Saturday, June 26, 2010

My daughter

Tonight I was talking to my daughter - my firstborn. She is away from me, with her dad in another state. I didn't realize just how much I missed her until she called me tonight. She was slightly weepy. Tired, ready to come home, wanting me to wash her off and put her in bed like so many summer nights. But I can't from here. So I put on my "happy mom" voice and told her I loved her and that she'd be home tomorrow.

When I found out I was pregnant with her, I was overjoyed. My ex-husband and I had originally planned to get married in Hawaii in the fall of 2001. Then 9/11 happened, and no one wanted to fly to our destination wedding. Flights were getting eliminated and costs were skyrocketing. So, we postponed. We had been dating since late 1997, so there wasn't any huge rush. We ultimately married in May, 2002. I immediately stopped taking birth control, and hoped I would conceive quickly. I felt like I'd been waiting my whole life to be a mother.

The day I found I was pregnant, I had had a trial. I was throwing up during recesses. It was December 13, 2002. When I arrived home that night, my husband suggested the flu. Then we both looked at one another, and we knew. I took the test, and around 7pm we found out - we were going to have a baby. We relished in the news - not telling anyone that night. Talking about our hopes and dreams for this little girl. Somehow we were both sure I was carrying a girl.

A few weeks later I went to my first doctor's appointment and found out indeed I was pregnant and would deliver August 3rd. It seemed an eternity. I read everything I could. I cut out caffeine, alcohol and aspirin. It seemed so surreal. As my belly swelled with the life I was carrying, I found myself amazed. As the weeks and months passed, I cherished it all. I was fortunate, I was never very sick and had little bad effects from being pregnant. In fact, I felt round and full. It was a pretty glorious time. As summer came, and my ankles and belly swelled bigger, I looked so forward to her arrival. By then we had confirmed I was indeed pregnant with a girl.

Finally August arrived. And then the bad news - the unmedicated birth I had hoped for would not be. Our baby was breech, and they suspected had some hip dysplasia. I remember weeping at my appointment that week - the first week in August. I was overdue, tired, swollen and hot. My doctor told me she would have to be delivered via c section. I was upset by the news, so much so I sought a second opinion. Ultimately we scheduled a c section for August 14th.

That morning we checked in bright and early at Barnes Hospital, just down the street from where we living. It was hot. In fact there was a massive power outage in several cities that day from the heat. I wish I could say Melena's delivery was easy and roses, but it wasn't for me. I had an allergic reaction to the morphine in my epidural and felt out of it. It wasn't until several hours later that I felt I was really present.

She was born perfect. A big, healthy baby with a lusty cry. She fed easily and stared at me as if to say, "I know you." Her birth seemed like some sort of odyessy. She was so amazing. I fell in love on sight.

We brought her home from the hospital, and she delighted everyone. She smiled and laughed often. She was (and is) loving, affectionate and sweet. As time passed I realized what a gift she was. I'm still amazed at her. She will be 7 in August.

Now I'm most proud of her heart. She is a good kid. She loves others, has empathy beyond her age and is miles ahead of where I as at her age. I'm abundantly blessed just to be able to be her mother. To get to see all the "firsts" children go through, and realize that she is a part of me in some ways. I'm fairly sure I would feel this way regardless of our genetic makeup. When you spend your life with someone, and your role is to be sure that person has what they need physically, emotionally and every other way, you know them. While my daughter, now 7, has her own thoughts, ideas and feelings, I feel bound up with them and her. Her happiness is mine. Her sorrows are mine.

This morning (her 7th birthday) she woke me up at 6:30 a.m. to tell me it was THE day. I watched her open her gifts and now she's playing pretend with some of the toys not really aware I'm watching her. There is no better thing than this. If she is my life's work, it would be enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Letting Go Redux

Today I got a massage and a message all at the same time. It's been a crazy week complete with 2 kids who got sick and are now better. I'm worn down and worn out. I've discovered a pattern in myself.

The few times in the past few years I have gotten massages, I find myself a complete ball of tension at the beginning. While I'm trying to reconcile something inside myself that tells me I'm lying mostly naked on a table being touched by someone I don't know, I tense up. Instinctively. And it takes some time for me to loosen up a little bit. And if you don't loosen up, it begins to hurt a bit. If you can't release your muscles, and allow some of the tension to drift away, it can get downright painful.

Today in the middle of flinching as I tried to relax at the massage, I was struck by the image of a fire. As the fire burns, the smoke rises to the sky and disappears into the atmosphere. If it were only that simple to let go. I've felt myself getting downright angry and bitter in the past few weeks with my ex-husband. Over what he has done and over things he never did. And try as I might, I am mad. Some days that anger dissipates into tears of frustration. Other days I feel as if I'm biting my tongue clear through to stop myself from saying the things that spring to mind when I'm dealing with him or dealing with my children talking about him. Still other days I wonder what is wrong with me that I can't just "let it go." I tell myself I want to let go of the anger and hurt. But somehow I don't seem able to. No matter how much I try and convince myself, convince God that I don't want to harbor this anger any longer...I still do.

As I lay there, I thought of how I wanted to let those feelings burn off and into the sky. I want to be able to let go. A few words wandered through my mind - surrender, give up, let go, let it be.

Surrender to me is a very different thing than letting go. Surrender makes me think of giving up a part of myself to something/someone else. I surrendered my own wants and needs for those of my ex-husband. I don't want to surrender anything to him ever again. No, surrender is not what I'm thinking of.

Give up holds a relatively negative connotation for me too. Give up seems like quitting or walking away because I just can't cope anymore. While perhaps that is exactly what I need, it is not what I want.

No, the posture really is one of letting go. Similar to the fire, as it lets go of the smoke and releases into the air...I want to let go of this anger and bitterness. I want to release it to God, and allow Her to redeem me of it. I recognize it isn't useful to me anymore, that it is only causing me pain. All of the questions I have will never have all the answers I want...and so really there is no reason to continue the fight. There is no winner. There is no loser. The anger isn't holy, nor is it helpful. And, so as I lay there I began to imagine what would happen if I just let it go? Let it rise up to the sky.

I'm still not entirely sure I can let go. But I feel like I have nothing to lose by trying. My prayer is that Jesus can help me let go. That His love is strong enough to overcome the voices of anger, revenge, hurt, frustration that drown out the part of me that knows it's time to let go. I know it is. Now the questions is whether I can believe that my love is strong enough.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Letting Go

Today in a quiet time, I was overcome with an image. The thought or metaphor was of a plug/drain being pulled out of my side, and of some sort of "gunk" (for lack of a better word) came flowing out of me and into the earth. At first I didn't get it, but the longer I sat in silence, the more sense it made.

It occurred to me that I've been bombarded by a lot of really ugly things lately. Being confronted with my ex-husband's infidelity head on, watching the aftermath of his irresponsibility play out in our children, worrying about my niece, contending with a lot of really heinous cases of abused children...well it's been a little much to take in. But as my usual pattern, it takes me a minute to realize that my level of stress has gotten toxic. It isn't until I'm quiet and realize that my mind is racing from one thought to the next that it becomes crystal clear that I'm not coping as well as I would like to think I am. As I sat there, feeling overwhelmed by it all, I realized that the plug needed to be pulled. And now.

As much as I think I've got things under control most days, my emotions have gotten the better of me lately. As I sat through a trial recently, it became evident to me that my sense of control has eroded considerably in the past year. As I listened to a woman describe injuries to one of the children I've been appointed to advocate for, I felt tears spring to my eyes. I've heard her story many, many times. Her's and a hundred others equally terrible. Hearing it again, made me realize my lid isn't on as tight as it used to be. I overflow more often than ever. And I think that's a gift of some sort. The ability to feel for these kids makes me who I am, and makes me more sure than ever than someone must speak for these children. But there are those days when it all wears me down, wears me out. There must be a place that I can go inside of myself that replenishes my soul. That place where the Spirit lives and breathes.

As the metaphor of the plug being pulled became more clear in my mind, so did a new one. The idea of new life-giving water replacing that old gunk. The image recalled to my mind that passage in John about streams of living water.

More and more, I realize that I must daily, hourly, minute by minute pull the plug on all of my worries, fears, toxicity. This is the only way to live. Not by holding it back as if these things were to be treasured. Letting go is the only way to let in the Spirit that is love. Otherwise there is no room. All of the bad stuff takes up all the room in my heart, and no room is left for the Spirit to come in and transform/transfigure me.

As I left the silence, I was reminded of a hymn, that I've spent the remainder of today humming,

When peace like a river attendeth my way;
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,
it is well, it is well, with my soul.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More alike than we know

Tonight I took my kids to see a musical. We typically go each year at this time, it's a play put on by the church that runs my son's preschool. This year the musical was about the story of Esther in the Bible. The production is always pretty cool, particularly for a "church run" play. The church who puts on the musical is what I would categorize conservative, evangelical, perhaps bordering on fundamentalist.

While I have sent both of my children to this church for preschool, I have cringed on occasion at some of the things they have come home singing. "I'm in the Lord's army" or "The Devil is a sly old fox" - the songs are cute little numbers...but I worry about what messages my children are getting. After all, I am basically a pacificist - I don't want my children to be part of any army. And I'm not certain what I believe about the devil...but I don't typically think he's lurking around every corner wanting to trick me.

Ultimately though, as I watched the musical tonight, I became aware again that we are more the same than we think we are. We, as humans, draw all these boundaries and lines and demarcations. You are good, but you, well you are bad. Republican, Democrat...conservative, liberal...Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists...American, illegal alien... As a people, we have spent so much time figuring out who is like us and who isn't. Who we are and who we are not. And despite all of my "open-minded" notions, I still judge people I meet fairly quickly. Particularly if I think they are close-minded or conservative or judgmental themselves.

The people at this play are not people I would normally socialize with. They make jokes about Hillary Clinton and laugh at the ideas I believe whole-heartedly in. But, perhaps before I get too far down the "self-righteous path" I should recall, that I make jokes about Sarah Palin and I laugh at things they are passionate about too.

As I watched the play, I was swept up in the music. Several songs about being fearless, about being thankful to God, about loving each other. These are all things I can subscribe to. Things I aspire to. While I have no doubt we have very different definitions of how these things should be lived out...we still have a commonality. Certainly this is what I hope my children are learning from this place. And sometimes I see the results of learning our shared story in them...when they come home and talk about Jesus ... when they sing "Jesus loves me" or "This little light of mine." I'm reminded we are part of one body, one world.

We really aren't that different. While we choose to express ourselves in vastly different ways, we remain part of a whole. I recall a good friend I had in college. She was someone I loved from the day I met her. We were on opposite of ends of every spectrum. As politically conservative as she was, I was politically liberal. For as seriously Baptist as she was, I was not so serious about being an Episcopalian. While church and faith were important to me, it was as important to me to question what I thought I "knew" as it was for me to worship or pray. And the questions didn't scare me, they brought me further into the faith. She, on the other hand, didn't have any use for the questions. She was fairly certain of her beliefs, and didn't have any use for the debates and messy stuff. But, I never questioned her faith. I certainly knew that she loved me and God. And it wasn't superficial. In some ways she represented everything I would fight against, and in other ways she was a blessing to me. If I needed her, I have no doubt she would've been one of my defenders. While there was a whole heap of things we disagreed about, she was kind and loving. I hope she would say the same about me. I cared about her, and no philosophical differences could've stopped me from being her friend.

As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, I sometimes think if every person could have one person in their lifetimes that was completely opposite in his or her beliefs, but who personified love, that perhaps most folks could look past their own prejudices. I think about how different racism looks when you love someone of another race. I think about crazy homophobia seems when you love someone who is gay. Suddenly racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. all have a distinct taste. And it's ugly and not at all something we can tolerate. We are all bound together in this mystery of faith, of life.

And so, when my son sings about "the Lord's army" - I smile it at him and tell him what a great job he did singing it. I hope he will learn someday that we really are more alike than we know.