There is nothing like sitting down to a fresh blog post screen with a burnt tongue! I was so happy to get to the point in the day when I could return to my thoughts in writing that I didn't care that my coffee had just come out of the microwave reheat, and the steam billows on top were a clear warning sign that I should wait to sip and savor. But I couldn't. I didn't. Open went my mouth. In went the coffee. Sizzle went my tongue! Not the kind of wake up call to writing I was vying for. Thankfully, the heat landed more to the middle of my tongue and it's work on my tastebuds is now dissipating. Nothing a spot of dark chocolate won't cover!
This is the kind of frame of mind I find myself in today, one filled with a bit of real life frolic, which feels so good and foreign all at the same time. These moments of my life's season are turning up things new that 6 months ago I don't think I could have dared hope for. It has been a long, long road these last 10 years and seriousness has been my closest companion. For good reason, but seriousness can be down right cranky and it is such a gift to be experiencing more moments where hope is my guide. There are many reasons hope's planting has begun to spring forth goodness and there will be many moments of writing to further unfold them. It is not lost on me, that as I enter into the season of fall, when nature's beauty comes at the expense of nature's end, I know my life's steps are mirroring both these ends and beginnings. The ending, the death of something held so close, can produce gorgeous.
I don't necessarily think of death in a gorgeous way. In fact, I think it's fair to say that fear of ending or fear of letting go of something hoped for has been a driving influence for so many. I'm no different. When my babies were little, my heart grew to explode, and so did some parts of my sense of reality. I think most parents are love drunk over their children. Yeah, the fatigue and the drain of parenting young ones is real, but somehow, the way they knock the tower of your personal building blocks over, giggle while doing it, and hand you the chance to rebuild yourself with them is amazing to the deepest parts of you. Their unassuming glee as your tower falls invites a recheck in with all that you are. It's fair to say that parenting will flatten you. Which is oh so hilarious as I was one who yearned and beckoned for the title of mother ever since I was old enough to hold and fold my dolly's baby blanket. Little did I know that parenting, and mothering was about a internal, architectural re-engineering that no polite person ever talks about in public. I went into parenting with the most robust hopes and intentions, but met myself on the other side. Oh, has it stung.
I wish that I could be that "polite person" and say that the sting of parenting was akin to a bee. But that wouldn't be true or fair. So the real deal is that parenting, and in particular, parenting children of exceptional needs, is a death march from who you were to who your child and the universe is inviting you to be. To get more specific, not up in abstract's clouds, I did not realize how tightly I gripped the sacred cow of my own effort and abilities, until I met my girls. To live through the moment when their nap schedule (or lack their of) included me yelling at my 3 year old and giving her diapered bottom a swat, so that she would bend into obedience because all of my other parenting strategies had failed, (then and now) brings me to my humble knees. In all of my sane and centered moments, I NEVER would have supported yelling at a toddler, let alone swatting a bottom - but this was the reflection that I had to look in the mirror at, as I realized my own needs and exhaustion were not met or considered equal in this gig of parenting and I didn't have or know how to take the personal steps to avoid getting to that moment. No one tells prospective parents that parenting pushes you out of your sane and centered existence - for real. Up until those moments, my own striving and being had produced success. It sounds very vain now and no doubt, if my life had been compared to others, I was by no means a cream of the crop human. BUT.....my efforts and my abilities had served and deceived me to that point. Who was I to give away my own credit and dominion?
Even now as I think of it many years later, a sense of shame puddles around my feet when I think about how I actively allowed that yelling and swatting situation to occur. No doubt, all parents have one, if not multiple experiences where they found themselves puddled with a sense of their own inadequacy and (likely) shame. When that moment occurred years ago it was the most distinctive dawning of awareness to the shadow and the dark that was in me. Until that moment, I had glossed over or misinterpreted just how strong my drive for control and perfection was. As a "successful Mother" you weren't supposed to acknowledge how much was not in your control or how much you strove to make it be so or how much you exerted to make it appear otherwise. These were the lies I was gripping and serving. I wasn't so aware of this then, or even days and months after the swatting incident occurred. It has taken multiple moments of ponder, and a fair bit of modern science, prayer, and mentoring for me to realize that I had to let go of my grip on self and on control. It's quite the bitter-sweet betrayal and rising to let go of certainty rooted in your own effort and being to be free to hold onto the buck wild ride that life is.
It is a socially, culture-propped illusion that humans and mother's have control and dominion, Wether it is sermon's served from the pulpit, commercials broadcast on digital platforms, or scientific theory's drive to deconstruct the data - all are molded to learn that EGOS and EFFORT are supreme. Mother's are not spared. In fact, they are most likely square center in the lies' cross-hairs. Nurturing is often portrayed as one's ability to shelter and guide through a dangerous landscape, and so many of us have settled up to the bar of this mentality. If we keep our kids safe and move them through life in a way that meets the expectations of all that is around them and us, then we will have been successful. This is what Pinterest says, anyway. But as a Mom who has spent countless hours on Facebook group for mom's of exceptional kiddos, and as a Mom who has lived her and her daughter's exhaustion of effort and ability and still comes up short, I know more than ever that the works-righteousness, pull yourself up by your boot straps philosophy is dead on arrival.
This is scary as hell and freeing to ride the wild buck, all at the same time. Some humans and mama's have learned and lived this lesson for such a long time and they are able to welcome me and other's like me into the fold. I'm really grateful that their presence and proclamation of this truth has been available in my life. But it is also a surreal place to know that no amount of morally upright behavior is going to save me from myself or the world around me. This realization is not a call for a free-for-all. It is a letting go of what isn't and an embracing of what is - which is a REALLY expansive place to be as a person and a parent. It means loosening my gaze so that it becomes a cursor to the moment of life unfolding in front of and around me. It means letting grief in, over what should have been and what wasn't, so that what was could be realized and owned. The shifting of my place in my own story from ancillary to primary.
So many mother's have been shoved into the ancillary, that it has mistakenly become part of the definition of motherhood and femininity. Even to the point that mother's are deemed responsible for the organization of in-utero DNA - how preposterous!?! Don't think it's true? I remember in the early weeks of our daughter's brain anomaly diagnosis considering that God might be cursing my baby with abnormality because I had not lived exactly to the moral code. Wow, was I drowning in the fallacies of the teachings and times! It hurts my heart to realize that this is where I was in those moments and it hurts my heart that the voices and experiences of life around me and led me there. However, living through these moments and questions has moved me from the ancillary to the primary in my life. As Glennon Doyle would say, this is "the pain, then the rising."
Maybe this is what fall is about.... the beautiful fury of the life's pain, that will later give way to nature's rising. Fall is the rhythm of the landscape's last move, to leap forward, as if saying, notice me, before I am no more, as she clears the way for what is to come. Kind of like the gleeful child, who has just knocked down her parents' building blocks. From the primary seat view to my life, it is "brutiful" and gorgeous to watch nature's and my transformation. May we find peace and compassion and community in each of our moments. May we grow and give gratitude to our children and God, that they are our ultimate teachers.
Melinda is a recovering "normal" seeker, who is often distracted by unexpected moments of nature's beauty or questioning children