The ticking of the clock

Today’s post is by Debra Dickey, my friend and frequent contributor. 

Lately, I’ve begun to experience an unusual development of emotions that is difficult to describe.  When I tried to put a finger on it, the only thing I could come up with was the ticking of my ‘biological clock’, only in reverse.

With children who are now grown-ups, on their own for the most part, and in their first stages of getting established in jobs and careers and with lives of their own, a healthy marginalization has been aptly carved out.   Yet much more than classic separation has invaded my heart – a sudden perception of inevitable mortality has begun to creep its way into my psyche, lending itself to the reality that my time on earth, and therefore, with my children, is day by day, becoming more limited.

Clock 1The truth is, no matter how long I have, it will never be enough time to spend with my children.  From the very first moments of their lives, I have wanted to be a part of who they are and share in the known quantity of their lives. Because of the extraordinary people they both are, not just my children, our journey together has been one of joy and appreciation.

With the challenges and harsh trajectory that our lives have taken, the three of us had to become a unit.  Knowing what was at stake, I intentionally created a mindful environment to foster family connections that would ultimately lead to the homogenous family nucleus that, hopefully, will endure for the rest of our lives.  I was on the right track — it’s working!   So well that I cannot imagine it any other way and, never want to let it go!

Although I whole-heartedly loved my children the first 20 years of their lives, we were all so busy being  pretty overwhelmed and mostly in survival mode, our relationships were less symbiotic and more parent/child, as they only could have been.  But grown up children are real people–and mine are really wonderful people–people I absolutely love spending time with, am inspired having conversations with, thrill at sharing moments with, have trustingly created equality and affinity with, and simply enjoy laughing and planning and being with.

Petulant, my clock is on a nostalgic countdown.   How many more years can I possibly have with them?  Ten, fifteen??  That is not nearly enough!  Not nearly enough to cram all the love and fun and delight and heart songs that they bring, into my life.  Not nearly enough to make them understand how much they mean to me and how indelibly they have impacted everything that has ever had meaning.  Not nearly enough to see them smile, hear their voices and their laughter, to celebrate their successes, and to know them as they develop all their talents and become even more incredible people than they already are.  I don’t want to miss a thing!

Sentimental that it is, the ticking of the clock is the beating of my heart, with the message to make every minute count and to focus on the things that matter most – don’t ever take these two amazing gifts for granted.   I won’t.  I just hope that the Good Lord gives me exactly the right amount of time, perfectly synched, full of Grace, for all three of us.

Day 11: Dear Peacemakers

*Big thanks to my friend and former college roommate, Sarah Donaghy, for sharing her grateful thoughts on Day 11 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

The hardest part about being a guest blogger this month was deciding to whom or what I should write my letter of gratitude. I dwell in gratitude. Even in times when nothing is going right, and I see challenges on every front, I still feel grateful. When I choose to sit in disappointment, anger, pain, or sadness, I still feel grateful. Living in gratitude is a choice, and it’s a practice that works for me. So, as I looked forward to writing this post, I’ve spent the last few days with lots of ideas rattling around my head… dear hugs, dear change, dear Mom, dear adventure, dear garden full of weeds, dear Mary Oliver, dear loss, dear name of friend, dear name of another friend, dear body, dear education, dear Louis CK, dear pets, dear modern appliances, and so on.

Over the past few days I have also received a number of reminders that Veteran’s Day is coming up. The first was when a member of the local food club asked if the Monday pick-up would be rescheduled due to the holiday. I looked at him blankly. “What holiday?” I thought. He read my mind. The second was when an aunt let me know that a package she mailed to me would arrive on Tuesday since the USPS won’t be making its rounds on Monday. The third was the cover of the Sunday newspaper’s magazine section promoting a special report inside titled, “What Did You Do in the War, Mommy?” about the challenges servicewomen who are mothers face in coming home after a deployment.

It then occurred to me that Bethany would be publishing my letter on Veteran’s Day. Thus began the second hardest part of my task… how to address my letter and what I would say in a letter expressing my gratitude.

 

Dear Veterans – Thank you.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – You talked about “the war” like New Yorkers talk about “the city”… sure, there are other cities, but none of them compare to your city. The war defined you, and the war never really ended for you, and thus, the war is something that defined and never really ended for my mom and her siblings as well. A generation removed, the war – your war – certainly impacted my life as it was a major influence in the way my mother lived and parented. While I remember many an afternoon sitting on the blue sectional couch in front of the picture window looking at the Bridger Mountains and listening to your war stories, the first things that come to mind when I think of you as my grandpa are your grilled cheese sandwiches, the way your jeans hung on you, your love of ice cream, riding in your truck to check on the cows, your hugs, and your incredible generosity – to me and to complete strangers. I hope there are no wars wherever you are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing you directly but I know it was a pleasure for those who did, particularly your family. You were also in the war… the same war and yet, it seems it was an entirely different experience for you. You rarely, if ever, spoke of your experience. In fact, one of the few “war stories” recounted on that side of the family is about your wife, my Grandma Lulu, taking the train across the country – from New York City (the city) to Seattle – to see you when you were stateside, a visit during which, I think the story goes, my father, your first child, was planted. So while I’m sure the war had more of an impact on your life than you spoke about upon return, it’s not what comes to mind when I think of you as my grandpa, and I’m confident saying it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when your children think of you as their father. I hope that you and my dad are enjoying each other again, and I hope there are no wars wherever you guys are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Man I Met in a Bar a Few Months Ago – I only met you once, but you have the honor of being someone I will likely always remember because I was celebrating the launch of RadSab that night. I only remember a handful of things you told me about yourself, and I don’t recall if it was Iraq or Afghanistan or with what branch of the military, but you said you were there a few years ago. I couldn’t help but think of how that must have been for your daughters – I remember you have two of them, girls old enough to have known you were away and likely why you were away and how hard that must have been for them… how hard that must have been for you.

 

Or

 

Dear Couple I Recently Had the Opportunity to Reconnect With – You were amazingly open and honest with a group of mostly strangers, and having your participation was my favorite part of our discussion course. You guys are a reminder to me that people’s stories don’t start at the point where I meet them. Something I didn’t know about you, Mr., was that you were a Marine, and I appreciate what you shared about that experience. I’m not sure if that was before or after the Mrs. became such, but I couldn’t help but think of how that recent part of your young life must factor into your marriage. I love how brave you are with each other, and I look forward to knowing both of you more.

 

Those are all important things to say, especially thank you, to people who have touched my life in one way or another. And thank you is always enough, but it’s simply too short when Bethany the Blog Boss has asked for a page.

Drawing on some loosely planted Quaker roots, I’ve decided to go with…

 

Dear Peacemakers,

Thank you. You have my gratitude.

I think peace begins within each of us. For me, dwelling in gratitude, practicing mindfulness, and cultivating joy are essential.

 

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

 

014When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

With our voices, our wallets, our votes, and our service, we each have opportunities to sow seeds of peace in our communities, in our country, in our world.

Thank you, Peacemakers. You have my gratitude.

Love and good wishes,

Sarah

Where your hands are

“Be where your hands are.”

Sure, that’s easy to do when you’re in one of those life-couldn’t-get-any-better-than-this moments. Or when you’re just doing something you enjoy, like hiking, canoeing, fishing, reading, or taking a nap.  Or when spending time with  people you really like.  Or when you’re about to vomit and can’t think of anything to eat that sounds appetizing but have to eat to avoid getting more nauseous.

Wait a minute.

Scratch that last one.

During those times, it is not easy to be where my hands are. I’d rather be somewhere pleasant, even if it’s just by taking a brain vacation to someplace peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental breather once in a while or even a literal vacation, I have to be careful to stay where my hands are. That’s where my life is happening. If I’m constantly mind-hopping into the best moments of my past or the potential best moments of my future, I’m missing out on living my own life.

Granted, there have been and still are moments in my life I’d prefer to fast forward. Feeling nauseous 90% of the time as a newly pregnant person. Going through a rocky divorce. Filing bankruptcy. Undergoing counseling to gain healing from trauma in my past. These times were “the worst of times” for me, but at the same time, they were MY times. Those moments are parts of my life, whether I like it or not. Sometimes escaping the bad times isn’t even an option since the only way out is often through. And I suppose I could have stuck my head in the sand rather than face the reality of a failing marriage or pretended everything was okay and refused to seek counseling, but where would I be right now? And who would I be right now?

I’ve chosen to be where my hands are today. It’s proof that I’m alive, and that no one else is living my life but me.

And that’s something to be grateful for.