Friday, April 10, 2015

Interior: On Writing

I struggle with this idea of writing. There is a part of my heart that loves it, that loves the release that I feel when I put together something that resonates with me, with others, brings others to tears or laughter or whatever it is. I feel like sometimes this will be my mark if everything falls into the shitter and I leave this earth earlier than anticipated, something for my kids and my friends to hold onto. 
And there is another part of my heart that understands the weird precarious nature of writing, the part that doubts that what I do is useful to anyone that doesn’t know me, that pieces are touching because the people that read them are people who already love me, and that for those people it’s like reading a piece torn from a diary from which you can identify parts and pieces that make sense. But I wonder, really, if these things I trace onto the paper make a difference to anyone outside of the circle of my friends who hold me and my experiences close. I’ve had amazing feedback from people that I have loved and I’ve been really wounded by people I have loved not giving me any feedback. It’s an interesting and tender spot that I don’t want to care about, but I do.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, wondering if that is why I have chosen the rapid-blogging format I use (I don’t know if this is such a thing or if I made it up, but this it’s writing all in one shot, less-than-miniscule-to-zero revisions before posting, get it out and get it up style). If I do it quickly, nobody can remark on the quality. If there are no revisions, I can blow off any mistakes or feedback. If I don’t put in the effort and if I only rely on the whim of the moment, I can’t be expected to be serious about this in any real way. In short, I avoid all of the conflict of criticism or the reality of feedback by being 13 again. My mother would laugh out loud at that idea.
So I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve been thinking that I still only really want to write to get things out that I notice, that I love just writing thinking that people I know on Facebook will read it, that I am not a “writer” and I have no aspirations to make this any more than it is. But I need to take this to another level, maybe work in a longer format or build in revisions or begin to take things out of this stream-of-conciousness format that it lives in (as I am typing now) and into something more coherent and cohesive. There is part of me that loves things raw and I have experienced my friends transitioning their gifts from raw talent to tutored and trained talent with mentorship and help and sometimes the transition is rough. I’m not sure what it means to lose your edge and some of the authenticity either. Maybe I’m trying to convince myself already that this is not a good idea, so I’m going to say it before I back away from it completely… I think when I get to Providence, I am going to find a writing coach.
There, I said it.
Now I have to do it. Or come up with a really freaking good reason why not to (which may be, well, I’m not writing coach material).
So wish me luck, friends. I’m peering beyond the edge on this one.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Raising successful children

There is an inordinate amount of time spent at indoor soccer. Inordinate meaning days every week for watching practice or scrimmage-like games, days where you see the same kids playing pretty consistently. My kids enjoy soccer, but they are not the kind of players that are hungry for the ball, first across the line, driven by some inner force that zips them up the field. Nor am I the kind of parent that coaches (at least not all of the time) from the sideline, calling to their kid when they are standing at midfield to give them pointers or tell them how to run plays. Those are the achievement-oriented parents who are gunners themselves and have gunner kids...or don't. I've always wondered that. What's it like to be a non-gunner kid of a gunner parent?

And there is also a little something in me that wonders if the decision we made not to be pressure-focused and achievement-forward parents has meant that my kids step back a little too much, are less driven than they probably could/should be, less likely to get into the college of their dreams, less likely to be superstars who have climbed mountains and made a perfect grade on their SAT and started their own magazine by the time they are 12. It's also a privileged position that my kids don't have to think about these things the way other children do. I think about this a lot and I wonder, as most parents do, if we are doing the right thing not manning up our boy or perfecting our girl, if the lack of nightly math homework will really screw them in the end.

And then I have a day like the other day where I am driving down the road with my precious cargo when the topic of change comes up: big changes, small changes, god knows we've had our fill. D says "Well, this year I have been through A LOT of change." I smile, thinking "no doubt, dude", but I ask him what he means and the conversation goes something like this:

D:  Well, this year I have been through A LOT of change, Mom.
M:  Like what, bro? What kind of change are you thinking about?
D:  Um, Mom? BRACES?
M: Braces?
D: Yeah mom, BRACES. It's like the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. It's huge!
M: Well, it is, D. Your parents also got divorced and don't live together anymore and we are all moving to Rhode Island in a few months, but I hear you on the braces.
D: Well, the divorce was ok, though. I mean, I know it's hard for a lot of kids, but it has not been a big deal because you and Dad did such a good job with it. I meant to say that to you the other day. I just don't know what the big deal is about divorce.
M: (totally misty). Well, it is a big deal to a lot of kids, D, I'm glad you recognize that. And I'm glad you feel confident about how your dad and I have worked things out. I love you, Buddy. You're the best.
D: Thanks, Mom. (big smile, squeeze on shoulder)

It's those moments where I think that it's all going to be ok, that we are raising some emotionally kick ass kids who think a lot about things, whose strengths lie mostly in the way they relate to others, whose lives are held tight by people that love them, many of whom do not live under the same roof.

I'll always be worried about the path, in so many ways different than the one that I was given as a child. I'll always be worried that I haven't done the right thing as a parent, that love is not enough, that my kids will look back and wonder why I didn't push them harder or expect them to achieve more. I suspect they will, in any condition, know that I loved them, more than anything in the world. And their 43 year old selves will continue to feel that, whatever path in life they choose.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


For a long time I have had a recurring scene pass in front of my eyes, a flickering black and white clip of a man with artificial wings affixed to his arms, running dead set for the edge of a cliff. He runs, flapping like hell, only to pull up short just feet from the edge, not trusting his homemade contraption to hold him against gravity.
He is Icarus, Daedalus' son, anxious against the bright sunlight, worried about his own weight on the wings, worried moreso about his undescribed and hidden desire to fly to the highest heights with abandon.  What that will mean and what that will make, his desire to fly is thwarted by last minute doubt and worry.
But tonight, Joseph Campbell's recording of ancient wisdom rang true:
“A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:
'As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.
It is not as wide as you think.' "
--from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

Today I bought a house, cementing my decision to move to a city long considered a future home, under different conditions and for different reasons, but an idea set in motion long ago. And I'm here, now, and happy and excited, this bittersweet taste in my mouth not crowding out my delight at new discoveries, but also not salving pretty profound feelings of loss and change.
It's like coming back to something and knowing it for the first time, like T.S. Eliot talked about, but not really. It's holding the space of what was with the space of what might be. It's being unsure about how to marry what has already happened (the people you love(d), things you've experience(d)) with an unchartered course.
My girl, Bridget (who is truly a gifted spiritual advisor) noted that this is a time to accept & be, explaining that if things could be different, they would be. And so I move forward, buying a house on a familiar street under radically different circumstances, celebrating a new life in environments that hold many memories, stitching together what is new and old without being totally clear on the design that will unfold. More crazy quilt than the careful block pattern that has governed the stitching of my life for so many years. Stepping into it, breath deep in my lungs, stomach tight, arms strengthened and ready to hold these heavy wings aloft, trusting in my own ingenuity, ready to take flight. 
Light as air, it's not as wide as you think.