a lesson learned
oh, he’s figured it out. he’s strapped on the skates, found his place on the ice, cut a few circles. sure, he wobbles a bit, every once in a while, but then he steadies himself. stands up tall. takes a breath, keeps gliding. around and around, he goes.
all of a sudden, like all the molecules just zapped into a line, one day he climbed on the couch with a very fat book, a book about something he loves dearly and deeply of late–a book about football, for crying out loud–and he started to plow.
one foot in front of the other, not so teetering. sound upon sound, syllable upon syllable.
but wait, this isn’t about a boy learning to read. this is about a mama learning to trust. learning to keep hold of faith. a mama believing, remembering, chill winds do pass. do blow through the trees. rustle the leaves. but then, calm comes.
the whistling through cracks in the windows, it stops.
all is well again.
not so many months ago i was worried. i saw a boy and a book and they were not getting along. the words on the page were scattered, like so many leaves on the lawn in november. they didn’t make sense. didn’t line up. the poor child was drowning, and i knew it. his teacher just told us, week before last, that many a day he was thisclose to tears. just barely keeping afloat.
she hadn’t told us till now, she said in a way that might be due to the fact that she herself is a mother, because it would have been rather too painful. devastating, was the word that she used. and i gulped when i heard it, even after the fact.
but back when it was, i didn’t need to be told. i knew. and i worried. and i leapt ahead in the story. looked back, too, tried to think what i might have done to lock up his brain. looked down the road, saw a kid hobbling. saw a kid who might stay behind. might never catch up. i pictured it all.
but i forgot to hold onto the one thing that’s certain to save me, every time: faith.
and i don’t mean faith as in the core of religion. i mean faith in the ebb and the flow of plain living. faith in the power of time to untangle the knots. faith that the wrinkles, the ones that matter at least, stand a rather good chance of unwrinkling. or at least being smoothed by the ticking of time.
but i’d dropped hold of that knowing. i succumbed to the worry that knows me too well.
how many times, i wonder, do i have to ride on those tracks? think, oh my God, we are going to crash. close my eyes. picture the scene. picture the carnage, the blood and the spill.
how many times do i have to go off the cliff, over the edge, worry and worry and worry some more?
think: we are so doomed.
before, suddenly, out of the blue, the calm comes. the worry is ended. fog lifts. problem resolved.
seems to me parenthood–or simply being one who keeps track of the flowing of time, the turning of pages as story grabs hold of your throat, suspends all else, as you wait for the part where resolution undoes the knots–seems to me it’s a lifelong curriculum in practicing faith.
the compendium of worries will push you over the edge, early on, if you let it.
in my own personal cliff-dangling, there have been these now-laughable crises: the ultrasound that convinced me my baby did not have a brain (quick weekend call to a radiologist friend took care of that one), the fear that the lack of enough fat in my prenatal diet might have created a rare and unprecedented vitamin K deficiency (couldn’t even find a name for it, but i pieced together my theory through some rather intense reading, and that was back in the day before google could ride to the rescue).
you get the point.
but it didn’t stop with the birthing. oh, no.
mind if i tick off another? then i promise, i’ll stop.
whenever i strapped on the snugli, that soft-cloth contraption that allows you to basically wear your new baby, i was certain i’d fall down the stairs, or, worse, go splat on the curb of the sidewalk. either way, the baby hit first. and so would his soft little head.
sometimes i lurched, grabbed for the rail, as if the tumbling had already started.
but somehow, it didn’t keep me from walking. didn’t convince me to take to a chair and wait for the poor child to grow.
no, despite the rather overwhelming collection of bizarre brain waves that slither and slosh through my head, i am armed with a good dose of invincible faith in the pure act of living.
i keep breathing. keep lifting one foot, putting it down in front of the other.
of course, some days my knuckles are white. some days my belly is flopping. some days the stuff in my head is enough to stop all the presses, make it onto CNN’s five minutes of news you should know.
but then i take the next breath. then i take one step at a time. i wrestle my fears to the ground.
or, back to the case of the boy up above, the boy who was lost in a forest of letters and sounds, i simply pick up a book and a word ring–that is the teacher’s invention of every word a first grader should know, printed on cards, cut out, and slipped on a ring i could recite in impeccable order for all the times that i’ve flipped it of late, all the times i’ve sat at the table, on the edge of the bed, or the side of the tub, practicing, practicing, making the words make some sense.
and then i get back to the business of believing. it’s a lesson i’ve learned again and again. there are storms and they’ll pass, or they won’t. and worrying won’t dull the harsh winds.
a baby will crawl. a baby will walk. a pencil, some day, will be used to make letters, and not just to scribble what looks like a wasps’ nest. 2 + 2 will = 4. even the word lackadaisical will spill from a little boy’s lips. (i heard it this week.)
so why is it then, that in the moment of pure and utter suspense, i, like others i know, turn not to trust but to worry.
when will the switch go on in our own little heads, remind us again and again, to take a deep breath and believe.
life is, at its highest frequencies, crisis and crisis resolving. there is bad news. followed by news of cleaning up messes. putting out fires. getting back to the business of living.
look to the ocean for clues. waves come and they come and they come. look to sky. storm turns to rainbow. night to day. winter to spring.
all around, it appears, the world is trying to teach us, to teach me, at least: that that ices your belly, that that keeps you awake, it will, most of the time, move along. it will pass.
children will read. friends will be found. the girl who is being rather a drama queen, will give way to the one who is blushing, who is sending a message, in capital letters, that maybe she thinks your firstborn is smart. and rather delightfully funny.
the long faces there at the table, will erupt once again in pure laughter. the saturday nights won’t be empty forever.
it’s an act of pure faith, yes indeed. but sometimes it takes rote recitation: i believe, i believe, i believe.
and next time you catch me twitching and writhing in worry, just tap me soft on the shoulder. remind me the words of my father: this too shall pass.
oh, and remind me to breathe while you’re at it.
it’s hard to believe if you’re blue in the face. believe me.
all right, wise people, what worries have you put to rest in your time on this planet? maybe you’re not so inclined to worry at all. maybe you’re blessed with that worry-free gene. i’m not. and my life, it seems, is an exercise in learning to tuck it off in a corner. to keep it contained in a rather small box, if it refuses to leave altogether. how have you learned when to fret and when to let go? or if you’re the worry-free sort, would you mind spilling your secret?
totally changing the subject, i need to take a moment here to honor a friend who is making a rather brave move. she is a friend who oozes creativity and wisdom. her name is sandra, and i have spoken before of her here. i call her the midwife of pull up a chair. she is, as of today, launching a life of self-sustained creativity. she has been a shopkeeper for a very long time, finding one-of-a-kind, last-forever toys and books, and, recently, scandinavian marvels. now she will be making her own beautiful things, selling them from her etsy shop. she has a beautiful blog, called bricolagelife. bricolage means to make from what you have. my friend sandra makes beauty wherever she goes. keep an eye on her shop. you will find beautiful things there. i send you off, sweet sandra, onto your voyage with the brightest of lights in the window. and i thank you for all that you are.