is learning from my ability to feel so deeply that I vibrate with emotion. 

We’re learning from each other. 

I imagine that it will be a longterm process, not something that we can claim we’ve completed when we reach the ten, twenty, or forty year mark. It just keeps going. 

Traditions in Watching and Waiting

Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall along the coast of North Carolina. It will probably be the last Florence, the name will probably be retired, because Wilmington is currently forecast to have 30-40” of rain in addition to storm surge and wide flung winds. It’s not looking good.

Closer to home, we are looking at rain for three days, estimates are 6-10” with local higher possibilities depending on rain bands. Winds should be down, but with how wet the ground is, trees still might come down, and we might lose power.

Hi Florence

And at home, I’m looking at the creek in our back yard, wondering if it will jump its banks again, and if it does, how high the floodwaters will rise. The house has flooded before. It might again. I’m having a hard time figuring out when I need to make the call for us to leave, if we need to. I really don’t want to wake up to a flooded house with my baby in my arms.

The NOAA weather radio will be on alert. The phones will be charged. The car will have supplies in it. What more will I need to do?

It is our family tradition to watch the weather when a storm is coming. I remember watching the weather channel when Jim Cantore was a newbie. Now we get to look at the various social media accounts of meteorologists as they give updates from their living rooms and home offices (Thanks Brad Panovich).

And everyone in my family, from North Carolina to Georgia, all the way to Macau, is checking in on each other as we make sure we share our plans ahead of the storm.

Its a tradition.

We prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The kits are packed, the snacks are stored, the laundry is done, and the storm is coming ashore.

Now we hope that the floodplain drains before it brings the water to our doors. We might get to spend some time with friends before the weekend is over.