It is such a good thing that people lie to you when you have very young children, and you ask them if it ever gets easier and they say “Yes!” Because if they told the truth, your own and possibly your offspring’s chances of surviving the first 5 years of their lives would decrease significantly. I don’t know why people lie to parents of small children about this. It might be because the horrible physical demands of early parenting do easy up (sleep deprivation, carrying loads of crap everywhere, existing in a constant state of muscle-twitching vigilance, etc.) , and you don’t really have to deal with vomit or snot or feces as much with a teenager as you do with an under-3. Of course, if you did, you’ve really got a completely different set of issues. No, I think the reason people perpetuate the myth that parenting gets easier is because the reality would just be too much to take on board for at least the first 10 years. And the reality is that with each year of your child’s life that passes, you lose less and less control. So whereas at first your main job is to keep another human alive, when every atom of your body is dedicated to this 24/7/365 to infinity, eventually you just become obsolete. Except no one remembers to tell your heart this.
On this beautiful sunny midwest morning (hey, do I sound like I’m from California??), I had the joy of speaking about therapeutic writing to a group of folks at Generations of Hope, a very cool multi-generational community. At Generations of Hope,”children adopted from foster care find permanent and loving homes, as well as grandparents, playmates and an entire neighborhood designed to help them grow up in a secure and nurturing environment.” This morning at Hope Meadows, we talked about writing, about how it needs compassion about self-permission in order to thrive. Going through the world with an open and watchful heart really helps too. And then they asked me the question everyone asks about ongoing writing which is, “How do I find time to do it?” Here is the secret to answering this question…
Hello everyone! Well, this makes me sound like Out of Africa’s Karen Blixen (“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills…”), but nevertheless: I’ve been on a ranch in Malibu, at the foot of the Santa Monica mountains. Yes indeed–I got a free pass on 5 weeks of Illinois winter this year and it was exquisite. Looking out my window right now, it’s gray and bare, but that’s okay, because if I close my eyes I can see mountain trails lined with rosemary and eucalyptus, magical waterfalls and fragrant bay leaf trees, and the tidal pools of Matador Beach, dotted with sea urchins that close like tiny fists around your finger if you touch them. If we instituted a mandatory month in southern California every February, the world would be a much happier place, I feel sure.
Events that seem to be surrounded by expectation confuse me, and trigger that fear that I am a few steps off from everyone else. Not a truthful fear, but a common fear nonetheless, and one the world does little to soothe for any of us. New Year’s Eve is one of those events for me, for a variety of reasons. One is that the only thing that has ever made me willing to stay awake until midnight was childbirth.
Also, social events that last many, many hours, like New Year’s Eve gatherings, are just too much human contact for me. If you are invited to something that starts at 7:00, you’ve got at least 5 and a 1/2 hours to get through, and I can count on 3 fingers the number of people who I could bear to spend that much uninterrupted time with. But I think it’s the resolution issue that confuses me the most: to resolve or not to resolve, that is the question.
Merry Christmas everyone! For folks who have been following this Advent blog, you know that today is the day we have been waiting for. Waiting quite literally, as Advent is a season of waiting for the miracle that is on its way to us (remember that it is from the Latin adventus, and means “coming”)?
For those of you who landed here in search of our annual family holiday letter, welcome! You’re in the right place, and I’m so glad you’re here! Please read along (and maybe even visit some of the previous posts)! Everyone will also find some Srajek family 2010 moments over at: www.srajek.wordpress.com.
The title of today’s post comes from a quotation by Theodore Roethke: “Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” Advent is called “the season of light,” and writing this blog [one post and one poem (not by me!) for each day of Advent] has, from the beginning, been a way to draw attention away from the typical experience of winter darkness, and towards the light, whatever form that light may take.
Happy Monday, my lovely, lovely friends! Can you believe it is December 20th already? (I actually can’t stand when people say things like that, as if the passage of time is an entirely new and unexpected occurence to us when we are of course living in it at every moment).
Today is just a short little post to remind you that when I started this Advent blog, I promised that we would have gifts at the end! They are three of my most favorite books in the world: (1) The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (the anniversary edition of the original); (2) Ten Poems to Change Your Life by the amazing poet and writer Roger Housden; and (3) The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality For Real Life, a new favorite by James Martin.
Since we are nearing the end of Advent, now is the time to email me at email@example.com, and Gabe will choose three names at random (he can’t read yet, but I think if you said your name was Batman, he might be able to recognize that on the screen…), and you may be the one to receive one of these treasures. I can’t wait! (Please don’t go all midwestern on me and be too reticent to email; I really, really want to share these books with you)!
Today’s poem is also short, but so very, very kind. It is by Czeslaw Milosz. To see one’s self from a distance, as the poet recommends, lets us see that yes, we are “only one thing among many,” and the comfort in that is knowing that we are part of everything, and also neither more nor less important than any other living thing. The last line is also very comforting: serve, but don’t worry about needing to understand.
Love means to look at yourself
the way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills–
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
One of the questions that someone recently wrote in was, “Is being in love anything but guaranteed insanity?” I know this was a serious question, with real perplexity behind it. But it made me laugh. Of course it did. Chris Rock says that if you’ve never wanted to kill someone, you’ve never been in love. And maybe I’m starting out this post with a somewhat comical tone, because questions about love between long-term partners, and the question, “Are you willing to be the one who says ‘I love you’ first?” scares me almost to death. Because I’m pretty sure that I’m not. Maybe sometimes, but not as a rule.
Sheldon Kopp’s Eternal Truth #6 is this: “There is no way of getting all you want.” To which I want to respond with a resounding, “Duh.” It seems so very obvious that it hardly needs to be said, except of course that it does need to be said, because we worry about getting or having all we want all the time.
The artists Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude created some of the most extraordinary pieces of art in the world. Running Fence, Surrounded Islands, Wrapped Trees, and The Gates are some of the best known. They are enormous environmental projects that take up to 25 years to plan and create. None of their exhibits are permanent.
[Note: Not an in-depth post, but a happy, joyful one in gratitude for all the love I received on my birthday, and for being alive in this good, sweet life. Never perfect, always blessed.]
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.
A year or so ago, I decided to teach myself to memorize poems so that I could recite instead of read them when I do workshops, because it’s much more powerful, and it makes the poems more accessible. The first time I did this I was scared to death, because it was awkward and slightly weird, and I was afraid that I was going to look ridiculous. I may have indeed looked ridiculous, but it was also very exciting, like speaking a new language, which in fact it was. Now I love it.
I recited Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Angus,” when a colleague asked me to come talk to his class about writing, and it was a lot of fun because that poem rhymes. Today’s poem by Christina Rossetti is one of the first ones that I learned, also because it rhymes, which makes it much easier to remember. And it is exquisitely sweet and joyful. I feel happy every single time I say this poem, which I once did while walking with a friend on hard, crunchy winter ground (now that I’ve started I can’t stop myself).
But today it is spring, full-on and bounteous. I promise that if you say this poem out loud a few times, your heart will lift up. I promise. [note: “vair” is a kind of fur that was used to trim cloaks; don’t feel weird saying it.] Give it a try! And let me know how it makes you feel! It doesn’t have to be your birthday in order to celebrate your one sweet and precious life. As always, my heart is glad to know that you are here!
Here’s some of what my birthday looked like: