February 25, 2015
by Tricia
3 Comments

I’ll be the monster

closet door with tutu

I walk into her closet, leaving the light off, and close the door behind me. My socks are no protection against the floor which I am convinced is ice made to look like wood. Her closet is always so cold. I stand there facing the door and I begin to shake but not just from the chill. I am 34 years old and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am still afraid of the dark. Standing in there I can see just a few inches all around me but not much more. I’m thankful that I recently cleaned this space of its clutter but, still. Standing in her dark closet brings back memories of watching scary movies as a kid. To other kids my age, those movies were not all that scary, but they still frightened me. A scene from E.T. springs to mind, the view from the closet through the slats in the door. There was a time when I was too young to see the beauty of that movie and only saw the terror. For a while it was all frogs jumping everywhere and men in hazmat suits long before I knew what a hazmat suit was. So, of course, I was terrified. I try to remind myself that I’m an adult. I’m the mother now. I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. I know that there is nothing lurking in her dark closet. But I’m still shaking, just a little. I don’t like to be scared.

My children, on the other hand, seem to love it. Or, at least, she does. He has just entered the scared-of-the-dark phase and refuses to enter a space that hasn’t been well lit, even in my arms. But he follows her everywhere and so if she wants to be scared, he’s usually right there too. And she often wants to be scared. She plays hide and seek because she loves the thrill of knowing we could jump out around any corner. She wants us to tuck ourselves away and spring out to surprise her. And she begs for us to be the monster.

Being the monster is quite simple, really. The two of them curl up in her bed, usually under covers, and, at my leisure, I sneak into the room and startle them with tickles, adding a growl for effect. They scream and squeal and their eyes grow with what they want us to believe is fear but is really just extreme surprise. And then the tickles and giggles finish it off. I wander off, folding laundry and doing other such monster things before starting the whole thing over again. I don’t get the appeal but they love it. And although I don’t love being called a monster, the invitation to tickle them and squeeze them and hear their squeals is one I don’t often turn down.

I love that she loves to be scared. Because it means that she is surpassing me. Or spinning off a different thread, one that I surely did not pass on to her. It means that she’ll spend fewer nights awake from dusk till dawn, the scary movie she watched that day playing over and over in her head. It means that the night lights that set her room aglow will dwindle over time and she’ll never find herself shaking in a darkened closet three decades from now. I like to think she has less fear than me and that this will take her farther. And I like how she surprises me as I surprise her.

“Mommy!?” I hear their feet coming down the hall, not their usual run because they are thrown off by not being able to find me. “Mommy? Where are you?” I call out that she should get dressed, knowing full well that she will be able to follow the sound of my voice but that she’ll pretend that she can’t so that she doesn’t ruin the surprise. The light clicks on in the closet and in another breath the door swings open. I form my fingers into claws and deliver my best monster growl and she shrieks and squeals and laughs out loud. “That was so much fun!”

And I laugh too. Yes, it was fun.

~~~~~

linking up with Lisa for 1-word prompts

February 23, 2015
by Tricia
2 Comments

Visit me On Parenting

ballet legwarmers

I’m so honored to direct you to The Washington Post today where you can read a piece by yours truly.

I have so much to say about this piece. The more I write, the more I practice my craft, the more I edit, the more I leave off the page. I feel more about this moment in the ballet studio, and all the other moments that I’ve tried to forget, then I could ever convey succinctly. I have more thoughts about shame and how it happens and the havoc it brings.

And say more, I will. I’m sure.

But we have to start somewhere and so I start, today, with this story. I’d love if you’d visit my words over at On Parenting.

February 20, 2015
by Tricia
7 Comments

Compassion. Adding my voice to #1000Speak

feet with hearts

I’m naturally empathetic.

A friend recently said that to me, about herself, but I’ve been using it to describe my own ways ever since. I’ve been doing that quite a lot lately, picking up on someone else’s reflection or self-awareness and weaving it into my own view of my world of myself and my ways. And I can’t tell if it’s my own way of questing towards self knowledge in these very busy times when the quiet to truly answer my big questions is limited, or if I am just cheating and copying answers off of the pages of those who are doing the work. As always, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Because the truth is, it turns out that I am naturally empathetic. When I see pain, I can feel it, almost as if it is happening to me. Naturally, it happens most often with my children. When they are sick, I can feel it. And when they feel better I feel the same release, the same relief, almost as if I had just recovered alongside them.

But it happens with others too. When the horrible tragedy happened in Sandy Hook, I spent weeks imagining the parents and their closets full of Christmas gifts that would never be gifted. I couldn’t stop seeing those closets and those parents and I couldn’t stop feeling the dread they must have felt towards opening them and sorting out what to do with those physical things and all of the emotion and sadness and loss. I haven’t been able to get those thoughts out of my head ever since.

It’s painful, this empathy. It hurts. It means that even when all is well in my life and I have no great pain, no great suffering, nothing to be down about at all, I can still find myself in a low just by turning on the news or reading a story. Things go deep with me quickly and they stay there, burrowing into my heart and for so long I’ve feared this makes me weak. Sometimes I feel that not being able to stomach such things or witness another person’s story without being pulled down into it means that I am not strong enough for this world and everything it seems to be these days.

So, for some time now, I’d stopped turning on the news. For some time now, I’d decided that I don’t need to, I shouldn’t, spend so much time feeling other people’s pain. That consuming my thoughts primarily with the happy in my life right this very second is the way I should live my life. I’ve run to the sunshine and the rainbows and the glitter that life with two small children provides in substantial quantities. I’ve run from the things that could bring me down or lead my thoughts down tougher paths.

But today, on a day when 1000 of us, maybe more, are writing about compassion, I’m considering that maybe I’ve been letting myself off easy.

The theme of the school year for my daughter’s school this year is compassion. So I looked it up, compassion being one of those words that we toss around so freely, one of those good qualities that we want to raise and encourage and demonstrate in our daily lives, but one that we probably couldn’t define if pressed. And I learned that compassion literally means to “suffer together.” As Greater Good puts it, compassion is “defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.” It goes beyond empathy, the ability to feel another person’s emotions, to the desire to help.

I have a desire to help. I always have. But in my mad dash away from the pain and the sadness, I’ve been running from the relief and the joy that I can provide. In my fear of the darkness, I’ve also been closing my eyes to the light. There is a flip side to my empathy. A silver lining to the pain. It’s that sometimes, not all of the time but sometimes, I might actually be the one to help relieve the suffering.

The 1000 Voices for Compassion movement started when a couple of writers ached for compassion so deeply that they sought out 1000 people to join them in spreading the word that compassion is still alive. It then inspired more than 1000 blog posts and stories and beautifully woven words. Like this one. And, of course, this.

And it is inspiring me to put my empathy to good use.

To learn more about compassion, to see it out there in the wild world, or simply to join the movement, join the 1000 Voices Facebook group and look around today for compassion.

February 19, 2015
by Tricia
4 Comments

Growing Together: Amazing Grace

growing together

I used to read other people’s words before starting off to type my own. I used to see it as a kickstart, a little path into the world of turning thoughts and feelings into ideas and words. After a while, though, I stopped, fearing that I was simply copying topics and stories and voices and not writing my own. A writer, after all, needs a space of her own.

But now I’m finding that the words I read one day surface in my writing days, weeks, even months later. I don’t need to kickstart anymore. I just need to always be reading. And my reading always takes me to A Design So Vast where Lindsey’s wisdom and reflection and, yes, grace, never fails to inspire me. She puts to words the thoughts I’ve just begun to think and she dives into aspects of herself that shine a light on parts of me that I’ve been struggling to see. I learn so much about writing, parenting, mothering, and living from reading her words.

I’m so honored to share her words with you here today. This piece brought me tears when I first read it and I’ve read it over and over because of how comforting and hopeful it is. Enjoy Lindsey’s words here and then be sure to visit her at her place.

~~~~~

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

I’ve written before about my intense sensitivity, about how porous I am to the world, about what a generally difficult friend I am because I take everything so ridiculously personally.  I’m certain that this sensitivity, in particular that to the passage of time, is my wound.  Whether it is also a strength remains less clear to me.

It’s all mixed in with Grace.  And, of course, grace.  Grace announced herself to me on the day after my father-in-law was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and those two lines on the pregnancy test shocked me so completely I almost fainted.  I had not anticipated being pregnant – in fact if I’m honest, I hadn’t wanted to be.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant I went to a new prenatal yoga class.  I didn’t love prenatal yoga, finding most classes to be too much breathing through our chakras and not enough vinyasa.  This class was small, just me and three other women.  At the end of class, as we lay in savasana, our teacher asked us to “go inside and communicate with our baby.”  I swear I rolled my eyes behind my eyelids.  Lying there, trying to figure out how I could leave without offending the teacher, I heard an unfamiliar but distinct voice in my head.  It said, “grace.”  I sat up, startled, and looked around the room.  Just three domed-bellied women, eyes shut, and one teacher in lotus position.  I lay back down, willing the voice to come back.  It didn’t.  But I’ve never forgotten that moment.  She was always Grace.  Always my grace.

And then she arrived, and she broke my heart.  The postpartum depression that I plunged into after Grace’s birth terrified me, completely dissolved me, and in its wake I was reformed into a new person.  She taught my heart to fear, and then, slowly, gradually, but surely, she relieved my fears.

She is leading me home.  Of that I am certain now.  And when I sang Amazing Grace last week at a funeral, I burst into tears at that last line.  My daughter pushes every single button I have.  She infuriates me and hurts me and sends me to a shouting, tearful mess faster than anyone else on the planet.  She demonstrates keen sensitivity and an astonishing ability to take things personally, and both of these things annoy me and hurt me in equal measure.  As I lose my patience with her, stumble, and get up again, hugging her against me, my tears dropping wetly into her thick brown hair, I am trying to tell myself, as much as her, that everything will be okay.  To reassure the child – and adult – me as much as my daughter that we will be safe.

In parenting Grace I am confronting, over and over again, my own flaws, my own weaknesses, the deepest reaches of my own self.  What if that sensitivity that I’ve so often bemoaned is not an obstacle on my path but the road itself?  I’m beginning to suspect it is.  And, holding my daughter’s hand, the hand of my grace, my Grace, I’m finding my way home.  She might think she’s following me, but, the truth is, I’m following her.

~~~~~

image

Lindsey is a mother, writer, and financial services professional who lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughter (12), and son (10).  Her work has been published and anthologized in a variety of print and online sources and she writes regularly at A Design So Vast.  She was born a mile from where she lives now and is currently refuting a childhood of moving across an ocean every 4 years by living in the same house for 14 years and counting.

February 18, 2015
by Tricia
7 Comments

The sweet spot

“Go home, Mama. Go pay.”

It’s a cold morning and the wind whips our faces as we walk back to our car, having just finished drop off. We’re headed home and pay means play and play we probably will. Or, rather, he will and I will whirl around him cleaning up breakfast dishes and wiping down counters and shuttling laundry from one place to another. He’ll bring me empty cups of tea and plates of imaginary cookies (“cooky! ee!”). I’ll sing to him, words I make up just for him sung to whatever tune lingered in my mind after it played on the radio on the way home from school (probably Taylor Swift. Or Let it Go. Because, of course). And maybe he’ll giggle or maybe he’ll tell me, “No Mama!” and I’ll have to find a new song. He’ll show me his cas (cars) and tell me their colors (bue, gene, ra). He’ll ask for his boom (broom) so that he can clean alongside me. He’ll burst into the room shouting “wa, mama!” and I’ll prompt him to complete his words and sentences. “You want water?” And he’ll pause before slowly responding, “I. wan. wa. peas!!!” And we’ll high five because that is an accomplishment. Then I’ll get him some water, and we’ll return to our playing and wandering.

play dough and tea

And we’re here. Right here in this sweet spot. Where we’ve found our little groove and we slide quite easily into it, and out of it when we need to. I look forward to our mornings at home, shuffling around in sock feet and passing the morning in a haze of productivity and giggles. I look forward to our afternoons, he sleeps and I work. I look forward to moving through my day with him. And this is a new feeling.

I gazed at this sweet spot from afar for a long time. For a long time it was on the other side. The other side of figuring out what it means to work and mother with no wall between the two. The other side of unlocking his voice and encouraging him to tell us what he sees and thinks and feels. The other side of settling into this life so that I could enjoy it and savor it and realize how fleeting it is.

Here on the other side, October, the month when he will start school and take these moments away with him every day, looms. You can tell me that it’s ten months away all you want and I know that almost a full year exists between here and there. But now that I’m here on the other side, it feels like our days are numbered. I can feel the end approaching. And when I’m not careful, I can feel myself longing for him even as he sits on my lap.

When we talk about motherhood, we talk a lot about regret. We regret the things we didn’t do. We regret the things we did. We regret the memories unmade, the glances missed, the milestones overlooked. We make decisions today with the fear of future regret guiding our every move and that, I believe, is the worst. The most insidious. We sit on the floor and make cookies out of blue playdough because we don’t want to regret that we said no when they asked (and now they don’t ask anymore). We drop tears onto our fingers as they click onto keyboards because, in that moment, we regret choosing this moment for ourselves over stories and tuck-ins (they won’t need their loveys kissed forever). We make decisions and we do the things we want to do and the things we really don’t, all in fear of regret. Future regret haunts my present.

With ten months left in this sweet spot, I could easily follow regret into every playtime moment, every decision between him or work, every morning or afternoon left to him and I to plan. Fear of regret could keep my butt on the floor, lead my hands to the matchbox cars, and take me all the way to October. But I don’t want it to. I’d really rather be led by love and the sweetness of this spot we’re in, no matter how fleeting it may be.

~~~~~

linking up with Lisa for One Word Prompts

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