Mere Intention

be vulnerable

Month: November, 2012

Beginning to Detect Self

Back to the fantastic book The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte. I finished the book just days before my granny got really sick and am just now making my way back to processing the information and wanting to write about it.

In the chapter The Doorless Door: Youth’s First Glimpse of the Self, Whyte writes:

“…all of us live amidst a thicket of questions forced upon us that are not our own, or at least not our own way of asking them. One of the first great steps we take in looking for a glimpse of the self depends on our ability to learn how to ask our own questions; the ones that make sense to us, no matter how simple they might seem. The first step toward the self is the step discerning what questions are our own, and what questions we have been bullied into by others seemingly taller, more adult or more educated than we are.”

I’ve been exploring this idea of asking my own questions, but it’s been hard to figure out what to ask, honestly. I’ve functioned in the mode of doing what needs to be done and making sure peace is kept, therefore not really having any of my own questions.

Whyte positions this idea as something to be explored in youth. Well, I missed the boat on that by a few decades and I think it makes the process more difficult, but I am also more confident when I find questions to ask.  Like I’ve had more time to formulate exactly what I want to ask (which may or may not be a slight perfectionist tendency).

I want to be more purposeful in asking questions that are simple. Simple, yet interesting and provocative. By trying this myself, maybe those I interact with will begin the exploration of asking their own questions. Maybe.

Exhaustion

I think that emotional exhaustion may be the hardest form of exhaustion to overcome.

Physical exhaustion – sleep and rest; mental exhaustion – check out for a bit.

Emotional exhaustion – I don’t even know where to begin looking for a filler. I’m not even sure I know how this well gets filled. I feel like I’m walking around in a haze and have very few kind words to say and very little energy to interact with any emotional stimulus – stimulus like a four year old.

I’ll start with this: An embrace. Breathing in the silence and the strength. Silence that I can rarely find. Strength that I’ve run out of. No demands or expectations. True, honest, vulnerable, undivided presence.

Granny passed on the 18th. I was back in Oklahoma for the service on the 21st. I found warm embraces before I left, waiting for me there, and more upon my return home. I need more.

And Pickles

And I’ll miss granny’s homemade sweet pickles and pickled beets and pickled onions and zucchini. Yum.

And the fish…

And I’ll miss the fish – Granny’s fried bass and catfish are basically the only fried fish worth eating, caught by her and Papa, of course. She told me how to make the batter…but I can’t get that fish to put in the batter. Damn it.

And her tomatoes and cucumbers. It took me years to figure out why Granny’s tomatoes are the best on the planet – it was because she grew them herself. I regularly rub my tomato plants on my skin when I’m in the garden because it makes me think of her. She told me a few years ago how to trellis cucumber plants – brilliant.

And Tootsie Pops. When I graduated high school she wrote a memory for my book about giving me Tootsie Pops. She included a picture of the two of us together on my swing set with a sucker in my hand. I was about three or four years old. We were beautiful together.

My Granny is Dying

The thought on the forefront of my head is just: my granny is dying.

I can hardly get another thought in edgewise, or even focus on a task without doing it through this lens. There is an ache in my chest I have never experienced. I am losing sleep because I can feel death creeping in on my family, 764 miles from me.

I lived next door to Granny and Papa my whole life. He passed five years ago new years eve. She likely won’t make it to Thanksgiving.

In August, I got to spend a day with Granny. Taking her to the beauty shop, lunch at Wendy’s, finding steals at Goodwill, watching her literally prance around with a smirk on her face while pushing her cart in Dollar General. What a crack up! I laughed so  much with her and at her that day; it was a side I’m not sure I’d ever seen. She was playful. Being a smart ass. Awesomeness abounded.

Me, Emmi, Farra, Laura, Granny

Granny and four of the five granddaughters

In October, I spent a couple hours alone with her after her banger of an 80th birthday party that the family had put together. Some people had brought gifts and cards to the party and they had been dropped off at the house. After getting settled and changed into her comfy clothes and soft socks (a time consuming feat), as we sat on the couch she turned and looked at me with this crooked smile and said, “Well! Let’s see what I got!” So we proceeded to open cards and gifts together in the quiet, too warm house.

Me in Granny's dress with photo of her

At the entrance to Granny’s 80th birthday party. I’m wearing a dress of hers from the early 70’s! She immediately noticed.

During both of these visits I recognized that my granny is now old. And there are things that happened that really showed her body flat out betraying her. I did not ignore the moments of long pause for thought, or the backtracking with shuffling feet for something forgotten in the last room we were in, or the shaky hands. I breathed them in and let them go so I could move on to the smiles and the laughs together. For the feel of her warm, soft hand on mine, the smell of her lotion, her painted fingernails, giggling on the inside at her too high elastic waist-ed therefore too short in length cotton pants.

Granny has a scent. I have no idea what it is. (Papa had one too. His still shows up around me sometimes and I love those moments.) Granny has the softest hands I’ve ever known – actually the best skin all around. One of her thumbs was smashed in a car door forever ago so the nail is a funny shape and I always look at it with it’s pretty and perfect mauve nail polish. She’s only every had brown short hair and a tight perm – for my lifetime anyway. She makes the BEST PECAN PIE IN THE WORLD. I love her sweet tea and nighty-night cookies. She is obsessive about picking up sticks and having a burn pile. She really took care of my papa (I don’t think he could have found underwear if he had to). They called each other Mom and Dad.

It hit me today that once Granny is gone, it’s over. Something is over, anyway. What happens when both grandparents are passed? No one lives in the house anymore. No one is making pie, sweet tea, nighty-nights, giving me candy orange slices or circus peanuts, no graham crackers with chocolate icing spread between them waiting in the fridge for me when I get off the school bus, no more following the vacuum hose through the house to find Granny cleaning away – vacuuming the oven, no more picking up sticks and piling them in silence, no more toothpicks, no more cracking of pecans from the yard, no more silent sitting and being filled up by the smells and love of that house. What happens now?

I moved away from that land over fifteen years ago, but I never, ever felt anything but passion and love for my grandparents, no matter how far away I’ve lived. They always provided a stability unlike anything I’ve ever experienced elsewhere. They taught me how to work hard – because it’s the right thing to do. They taught me about money and politics. They taught me about family.

Chadwell's

Granny (in the dress) and Papa in the left photo.
Their family of five in the right photo.

I don’t know what happens now.

Three daughters, three son-in-laws, eight grandkids with seven spouses, fourteen and a half great grandkids, sisters and some spouses, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews and all their kids, neighbors, friends from church – many who have been in the same Sunday school class for 55 years, beautician, mail carrier, driver’s by…what do we all do without Dennie?

I love Granny. I’ve always known she loves me. She was in the room when my son was born. We are tight. I will never know anyone like her ever again, but I sure hope I can be half the granny she’s been to me the last almost thirty three years to my children’s kids.

My heart is splitting and my eyes are dripping. My chest is so sore from the pain. I can barely breathe. Love hurts.

The Marriage of Self

NaBloPoMo #7

In a recent post I outlined the premise of the book “The Three Marriages – Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship”.

In Whyte’s description of this very private self marriage he talks about some interesting dynamics of this deeply personal relationship. This relationship with self is moving and changing and is just as hard to grasp as the outwardly focused marriages of human relationship and work, and it’s also the marriage that we lose sight of and need the most. This marriage is the foundation for all other marriages, yet in the midst of our daily/annual/decades of life we forget about it.

We can end up completely parched by giving endlessly to work and other human relationship, lacking the place to step from, and end up debilitated all together.

The farther we get from ourselves and the pursuit of this relationship, the harder it is to find our way back to it. We know that we need this connection, but we keep giving outwardly and get so turned around (facing outwardly, if you will) that in time we can’t figure out how to get back to us. We become unable and afraid to be alone. Unable to sit with ourselves because if we do we might realize that the outward energies are being spent in places we don’t actually agree with, where we aren’t really taking the best care. So we keep trudging through the motions, weighted but not knowing how to slow down or stop. Whyte says,

“…it can seem as if this internal marriage is asking for a renunciation of the outer two marriages. Feeling this can come as almost a relief, a way out, for in the name of our many responsibilities and duties, we can use it as the perfect excuse  not to look inside at all, feeling as if our outer world will fall apart if we spend any time looking for the person who exists at the intersection of all these outer commitments.”

Marriage to self is intense and intentional. To pursue the relationship takes a lot of time and even more vulnerability. It can change all other relationships, how we see the world and interact with it. It takes practice.

The practice is silence. Listening to our inner most being. Solitude. It can not be forced or willed into relationship. It’s the dirtiest, hardest, most rewarding thing we can do for ourselves.

I am on this journey now and it’s hard, but I truly believe the rest of my life deserves a good foundation of self, influencing all other paths I pursue.

When will you begin?

Damn You, Halloween Candy

That’s right, damn you.

Between the trunk-or-treat at church and the impromptu Trick-or-Treat Street at the high school before Halloween, plus the regular trick-or-treating on Mountain Avenue and another trunk-or-treat Halloween night, we have a shit-load of candy. Surprisingly (and unfortunately), it’s all pretty good, too.

After a week of two separate huge bowls of candy, one belonging to each kid, I had to have a new plan. The two gigantic bowls were staring at me constantly, just asking to be emptied – through my tummy – and I have weird sores all over my body to prove it.

This weeks step: segregate the candy.

Candy bars/M&M’s/Whoppers + sour patch kids in one container, with a lid, on top of the fridge. Hubby and I are making our way through this container.

Smarties, dumdum suckers, and sweet tarts in a jar with a lid on the counter with a sign that says, “EARN – Do chores without being asked.” A single piece has yet to leave this jar.

Bottle caps, nerds, and swedish fish in a pint jar on the top shelf of the cabinet just for me, PMS ready.

One bowl of all the other random sugar still sitting on the counter staring at me. I can’t bring myself to throw it away yet and I have no where to give it away (like an office) – nor do want to give it away. It’s crap and we shouldn’t have it in the first place. I figure the longer it sits there not being eaten the closer I’ll be to just throwing it away.

Why do we hand out candy again?

Runnin’ Runnin’

NaBloPoMo #5

The first 50 seconds of this song is how I felt for half an hour this afternoon as I supported my four year old in completing seven quarter mile laps at running club after school. Seven. 1.75 miles. Four years old. There was a prize.

She has been tracking her laps at the Monday after school club led by the elementary school PE teacher starting when coach told her that she doesn’t have to wait until kindergarten next fall to start earning feet for her necklace – initially earned after your first 25 laps. Two weeks ago she got to put her name on the kindergarten tracking list and was already up to twelve completed laps that we could remember. Last week six were completed, marked with little x’s on the chart and today was the day to hit twenty-five…

“SEVEN laps mom, then I get my foot!”

“Excellent! Let’s get to it!”

Note: I am not a runner. I am not a jogger. I’m hardly a walker. I wear Birkenstock sandals almost everyday – without socks – and really don’t care to do anything in a big yard/field behind an elementary school involving grass and my favorite open toed shoes. It’s gross and annoying.

Most other days she’s done her laps with my son and/or his friends as I sit nearby watching and waving encouragement from the sideline. Today that wasn’t working out.

Lap one – done together.

Lap two – done with a friend of Bubu’s.

Time check – two laps completed and twenty minutes left to complete five. For a four year old who doesn’t have freakishly long legs and a lengthy stride – if anything, she’s the exact opposite of that.

“Okay, Honey. Do you want to do the last five laps today and get your necklace and first foot? Or would you rather do four total today and three next week and receive the prize next week?”

“How about I do six laps today and then one next week to get my foot?”

“Helllllll no you’re not going to do all that work and have one measly lap left for next time!” was my internal dialogue. Instead of saying that to her pretty little face I told her I think she should choose four today or all seven today.

She really wanted that foot. But she couldn’t complete 1.25 miles alone on her squaty legs in eighteen minutes. Damn it. Damn it. I have a choice. Let her do what she can all by herself and not reach a goal she was really hoping to achieve today, or participate with her and help her achieve the goal. Damn it.

Off we went. Holding hands. I asked if we should sing a song – she wanted me to sing O Holy Night. While walking briskly. At 5000 feet above sea level. In the sunshine and no christmas tree in sight. I sang.

We just kept going. A little quicker each lap. The last two she made me do interval training – jogging along her while she ran until she said I could stop. In my sandals and bare toes in a field.

I was about to pee my pants and cry. I was sweating and had a runny nose. She was grinning from ear to ear…because I was there with her helping her get a necklace with a little plastic foot charm. Eff me.

This child needed a partner, an encourager, a believer. Today I chose to be that for her. The mom that may have peed her pants a little from the impact of running, the mom who’s shirt kept sliding up and exposing her tummy and boobs were painfully bouncing everywhere because she wasn’t prepared for “the work out” that her four year old needed to do with her.

During those last couple of laps, realizing that my daughter was about to achieve possibly her first EVER goal, I started smiling and wondering what else there is down this road with her that I’m going to have the opportunity to support her in, to help her achieve by just being there with her, literally by her side, not just waving from the sideline. Man. She’s going to kick my ass. And I’m going to choose to let her. Because she is my daughter and that is the mother I want to be for her.

This evening she wore her necklace with the purple foot charm during her bath and carefully moved it off her tummy while I helped her wash. She caressed the foot as I read to her and her brother before bed. “I can’t believe I earned my foot today.” spoken softly under her breath.

This is going to be way more exhausting and life giving than I ever thought imaginable, isn’t it?

Initial Thoughts on “The Three Marriages”

NaBloPoMo #4

A friend of mine recommended author and poet David Whyte to me recently. When I went to the library to find a collection of his poems I was disappointed…they had none. But, they did have two of his non-fiction writings. I chose to check out “The Three Marriages – Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship” because it sounds interesting – and has the word ‘reimagining’ in the title, a word I associate directly with my friend, Doug Pagitt.

Today I finally started reading the book. This is the first paragraph from the section of the book called The Premise:

“The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them apart against one another. We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way. These hidden human dynamics of integration are more of a conversation, more of a synthesis and more of an almost religious and sometimes  almost delirious quest for meaning than a simple attempt at daily ease and contentment.”

Wow. Finally.

Whyte goes on in the first chapter to describe what the three marriages are. The first is marriage in the sense of personal commitment to one other person (Relationship), but also sets the stage for all other commitments we make through life. The second outlined is Work and how a need for seeing our job as more than just doing it as a means to an end/just to pay the bills. The third marriage Whyte describes is Self, the non-public marriage.

I have been saying for quite a while that I think “balance” is a load of crap. Survival is more my experience. And trying to smile and be both authentic and vulnerable in the midst is what I strive for…meaning it definitely does not happen all the time.

Whyte’s way of writing is perfect for my brain. It’s conversational and poetic at the same time. These topics are thought provoking, and I look forward to seeing where he goes with all this!

…and I have to find more time to read this week.

“Mom’s Group”

NaBloPoMo #3

Yeah. Not my thing. I’m sure there is a time and place for women to gather and duke out their pregnancy/labor and delivery/mothering horror stories. I try not to participate in such things…and it is what I assume about “mom’s group” of almost every kind. Maybe that’s not fair, maybe it’s wrong. Dunno.

I was invited to go to a mom’s group last week and I went. Didn’t know anyone there – but there was free childcare for my daughter, and to be completely honest, I could use the break and she can use the social time. We show up, I check her in to class, I mosey down the hall. One of the mom’s that I’d met very briefly the prior day was waiting in the hall for me. (Okay, fine. She’s being nice.) We go into the meeting room and join five other women. Introductions, blah, blah. Cup of coffee. Then it starts.

Real-honest-conversation. Struggles. Real ones. Life is happening to these women – and they are sharing about it. The hurt and the frustration with their parents judging how they themselves parent, trying to figure out how to spend meaningful time with their spouses, true concern with appropriately parenting each of their children individually. This shit is WAY better than I expected! These women are being vulnerable with one another – with me, a newcomer! – and it’s total mom conversation, but there is no hint of one-up-ing or competition in the room. Fucking refreshing.

Two and a half hours later, it’s time to get the kiddos and head back into the real world. These ladies said this is their weekly therapy, and judging by the truths they were exposing, I believe them.

AND

and

they invited me to get together with them that evening to have some wine and chat some more while they completed their planned meal share swap. I went. More realness. More women. And they sent some of their extra food home with me.

Holy freakin’ crap. Who are these people?

(I have amazing friends, many of them mothers. I value the time we have together and the realness we share. But I know them…they are my friends. Not strangers, and none of the relationships are based on whether we’re moms or not.)