Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lessons from struggle - Tender moments

We don't expect them. Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by life that we can barely put one foot in front of the other. Recognizing the treasures within our relationships may seem impossible. Carole's tender sharing about spending precious time during her mother's last days reminds us all.

When I was recently with my mom and dad during the early days of her recovery from a serious fall, there were some tender moments I cherish.
  • Dad stroking mom's head and rubbing her back,
  • The tears of overwhelm, of fear, and of gratitude that we all shed openly,
  • The attentiveness of a grandson,
  • Love and support given freely to mom by family and friends,
  • Dad's new hearing aids,
  • Laughter of mother and daughter with private, inside girl-talk,
  • Reading a book to mom. We couldn't wait for the next chapter (Can't Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg).
In life, there are many such unexpected gifts - A hug from a teen... understanding silence.... a glance that communicates, "I understand." or "I love you."... the funny or touching things that are heard from the mouths of babes. May we all open ourselves to these treasures and remember them when we need support most.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lessons from struggle - Let Go

I am a control freak. I like being in charge. I want to do it my way. And I am most comfortable when you are doing things my way, too. I am also the first to remind someone else that their way may not be the only way. When I was staying with my mom and dad during the early days of her recovery, mostly I tried to support their lifestyle. I don't have to live there. So, what can I do to help?

Control issues seem to be some of the most persistent of my own struggles. And when things are not going my way, I can get resentful. Now what good does that do? Kids have their own way of doing things. So do our partners. Their way may be slower, more messy, creative, unique. Different. Theirs.

When we were new parents, I was a stay at home mom, so I had more practice putting on diapers. But I also was grateful that my partner was willing to take an active role in parenting when he was not at work. After one daddy-done diaper change, he brought our smiling, wiggly son back to me with a loose, floppy diaper. I had some kind of comment about it not really being right. He said something like, "Would you rather do it?" meaning would I like to be the one to always change the diapers. The answer was a resounding "NO!" So I had to learn to accept his way of doing this or else be full of resentment because he never did. That was not the last time this kind of thing came up. Periodically he would need to remind me to keep my my-way-is-best attitude to myself or be willing to do whatever it was alone

I have lots of patience for certain things. But I can also be pretty stubborn. Letting Go is hard. It takes conscious effort on my part. I need to give myself a talking-to and remind myself that it will be okay. Is this really such a big deal? This example about changing diapers is pretty lighthearted. There are also many times that have more serious consequences, and I still don't have much power over the outcome. I can, however, work on my attitude. I can take a breath. I can remember what I am grateful for. I can accept this and do my best. Maybe this is all we can ever do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lessons from struggle - Patience and Presence

Oh, what a pace is life! If we get into the race, it can be hard to step away for respite. And what's the rush? We really can't hurry growth or learning. They unfold in their own time and in their own way. Knowing this doesn't make life any easier.

When my kids were little, my mom commented several times that I was patient with them. Yes, I gave them choices. I tried not to rush them along.... most of the time. I certainly wasn't in a hurry for them to grow up. I enjoyed most of the stages of their development. Especially when our two oldest sons were young, they were my primary focus. Then, I started working more hours once our youngest was a preschooler. At the same time, his brothers were adolescents, and life became a little more of a blur. Boy, did we pack a lot into our days, just with their school, my work, homework and home life. Now, when I look back, I sometimes wonder, where did the time go?

My 80 year old mother recently fell and fractured several vertebrae in her neck. You can't rush healing. She is doing remarkably well. But, she has had to learn to be patient with the process. Bones take time to heal. Children take time to grow and learn. And so do we all. I still have much to learn. One daily reminder is that we are not really in control of very much.

What do we miss when we aren't noticing? A new tooth. Another freckle. Lots of new words and phrases. New abilities showing up. Maturity. Wisdom from the mouth of babes. New willingness to help out. Greater understanding. And many joys and pleasures. So, the spiritual practice of patience helps me to be present to the moment and observe how things are unfolding. Growth is supported when we are awake and aware. What would really support my growth and learning right now? How can I support my child's development?

I'm going to go take a walk, and notice some of what is unfolding before my eyes on this beautiful day!