"When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person."
- Thich Nhat Hanh from his work How to Love
It's been a cold winter in Pennsylvania this year. Last Easter Sunday there were big blooms of fuscia pink on the magnolia tree that created an inconspicuous space for our Easter eggs- not so this year. Punxsutawney Phil, our state's perceptive groundhog, did indeed see his shadow on February 2nd determining that there would be another six weeks of winter, and the magnolia buds have yet to release their tight grip. Fortunately, with last week's warmer weather and welcomed sunshine, it's finally beginning to feel like spring.
We've had a lot of changes happening in our household this month. Mr. Tailor has left the nest again for California in pursuit of an adventure and enlightenment. For the next two months he'll be biking throughout the state, couch surfing, and taking pictures while subsisting on the money he saved while living at home since November (you can follow him here ). We're excited about the education he'll be gaining while on the road- and to be honest, we're feeling a little apprehensive. It is probably for the best that Mr. Tailor has kept the finer details of his excursion to himself- he knows us quite well.
I am trusting that everything will be ok.
Actually, I'm counting on it and I've had some experiences recently that have been teaching me that help really does present itself in one form or another. We really aren't alone in this game called life- and I'm not talking about God here. Well, not unless one wants to label the loving individuals that manage to say the right things or offer the right assistance at the right time and right place as "God". If so, then I could very well be talking about God- and I'm not sure. However, I have three things swimming in my head lately that I want to share. On the surface they might not seem related but I'll leave the connection up to you. This is what I've found: 1) "You're half right"
Mr. Hero and I have been married for twenty-one years. And in this time we continue to have the same pattern repeat itself over and over again when we are snippy with each other. Usually what happens is that one of us expresses a complaint or criticism that ends up placing the receiver on the defensive. Our feelings get hurt and we feel attacked- even though the only intention might be to express an honest opinion. This isn't very pretty and tender hearts get hurt. Lately, I've been wanting to find a tool to help me contain the criticism without bruising the ego. This week I found a solution- on page 117 of Thich Nhat Hanh's little book on love.
His sixth mantra is, " You're partly right"- I remembered it as "You're half right". What these three little words did for me when Mr. Hero was speaking about something that would have otherwise roused my defenses was offer a salve. Instead of tuning out his words to contradict his truth with mine, these words allowed for the room to receive.
Conversely, another situation came up later in the week when a co-worker offered a towering compliment about my work. Instead of basking in the glow of her words,"you're half right" came to mind and I was able to contain her praise with humility.
2) Half birthdays
We're celebrating them. Mr. Ninja is our first guinea pig and we're making merry with half a pumpkin pie, some cash (his age times two), and a book of his choice picked from our favorite local bookstore- The Midtown Scholar. The idea is to keep them simpler than a birthday but have an excuse to honor each other more often in the year.
3) A Movie
So there's this movie called Boy Meets Girl. Mr. Hero and I had some alone time to check it out the other day. It's honest and sweet and will surely provide an engaging discussion afterwards.
* some other books to consider about these topics: No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh and When it Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald
maybe the miracle isn't the spectacular event at all.
the walking on water,
turning water into wine,
rising from the dead.
maybe the miracle is instead found
in the new light of the ordinary,
the steady warmth of belonging,
and the familiar hum of
a thousand tiny changes,
that tender hope and love
and the needed strength
to hold on.
*Cyndi Dale's article, "Bodywork and the Business of Miracles" planted the seed for this poem. Especially her line "... it's easy to forget that pronounced swings of fate are usually preceded by thousands of tiny changes".
Water and the Moon
There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon.
I've never been very good at keeping quiet when it's come to my children. There has been a certain amount of arrogance and assumption on my end that the boys would be interested in my wisdom and foresight simply because they call me mom. For the most part, they have genuinely showed an interest and to be fair, they've usually respected my wishes as well- even through the teenage years which have been a breeze when compared to the terrible twos.
Where I keep stumbling is in the unchartered territory of relating to our adult children.
February 4th came and went leaving Mr. Reporter sick and an adult. And just as it usually happens year after year, we celebrated his birthday quietly and without fanfare a few days later when his nose was no longer running it's marathon and the fevers and sore throats had healed. He has a lovely girlfriend who has been occupying his time and holding his heart for several months now. She presented him a Jim Thorpe hat she'd knit up and it stayed on his head continuously for the following three days-even while remaining indoors. This love is familiar. It reminds me of how his father used to hold me as we laid on his parent's couch all those years ago- our futures full before us.
I snatched Mr. Reporter away for a few hours over the weekend. We went to breakfast and did a little shopping after eating our egg and sausage sandwiches- with and w/o asiago cheese. When he spoke about his life and his concerns, I mostly kept my mouth shut and opened my ears and heart. I validated him, supported and encouraged him. I was a cool mom.
Our oldest son, Mr. Tailor, has been living with us again after a five month departure to California. He is going to be twenty next month. He has been working two jobs and he is paying us rent. He has plans to leave on April 1st to do some exploring and figuring of his own. For the most part, his father and I are responding to his decisions as we would to someone running their fingernails over a chalkboard. We're cringing, we're projecting our anxiety, we're irritated- we are struggling to live and let live (I'm not convinced that the person who came up with that one had kids). So there really shouldn't be any surprise that his response to my questions is defensiveness.
I'm squirming between hope and anxiousness, constraint and resignation. I don't like sitting in this space.
And then I read the words of Rumi.
And then I remembered that to love someone is to let them go- even come April.
Go run with his plans. Go meet the people he wants to meet and make the mistakes he's going to make. Go live his life.
When he falls down from the punches of the school of hard knocks, we'll welcome his visit, lend him an ear, and even make him a bologna sandwich-which he'll devour because he'll be used to getting by on ramen and air and that bologna will taste like gourmet to his deprived tastebuds.
And then he can walk right out of our house after the twenty minutes it takes to lend that ear of ours and finish the said sandwich- and bicycle back to his very own little hovel because he was so disinclined to skip the completion of his college degree in order to see the BIG WIDE WORLD- irregardless of his struggle to make a living off of minimum wage in CALIFORNIA. He does have the beach after all.
Forget it. The cool mom job is overrated anyway- and I'm pretty f*@!ing certain that Rumi didn't have a twenty-year-old living at his home when he started percolating over the water and the moon.