Respite

There is something to be said for silence.

Still, quiet tranquility.

Where I find her- my quietude, is on an oft-silent side road on the western end of a snow-covered Island, just before evening turns to velvet night. There is a little inlet that leads to a river and there the water is just starting to break through the ice-covered cap that has blanketed the flow since late January. Yesterday, I found ducks paddling along in single-file formation, moving like something from a black and white film feature from the thirties. The water, moving ever-so-leisurely- I paused for a moment while on my mission (aiming for the mailbox on the right-hand side of the road, where I then turn and head back toward home) to notice.

I have to train myself to take it all in, where sometimes I am more prone to rush right on by.

Walking is a calming exercise for me. I can feel the layers from the day sliding away like a heavy cloak that needs to be shed. The tension dissipates with each step forward and each slap of rubber on pavement. I press on. Past the melting rivulets of water that form a triangular waterway down the middle of the road, past the barking dog, the whispering pines. I press on toward the growing quiet I feel now both without and within.

All is quiet.

Serenity is knowing that there is a place we can return to again and again when life gets too loud and too demanding. For there are so many voices calling, so many noises pressing in. Our hearts can’t take it all sometimes.
We see it on the news, on our social media sites, in our workplaces, in our circles. It is in our homes. Life is just too loud and busy and frantic and chaotic. Where is the still, peaceful tranquility we so crave and require?

Lately, there has been news delivered to those I love, those I care deeply about. Some news of which, when conveyed- feels as if the world is shouting in my direction, in their direction: “Hear ye, hear ye- there will be doom, and gloom and horrible things that will bury you and smother you with sadness.” Shouting voices- sharp, piercing and pointed, all with the intent to jar one from their reverie. It feels as if the noise will suffocate me- bury us all. That it will overpower us with its cloud-like cover. Stifling us until all life is snuffed out like the stub of a candle that has reached the end of its wick. We are being asphyxiated by the weight of it all- this tremendous clatter, bearing down hard on our souls.

My Grampie M. was a humble man, an unassuming, hard-working salt-of-the-earth type. Life for him was never easy- most of his days were spent with an ever-watchful eye on his son born with Down Syndrome, but life was full. To my knowledge, he lived the entirety of his eighty-nine years long life without ever raising his voice. There were changes at the end, due to the dementia, but when he was living with all his faculties and awareness, his meekness led him to live a life of quiet grace.

He used to place his work-roughened, grease-blackened hand upon my head and say with a gentle chuckle, ‘That’s a good little head.’ His calm assurance always left me feeling that all would be well. When Grampie M. knew that something was about to reach a feverish pitch- when all of hell’s bells were about to sound: he would amble out to his carpentry shop and reach for his hammer. And he would pound wood with nail after nail to drown out the sounds. He was that kind of man- he embraced the repetitive sound of steel on wood over the noise of clashing voices or tension of any sort.

Sometimes we crave the Hand of a Father on our heads, gently reassuring us of this hopeful desire, written on all our hearts no matter how hardened and weathered they might be: a desire to know that all is well. There will be peace. For there is hope in the noisy ‘here-and-now’- peace even in this messy present in which we live. And all because that Peace has come; there is a place of rest for the worn and weary. There is respite. There is reprieve. There is a place of quiet, tranquil solitude for those who yearn for a space to go where the world is hushed and the noise is muted.

“Come, all who are weary. And I will give you rest.”

There is a place I like to go when life gets too noisy. Too riotous and rowdy. It is my respite when the clamour of everyday living becomes too raucous and commotion reaches peak levels. And in that place, my weary soul finds rest.

I find my quiet in the still of the evening.

It might be a crazy life…but it’s my life.

I am driving our van toward my second Christmas concert of the day (third if you count this morning’s rehearsal), when I become aware that I don’t have Youngest Daughter on board.  At the moment of realization, I am at the rink picking up Second Oldest from ice-skating junior’s, as I have just left piano lessons with Youngest five minutes prior.   I also am in a semi state of consciousness after having been at the rink for synchro and Can-skate for the past two hours.  The cold air and craziness of the day are just starting to settle in.  Since I have just ordered two pizza rolls (It is Rink Fry Wednesday- supper for the jet-set) for the One freshly off the ice, we are good to go.  I begin loading skates inside the back of the van.  All the while, I am trying to rush because Oldest Child is playing his first trombone musicale rendition of three Christmas carols in a matter of minutes.  So, to say we are in a hurry is an understatement.

As the Missing Child in question has already incurred a mishap today, things are looking grim.   (I sent her to daycare but failed to inform the daycare provider she was coming.  So the bus driver radioed the school, but due to the Christmas concert mayhem, the radios had been turned off.  As a result, he had to turn around and drive Littlest One back to school sans school approval and hope for the best.  I met her crying in the hallway.  She ended up watching a dreadful Caillou Christmas movie on the projector while I cleaned up the after-effects of a tornado that hit my classroom this afternoon)    Needless to say, at this very minute I am on high alert. 

“Where is she?”  I scan the back of the van for signs of life amidst the rubble.  We are truly pigs.  Garbage, bags, books, shoes, remains of food in various stages of decomposition and bookbags lie helter skelter.  Second Youngest One is playing DSi, oblivious to my panic in the backseat.  And I ask again, “Where is she?  The Littlest One?”

My wise Second Youngest barely looks up from her game.  “Mom, you left her at piano lessons, remember?”

And then I realize.  I do truly have Alhzeimer’s.  But of course.  I had just five short minutes ago arranged for my friend to drive her to the last event of the evening, where I would meet the entourage at the door.  And this, my friends, is why I might look like I know what I am doing.  But I really don’t.

Here’s the thing.   My life is nuts.  Insanely nuts.  I live my life on the brink of insanity.  I do things no normal person would ever do.  For instance.  On Sunday, I played the piano for accompaniment with the congregational singing, as I usually do.  But prior to the service, the Pastor came up to me and asked me if I knew how to play a certain song for the closing hymn.  Sans music book.  By memory.  Without chords.  Of course, I said “I’ll try it!” like I don’t have enough stress, impulsivity and general lack of chaos in my life already.  Plus, I really need a thrill right about now, so why don’t I try winging it for the last hymn and see if my blood-pressure doesn’t sky-rocket.  Yeah!  That would be fun!

So, I worry and fret about it for a while, I try to piece together the chords, then I realize that the Pastor is looking down on me from the pulpit as it is 11:01a.m., and the service should have begun sixty seconds ago.  I then do what any normal person does under pressure.  I embrace the pain.  I re-live again and again in my mind how embarrassing it will be when I fail at this song.  I imagine just how far into the song I’ll get when I’ll begin to crash and burn.  But suddenly, I am struck with a plan.  I will somehow find a way to get to the pastor’s daughter to sneak into her Dad’s office during the service and download the music for me from his office computer.  It is at this moment that I finally start to relax. 

Only thing is she isn’t able to get the music to me in time.  And it is with great trepidation that I begin playing the closing number at the end of the service without the confidence of music in front of me.  At the beginning of the song, I do okay for the first couple of bars.  Then things start to dwindle out as I only know so many chords (I did only have five minutes warning prior to the service).  I realize I cannot possible keep going, so I stop playing the piano.  And I begin to sing along accapella.  Only the further problem is that I have started the song off in a very low key so that only those who sing bass can continue on with me.  I totally drop the ladies like a hot potato.   At the end of each verse, even I cannot hit the notes, so I improvise and create a whole new melody for the piece.  It is unrecognizable to its original version, but that is okay.  I am in survival mode now, and I am no longer looking at anyone.  I am just singing bass.  With the men.  No woman ( except for those who happen to be heavy chain smokers) would be able to sing these notes.  Thanks goodness I have asthma and my voice has changed, or even I wouldn’t be singing these keyboard tones right now.

And again I say.  I might look like I know what I am doing.  But I really don’t.

The joy of (brief) getaways…

I had a conversation the other day with a friend on the subject of, among other things, how absolutely fantastic and wonderful my children indeed are.  She said it first.  And yes, you read that right- I, the mother that tells it all, just like it is, agreed that my children were amazing little individuals.  And while I did agree with her synopsis, it is necessary to add that I was also high on the weekend buzz that is a late Friday afternoon full of promise, so I do confess that my judgment may or may not have been slightly clouded.

And so I say.  That these same children whom exhibit less than desirable behaviors that I write about in my lengthy, candid blogs and discuss openly and honestly on Facebook  and other social mediums are actually quite fabulous and incredible when all is said and done.  In fact, they are awesome.   And I can say this and believe it because every single one of them is now tucked away in their various sleeping cubicles in our house.  And all is well in the world again.  Blessed silence.

Notable mention: I am most generous with my descriptive writing allowances after hours.

Actually, even as little as one hour ago, I would have begged to differ with the above commentary.   My children, I would have contended, are the opposite of great; they are horrible little beasts intent on my utter ruination and eventual demise.   And I was thinking all this (in no uncertain terms, albeit quietly to myself) as I drove out the driveway to get a break from the mayhem that is the witching hour at our house: bedtime.

In fact, I was so convinced I would under no circumstances be persuaded to think anything to the contrary that I was actually talking to myself about this very matter as I drove feverishly up the road.  And I must say that I felt this feeling of doom and despair more or less until I arrived home again to our sweet little yellow house on the corner of Gard and Mill River East Road.

Indeed, I felt this pervasive melancholy settle and weigh down on me until I had taken an entire hour to cool my jet engines.  During which time I felt the urge to go the Dollar store and buy a bag of otherwise useless items that will gather dust on a shelf somewhere.  And then another urge to go to Foodland and buy up the last seven pie pumpkins they had on the shelf, along with two bags of sweet bar-b-q potato chips (and a few other things that brought my total to just under forty smacks).  Just because.   And all this, because retail therapy works, and I live in West Prince (P.E.I.)

So these are the places I shop at 9:00 p.m. on a Monday evening.

But when I came home.  Oh, the feelings that came over me.  For starters.  I found a report that my diligent daughter had revised and edited- a writing project that was not assigned for homework, but which she corrected and re-wrote anyway so as to show her teacher what she is capable of doing.  And I believed again that children are wonderful creatures- full of promise.  Then, I had a conversation with my husband about another of our children and some struggles they are going through at home and school of late.  And I believed again that children need patience and understanding.  And room to grow.   And later still, I walked into a darkened bedroom and watched my oldest child gently sleeping.   And I believed again that this parenting hat is the most important hat I will ever wear: raising our children to live up to the high esteem in which they are held, both by God, the community, family and by us as parents.  Raising them to be honorable, diligent, respectful, humble, ambitious, loving, honest, kind and truthful individuals.  To be as awesome as a person can possibly be in this world, with God’s help and guidance.  So that we as parents can be fully proud and humbled at one and the same time by the children that will someday rise up and call us blessed.  Whom I believe will be grateful for all we’ve done.

Because I know I am.  Grateful.  For all I have been blessed with in this life, both past and present.

When all is said and done, I still believe that sometimes what a parent needs is to escape the crazy house and the bedtime frenzy so as to remember this simple truth: kids are great.  They are actually pretty awesome.  And even as little as an hour away can help us remember that and put our lives into perspective.

Joy in chaos…

My mother and I were talking on the phone last night, and I moved from room to room doing my “end-of-the-evening” tidy up.  As it was time for my son’s bedtime, I went in to his room to say goodnight and tuck him in, all while I had the phone neatly perched in between my shoulder and my ear.  I leaned in to kiss him on the forehead, as is our nightly routine, and he dramatically moved his body back away from me, as if I had suddenly grown five eyes out of the side of my head and had warts covering my mouth.  I removed the phone and pointedly asked him what was the matter.

“Who are you talking to?” he demanded.

“Grammie,” I answered exasperated with this exchange already.

“Oh,” he replied, “All right then.”

When did my sweet boy change into an adolescent marvel who now finds his mother a servant by day and disgusting life form by night?

I give up.

But of course, I cannot.  Rather I plunge on into the murky waters known more commonly as puberty.

Mothering is hard work, and I am only just beginning.  I consider myself to be a young mother, by the following standard: I like to think of myself as not quite over the hill (#tryingtobetrendy), as well as the fact that my youngest has not yet started school.  Those two criteria are enough to keep me young, are they not?  And if not, the mere fact that I am chasing kids 24/7 (both at home and at work) should be enough to keep me young, due in part to the sheer force of willpower necessary to keep this body going forward at 90 miles an hour.  I am nearing the halfway mark of in-home parenting with one, however, and it scares the living daylights out of me.  I know I am in for some interesting scenarios, much like the above, and more of them to boot.

Yikes.

I was talking to a mom the other day, and she and I were discussing life experiences and how we are handling current crises in our life.  She remarked that although she has many people around her to call on for help or friendship, she often feels alone.   She further added that she is able to talk about her real feelings and insecurities only so much as she keeps things positive and up-beat.  For instance, if she was dealing with a frustration at home, she could talk about it so long as she focused on the positives and found a way to always find a happy note to end her story on.  She felt to do otherwise would make her look, in the eyes of her friends, ungrateful and like she was complaining.

I can relate somewhat.  When I write about a bad day, I try to make everything sound funny.  No one really wants to read a diary entry that chronicles my endless frustrations and grievances about the day.  No matter how many times you hear someone casually say, “How are you doing?” it is exceptional to hear someone empathically say, “How are you really doing?”   We often do not want to hear the answer to that question, myself included here, because it might require more from us: more time, more thought, more effort, more love and more understanding on our part than if the person just answered, “Fine.”

It is hard hearing someone share gut-wrenching stories about their life, that bare their heart and soul to the willing confidant.  But if we don’t take the risk to confide our deepest fears and feelings, no matter how messy they be in the telling, do we not risk losing the opportunity to be all that is real and gloriously human?  We are made of messy stuff- blood, guts and gore.  Do not our feelings reflect that same constitution?  We are neatly packaged on the outside, but inside we are a mess of organs, circuitry, tissue and tubing.  So much the more, inside our soul.  A tumble of conflicting emotions, moods, feelings, beliefs, convictions, biases and truths that we hold to or change depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are gloriously messy.  And so very complicated by our very design.

So then, let us free ourselves to be all that we know we really are and not expect any less from ourselves or of others than this: perfect chaos.  Messy as that may be in the revealing.