The Listening List

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

Dear Welly,

This week while we were visiting your grandparents, I took you shopping at a consignment store.

As we walked into the store, something didn’t feel quite right to me. It might have been the fluorescent lights, the rushing people, or the haphazard boxes in the corner. I saw your eyes glaze over in the way that you and I both do when we’re overwhelmed.

Still, you liked looking at some of the toys and I held out hope of finding a good deal on winter coats, so we stayed for awhile.

Then you spotted it: a rickety, rusty, old red bike that wasn’t your size. And you wanted it oh so badly. You hung all your hopes and dreams on this truly crappy old thing that must have been beautiful to you. It took you just seconds to imagine yourself racing around the neighborhood.

When I said, no, I saw your bottom lip start to shake and your body slump. I could tell, because I know you well, that this was no time to push forward with our shopping. I scooped you up, we waved goodbye to the bike, and headed to the car.

Once we were buckled in, your grandma drove and we talked about the bike. I tried to explain with endless amounts of words and reasons, why this wasn’t the bike for you. How would we get it on the airplane? I was being so logical and hoped you would think so too.

I want a red bike, your voice quivered. Over and over, no matter what I said.

I started to tense up in the way I sometimes do when I can’t fix things for you.

My jaw clenched tight as though I could squeeze hard enough to hold back the hurt for both of us. I was uncomfortable and I had conflicting voices running through my head about how I should handle this.

Empathize and move on, one voice said.

He needs to be grateful for the tricycle he already has, said another.

And the worst enemy of all parents, the voice of self-criticism said: you’re not handling this well and he will be damaged.

All of these voices took my focus away from you.

Then something kind of miraculous happened. I stopped listening to the voices and just noticed them. I also noticed the discomfort in my body and that’s when things started to shift and I was able to really hear you.

You really loved that red bike, I said. You paused and looked up with big eyes so I continued:

You were really hoping to bring it home. You must have been so disappointed when I said no. You nodded.

I don’t know when, but someday we’ll get you a bike. Would you like to tell me about the kind of bike you want and I’ll make a list so we don’t forget?

All of the sudden your body relaxed. You knew you were going to be heard. Instead of frantically repeating your requests while I talked over you, you were able to articulate your wants and set them free.

And just because it’s so adorable, here is the list:

1) I want a red bike.

2) I want it to be huge.

3) I want it to look like Abraham’s but he has a black seat so I want a red one.

4) I want training wheels in the back so it doesn’t tip over.

5) Actually I want training wheels in the front too so that I can go really fast without tipping over.

Oh my sweet, driven little boy. I’m really really glad that you know how to assert yourself boldly and be clear about what you want. These are skills I’m just now learning as an adult.

It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but it means you believe in your own worthiness enough to ask. Chances are, it means you’ll respect others when they ask for things too. That is my prayer anyways.

Keep asking my love, I promise I’m learning how to handle it!

A Quick Hello and Some Thoughts About What We Love

Hello Everyone! Apologies for posting this half finished this morning!

I haven’t been online much lately for two reasons:

1) I’m visiting my parents in another state and helping my kids adjust to being away from home and their Dad. Wow, babies really feel the lack of routine and familiarity. I guess I do as well.

2) My heart has been pondering a lot of things that I haven’t found words for yet.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching my kids and play and noticing how they are entirely driven by the things that they love.

I’ve talked to Dr. G some about how growth comes from pursuing what we love rather than seeking approval.

Here is what I remember loving as a child:

Mud, flowers, poems, history, stories about wilderness survival, stories from my parents childhood, picking things from the garden, climbing trees, creeks and rivers, books, hunting for seashells and rocks.

Here is what I notice Welly loving right now:

Wheels, equipment and tools, word play, silly books like Dr. Seuss, telling stories about his day, finding hideouts, climbing and hanging.

Pearl is still so little but here is what she loves as best I can tell:

Gentle swaying, squatting while pulling herself up, fingers in dirt, leaves in her mouth, things that clink together or crinkle, snuggling faces together.

What did you love as a child?

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Credit for putting this quote online in this particular format: Sun Gazing Facebook Group.

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Friday Confessions

Today we went out for breakfast and I let my baby crawl all over the dirty floors.

As we were leaving, I realized we had left a huge chunk of food sitting on the table. This is the type of place where you clear your own table. The trash can was across the room so I glanced around, grabbed it and shoved it into my jeans pocket. Squishy pork hash.

Pearl was eating egg yolk and then decided she wanted to nurse so she lunged toward my breast. I have a mouth shaped, egg yolk ring on my shirt now and I probably won’t change.

Oh but we the best time!

Ok, what do you have to confess today?

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Honey Bee and the Window

I’m sitting here in my living room nursing Baby Girl to sleep and feeling sorry for the poor little bee trapped in our house.

She is buzzing and buzzing against the same place on the window, and getting herself all banged up in the process.

Meanwhile, just two feet away is the open window where she entered. She’s been trapped too long already to remember how she got here.

Dear little bee, I get it, I really do. You’re too busy fighting and you’re wearing yourself out in the wrong places. I know you can see the trees through that glass, but that’s not the same thing as a way out.

I know when you feel stuck, it’s easy to just keep flying; faster, harder, until you’re too tired from beating your wings against your own reflection.

You can fight it all day but you won’t be free.

Stop and take a look around. The answer might be closer than you think.

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Tomato Dreams & Imperfection

One day, I sit in my yard and whisper a prayer, half heartedly and without direction. It’s just me and the tomatoes out there, green from a mid summer cold spell, and struggling to grow through the windy tangle of morning glory weeds.

I think I’m ready for something outside of my kids, I say. What could that be?

I move on, step inside to make dinner, and for once instead of spinning my wish around in my head I let it rest. Meanwhile there is plenty of work right in front of me. The endless chopping of vegetables in hopes they will reach the little tummies they’re meant for, the sitting on the floor, watching toy trains.

Days later I duck into the bathroom and sit on the cold tile and start typing words on my iphone. When I finish, my thumbs are cramped and my husband is calling for me. An hour has passed without notice.

My three year old pauses his dinner spoon in mid air, bursting with his own story of how he has been looking and looking for me. To him, when I’m in the bathroom with the door shut, I may as well be dancing on Venus. I’m that unreachable. I rumple his hair and then swoop in to scoop up the baby just as she tries for the millionth time to eat fuzz balls from our furry rug for dinner. Note to self: buy a vacuum.

I wrote something about us, I say to my husband who is busy with the last little dinner tasks (potholders, napkins, one ice cube or two).

Once the kids are tucked in bed and the baby monitor buzz buzzes fuzzy white noise from the bedroom, I sweep the kitchen and he reads what I wrote.  You have to post this, he says when he’s done. It’s for everyone, not just me and you.

Feeling brave and tired, I go ahead and post it.  Mentally, I calculate my vulnerability level, thinking that my post might be read by forty of my friends with time on their hands. Then I watch stunned, for days and days, as my words keep spreading over the internet.

People comment about their own experiences with love and I read each comment like a gift: words about long and faithful marriages, about short and regretful ones, about time wasted, loved ones lost, running away, hoping to meet the right one. Each one blesses me in it’s honesty.

I tumble for awhile in the self doubt that inevitably follows huge doses of praise. Some people become regular followers of my blog and I panic, realizing that means they’re expecting me to write words again someday. Preferably words that don’t suck. I think of my readers and ask the same, age old new relationship question: now that I’ve got you here, what will make you stay?

I’m terrified they’ll realize that I never learned how to use punctuation properly, that I’m really just another mom blogger, that I don’t know what to write about next and don’t know how to find the time.

But day after day as the numbers climb, I’m brought back down to earth. People begin stopping me in town to share their own vulnerable places. They say: you’re not alone, or, thank you, I thought I was the only one.

My kids aren’t impressed with my stats and still need me to stay present in the moment. I walk in the grass, I turn off my phone. I turn it on again just for a little peek. I change a few diapers. I whisper the number of page views to a few close friends and we laugh. I write to a successful blogger friend and she talks me down a little bit, commiserating about how wonderful and terrifying it all is.

Eventually something shifts in me. I remember why I love writing so much and I feel the spark in my heart that means I’ve really hit on something.

Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,”  and I suppose that’s really great advice, him being Thoreau and all.  I’m almost positive I had that hanging in my locker in middle school because it’s so inspiring.

And sometimes you can take a good hard look at your dreams and go confidently in their direction. Sometimes you have to! Other times (like me, barefoot and praying in the garden) you’ve lost your sense of direction, you don’t have a map, and you’ve forgotten how to dream in the first place.  At that point you better hold on tight, because your dreams might start chasing after you instead.

What I’ve learned this summer is that you can wait all your life trying to get things right, or find something that seems worthy enough to show the world. In the end, it’s your struggles and imperfections that are the real story you need to tell. When brought into the light, they are transformed.

You realize that in the midst of your daily living, being lost and found a million times, losing your breath and catching it again, you have already turned into something beautiful. The only thing left to do is keep hitting publish.

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