I press on

I nearly missed their beauty, walking by them quickly first before making the conscious decision to turn back. Before making the conscious decision to stand quietly looking for simple, untouched beauty on this ‘first-of-many’, warm autumn day. I stood for that brief moment at the guardrail- connected to the ducks in presence only. There were five of them swimming in formation in the shallow waters of the inlet. Swimming where the river lazily makes its winding way through meadows and marshlands lined with cattails and long, wavy grasses- to where it will gently widen and join the river proper. The five were headed away from the bridge where I stood. But an innate sense of knowing made them suddenly take flight. First swooping in one direction and then the other before landing out of my range of sight. Landing softly to swim again without the introspective eye keeping watch.

Birds are like that. Flighty. Capricious, if you will. They never know who to trust.

I am feeling a bit of the same. I write extensively about love, ethics of care, hope and kindness. But lately, I am finding I am challenged by this writing insomuch as I feel that showing love is easier said than done. I feel slightly inconsistent with what I ‘preach’ for I am not one who easily trusts. Who easily gives her love away. Not one who easily gives in to love neither, nor one who gives way to the generosity of spirit that love affords.

Under the watchful eye of those around me, I would take flight rather than stay and expose my weakness. So here I am tonight. A fragile being open to vulnerability. Examining her weakness and limitations.

A sitting duck.

I choose to write about love largely because it fascinates me. But beyond that, I feel my limited ability to express love, while falling short at times only to give way to being generously giving at others, is not lived to its full potential. So perhaps I am fascinated with love because of my perceived limitation. Perhaps it is what I feel is my greatest challenge: to love unconditionally. In my defense, I am in possession of a very tender heart and compassionate soul by nature, the endowment of my gracious Creator. I am Woman who can emote easily and express her feelings. Woman who can convey love as evidenced in the overwhelming sense of care I feel for those most precious to me. But the sheer physicality of showing love- demonstrating it to those same beloved leaves me at times in a panic. Leaves me wanting.

I often have to walk myself through the desired and expected responses, telling myself what to do and how to do it. As if I were alien to the languages of human love. This fact of my life intrigues me.

It is not that love eludes me. I have a very sensitive Husband and four loving children. I am the daughter of two loving parents, one of whom has been a kindred spirit to me for over half my life. Added to this, many people I am connected to who I love and whom I have a sense that they love me too.  But in experiencing love, I sometimes wonder: do I truly know what this feels like? Do I really know how to show love? Receive love? Express love? Offer love? Understand love?

And why the pull to know about love and its subtle nuances anyway? Why is love the consuming influence in my life and writing?

Culturally, we are in a time when love is a consumable. A thing to use and throw away. When the love grows cold, let the fire burn to embers. And then start a new fire somewhere else. Even familial love is expendable. Why love if it has nothing to benefit me?
But love is more than this and in our heart of hearts we know: love’s promise offers us hope to be strong in the face of adversity, joyful in light of fearful circumstances, compassionate in spite of offense. Love transcends.  And it calls us to stay and be who we are, vulnerable and defenceless at times, so that we can first offer ourselves fully.  Being present with the experience of the moment.  Understanding then the value of the gift we are being offered so that we can then receive it fully and know that what we’ve been given is a treasure. A gift not to be taken for granted or lightly perceived, but something to be valued.

When I walk back again toward home, the ducks are still in hiding down along.  I glance, but don’t take the time to ruminate. For I am no longer wistfully looking for them to return. Instead, I fix my eyes on the horizon and see within my sights the familiarity of a country road that leads my heart toward home.

And I press on.

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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.