Thursday, August 26, 2010

A year later

Today was the one year anniversary of my legal divorce from my now ex-husband. The past few weeks have brought some moments of relative peace between us. We have never been the sort to outwardly war with one another. Still, there has been fighting for the past year. Some of it bitter, some of it hurtful, all of it sad.

Tonight my ex had our children for a few hours. I was cleaning house and started watching Joe versus the Volcano. I had been reminded of this movie recently and so I ordered it through NetFlix. I watched the first hour until the kids got home. I forgot how alive Joe becomes after having been so dead in so many ways. I feel much the same way about letting go of my marriage. Each day, each week, each month that passes, I realize how dead I was in the relationship. What I understood my role to be, what I took on, what I perceived, none of it seems to make much sense to me anymore. I still wake up and wonder how I got so far afield.

When my kids burst through the door I said yet another prayer thanking God for them, and for my ex-husband who was part of their creation. I gave him some pictures I had taken of them recently. He thanked me. We talked about a friend who had a baby recently. Then he left. My daughter looked quizzically at me and said, "You know... you and dad can still get back together." I wonder if the woundedness she carries from our divorce will heal in time. I pray it will. My son quickly added, "I don't want you to marry anyone mom!"

Now a year later, I can see what I couldn't see a year ago. My perspective is shifting back into some semblance of focus again. It's not entirely in focus yet, but it's shifting. Like a kaleidoscope, the colors are becoming more brilliant and yet more cohesive again.

Tomorrow I will have go to my office and do my best to shepherd more people through a sticky process. And tomorrow night I will have dinner with an old friend. We will laugh and remember when. But best of all, my babies will come bursting through the front door and I'll remember my highest calling. To be a witness to their lives...their growing, their changing, their loving. What a gift my life is.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


A few nights ago I went to a comedy show. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew nothing about the comic ahead of time...and this of course was my own fault. A friend had lent me a few DVD's of his work, but I never got around to watching them. I assumed that given my love of laughing, jokes and teasing I would enjoy the comic and even if his material wasn't hilarious, I would still laugh. It doesn't take much.

I have loved to laugh as long as I can remember. I crack jokes constantly. At one point in my life I'm sure it was a coping mechanism, but still all in all I love to laugh. I was voted "Class Clown" in high school. I have pulled awesome practical jokes on people, and have been the target of a few myself. I laugh at slapstick humor like Chris Farley, profane humor like Ron White and Chris Rock and more sophisticated humor like Jon Stewart. I'm not what I would call a comedy snob. I think a lot of things are funny.

So I showed up at this show thinking it would be funny. The opening act immediately launched into a song he wrote about how "Arizona has gotten it right" - referring to the current immigration reform. The song crossed more than a few lines and was quite simply offensive. He then cracked a few jokes about Democrats and launched into a rock star version of the national anthem.

This is probably the moment I should also confess to not being very patriotic. I think my country (and I do claim it as my own) does a lot of stupid stuff. I do not think that just by virtue of my birthplace I'm better or more entitled to anyone else on the planet. I'm bothered by the Pledge of Allegiance and am by and large a pacificist. I don't think we have any business invading other countries, and I don't think Muslims are to blame for the downfall of America. I think our own greed is.

So, the main act emerged on the stage and essentially spent 90 minutes making jokes of every stereotype ever known to white, straight men. Women are nags , Asians can't speak English, Hispanics are dull-speaking and lazy, Blacks speak in incoherent slang, wear big jewelry and listen to rap music all day long, gay men are all hairdressers. You name it, he generalized it. And then to top it off, he mixed it in with some good ol' "God Bless America" kind of Muslim hatred. He actually has a character he does named "Achmed the Dead Terrorist." His mantra, "I keeelll you."

I'm not laughing. As a matter of fact, the two hour show made me realize all that is wrong with my fellow Missourians who find this sort of humor funny. He wasn't laughing "with" these groups of people, he was clearly laughing "at" them. As if by virtue of his whiteness or straightness or whatever, he was obviously superior. To top it all off, his hatred of Muslims is so en vogue these days that it made him all the more popular with the folks who had paid, some of the more than $100 to see him, to see him and laugh with him.

I felt my face redden a few times, I'm not certain if it was embarrassment or anger...though certainly I felt both. I was bothered for all of the people I knew who fit his categories. My gay and lesbian friends, my Jewish friends, my black friends. And I felt as if I was somehow betraying them by sitting and there and not speaking out. Or at a minimum leaving the show.

I thought about what message I want my kids to have in this life about people who are different than them...I remember taking a barely 5 year old Melena with me to the voting polls in the election of Barack Obama...and the pride I felt at being able to vote, in this country of so much history of racism, for a black man to be our President. I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched the civil rights leaders of the 60's and 70's watching this man become President, tears rolling down their faces. I remember trying to explain to my 5 year old how important that day much had had to change to reach that day. I recall those weeks after 9/11 and feeling embarrassed for our country as we lashed out at the Muslim community in misdirected hatred. I remember crying for Matthew Shephard. I know what it is to be a woman, and therefore judged to be less than a man. These things that separate us, what do we do with these distinctions? I am not naive enough to believe we are at a place in history where we are able to celebrate our differences. But surely we have come further than arena filled with people who are laughing at those who are different as if they are and always will be inferior. A gathering to celebrate that which we fear...the unknown, the not yet understood.

I'm still not sure what I think my reaction should've been besides outrage. I had plenty of that. But I wonder what else I'm feeling and what lies below my own surface. What prejudices do I have underneath it all? What stereotypes and preconceived notions am I hanging on to that should be let go of? I'm still not certain. I just know that none of it struck me as very funny at all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A soft place to fall

Tonight I was struck by something. As is ordinarily the case for me, it took me a minute. Oftentimes when my kids return from visiting with their dad for a few hours they have vastly different reactions when they walk through my door.

My son is typically thrilled to see me. He flings himself at me and is laughing and smiling. He takes an hour or so to really unwind. It's as if he has pent up energy that he needs to be let out. While he is a high energy kid on a normal day, he seems even more wound up. Not in a bad way...just bouncing around. He is full of hugs and kisses and is clearly happy to be home.

My daughter is often the opposite. She typically rushes through the front door with her stuff in tow, dropping it on the way down the short hallway to my arms. She often is tearful. She will express something happened that day...she stubbed her toe, she missed a word on a spelling test, she didn't feel well...most often it is that something bothered her. It seems as if she has been waiting to tell someone this information all day, and now that it's spilling out she can't control her tears. She sits on my lap and buries her head in my shoulder. Most of the time she is consoled quickly and we move about getting ready for bed. During our "tuck-in" talk, she often is quiet, wanting reassurance that I love her. That life will continue on much the same tomorrow.

It's a strange thing, my children's reactions to me. I often describe them to others much the opposite of these reactions. My son typically is the quieter, more reserved child. He likes routine and is uncertain at times. My daughter is the outgoing charmer. Always making friends and with a great ability to "roll with the punches" she is rarely bothered by change or chaos.

Tonight it occurred to me what's happening. And in some ways I felt honored to be my daughter's mother. Yesterday when my son was again undergoing medical procedures and issues, I was pretty composed. I rarely show signs of stress, particularly when he is having medical issues. My job in these situations is to hold his hand, get thrown up on sometimes and to advocate for the best treatment for my child. And I know how to do those things well. There is nothing that bring outs the lioness in me more than when my child is sick. This morning, on my way to work, I had a mini breakdown in the car. I was talking out loud to God (something I do in my car often). And I lost it. I think part of me senses that it's ok. God has heard my stuff before. She gets me. It's ok for me to cry and to be out of control for a time. I feel some comfort in those moments with God. Knowing that despite my own judgments, I'm just Her kid, and the world is scary sometimes. And it's ok to cry about it.

I realized tonight that's what's happening with my daughter. She has this angst...sometimes it's a big deal and sometimes it's not...but regardless she needs an outlet...someplace to say it. And for her, I'm that person. Her mom will listen. I don't judge her feelings, and at the end of all of it I hug her, kiss her and tell her I love her.

All of us, as human as we are, need that place we can fall down and cry. As I find myself wandering deeper into this forest with God, I am so thankful for that soft place to fall. I don't know how I got this place in my life...but I'm so thankful to have both sides of the be the one falling and to be the one someone else can fall on. I continue to pray for the ability to be the soft place for my child, to be whatever she needs me to be. I continue to pray that God will be my soft place as well. That She will listen, hug me, kiss me and still love me at the end of it all.