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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

on my birthday

As I wake in the black dark of 4 A.M. on my 37th birthday, I am struck with a brilliant clarity that I will struggle to organize in some coherent way before I hear little feet thumping overhead.

In my early days as a mom, and even still sometimes, I often felt caught off guard that I actually was a mom.  I would be in the bathroom stall and Target and one of my girls say, "Mom?" and then tell me a story or ask me a wildly inappropriate question in the polite silence of the public restroom.  I would be initially baffled, thinking how did I become someone's mother?  How is it that I am responsible for the safety, shaping and care of two individuals other than myself?

Sometimes I would have to talk myself out of calling Sandi and saying, "You really should come pick these kids up right away.  I'm not sure I know how to do this."

In her book, Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser talks about the phoenix process which is an idea of personal transformation based on the mythical phoenix bird: the old burns and from the ashes the new emerges.  It can be used to describe many aspects of living.  Lesser talks about how parenting itself is the ultimate phoenix process wherein your heart is continually broken open and new ways of living and loving pour in. 

As I wake up this morning, I sit with tender acceptance of my life being one big phoenix process with parenting being at the very center.

I think I came into the world a naturally happy person but life made its mark on me very early on.  I have spent much of my adulthood trying to negotiate the joyful nature of my being with the scars that I carry.  From day to day, I don't know how to be loyal to each without feeling ripped down the middle.  It probably sounds ridiculous to be loyal to suffering, but if you have ever suffered, you will know what I mean.  It is sort of like being devoted to your family even though they might make you crazy.

Often lately I stand squarely in the middle of my life, my heart open and unguarded, and I am utterly overwhelmed at the arresting beauty and the exquisite pain of being alive and loving other people.  I can see how I have built protective walls around myself to live, but remain slightly apart from, the deepest connections in this life.  I ache for all that I have missed while I've been busy guarding my heart: all the moments I didn't fully take in because my mind was on the future or my body was rushing around.  I grieve for all I missed, even though I was right there, of the girls' youngest years because I was so afraid of being their mom and getting it wrong.  I was unnerved by the deep and abiding love I had for them that made me feel weak and vulnerable. 

It is hard for me to accept how many times in my life the scars of my old hurts have been the lense through which I have looked.  Missing moments of connection by instead feeling isolation or exclusion have marked far too many of my close relationships.  It is as if I was unwittingly wearing an old pair of filthy glasses that made it impossible for me to see clearly.

This past year has been one of the most transformative of my life.   I have taken off the old glasses.  I have learned how to value the weight of what is in my heart, rather than the weight on the scale.  I have begun to accept the rawness of living a whole life and step into the bare spots where pain is present, rather than trying to circumvent it. I have begun to listen to myself and regard my own wisdom and knowing.

This year I have woken up to myself.  I have come home to myself.   And in so doing, I have arrived more fully in my life and in all my relationships.

I look at my children, the very ones I am not always sure I deserve, and remind myself that the most important thing I can do is love them.  I don't have to have the right parenting strategies or always feed them perfectly. I have to simply remain open and incredibly brave as I let the process of loving them smooth away my rough edges the way the tumbling tide makes sea glass out of broken shards. 

I can fully open my heart to my family and the experience of being alive even though I cannot control the unfolding of any of it.  I will grow old and die. My children will grow up and move on.  I will lose people I love.  My body will change.  These are not maybes they are certainties.  It is time to accept this and get in the ring anyway. 

I am grateful to be 37 today.  I am grateful to be a mom and to have been broken open by it. I am filled to overflowing with the love I have with Sandi and the amazing life we have created together.  I am forever changed by so many of the people I love and who love me.  Life is hard, painful, frightening.  It is also staggeringly beautiful, perfectly balanced and miraculous.  I finally understand this and no longer pretend it is different.

I don't want to waste one more precious second of this life worried about what I look like, how accomplished I am or what others think of me.  I want to stand with arms wide, my heart open and allow life to wash over me.

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