Friday, March 28, 2014

Become like a child

We had the conversation the other day.

I looked up at the calendar in the kitchen and realized--then said casually out loud--oh, it’s the second anniversary of Buster going to heaven.

What’s heaven, Mama?

Looking at her little face, I found myself confronted with one of the most interesting little perplexed looks I’ve seen on her in awhile.  She wanted to know.  She was determined to know. I wasn’t sure I could do this, but took a deep breath and dived right in:

It’s where Buster is now, enjoying lots of snacks and playing with squirrels, I said.

So they have lots of treats for doggies?

Yes, Isabella.

And cupcakes?

Yes, probably.

And flowers? And houses with front and back porches?

Yes, all kinds of beautiful things, Isabella.

A pause.  Can we go there?

Well, no, not for a long time, I think. And it’s very far away.

Can we go there by plane?

No, Isabella, no, it’s too far for that! And you can only go there one time--you can’t come back. (I was already laughing a little inside, and at this point I was just outright giggling.)

This was cause for another little break in her curly head.  You can’t come back?  Why?

At this point I explained to her with an idea we’ve been batting about.  How she sometimes misses our old place, or her daycare giver Julia’s old house.  She said, yes, sometimes.  Well, I said, our new place and Ms. Julia’s new place are pretty cool, right?  You like them, right?

Yes, Mama.

Well, heaven will be like what we love about the new place; we’ll miss the old one a little, but we really enjoy the new.  It’s a good place to be, right?

She seemed happy with this, to some degree, and we went though it all over again when Papa came home and asked her about her day and she created a flurry flood of explanation about cupcakes and treats and houses with front and back porches and lots of squirrels for Buster. Which made us tear up a bit. And made me think of our lost little one, and all those we have lost over the years, souls we miss.  I wanted to be more child-like, like her, and realized I was, to some degree. Because I do believe, maybe not with the same readiness of a child, and I am inquisitive, always. I’ll keep striving, I guess, even if my metaphors are on crooked and chaos reigns (and it always does).

Blessed are the pure of heart. They remind us where we came from, and where we’re headed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ashes and Anger, Play and the Pure of Heart

How can I find calm in the midst of trying to do everything at once? On any given day to clean out dishwasher while eating breakfast, then go work out, go to appointments for myself and Isabella, manage tantrums, make lunch, grade papers, bake cookies, make dinner, give bath, read bedtime books, prepare writing workshops and class discussion, prepare bags for the next morning....and on and on, in a cycle, with little to no appreciation but a paycheck (which is nice, and pays the bills, but doesn’t fill my soul so much as deplete it when rote).

Maybe there’s something to be said for the humility needed to complete such days that turn into weeks. This level of humility tempters. Nonetheless, somewhere in the midst of making all these decisions and accomplishing all these goals there needs to be time to will the one thing. Time for a little refill.

So this year it’s fasting from anger: taking a step back when my three-year-old drops and mashes Playdoh in weird places or writes on the walls or doesn’t listen the second, third...fourth time I call for her or ask her to do something. For that matter, when I do the same with my students: inner fury at repeating my instructions endlessly, answering trite questions, or dealing with whining. Or fuming at myself, my failings. Impatience is a weird thing.

There’s anger at things not being where you expect them to be, at people cutting you off on the road and in conversation, at life upending and making a mess on the floor.

The ultimate challenge for me this time around, this season of my life, when I have become old and see it in my hands, feel it in my joints, hear about it from my doctors, is to remain cool in the face of the mess. When being old makes me crotchety or quick to complain, allowing jadedness to set in and old jealousies to fester, it’s time to get a soul-lift, not a face-lift or lipo. For this I know contemplation is the answer: to set time apart and away from psychological and physical excess.

But maybe I am not too old to see child-like joy, to appreciate squeals of laughter, to see the good in the bad and the good equally, if not quickly. Maybe not be too quick to dismiss the loud and messy in my life, and pray for the ability to see past the chaos toward calm. I know I can’t nix the anger completely from my life, but I can step away, simplify instead of seeking to do everything at once, letting go the unnecessary. Seeking instead play in its purest form: bon temps, my Mardi Gras friends, indeed. May it be a good time.