Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Betweens and Almosts

The ancient Celts had the right idea: it is in the in-between that magic lives. Dawn, not daylight; dusk, not night. Really. Who would have felt the enchantment of Brigadoon if it lay under the bright golden summer blue sky? It was the very fact that it lay shrouded in fog and mist that we could believe in the magic of that place. There is an expectancy, an urgency that goes with that in between and almost time.

In between is all about possibility. It is the infinite and unknown. It is Schroedinger's Cat living large. Or perhaps dead. Or both together. It is where God lives, in the space that exsists between me and you. It is magic and mystery and enchantment.

I am fascinated by the in between, by the infinite.

I just wish I could do them, fit in that space. I have an impossibly difficult time with it. While I sense the majesty and magic, can feel the Almost gather its shape, I feel all lopsided and clumsy and wonky. I do not know how to respond. What I crave is knowing what will happen next. I want the rules, dammit. I want to know what's expected of me. Don't make me guess. I do not know how to relax. I cannot sit comforatbly in the dynamic tension of in betweens. I feel it much like a cat or dog feels the tension of a coming earthquake: disaster is just around the corner and I want to bolt before it hits.

And right now, my life feels ruled by the twin novae of In Between and Almost.

Panic, pure and simple. It is uncertain and twisty, the path that lies at my feet. There is hidden quicksand, I am sure of it. I cannot see all the traps; there are shadows and menace and probable monsters. There is endless despair and eternal night. It gets worse. I crawl inside my head to escape this uncertainty and the tensions magnify.

My skin buzzes, my foot jiggles, my thoughts skitter, making up the eleventy seven thousand stories that go along with "what if..." In the absense of information, I make stuff up. It is never of the happily-ever-after variety. In my stories, the evil wizard triumphs over good, the dragon eats the princess and the hero gets lost in the woods. And that's the beginning of the story; the end is not nearly so upbeat.

But here's the thing: even in the midst of my panic, there is a grace note of something else, something that may almost be hope. There is this poised expectancy, like the ghostly breath of God that hovers over a field of grass at dawn, waiting for a single breath to give it shape and movement. That is my life: poised, motionless, waiting for a single breath to give it shape. And my instincts scream: run!

But I don't. I don't run. I stay, waiting, skin crawling, watching and waiting for what happens next. It can drive friends and lovers mad. I, myself, am an in between and an almost. I am neither here nor there. I flit and twirl and dance along a razor sharp path to get over the endless chasm of almost.

Relax. Let go. Let be. Just be. Wait.

Do they all not understand, even now, what I wouldn't give to be able to sit in comfort and quiet in the magic of that in between? Do they not know how glorious it would be to breathe and just be?

And I can almost get it. I can almost find that place, poised so exquisitely between the infinite and the possible. And that is the whisper of hope. I am almost, I am in between, and I can breathe. Just breathe. And the wonkiness, the twisty anxiety, they give way, with infinite slowness, to the beauty of almost and in between. And I can sit still, and wait, and go slow: for a moment, a breath, a day, some finite time where I don't have to know.

It is where God exists. It is where love resides and hope is born. It is redemption and grace. It is the place of my heart. Even in my fear, even in my panic and uncertainty, I am given these gifts. And I find peace.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Parenting -- Love and Fodder

I picked my son up from his father's Sunday morning. The mechanics of that statement just boggle my mind. That I have a child--- a ten year old, no less--- is one of the more astounding facts of the universe. That I have a ten year old and have not yet managed to break him--- no sprains, no breaks, no major illnesses or hospitalizations, no huge traumas outside of the small dramas that are a part of growing up--- that's even more miraculous.

I fear breaking him. I remember when we weaned him from his bottle. I sat outside his room while he screeched and screamed for hours, begging wordlessly for his bottle. What kind of mother was I, for God's sake? How could I deprive him of the one thing that would bring him any comfort during that long dark night? If I just gave in, if I could only relent-- silences! Blessed silence and a happy, sleepy, sleeping boy! My actions were sure to produce some hell-spawn, I was sure of it. I whimpered hopelessly to my mother on my cell phone, "Please tell me this will not be fodder for some therapy session when he gets all sociopathic on me in a few years, all because I wouldn't give him his bottle."

I could hear my mother, who has suddenly become infinitely wiser over the years, roll her eyes. "Don't be silly," she said. "You all went through it, you were all fine. You all ended up in therapy for different reasons."

Oh yay. Something to look forward to.

He has been amazingly resilient, this not-quite-so-small-anymore boy child of mine. He has weathered a lot in his small life. Nothing big and dramatic, just the normal flotsam that seems to comprise struggling middle class suburbia in the 21st century.

My ex and I both worked full time, leaving the house before sun up, coming home in the dark. Our son shared that schedule, off to daycare at the crack of oh dark thirty, where he interacted with strangers for 11+ hours a day. And in time, we were the strangers. We were absentee parents and we all lived under the same roof.

He survived the barely noticeable tension of two parents coming together from two completely different worlds, that just-below-hearing-level buzz that sets your teeth on edge for reasons you can't quite pinpoint until you're exhausted from trying to find the cause. Everything was an issue, because neither of us realized there were any issues there. Discipline. Religion. Family. Holidays. Friends. School. Even his diet became an issue during his first twelve months. Pick something, anything. We approached life so differently, and our son became the unwitting battlefield for our philosophical debates.

At five he was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss. Now here are some words you never want to hear in the same sentence, uttered by a doctor: neurological. Profound. Congenital. We don't know. They ran every test imaginable, and they still don't know how or why he has an 80% loss of hearing in his left ear and a 20% loss in his right.

At six, thing between his father and me started to get tense. By seven, our family life was rapidly deteriorating. Despite my best intentions, my son was witness to our private hell writ large. We yelled and screamed and stomped and struggled. We did it all wrong. There are lessons in conflict resolution that he has learned that will take quite some time for me to un-teach, if that's even possible. Fodder for my own therapy sessions, I think...

By eight, it was all over but the shouting. Even seperated, my ex and I continued to shout. We fought and argued and cried and repeated it all, again and again. Life got dicey in ways I couldn't ever have imagined. This was not the life of a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs, dammit. I shielded my son as best I could, but I could not shield him from everything. Things got worse. Things got better. It was an emotional tug-o'-war, and I was tangled in that taut rope, straining to get my end clear from the muddy middle. Sometimes I think I even succeeded.

And my son seems to have survived all of this. He may not even be the worse for wear. He is ten, in all its glory--- taking his first steps at independence from me, running to my room in the middle of the night because he's had a nightmare. He is at once shy and bold and friendly and mean and smart and smart alecky and happy and sad and whiney and a thousand other emotional adjectives. There are days when I want to sell him to the highest bidder. Ok, not days: minutes, maybe an hour at most. When he gives me the ten year old equivalent to being weaned from the bottle, and all I want is blessed relief from that incessant incantation of Mommymommymommymommymommymommy. Just five minutes, I want to plead. Give me five minutes of peace, the chance to breathe.

But mostly, he is this incredible gift: fragile as a soap bubble that floats, higher and higher, catching the sunlight, reflecting clouds and sky. But tough as steel, as leather. Enduring as love. I love him fiercely, passionately, wholey. Without reservation. Unconditionally. I, who swore I would never have children, who was convinced that the maternal instinct skipped me entirely, I have been gifted with the care and feeding of this child.

I tell him every day, and have, since the day he was born: nothing you do or say could ever make me love you any less than I do now, and I love you more than the earth and sky put together. I may be afraid that I will break him in some way, but I also have made it my mission to let him know that he is enough. Ever and always, he is enough, and he is loved. And wonder of wonders, despite my faults and failings, he knows. So, while I may provide him with endless fodder for some therapist's couch some day, that fodder will ever and always be tempered with love.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Week's end, with a promise

This has been a long week. Lately, they all seem long.

The days push and pull at me, demanding my attention, my devotion, my energy. At the end of the day, when dark gathers in small corners and the noise of the day skitters at the edge of consciousness, I lay, exhausted but wired, willing my mind to calm, to rest, to slow down please God! let it slow down so I can sleep. But I don't. I court sleep like a coy lover. It is elusive, teasing me with a promise of rest, only to run away at the last instant, leaving me tangled in sweat-dampened sheets.

Again and again, I repeat this dance. Eventually I sleep. For a couple of hours, I am at rest. But the alarm rings too early, its shrill buzz shatters the mornings quiet. I am awake, dammit! Really. Pay no attention to the cramped fingers that scritch across the nightstand, seeking the snooze button. I am awake! Buzz, buzz, buzz, incessant and raucous and deafening. Awake, dammit, until silence. Blessed silence. I drift on a sea of in-between: not morning quite yet, but no longer night; neither asleep nor awake, but aware. I just need a few more minutes, hours, days. Please.

And suddenly, it is Shabbat. God's cosmic snooze button. Timeless and in-between, outside and seperate. Suddenly, I can breathe. I am at rest.

I love this time of year. I sit in the sanctuary on Friday night, my skin still buzzing with the noise of the week, my head in a million different places everywhere at once, and I watch the light outside the window as it ushers in Shabbat. I cannot see the sun, only its light as it changes, mellows and deepens. The wild grasses are tipped in gold and a single tree, dusty green and brown, gathers shadows under a darkening sky, a slow study in purple and grey and black. The sky goes from the pale blue of a summer day to a luminous cerulean blue.

Shabbat is here at last, the beautiful bride, dancing in from the fields just as surely as the Kabbalists rejoiced a few hundred years ago. It is a celebration, a promise in song and prayer and light. Is it the light of creation? Some have argued it is, that the light of Shabbat is so pure, so perfect, it is the rememberance of creation that shines on us for a brief time. I don't know; I would like to believe it.

My heart is not as calcified, as protected as it once was, when I was angry with God and my only prayer was a quick "screw you." I declared my disbelief in God to any who would listen, and to many who wouldn't. What I didn't share was my secret belief that it was God who didn't believe in me. It has softened, it is not quite so protected these days. God and I are pretty tight, I think. And so, with all my weary heart, I take comfort that Shabbat is a gift, a promise from God: we can rest, we can breathe. We step outside of time, to celebrate, to study, to renew, to listen, to love, to find the sacred, remember the holy.

And for this brief and timeless time, I find rest, I find God, I find peace.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An introduction, of sorts

And so, I make my entrance into the world of social media and launch my blog.

My blog. It sounds so big. It sounds so self aggrandizing. It sounds a bit ominous. And yet...

There is a small voice that is whispering inside my head, some siren song almost too soft to hear, that this is OK. I can write. I can dip and dive into my head and heart, learn something about me, something about you, something about God and grace and life. It's all good, as they say.

I can write, and you can read--- or not. But I can write. In fact, I think I have to write. This is my way, the only way I have found yet, where I can find a way to bridge that unending chasm that stretches between my head and my heart. This is my rant, my prayer, my soapbox. This is my treasure map, I think, where I will scribble in the details as they appear: the dragon lairs that lay dank and dark and befuddle me; the quicksand that masquerades as solid footing, waiting to snag my wandering feet; the havens and resting spots, bits of sudden grace, unexpected and joyous, filled with light and air and laughter. And you, you will hold a torch to help me see in the dark, a hand to hold when I am sure I am lost, a voice to remind me I am not alone.

I can write, and so I will.

I hope you will read this blog, and write back. Engage and argue, participate, think, laugh, cry, get angry, get quiet. It matters. These connections, however tenuous, however virtual--- they matter. Thank you for visiting. Thanks for reading this far. Thanks for sharing this leg of the journey with me.

As ever, as always---

Stacey Zisook Robinson