Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Wherever You Go...

Go with all of your heart.” This was the message on my Yogi teabag the other day. It was delivered at just the right moment as I was debating whether to go to a yoga class or stay home and work. Yoga won out, but the teabag got me thinking. So often my heart is not fully in the place where I am.
            This brings me back to raising kids, years of so much turmoil, imbalance, struggle, and love. I love my kids more than anything in the world, and yet when they were little and all three were in my care each day there were many moments when I wished I could have been somewhere else. I look back on those days now and wonder why I was so conflicted. Why couldn’t I just have appreciated the time and place for what it was and been there with my whole heart?
Well, the fact is there were other things I wanted to be doing (like writing), and it would have been great to have had a lot more solitude (a rarity when you’re raising youngsters). But when I did have to part with them for an afternoon or day, I often missed them. I wanted to be here and there at once. My heart wasn’t really where I was at all.
But it’s not just about kids, it can happen anytime. Every moment is a choice to do or go somewhere…to stay and rest or to move and go. To play or to work. To sleep or to exercise. Most of the time we’re happy with our decisions; we enjoy what we’re doing and move on. But too many times we struggle and doubt our choices. “I should have…could have…would have…” is a mantra I hear (and say) all too often.
This summer, I spent a number of afternoons at our town pool with a friend who has recently retired. Frankly, I had a lot of other things I would have preferred doing on these days; I have a busy life filled with family, yoga, writing, and various pursuits. My friend, on the other hand, is single and without kids; with no work or family, her days belong to her alone. Often, she’d ask me to meet her at the pool. When I did, my heart often longed to be elsewhere. But when I declined, I would think of her sitting there alone, listening to the giggles of the children in the water, and looking up at the blue sky. Then, I would longingly wish I had joined her!
Everything is a choice, a choice that we own. The message on the teabag spoke so clearly to me about what I’ve been struggling with forever; to be happy with each choice, and to go there with my whole heart, whatever the choice is. The familiar saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” The corollary of that should be “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.”
Whatever the case, I’m glad I chose to have a cup of tea that morning, instead of my usual decaf coffee. Indeed, I sipped it happily while I pondered the teabag's message... with all of my heart.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stand on Tippy-Toes...

When I was a kid, we used to sing a cute little song: “Bend and stretch, reach for the sky, stand on tippy-toes, oh so high!” Actually, it was a tune they sang on Romper Room—a show that children used to watch pre-Sesame Street. For some weird reason, these flowers reminded me of the show and that tune…reaching with such confidence and exuberance for the stars, for the sky, for the absolute zenith of flower-dom.
            I broach this topic today because my youngest son has graduated college and is about to set out on his journey in the music field. As his mom, do I now tell him the grim truth, or the Romper Room version--the stark reality, or the flowers reaching to the sun story? Or the third option; a combination of the two?
Had anyone told me years and years ago how hard it would have been to become a writer, perhaps I wouldn’t have traveled this route. And I’m quite certain, had my husband (a classical clarinetist) listened to the naysayers he never would have succeeded in his profession. He started out playing for quarters on the sidewalks of New York; I started out at a trade magazine (after a stint on a community newspaper) writing about the enlightening subject of paint (as in house paint). I was determined to write…and so I doggedly pursued my dream (as did my husband, who successfully segued from sidewalk to orchestra pit).
            Decades and many, many pages later I’m still on my path and thankfully have found ways to write about topics that interest me a lot more than what’s hot in house paint. I reached for my sky, and I’ve never regretted trying.
It would have been regrettable if my parents had sat me down and told me that I would never find a job as a writer, and that I would never be able to live a decent life (financially, that is) married to a classical clarinetist. They zipped up their lips and let me carry on with my fantasy. To this day, I’m amazed that my glass-half-empty parents were able to stay mum; they must have been listening in on those Romper Room episodes, too.
When it comes to our kids, there’s a fine line between responsibility and possibility. We certainly don’t want to mislead them; nor do we want to discourage them. I’ve heard all the sad tales about the music business, and I’m not about to pass them on. I’m reminded of a psychologist I know who happens to be dyslexic; his high school guidance counselor once told him he’d better think about getting a job in a gas station. But…he wanted to get his PhD and teach at the college level. With the encouragement of his parents, he reached his goal.
 I grew up on Romper Room, so I guess it’s no surprise that I still believe that by standing on your tippy-toes you have a chance of getting to the tippy-top. Hail to the hibiscus, and to the hollyhock!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer's End

It’s only mid-August, but today I swear I could feel autumn in the air. There was a peculiar stillness, too, that made me think of cooler nights and cups of hot tea. The funny thing is, living on the East Coast, I spend a good deal of the year wishing summer would arrive. And now that summer’s been here for a while, I’m sort of ready to move on.
           There’s a fine line between enjoying the present moment, and looking forward to tomorrow. I’d like to think that I’m always in the here and now, making the most of every moment. But the mind wanders down the road, up the stream, over the fence so easily, especially when one has plans! Sometimes I think the ancient yogis had it right—just sit on a mountaintop and meditate all day. That way, one day is just as perfect as the next.
           But one day is just as perfect as the next, even without the mountaintop. Somewhere recently I read that there “are no wrong choices.” Well, I'm not sure I agree with that completely, since too much ice cream can make you feel sick, and it might be a really bad idea to choose to leave your hand on a hot stove. When you wake up in the morning, however, it’s kind of true that the possibilities are endless, and often bright. No matter what you choose, no matter what road you take, you are going to have challenges, surprises, disappointments and delights (even if the delight is simply a hot cup of cappuccino or a text message from your kid).
            If I’m meandering a bit here, it’s probably because my mind is wandering tomorrow, to next month, to yesterday, and even to winter (a season I generally dislike, yet who can deny the beauty of falling snow or the comfort of coming into a warm house after a walk on a cold, dark night?) Yes, I know it’s the now that counts most of all. But sometimes, tomorrow beckons…and I just want to follow.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Little Bird Told Me…

Last night when I was out walking I came upon a baby sparrow. The bird was sitting on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth a little, blinking its eyes (or so it seemed!). At first I thought it was injured, but then it hopped a bit and pecked at the green leaf of a clover, as if nothing was wrong. As I stood there for a while, just a few feet away, it occurred to me that this bird was so young and so innocent, it didn’t even seem to know how to be afraid.
Of course, that got me thinking, especially when I reached the top of my hill and came across a hungry stray cat. Fortunately, he wasn’t headed in the bird’s direction, so I’m hoping that he didn’t come across it. In any case, the baby bird reminded me of what it must be like to look at the world with eyes of wonder, without doubt or judgment, without fear or terror, without expecting anything bad to come your way. Standing just a few feet from the bird was an odd feeling; knowing I had the power to scare or hurt it (though of course I never would!), feeling the bird’s awareness of my presence, sensing that it somehow knew it was safe.
As humans, we all learn to be afraid (I, for one, really aced this ability!)...of snakes, bees, public speaking, of clowns wearing funny hats, erupting volcanoes, etc. Of course, fear can be a very good thing—after all, without it we could get ourselves into some terrible scrapes. But there was a time, early in our lives, when even if a lion approached we might have just gurgled or cooed. I'm not suggesting that we gurgle at muggers, terrorists or approaching trucks when we’re crossing the road, but sometimes, I think we would do well to retrieve a little of that innocent trust.
Yes, we need to be savvy and tough to survive in this often frightening, often violent world. But when we sense that we’re truly safe, it sure feels great to simply peck at the clover and chill.