In the days following Gabe’s birth, six years ago on November 28th, I listened often to Carrie Newcomer’s CD “Regulars and Refugees.” Gabe is our only winter baby, and lying in bed, holding him, with a clear, clean light coming through the big windows, I listened to that CD over and over. The first song has a character named Gabriel Thomas in it and that is Gabe’s full name. The music on that CD helped me find a part of myself that I recognized again, which was really welcome after the life-exploding event of giving birth to another human being.
It’s taken me a long time to get up the courage to write about this experience because I was afraid I would sound like a braggy name-dropper. But maybe it’s that enough time has gone by, maybe I’ve eased up on myself, or maybe it’s reading about artists like Summer Pierre, who set 6 and 12-month creative goals for themselves, and have the self-permission to pursue them without getting in their own way. I love this kind of humble confidence–the simple, fierce belief that you, and everyone else, have the right to do something other than what David Whyte calls waking up every day into the “great To Do list” of your life. (Summer Pierre is AMAZING, BTW. Must-reads on her web site: “100 Things,” and the story of how she gave birth to her son on the side of the highway in NYC).
January is a confusing month. First you get the sort of upswing of energy that comes from making it through Christmas, and it’s an emotional, albeit somewhat arbitrary fresh start. It ushers in the pledging allegiance to the delusions of New Year’s Resolutions, though if you read my post about resolutions, you know my thoughts on that. But then comes the emotional and psychological downswing of the fact that it’s actually January. Two more months of winter (if you’re lucky), on top of the insanity of the fact that in your least reliable state of mind you have new self-imposed stuff that you feel like you have to do (if you’ve made resolutions), like lose weight, be nicer, be happier, be more organized, work harder, transform your personality so you fit in with the rest of the world, just generally try to be a more acceptable human being, blah, blah, blah. And also, it’s cold and gray.
My personal fantasy about January is that should be declared The Official Month of Freedom. In other words, you don’t have to do ANYTHING. Of course, your kids would still go to school and/or daycare, but every adult would receive vouchers for massages, home food delivery, housecleaning, esp. the crap stuff you never get to like the floorboards, behind the washing machine and dryer, and that one spot behind the toilet that you know you have to get to because your mother-in-law would, but you don’t really have the energy or generational self-respect to try. For a week or two, you would have Staff. Does anyone agree with me on this? Should we start a petition?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Happy September, my friends! Today I have some good news and some good news. Which would you like to hear first? Okay, I’ll start with the good news. My freshman-in-high-school son has now made it through two full weeks and so far has: figured out how to take the bus there and back (mostly), learned how to open and close his locker (sort of), found people to sit with at lunch (the hardest thing about high school, in my opinion), met a girl who has drawn his name on her notebooks and binders (of which I hope she has more because it seems a bit early in the game to make that kind of commitment), not gotten anyone pregnant, not contracted an STD, and has actually spoken enthusiastically about a few of his classes. Thank ya, Jesus!
Continue reading “September Heart of the Month: A Challenge to All of Us”