March 31, 2015
by Tricia
0 comments

Live, Love, Support

reading together

Live

In a house asleep, I read. Real pages between my fingertips. Words but no pictures. The story is deep and deeply engrossing. I don’t often read novels but lately I have found myself lost in stories of imaginary people and worlds so unlike my own. Where I used to spend these nap times seeking ways to produce, create, do something, these days I quietly consume. It’s a winter position. Life is quiet in winter. Living is smaller. I suppose, if I could, I’d sleep during this time too. But I’ve never been good at napping. Though I am not nearly as controlled and regimented as I used to be, I still can’t shed the commitment to sleep at night, wake during the day.

Then they wake and my book goes away and the afternoon is louder in a house awake though I couldn’t quite tell you why or what we do. I just know it feels busy in an unimportant way. There is music and playtime. Dinner prep, getting ready for the week to begin. We eat dinner with our eyes glued to a movie because the day has been lazy and slow and the table seems like too much effort.

And just like that, another day has ended. I haven’t left the house. Haven’t seen, or talked with, anyone but my three people. And that’s ok. Sometimes.

At tuck in, she begins her prayers. I repeat them after her because that is how we’ve always done her bedtime prayers. She gets to the part where we list out the things we are thankful for. We begin with family and then move on to the events of the day, usually recounting times with friends, special treats, fun moments we spent together. But she draws a blank. She’s got nothing. And I have more of the same.

The day dawned and turned to dusk and we did nothing of note. Nothing at all. And I realize, we need to live.

Love

“You know I love you, right?” I ask them. I ask in good times but, also, in bad. I ask when they have just strung words together into a sentence that makes me smile in awe at their sweetness, their charm, their intelligence and, always, the knowledge that they are my people. And I ask when they have just strung words together into a sentence, or maybe a scream, that makes my blood boil in frustration at their smallness, their humanness, their persistence and, always the knowledge that I am their person. Because, so much of the time, those are the moments that chase me from love. So often, in the middle of a tantrum, I daydream ahead to the moment when I will glance at their peaceful, sleeping bodies as I make my way to my bed, just to feel the glow of the love when I need it most.

So I ask them if they know I love them, there in that moment when they are angry and they know I am too and we’re running late and in another second I’ll be doing my best to not blame our lateness on them while doing it all the same. And they say yes and, you know, sometimes that diffuses it. Sometimes it takes love, delivered and received, for us all to move on. And I realize, we need to love.

Support

“Stand on your own two feet.” I say. “No I will not pick you up.” I quip. I want them to support themselves with the feet they grew when supported by my body, the feet that learned to step and move and carry them as I held their hands above their heads, the feet that work just fine. They want to use those feet, when they want to, and want me to do the work for them when they don’t. I say no but they claw at me and whine and beg. Sometimes I still deny them. You have feet. You can get where you want to go without me. But more and more lately, I’m indulging them. Lifting them, supporting them. I realize, we all need to support.

Live, Love, Support

This winter has been long and hard. Spring is dawning but frustratingly slowly. And we all need out. We forget that we are not prisoners trapped here, somehow together but family members who live here together, love each other, and, deep down, do want to support one another. We loose sight of our primary obligations to one another – to live, to love, to support.

But Spring is coming and with each sunny day I’m remembering that this is it. This is what my family needs from me. To live. To love. To support.

March 25, 2015
by Tricia
3 Comments

Wonderful

in my pocket

We have these wonderful moments. Days, in fact. We click. We communicate on a wholly different level. These moments and days fill me up. These are the days I did this for – the reasons I dreamed of this kind of life, the one lived in service to the little person whose hair color matches mine and whose fingers are dimpled and delicious. Life is lived in these moments and memories are made, the kinds of memories I’ll want, the ones that will make me cry harder but all in a good way when I wave goodbye to him as he launches into his own life.

On these days, there are tickles and cuddles and laughter. Conversations in what feels, increasingly, like our own little language. These days happen on a cloud. They really do. I don’t remember them in specifics. Only feelings and glimpses. A shot of him standing by my bed as I fold laundry, the sun illuminating a halo of golden curls around his head. The feeling of his head resting on my shoulder as we rock in the chair where I nursed him and soothed him to sleep. That unique sensation of his soft arms clasped around my neck.

Toddlerhood is wonderful.

Except when it isn’t.

We also have these terrible moments. Awful days. Days when we couldn’t possibly click because no two people have ever been farther apart in the world. Using plain words, universally understood language, we miss each other all day long. There is screaming and yelling on these days. Time outs just as much for me as for him. Starting over a thousand times a day, futile attempts to change course, navigate away from the storm. I’m still bad at that, changing course midstream. A day headed into rocky waters is lost to me by mid-morning. I make a big deal of trying to shift, head towards the sun. But it’s all for show.

I don’t remember these days in specifics either, what a blessing. I can’t tell you why he melted down, what travesty piled on top of frustration or anger to reduce us both to our most primitive, most emotional selves. But there are the feelings and glimpses. The sight of him in the big, red arm chair, his mouth a perfect and giant O and his eyes squinted together to push the loudest wail possible, all the way up from his belly. The feeling of his rod-straight body against mine as I carry one who does not want to be carried and the way his screams, with such short distance to travel, pierce my ears. That unique sensation of being angry, so very angry, with another human.

In calmer moments, I find it odd, the ways in which I relate to him. With adults, people who could more than handle my anger and frustration, who deserve to understand how their actions and words have affected me, I am silent. When a little conflict and a lot of conversation could move a relationship to a wonderful new level, I avoid confrontation. I work out my anger or wounded heart on my own, telling myself I do it all of the sake of the love. But with him? He, the one whose words and actions are never, ever designed to hurt me. He who needs my guidance and my grace and my forgiveness. He who apologizes instantaneously and loves me unconditionally? With him, I lash back.

It’s backwards.

And wouldn’t it be wonderful if, now that I see this, I could change it? If I could just flip it around. Absorb his emotions and feelings and frustrations, resolve my reactions to his behavior all on my own. And, instead, react to those who are more deserving of seeing my hurt and anger.

It would be wonderful if it were that easy.

~~~~~

Linking up with Lisa for One Word.

March 19, 2015
by Tricia
5 Comments

Growing Together: She Taught Me Stillness

growing together

Many of the place I turn online, to read and connect, and therefore many of my friends online, usher in a sense of calm with their words. My life is so loud sometimes when all I really want is to be quiet and still. So I turn to people whose words and style and tone have a peacefulness to them. A reflective quality that often brings about the same feeling in me.

Rudri is the perfect example of this, for me. Her words flow into reflections and stories and I am constantly in awe of how she is able to reflect so deeply on the moments of her life in a way that changes how I think about my own.  Not only does she help me slow down and calm the chaos in my world, she also captures and describes some of the Hindu traditions that I’m learning more and more about these days and working to incorporate into my family’s life.

It is no coincidence that her words today are those of searching for quiet and calm. I love this story and completely relate to it. I know you will too. And when you’re done, go over and visit my friend at Being Rudri.

~~~~~

“Breathe in and out. For several seconds, try to clear your mind.” The meditation instructor whispered these sentences in a room filled with people yearning for quiet.

I am in the middle of this space, legs crossed Indian style, attempting to find this mythical Zen place. Instead, I fidget with my watch, anxious for this meditation hour to end. With open eyes, I bargain with the next ten minutes, finding a way for the time to go faster. Instead of emptying my mind of noise, I sabotage my efforts by counting the tiles on the wall that faces me.

“Time’s up. Take another deep breath in and open your eyes.” The instructor’s command interrupts my thoughts.

Thank goodness this is over. This meditation thing is not for me. The quiet is making everything worse and amplifying my insecurity. I am not doing this again.

~~~~~

My veins carry a restlessness I’ve struggled to tame. Quiet is an unreliable narrator in my story. The more I crave calm, it slips out of my reach. In my late twenties, my anxiety levels ran particularly high at a new job. I kept slipping, trying to gain my momentum, but failing to anchor myself with my work or boss. As a way to find a solution, I signed up for a meditation class to help pacify my nerves. My first foray into mediation occurred over fourteen years ago and I decided in that session it wasn’t something I wanted to revisit.

But that all changed when I recognized the same restlessness in my daughter.

She cannot sit still. When she reads a book, she fidgets with her fingers. At a recent school performance, she readjusted her feet in different directions, unable to stand without moving. Dinnertime involves a series of getting up and down for no real reason. Her movements incite nervousness in me.

“Sit still, please.” My pleas evaporate into the air.

“I can’t, Momma. My mind is jumping around.” When my now nine year old said this two years ago, it scared me. I didn’t want her to harbor the same restlessness I felt most of my life.

~~~~~

It is Sunday morning. While I drive, my daughter makes several requests: “Can I have your IPhone, Momma? Will you turn on the music? Where are we going?” In the span of thirty seconds, she’s unfastened her belt a few times and shifted in her seat.
All of my answers to her questions are no and without any hesitation, I say the words again, “Sit still.”

These two words roll off my tongue with ease and I glare into my rearview mirror and I recognize myself. Her restlessness talks to me like a kindred spirit. When quiet might descend, flight takes hold.

Maybe the quiet scares her too.

We continue to drive and pull into the local Hindu temple parking lot. It is an experiment to try this now, here, in this way. I am uncertain it will work, but I am seeking safe refuge for both of us.

We climb the steps. enter the temple, grab two cushions and sit in front of one of the deities.

“What are we doing, Momma?” She asks.

“We are going to meditate. We will sit still for five minutes without talking or moving.” I don’t trivialize it because my hope is that she takes it seriously.

And she listens to my subconscious pleas. Sitting Indian style for several minutes, our eyes are closed, hands at the edge of our legs, angling our bodies forward. Once the timer chimes, we exchange knowing glances with one another and smile.

This is a practice we’ve cultivated over the past year. Through the weeks, the meditation time increases. We are now up to seven minutes of silence.

At home, I’ve noticed there is a different cadence. Dinner is quieter. She sits through meals. She spends more time in her room, playing without interruption. There are moments in the car where she is content in her car seat. The change doesn’t only occur with her, but I am able to spend time in my office without any distractions. It might not represent active meditation, but it offers a calm respite where my mind is willing to sink into quiet.

I think back to our shared space and experience. There is no instructor. No commands. No yoga mats.

It is just a mother and daughter.

And I am grateful that my little girl has taught me to breathe.

In and out.

In the quiet.

IMG_3773-2

Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned writer and editor. Prior to attending law school, she graduated with an M.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is the managing editor for The First Day and her work has appeared in Brain, ChildThe Huffington Post Mamalode, The Review Review and elsewhere. She writes her personal musings on her blog, Being Rudri, and is currently working on a memoir that explores Hindu culture, grief and appreciating life’s ordinary graces.

March 18, 2015
by Tricia
2 Comments

Vignettes of a wiggle

highlinewalking

“My tooth hurts.”

Her aches and pains are varied and frequent these days. I’ve fallen into the trap of treating them all like requests for attention and, lately, I’ve ignored more than I’ve indulged. Motherhood has been too many simultaneous inputs for some time now. Insufficient time, excessive demands, more needs than I can handle in one, single moment. You need to prioritize in times like these. But I’d promised myself that I’d respond more. That I’d take them, take her, more seriously.

“Let me take a look.” She points out the location of the pain – a big tooth on the bottom, that I’m sure has a name but this is not my specialty. I apply pressure to it with my finger. It doesn’t budge.

“Maybe you just got something stuck. Try rinsing your mouth and let’s brush before school.”

She’s satisfied. She gets dressed and slides on her shoes and buckles herself into the car. We go about our day.

~~~~~

“My tooth still hurts.”

She is brushing her teeth while I scrub inside her brother’s mouth with a silicone brush that fits over my index finger. It’s been a day, there have been other aches and pains and needs and I’d all but forgotten, as I do most days, what had happened at breakfast.

I hand the finger brush over to the boy and he jams it inside his mouth with glee. I peer at her teeth.

“Your gum looks a little red.” I tell her. “Maybe you just brushed too hard. Be gentle on it tonight and for a day or two. But it should start to calm down after that.”

She nods. Satisfied again. And, honestly, I’m satisfied too. It doesn’t really take all that much time to investigate her pain. It’s simpler than I often think it will be.  It just takes a little extra effort. Oh yeah, I can do this.

~~~~~

They’re sitting in our makeshift reading book and quietly paging through books after dinner. I grab a magazine and join them, stretched out on my stomach on the carpet square between them. In addition to responding to her pain more, I’m also working on being more present, slowing down to be with them more.  Spring, man. It brings out good things in me. She’s telling me about the board book she’s looking at. It’s way below her reading level. Sometimes I’ll push her to push herself. Sometimes I want to hang onto board books too.

Eventually she puts her book down and stretches out on the floor next to me. Side-by-side, we gaze at pretty things on glossy pages. M walks in and sits among us and the conversation turns to grown-up things, big things, exciting things, and crazy things. But we’re here, in the soft light of the setting sun in our cozy playroom, our newly arranged reading nook. I’m sitting on a rainbow-colored square of carpet with our babies happy and quiet and nearby. I’m comfortable in this moment. I like this moment.

“My tooth still hurts.”  She’s moved on from books and magazines to whirl aimlessly about us as we talk.

And suddenly I remember. At dinner I had noticed something strange in her mouth. An extra space. As if something had moved. I roll over onto my back, my legs stretched out in front of me.

“Let me take a look.” I say. She sits on my lap, facing me. I go straight for the tooth, not the one that hurt to but the one next to it that seemed askew. I touch it, gently, and it moves.

I recoil my hand quickly and gasp. I feel my eyes stretch wide, a nostalgic smile creeps across my face.

“What!?!” she shrieks with a smile and a sparkle that tell me she knows exactly what.

“No way!” M and I share the look. The one we share whenever the heartbreaking speed of childhood suddenly jumps up to smack us in the face. She’s dancing around but I scoop her up in my arms. This moment feels different than all of the other marks of childhood and growth and time slipping right through my fingers. It’s tangible. Her tooth moves and soon it will move out and there will be a hole. I carry her around the house for the rest of the night, trying to reconcile the weight of her in my arms with the vision of her I have when I close my eyes, all baby fat and short spiky hair, long before teeth came in. M carries her to bed. We let her skip brushing her teeth.

~~~~~

“What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth?” She’s munching on a slice of pizza. I forget about her tooth until she brings it up, which she does, often. But in between I move on with life. This is both how I survive the realization that time is passing like lightening and also the reason it feels so fast most of the time.

“Maybe she builds a castle with them. A tooth castle.” M chimes in. I smile and gaze out the window, trying to picture such a thing, as one does.

“Yeah!” she agrees. “And she just needs one more tooth to make it complete!”

Oh, my girl. Don’t ever change.

~~~~~

“Oowwwww!!!!!” Breakfast again and she’s yelling through fingers cupped over her mouth, a piece of waffle dangles between them. The tooth is still in there but blood is pooling around it. And she’s crying. I touch the tooth, again, so gently. It’s in there but only by a thread. And she’s crying.

This is one of the smaller moments of parenthood that I am unprepared for, but unprepared I am all the same. Do I pull it out? Encourage her to? Leave it in there and send her to school? I don’t so much decide as just continue to move forward, ushering her upstairs to get dressed, brushing her hair. Pigtails. All pigtails these day. Mama’s choice. I drop her off with a mouth full of teeth but I warn her teacher. Today could be the day.

~~~~~

Surprise!! That’s what the subject of the email says. Inside is a photo, my girl smiling to reveal a gap front and center on the bottom. The caption reads: She pulled it out!!

Later I’ll hear the story. How she did it on their way outside for recess. How it didn’t hurt at all. There will be talk of the tooth fairy and excited smiles sent to grandparents and aunts and uncles and big news shared with friends.

I’ll never feel ready. For her to grow up. For the next big thing to happen, the next great marking of a threshold passed through. I’ll never want to rush into these moments. But I hope that I’ll always take the time. To listen to her, to respond. To give her the attention. To wait for her to be ready and then, to follow her lead.

March 9, 2015
by Tricia
2 Comments

103 minutes

sled

It’s been 55 minutes. 55 minutes since I handed over the children and the trajectory of the 3485th snow day this season to my husband. I handed him the baby monitor that was silent only because I had the thing turned all the way down but the stupid little light bar was a constant shade of toddler-is-screaming-red. Not that I needed the monitor. He filled the house with screams and sobs of “Mommy!” because he didn’t want to nap and after going in there to settle him down about a dozen times in an hour I had given up. Though ‘given up’ is almost too active a description for what I did because I wouldn’t call it a conscious decision that I folded my legs under me in the big red armchair and stared at the screen I’d opened on my lap, mindlessly typing words that had come to me the night before as if maybe they might form a story that had little to do with the snow and the cabin fever and the screaming child and this feeling I’ve got right now that there is nothing steady around me and so instead of taking charge, and living with intent, I’m falling fast into the abyss.

Now it’s been 62 minutes. 62 minutes into these couple of hours that I get today to sit in a room by myself but, more importantly, to work. That is what I am supposed to be doing with this time. Work. I have things I need to write. Things I want to write. I have story ideas that I’ve transferred from one page of my to-do list book to the next for enough weeks that it might be faster just to write the darned things and move on with life. I also have time sheets to fill in and emails to return and submission opportunities to add to my calendar. And I have these couple of hours today to get to it all if I’m really efficient and focused. Or, if I’m honest with myself about my humanness, to most of it.

But in the first 55 minutes, I read. I dove into Facebook and I clicked and I read. And I lingered over inspirational message, of which my Facebook feed has many, and tried to breathe them in to shift my perspective. There are, we all know, many worse things in life than back-to-back snow days, children with loud voices who are stir crazy, and a toddler who won’t nap. There are worse things than two straight months of more or less not working because the house is always full and the streets are always white or someone else is sick or the car needs to be fixed (again) or, or or. And yes, I know I’m not a horrible mother. And yes, I can do this. And, of course, this day is a gift. And absolutely I will look back three, four, five years from now, maybe even next year, and wish I could get back just one of these days when we’re all here together, cooped in but together, when they want to hang out with me and have me paint their faces and take turns dumping flour and sugar into a bowl and then serve me play dough cookies and tea. I’m longing for that even now when I’m still in it and if you don’t know what I mean then you haven’t been stuck inside with your children nearly enough this winter.

But I had sunk to a place that even inspirational quotes spread across images of suns setting or rising couldn’t bring me back from. And I wasn’t ready to write about it here, yet. So I tried to write out all of the really bad stuff into the journal I use for morning pages even though we’re winding our way into late afternoon by now and thinking about morning pages just reminds me that I let my alarm ring this morning until it stopped ringing all on it’s own but my phone still flashed with the alarm screen when I finally woke up to look at it. Which of course reminds me that I could have started this day far differently than I did if I had gotten up and written actual morning pages in the morning when the sky was dark and they day still stretched ahead. But I didn’t. I wanted to write all of the really bad stuff in my journal so that I wouldn’t come here and write it because when I come here to write, I publish. And I’m a bit tired of the same old tune I’ve been singing, that this is hard. We know it’s hard. You know it’s hard. You don’t need me to share my snow day sob stories to remind you. I’m sure you’re feeling it all on your own. And there is more to motherhood than hard, isn’t there? There is love and sweetness. And memories and closeness. And small wins that keep you moving and instill in you this belief that through the stumbles you might actually be on the right path. There were those things today. Little people in capes running around the house fighting invisible bad guys. Empty purple bowls of invisible food and matching cups with invisible tea left for me outside the bathroom door. Ordering ‘the specialist’ at her play dough cookie shop (she means ‘the special) and delighting her by pretending to voraciously gobble up the entire thing. Giving them popcorn at lunch and a freshly baked cookie afterwards because why the hell not and then basking in the little bit of good will it generated (until, of course, nap time arrived and the screaming began).

Yes, there is more than hard. But has it occurred to you that so much of the not-hard stuff is invisible?

And man if the hard isn’t so damn heavy. And I don’t know how to shrug it off when it builds up this high. And so instead I shrink down under it and begin wonder if I was built for this life. I begin to modify ‘yes I am a good mom’ with ‘only sunny spring days, actually just on sunny spring Fridays, when everything flows just as routine demands and the kids are in a good mood and nobody has been sick or upset in days and the nanny is here to handle nap time.’ And then I realize that I just described a day that actually doesn’t exist. So now what do I do?

It’s been 103 minutes now. The family has ventured out into the white world and the house is quiet for a breath, maybe two, but then they’ll be back to pick me up to go to dinner, which I’ve been looking forward to because oh do we need to eat some pizza and color on menu-drawings of Venice and I think I’ll sit with my back to the door so that I can look into their eyes instead and remind myself of the times we’ve eaten here in Spring and then wandered down the street for ice cream. I didn’t believe in those days last March either. But they came. I do feel lighter in Spring. Especially Fridays in Spring. When it’s sunny.

110 minutes now and this is where I leave you. I have work to do before they get home.

~~~~~

“Editor’s note” – I wrote this on Friday afternoon at a particularly low point when it felt like this winter and string of snow days would never end. I scheduled it to post today and then over the weekend, I nearly deleted it. Because, of course, we did go eat pizza on Friday night and I did sit with my back to the door and I did feel better afterward. And then Saturday dawned and felt like Spring and Sunday dawned the same and it’s not Friday but I am feeling lighter. So I almost deleted these words written in the heat of the hard moment. But we can’t really delete the hard moments. And I do believe that each time I get brutally honest about the hard, those words reach someone just when they need them most. So, you who needs these words, these are for you. Your spring will come too. Promise.

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