I even have a superstition that has grown on me
as the result of invisible hands
coming all the time..
Namely, that if you follow your bliss
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while,
waiting for you.
And the life that you ought to be living,
is the one you ARE living.
-joseph campbell

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaving With the Band

When I was a child, growing up in the ever so interesting 60s and 70s, when "family" was being redefined and parenting was starting to be seen as something more than just providing food and shelter to the miniature people living in the home, luck or fate landed me in a nice place to grow up. I was given the things I needed so I had time to think about the things I think about even now.

My parents' goal for my brother and I was for us to be "well rounded" children. I remember how very proud my mother was the day I showed her my 4th Grade report card. I do not remember the grades I made, but I remember how my teacher had written, in her perfect and beautiful handwriting, "Sherri is a well-rounded little girl, a pleasure to have in the classroom". My mother had succeeded. I was rounding out quite nicely.

When I inquired of my mother what in the world it meant to be well-rounded and why such a trait was so desired, she explained how a well-rounded person was able to do many things. In that time, some value must have been seen in the ability to enter into most any activity at a beginner level. Being well rounded on my report card meant, at least to my mother, I not only completd math problems on the blackboard, spelled the bonus words on my spelling tests, and wrute about my summer in three or more paragraphs, but I was also able to join most any group of players on the playground and not be chosen last when kick ball teams were picked. I jumped rope and took ballet lessons. I wanted a pony, even though I knew I would never have one, and I read Little Women and took art lessons. At the tender age of 10, I had dipped my fingers in many acceptable pies.

But in my heart, I already knew I owned none of them.

As part of my parents crusade to round out my brother and I, there were several years when we were one of the families in town with season tickets to the "Community Concerts". I'm not sure if such a thing still exists, but Community Concerts offered a variety of live performances by way of traveling shows who came to small towns where theatre and symphony were not everyday fare, but where parents desired to begin to enlighten themselves and their children together.

Community Concerts were on Tuesday nights. My mind has held on to the smallest of details like this. This schedule meant I had to hurry home from my piano lesson and hurry out to the high school auditorium where the performances took place, the best facility our town had to offer. I don't remember ever knowing ahead of time what I would be seeing or hearing.

But I remember dreading each performance with a fear and anxiety as heavy as an albatross around my neck. I dragged my feet to our seats and kept my eyes down, while my parents were trying to catch my eye to give me the "look" to reminded me how fortunate I was to be among the members of the community having this chance to be exposed to higher thinking, to music, to art.

I hated Community Concerts with such a passion that almost 45 years later I can conjure up the feeling enough to feel my palms start to sweat a little. I hated them and dreaded them. But not for the reason you might think.

Maybe you will be surprised. Or maybe you will not.

I sat through years of "Community Concert" performances with my head down, staring at my hands, and fighting back tears. I remember pianists and soloists, quartets, sopranos, folk singers and more. While I appeared not to be engaged, I actually saw everything and heard everything. And what I didn't know I created. I gave them a life that filled in the blanks that the stage did not answer for me. And in the final moments, where the small town crowd, feeling somewhat high on enlightenment, stood for a rousing ovation and refused to sit down until the encore came, I stood too, beaming by then, and stretching on my tip toes, reaching from my heart, silently praying, "See me.....pick me....take me".

It was agony, you see, for me to endure such a magical show and then have it end. I knew I would return to my ordinary life and the performers would move on to another town of faces they would not remember. I did not want to be one of the watchers. I wanted to be part of what happened up on the stage. I wanted to be part of whatever it was that moved people and made them hunger for more. And it was so incredibly painful for me to experience these great performances and then have to just go home that I came to dread and to despise sitting through them.

My father once asked me why I never seemed to want to go to the shows. And I answered him honestly. I said, "Because I want to leave with the band". He left it at that. Either because he understood. Or because, as a pre-adolescent first daughter, I was a mystery enough without opening more cans of worms.

Over my life, I've lost the ability to recall the specific artists I saw on the Community Concert tours. But I still recall the feeling much more often than I have time for in my ordinarily busy life. It will catch me off guard and make me feel out of sorts and frustrated. I still want to "leave with the band". I still want to be part of a group of people making a difference in the world. And as long as I have my memories I will not stop visualizing a small girl stepping out of the audience and walking toward the lights, stepping out of the ordinary and into the arena where anything is possible.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not Your Usual Energy Crisis

It seems we are living in a sort of climate unlike anything I've known before. Somehow, we are creating huge amounts of energy without the proper control structures in place.

Now you should never doubt that my husband and I love the exuberance of childhood. We love the giggling and games, the free spirited life of children who do not have to live by a clock. We admire their ability to live in the moment and not worry about what has been or what will come. And additionally not worrying about who will come behind and clean up all the fun that was had in that moment. We adore childhood. We have arranged our life and chosen the road less traveled just so we could remain, for a time longer, blessed by the presence of small children in our home.

But somewhere along the way the energy here changed. Maybe it's just for a day. Maybe someone is going through a stage or someone is being triggered by the change in the weather. There are many possible explanations, but non of them satisfy my need to understand the less than friendly spirits that have moved into my home.

We seem to have energy with no rules. Whirling Dervish comes to mind. The Dervish is a mystical dancer that stands between the material and cosmic worlds. But even his dance has a precise and structured rhythm and movement. So I will have to describe our girls' energy as whirling. Whirling is not be confused with "twirling" which conjures up images of angelic beings in pink tutus moving gracefully to classical music.

We are Chaos. We are the kind of energy that moves without reason and without direction, destroying anything in it's path. Our energy causes shoes to fly over the banister from upstairs and trash cans to overturn. It causes bathrooms to flood and oatmeal to find it's way to the ceiling.

There is a line in the sand where a home that rocks with the energy of happy, healthy children becomes something else, something sinister perhaps. And lately I feel like we have crossed that line.

The difference, I believe, is that our energy became Frantic. Frantic is the child who lies with her back over the sofa and kicks the window blinds incessantly. Frantic is the child who cries for an hour because she does know which coloring book to choose. Frantic is a child coming close to losing consciousness because she has to drink juice from a blue cup, which was her favorite color yesterday. Frantic is seen in the primitive play of children who only dump boxes of toys out and then show no interest in them. Frantic is the parent, always a step behind, performing damage control and waste transfer while disasters are occurring around the next corner.

Frantic children want their parents to be in their world. They show how much they want their parents near by climbing on them, shouting their names, and offering hugs with such force the adults are brought to their knees. I once may have thought these actions were something like love, but now I believe they are propelled by not love, but fear.

And fear is probably the key to understanding the dynamic of our not quite normal life. In any description of childhood play and joy, including my own, there is an assumption that children live and play in the moment, without a care or worry. But what happens if they don't live that way. What if their brains carry in entirely different map of the world?

What happens when a child
does worry about their future because they remember a past that was remarkably different from their present life? What does energy look like when a child knows they were once irrefutably alone and helpless. What energy is given off by a child who has lost more in two years than most of us will lose in a lifetime? What sort of activities feel good to a child who knows at a cellular level that people go away and everything changes and the child has absolutely no control over anything.

I would guess that these child feel better when moving. Being still might mean being less alert. Being loud and moving in big ways helps make sure no one loses sight of them. "Look at me...... I am here.....Don't leave without me". Attention, any attention validates to a child that they are real and they are worth the time we spend with them. Even if we are telling them to be quiet or calm down.

Children who are sitting on your head, stomping on your toes, or dragging you by the arm are difficult to ignore, much less abandon. Children on high alert are more likely to survive. And being on high alert is a frantic kind of energy that exhausts the caregivers and keeps the child in a state of irritable agitation. It is hard to create relationships...... to learn..... to grow when the air around us is charged with such frantic energy. The days become hours to be survived. The nights become our only restful salvation. The home becomes a prison because we dare not venture out with such high anxiety pulsing through our veins.

And what could pass for
play in an ordinary world is actually a battle between physics and psychology, and relaxing is a skill hidden in the brain's darkest corner. We are different than we seem, even to ourselves.

I wonder about other families, families like ours. I wonder about families who might sit down to breakfast with matching placemats and eat without incident, without blood curdling screams over spoon color, without vulture sister eyeballing everyone's plate, and all of us being one snap, crackle, pop away from a nervous breakdown. I want to know these families. I want to learn from them. At the same time, part of me hopes they do not exist because their reality will knock me further from the normality to which I aspire.

I am not despairing, simply processing. I want to understand and I want to improve. More than anything, I wish for a Peaceful Home. For my children I pray peaceful hearts. In the meantime, I practice patience, I strive to harness the energy and direct it toward something rewarding. And I try, all day and night, to help my children feel safe and loved, and to make their life feel permanent and unchanging.

I believe this is our journey. Where are you on the journey? What kind of energy do you see in your home? How are you moving forward? I'd love to know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Job Envy

It started just before we traveled to bring Cami home in August 2007. And it is oddly connected to the theme of my blog, which is naturally, the theme of my life.

Suddenly everyone around me had a most fascinating job. Everyone. I was drawn to conversations people were having about their work. I eavesdropped when strangers complained about their hours, boss, or salary. Stranger still, I began to compulsively imagine what it would be like if "I" traded places and did the job of most everyone I met.

This sort of thing can keep a person's mind very busy.

Some of my favorite fantasy jobs over the past two years include the cashier at Walgreens, the receptionist at the doctor's office, and the clerk at the post office. I guess I was still firmly rooted in reality because I never cared to imagine what it would be like to work as the craniofacial neurosurgeon who repaired Cami's cleft palate!!!! But the woman who was mopping the hall? I created an entire life story for her, and I enjoyed her job.

I've been a mom at home raising my children since 1986. Some might say my excessive fantasies about working outside of the home could be a type of mid-life crisis. I agree that the sudden onset of symptoms just as I was about to begin again to be the mother of a toddler support the theory that I was day dreaming about the roads unchosen, the careers I would really not be able to have now. Maybe I needed to work through this truth and come to terms with the final direction my life was taking. And I do say "final" with a smile because I've learned that just when I expect it the least, my direction changes.

I enjoyed all the comments left following my first post. You, my friends that posted or signed up to follow this blog, are the very first to be here, you are seeing this blog journey from it's birth. Lucky for me, you are all people with whom I feel immensely comfortable baring my soul. And my hope is that you will continue to respond and share your reactions and thoughts. I have a feeling that you, my readers, are some of the Invisible Hands holding up this life!

In my previous post I confessed how I never felt like I was doing "enough" no matter how full my days. I did not mean to imply we were heading into another adoption. I was trying to sort out my feelings of needing to know what MY exact JOB is!!!! So many days I don't sit down for hours, I don't have many thoughts that are without interruption, I rarely talk with other adults, and I eat most of the time standing up. I'm tired, overworked, underpaid, and I love it. Right now I can only hope that from the view on another plane, I actually to HAVE A JOB. Maybe I just can't see it from here. Maybe I'm too close to see clearly what I am doing and why.

It's funny that I long to be influential, kind to people who need kindness, helpful to those who are struggling, and a teacher to people who have something they are trying to learn. It's funny because that describes exactly the skills required for the way I spend my days! Whatever job I fantasize about has elements that I am already using every day.

Maybe I long for the recognition, the "job well done" pat on the back, the adoring audience that I imagine people in the real workforce are surrounded by. I admit I wear my rose colored glasses when I imagine the jobs of the world, but I figure since it's my fantasy I can take that liberty.

Now I've decided that I do have parts of all the jobs I imagine enjoying. I need to keep as organized as any cashier, as kind toward each request as the nicest of receptionists, and as calm and promising as any teacher who believes wholeheartedly in her students.

I am already all of the things I want to be.

Now I will watch for signs of the other jobs for which I'm being prepared. As usual, there is likely more happening here than I can fully understand. What about your job? What do you think it is, really????