Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Those Who Can't Do Teach

I have been watching a lot of Ellen and Oprah reruns while being confined to the couch/ rocking chair with a newborn the past few weeks. I watch Ellen for the laughs, and Oprah in the hopes that I might just have an "aha moment" (if you have never watched Oprah- first of all, you need to come out from under that rock, and second, you will have absolutely no idea what an "aha moment" is). An "aha moment" is basically an epiphany. Well, a few days ago while watching the queen of daytime ( love her or hate her, you know it's true), I finally had my own "aha moment". While talking to a guest, Oprah said something that just resonated with me. What she said was this: "We teach what we most need to learn." It was basically just a rephrasing of the old adage, "Those who can't do teach", but for some reason, the way she said it struck me. It was just what I needed to hear. I immediately thought of my blog. The posts I have written usually end with some sort of "lesson", if you will, about not taking things for granted, or living in the moment. Then I started to think of how many days I go through in survival mode, just going through the motions, trudging through the monotony. At this moment, many days are lived in survival mode due to the fact that I have a newborn and am basically sleepwalking most of the time. But even before Ryan came along, there were plenty of days that I just "got through."
Writing is introspective and cathartic by nature, at least if it is true, honest writing. I always strive to write truth as I have come to know it. Whether or not I am always fully living that truth is another matter. And, after my aha moment, I realized that sadly, I am not always "living my best life" (don't worry- I am not actively endorsing the Oprah Winfrey show, as it is now over). Of course there are days when the truths I have come to know match the way I live. There are the dandelion days, and the library book days. These days are aha moments in and of themselves. They are the days that I step back and realize, "this is how I should live every day." And maybe that is why I started writing about those days and all those little moments of clarity. Maybe I needed to teach myself to more fully recognize them. So, while you (yes, you) may all have thought that I have been yakking at you all of this time, this blog has really been an internal conversation. It is me telling myself to slow down, to let the dishes pile up once in a while, to realize that in the blink of a sleep-deprived, puffy, dark-circled eye, that Morgan will be in a wedding dress.
I guess it is for this reason that I believe that everyone should keep some kind of journal. Sometimes we are our own best teachers. We just forget to listen to ourselves. We instinctively know somewhere deep within ourselves what we should be doing to become the best versions of ourselves. I often go back and read my own posts or journal entries, not because they are just that fabulous, but because every time I read my own words, they remind me of who I am really trying to be, or, maybe who I really am, but sometimes forget that I am. I used to write a lot of poetry. As I look back through my own writing, one poem in particular stands out. Perhaps it is because this one poem describes more fully who I am than anything else I have written. This will be the first and most likely last poem I will ever post, but here it is:

today was nothing epic
but i lived
i saw not one mountain move
but i sang
the sun was never shining
but i laughed
no love awaits me anywhere
but i love

i love the simplicity of living
each day
i love for nature's miracles to
stand still, proud
i love endless clouds in
blankets of gray
i love being lonely and
dreaming of love

i love this day........

because i lived it

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding Neverland

I just recently read J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Before reading it, I knew only Disney's take on the boy who wouldn't grow up. I found the actual book to be much darker (not too surprising, seeing as how just about anything that doesn't include cheerfully chatty woodland creatures is darker than Disney) than the beloved Disney classic film. Barrie's Peter is far more menacing and impish. I think he even entered unpleasantly into my dreams a few nights. However he may be presented in different renditions, I love the overall idea of Peter Pan. The boy who wouldn't grow up. The idea sometimes brings to mind that annoying Toys R' Us theme song that repeats over and over in your head when you hear it. You know the one........ "I don't wanna' grow up, I'm a Toys R' Us kid........" You can now thank me for putting that song in your head on instant replay! The idea is enchanting though......and some people take it quite literally, although, unfortunately, the 40-year old perpetual "ladies' man" with a beer gut is not quite so charming as the perpetual boy with the green tights and the impish gleam in his eye. Though we may not all be able to pull of the whole tight thing, I think it is important for all of us to have our own sort of personal Neverland (and, no, I am not referring to a "ranch" where we invite children to "sleep over"). I mean some place in our mind, or perhaps even a physical location, where we feel safe enough to completely let our guard down, to be unabashed, to be a kid again. My Neverland is writing. When I take a pen ( or a keyboard) in hand, all the walls come down. Things I didn't even know I thought, and truths that have been buried in the recesses of my mind and heart come tumbling out. (whether this is always a good thing may be debatable). But when I write, it brings me to that magical place where anything is possible. My Neverland is in the endless possibilities of words on a page. Though my blog posts are usually spontaneous and completely unedited ( with the exception of a few back spaces and an occasional spell check), I have a personal journal at home that I like to call my "word vomit" journal. Perhaps not the most pleasant name, but that is essentially what it is. It is my no holds barred, no walls up, no "grown up" pretences, write whatever comes to mind journal. I would encourage everyone to occasionally practice the exercise of vomiting words. You may be surprised what comes out! Or, if writing is not your thing, find your Neverland, whatever it may be, whether it's music, a beautiful garden, a spot on the beach.......find somewhere or something that takes you back to that childlike state of not caring what anyone else thinks.
Why is is that we have to rediscover Neverland? When do we leave it in the first place? There seem to be a few people who never do, like Dr. Seuss. He had a lifetime pass to the land of perpetual youth; I am sure of it. How, over the course of years, do most of us become so jaded? When do dandelions become obnoxious weeds instead of the first miracle of Spring? When do stars stop twinkling? As parents of young children, we get guest passes to Neverland. We can go there with our children anytime we are willing to let our guard down and be fully in the moment with them. But, as parents, we also enter an entirely new type of Neverland; it is Neveragainland. With each day, week, month and year that passes, we begin to realize that our children will never again be quite so innocent and full of wonder and curiosity as they are this very day. With each first accomplishment, we are brought abruptly to the land of Neveragain. When our baby takes his/her first step, we will never again hold them in our arms as a tiny infant, but as a toddler. The first day of kindergarten, we will never again drop our child off at their very first day of school. And so it will continue, until the day comes when our children will never again live within the walls of our own home, safe under our constant care. And with each journey to Neveragainland, our children slowly, incrementally, begin to forget how to find Neverland themselves.
This is why it is so important that we as adults find our own way back to Neverland; so that when our children's' vision of it begins to grow dim, we can remind them that it does in fact exist, though maybe in a more "adult" word called hope. We cannot completely shut out the harsh realities which naturally await everyone along the path of growing up. But we can still hope that, despite the ugliness that surrounds us, that the beauty which abounds in this life far outweighs it. No matter what your own personal Neverland may be, find it. Go there often. Peter Pan gave his own directions: "Second star to the right and straight on til morning." I think the real directions to Neverland may be this: Find the thing, place or memory that fills you with so much hope that there is little room for anything else, and open your whole heart to it. Maybe that sounds cheesy enough for Disney. But, then again, I don't think Walt Disney ever left Neverland either.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Want My Mommy

Many situations arise throughout our lives that may cause us to utter this phrase. Not that many of us ever really say it out loud, but if we are blessed enough to have grown up with a loving mother, this most infantile of all needs resounds somewhere deep within us when we approach the most trying situations. The first time your heart was broken, for instance, who did you want to turn to? The first night you slept in your college dorm and realized from there on out you had to fend for yourself......the first time you got turned down for a job you really wanted, who did you turn to? Of course, being married now, I can turn to my loving husband when I need a shoulder to cry on. But, on some deep, instinctual level, no one can ever really replace one's mother. I read a quote once that said, "A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take." I think this remains true no matter how old we are or how many life experiences we have had. A mother is the first person who teaches us what love is. A mother is love. Sometimes a certain smell can trigger a thousand memories of my mother, and an overwhelming nostalgia for simpler days.
At some point in our lives, we also come to realize that our mother does not know everything. At first, this can be a somewhat startling revelation. As children, we see our mothers as omnipotent. They have the answer for everything. I distinctly remember the way I felt when I came to the realization that my mother didn't have all the answers. At first, there was this sense of being disappointed with reality, kind of like when you realize Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy don't actually exist. It didn't take long, however, for that disappointment to turn into a sense of overwhelming gratitude. If my mother knew everything all along, how easy life would have been! But she didn't have all the answers. Just like me, she struggled and fretted and worked out the answers on her own. And the fact that she did this with enough grace to make me believe she knew exactly what she was doing every step of the way is far more impressive than if she were a veritable encyclopedia of child rearing information. What my mother did always have the answer to was how to love. She has loved me through many of the hardest times of my life.
Having just given birth to my third child, I find it interesting that one of the times in life when a woman wants her mommy the most is when she herself brings life into the world. One reason for this, is that it is a huge life change, no matter how many times you've done it. Any time your life does a complete 180, I guess it's only natural to want your mother there to help you turn it back around. With my first baby, I was completely overwhelmed......well, terrified is probably a more accurate word. I was so young. I had no idea what I was in for. And on top of it all, I had a baby that cried all the time. I spent a lot of time at my mother's house when Dirk was gone. Luckily, at that time, she lived a few blocks away. There were several nights when she could be found in Morgan's nursery at night, gently rocking her as Dirk and I snuck in a few hours of sleep. She was, quite literally, my life line. Hyrum was much easier as a baby. For one thing, I now had more of an idea of what to expect, and for another, he was a very content baby overall. But I still turned to my mom on more occasions than I can count. Now on baby number three, I have already done this baby thing twice before. Plus, my husband is still home from work. I have had so much support, and yet, sometimes still, only mom will do. She stopped by for about half an hour last night, bearing provisions of fresh berries, cupcakes, and caramel corn. She held Ryan. Just her coming was like a type of maternal blessing on our home.
Perhaps the real reason that we want our mommies when we have our own babies is because going through the experience connects us to our own mothers on a level we never thought possible. Instantly and instinctively we realize all that our mothers sacrificed for us, not only in bringing us into the world, but in every sleepless night, in every helpless moment of not knowing what to do, in every tearful realization that our babies will eventually grow up, in every thrill at each new accomplishment. There is a lullaby, that as far as I know, is sung only in our family. I have never heard it anywhere else, and it has been passed down through generations. My great grandmother sang it to my grandmother, and she sang it to my mother, who sang it to me. As I have rocked each of my babies and softly sang to them, I have wondered if one day they will do the same with their own babies. And I fully expect, someday ( in the far, far, far distant future), many 2 a.m. phone calls from my Morgan at those times when only mom will do. And I will think of my own mother, and of what she told me when I asked the same questions. And the cycle of life will continue, always taking me back to that first person who ever loved me, and who always loved me best.