Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

The sink is broken.

I say that as if it were 100% factual, as if I knew something about sinks and their state of repair.  Or disrepair.  Whatever.  I'm guessing that it's broken because I don't think it's normal for water to gurgle and seep, with infinite slowness, as if reluctant to slip down the drain.  I can see it winking at me, this pool of standing water (and just how the hell can water stand?) just inside the drain.  I can tell that it's laughing.

I'm also thinking it's not entirely normal for water (and various other solids) to geyser up from the second sink when I turn on the disposal.  No; I'm pretty sure that water in sinks is designed to go down rather than up.  Or out.  Or stand, or gush or ooze malevolently.

So--- the sink is broken.

I think I could take the whole sink situation if it weren't for the dishwasher issue.  It is less a dishwasher and more a dishrinser at this point.  Sad to think that I have to wash the dishes before the dishes get washed.

And don't get me started on the electrical conspiracy running rampant through the walls.  I have, like, elevnty seven outlets dotting the walls.  I was so relieved when we moved here that I wouldn't have to play the exciting game of Socket Overload, considering the building is older than dirt.  That feeling lasted right up until the time I had to actually plug something in to said outlets.  Some work.  Sometimes.  Of the two plugs per outlet, one works.  Sometimes.  And then, in holiday spirit, they both work.  Sometimes, the two plugs do a weird mindmeld kinda thing, so that the plug that has worked forever is now dead and past redemption. Yet its twin, who has been, apparently, for show only, now lights up the room effortlessly.  Sometimes the wall switch works with one plug in an outlet.  Then both plugs, and then every outlet in the room.  And then back again.

It's like those light boxes that moved and grooved to a song, creating patterns based upon the rhythm and flow of the music.  The intermittent electricity in my house is as amusing as those boxes were.  Good thing I had the walls painted before moving in.  I have visions of crumbling plaster and long snaky, snarky wires in a rainbow of color decorating every room in the house.

What else?  Given time (and let's face it: I seem to have that in spades these days), I could find a thousand  grievances and glitches, all those minor annoyances that set teeth on edge and blood to simmer and make me twitch a bit.  I can forget to breathe, because it's always just one more thing.  One more thing in an endless procession of things that tumble end over end and gather all together, piling in a tangled jumble of One-More-Thingness, an insurmountable, overwhelming mass of Mess.

The house.
The bills.
The car.
My job.
The bills.
The money.
The lack thereof
The holidays.
Not dating
Did I mention bills?

The list is endless.  Eternal.  There is always one more thing that needs attention.  Every petty thing on the list fights for supremacy--- notice me!  fix me!  I am drowning in this clamoring sea of minor demons.

I know, I know--- it's not as if this were an apocalypse of woe.  It's a garden variety list.  It is the stuff of life.  No klaxon-call, no cacophony of noise, just the constant murmur, like the tide: a steady in and out, back and forth motion without rest or pause.  I tell myself I cannot breathe. I don't know where to start, which to start.  In the immortal words of Roseanne Roseannadanna: "It's always something!"

And just when it threatens to consume me, this List of all Lists, just when I think I have reached the edge and feel the vertigo pull before toppling into the chasm of tedium and pettiness, a whisper: "You have some high class problems there."

It stops me cold.

I want to argue with that voice (and I suspect it is my own, an echo of some wisdom heard in the hallowed halls of AA.  Dammit).  I want to rail against the sentiment, and wallow in the pure drama of my litany.  It's bad!  Yes it is!  My life is hard!  I have issues!  I have problems!

What I have is a roof over my head.  Heat in the winter and cooled air in summer.
What I have is food on the table and a car about which I can complain.
I have people in my life who give me the courage to soar.
I have a God in whose I hand I can rest when I let myself.

My mother's favorite saying comes back to me: I used to cry because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.

I have blessings beyond measure.  Family.  Love.  Life.  Yeah, it's been a tough year or three.  I have mourned much, lost much.  Most of the loss has been stuff.  Some of the loss more profound.  I miss my brother more than I can say.

But I am surrounded by light, when I remember.  I can live my life as a prayer, when I remember.  I can share the blessings I have been given, when I remember.

And so, as Thanksgiving approaches, I remember that I am grateful for all the gifts that are part of my life.  The good and the bad stuff.  The people, the problems, the glitches and the glittery, dancing hidden blessings that flit like butterflies.  All the delight, all the amazement and awe: it is there for the asking.  Even without asking, those blessings are there, waiting for me to catch up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A poem for Shabbat

And so we stand
On the edge of this week

Pebbles strewn at our feet
The distance between us an endless heartbeat
The difference like night
Like day
Like light and darkness

Like God
Who separates the days
And brings us
Ever and always
To this holy edge

To this Shabbat

Where we stand
Trembling with effort
Weary from a week filled with
Noise and action and movement
Restless and driven
From one moment to the next
Until we are brought to this edge

This endless and always edge
To this Shabbat
Sacred and at peace
We pause
We breathe
At rest

With God
With one another
In a flickerflame of candle light
The setting of the sun
From one breath to the next
One heartbeat
We stand on the edge and cross into the infinite
As one
Into peace
Into Shabbat

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Joys of Mommyhood (an Act-as-If tale)

There are times I want to sell my child to the highest bidder.

At the ripe old age of eleven years and some change, my son can be at once loving and kind and funny and a demon spawn from hell whose only mission, apparently, is to drive me a little more crazy than I already am.  Yay.  He does it with practiced ease, and flows effortlessly between all these amazing attributes like water through a sluice.

He's been on lock down this week.  No games.  No electronics.  No television.  He's been such a happy boy.  Ha!  No one can pout quite like an eleven year old.  No one can shoot daggers quite so accurately, or look so innocently aggrieved when called on the dagger-shooting.  No one can take up so much negative space, or tap quite so insistently.  He literally sits on the couch, clicking a button on some unplugged electronic doohickey, again and again and again, until I want to poke spikes through my forehead.  Or his.  And just when I am ready to burst from the the clickclickclick of that button, he switches tactics, bouncing his heavy foot on the floor.  Stomp.  Rest.  Stomp.  Rest.  Stomp.  Rest.

After a minute of stomping and malevolent staring, I turn to him.  "We have neighbors downstairs.  Do you think they want to hear you stomp?"  Silence. For thirty-seven seconds.  Then


Even he gets annoyed with the button pushing.  At least, that specific button pushing.  My internal buttons are, however, fair game for this side of eternity.  Finally: I'm bored, he says.  Clean your room.  Pack your suitcase for your dad's.  Read a book.  Draw something.  Practice piano.  Something.  Anything.  It's not as if I've tied him to the bedpost.  Yet.  He practices piano.  At me.  He folds the book at me, noisily, angrily.  I love passive-aggressive behavior. I wonder where he gets it from.  Mm hmm.

It takes everything I have not to cave.  Good lord, what happened to me?

I swore, when I was pregnant with him, that I would be That Mom.  You know the one: The Earth Mother.  Consistent, loving, firm, reasonable, reasoning.  The one with the perfect child.  You know, that mythical mother found only in the pages of What To Expect, or some other parenting book, written by Type A personalities thrust suddenly from the Board Room into the Changing Room, who has endless patience, endless resolve, an attentive and participating partner and a bottomless wallet.  The mom you learned to hate, if only because she was so competent in the face of your eternal struggle.

The television would never be the babysitter.  My child would never need to be bribed, coddled or cajoled into good behavior.  This small miracle, when presented with a logical, well-structured and reasonable argument, would immediately see the error of his ways, apologize and cease all tantrum activity forthwith.  We would read together, sing together, play together.  Do crafts and art projects.  Have good, quality alone time. Take walks.  Learn.  Be really, really cool--- the darlings of the block.  Other parents would live in awe of my parenting success; really, be slightly envious of my calm and loving skills, my ability to remain unruffled in the midst of chaos.

Of course, no one told me that I would be living like a nomadic Bedouin for several years.  Invariably, I was the mom who forgot to pack something--- extra clothes; a spare diaper; toys; food; the building blocks of a happy baby life.  No one told me that my child's whine was perfectly pitched to disrupt every nerve ending in my brain, until I wanted to sell him or strangle hime, whichever came first, just to get him to stop.  (Or that I would be the only one able to hear this particular resonant pitch).  I learned all on my own that cookies-- more so than music-- had charms to soothe the savage beast, television was the opiate of the masses (and though I only have the one child, at times, he has the energy and volume levels to count as a mass).  Don't even get me started on the restorative power of French fries...

I learned, after listening to him screech and wail and cry as if being chased by every demon from hell and beyond, that if I just gave in, there would be...peace.  Silence.  Blessed and holy quiet, the demons vanquished, sent back to the nether hells from whence they had come.  Silence from the depths of the cave into which I have taken refuge.  Far from being Earth Mother, I became her opposite, sacrificing discipline and consistency  for a few minute's quiet.

And I hate the feeling that I'm such a bad mommy, that everyone else is doing it so much better.  They're organized and disciplined.  I look at my son and start singing "One boy! Boy for sale! He's going cheap--- only 20 pennies..." from Oliver! I am mostly joking when I do it.  And of course Nate, being my son, has learned to sing back at me "One mom! Mom for sale..."

He has learned every lesson that I desperately tried to avoid.  Trust me: sarcasm, never attractive in an adult, is really unattractive when streaming from the mouth of a five year old (and six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven year old as well. I'm sure it will be just as unattractive in a 12 year old).  Perspective is a challenge.  We each of us are Awful-izers,  If now is bad, it will get worse and we will set up camp in that forever.  We don't have bad days, we have the foreshadowing of abject misery throughout all eternity.  Conflict resolution?  Peaceful discussion between the parties? Sure, we get there eventually, but really, slammed doors and shouting and tears are so much more dramatic to begin.  And so effective.  Sigh.

The list is as infinite as my shortcomings.  Large, small, petty, self-righteous, self-justified: each and every one plays out in my son's life for all to see.  Are defects of character genetic?

And then, just when I'm about to give up all hope, throw in the towel, call Nanny911, this:

Last night, Nate hands me a slip of paper entitled "The Eight Nights of Chanukah"  He has re-written "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  The printing was small and crabbed and smudged pencil.  Rhyme, meter and scansion were absolutely non-existent.  Spelling was merely an approximation, and even then, I was hard-pressed to figure out what he was writing.  But i got the gist: this was his wish list, his serial demands, for Chanukah gifts.  he had even starred the most wanted (with, like 6 stars, in case I didn't understand just how much he wanted these particular gifts over some of the others immortalized in  his song).

I skimmed through it quickly.  A typically greedy, acquisitive expression of the holiday spirit.  And then I read his line about the sixth night of Chanukah:

On the sixth night of Chanukah, not "my mommy gave to me..." but "and I gave toys away to the poor."

In that one line, cramped and smudged and misspelled, my son took my breath away.  In that one line, I heard God's voice and felt hope rise like a blessing.

I was right-- he has learned all the lessons I have taught.  Yes, he learned all the bad mommy stuff of which I am ashamed and try to hide.  But he learned the good stuff, too: that we are called to be compassionate and kind, to share what we have with those less fortunate, to care for others.  Oh my--- he is quite the teacher, my son.

So, yeah; sometimes he is a demon spawn from hell.  Sometimes  a whiny, pouty brat who can glare with the best of them, who pushes every one of my buttons and then finds a few more I didn't even know I had.  And sometimes, he shows me everything I need to know about love.  And so, I think I will take him off the market, and keep him with me a while longer.  <3

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Lesson, learned again.

I have this picture in my head, of what it looks like to have faith.  It is me, standing on the edge, right at the top of some impossibly high mountain, the sky a deep cerulean blue, luminous and rich, the air crisp.  I stand, poised, ready to leap. to soar and fly and float and land, without doubt, in absolute certainty, to rest gently in the palm of God's hand.

I do a lot of standing.

Faith is tough for me.

want to leap.  I want to have that certainty.  I want to rest with God, be carried through.  I want it desperately.  Sometimes, I feel it, a tiny trill of anticipation tweaked with fear and nerves and excitement, radiating out weakly from my center.  Fingers and knees tingle, and for a moment, just a moment, the barest whisper of a moment, I gather myself and breathe and

Stay.  Stuck.  Wistful and regretful.  And safe.


Like I said, I want to leap.  Sometimes that level of faith is beyond me.

And yet...

And yet, every once in a while, I soar.

And I find God's hand, outstretched, waiting for me.  Every time.  Without exception.  Every time I leap, there is God, waiting for me.

I wish I could remember that, that God waits.  Just for me.  Always.  Patient, comforting, with a hint of the eternal.  I don't though.  I stay, wrapped in my doubt like a blanket, sure (sure-ish) that fear and doubt are safer than that split second of free fall until I find God's warmth.  I hear the echo, ever and always and first, of the only prayer I had for a couple of decades: "Fuck you, God."  I wrote that prayer at a young age, sure that God had abandoned me, left me to struggle in pain, to drown in my loneliness.  I declared my apostasy loudly--- "There is no God!"

Of course, the louder I shouted, the more I could drown out the whisper that slips so softly in my head, the idea that, it was not that I did not believe in God, it was my undeclared certainty that God did not believe in me.  It was that certainty that kept me rooted, poised and still.  I cannot leap, because I am afraid that God still has His (Her?) ("It" just doesn't seem right) (some genderless pronoun to encompass God)--- I cannot leap because I am still afraid that God has His back turned away from me.

No redemption for you!  Ha!

And yet, I have leaped and soared and slipped gently into the ever-present outstretched hand of God.  My struggle, my disbelief, my lack of faith is just that: mine.  My holy and sacred quest is a shadow dance.  God is enthusiastic spectator in my solo performance.  God watches, applauding my every effort, laughing in all the right places, waiting for me to lose myself in the moment.

It is not what I pray.  It is that I pray.  That's what matters.  That's what makes God dance.

This past weekend, I got to learn something about faith.  Again.  I get to learn this particular lesson again and again.  God laughs and waits and applauds for me.  Every so often, God dances and catches me, pillowing my fall with grace.

I was at a retreat.  It was possibly all about music.  Or maybe about prayer.  Or God.  Or community.  Faith, perhaps.  All of the above.  Certainly, music was the base, a foundation of sorts.  Shabbat Shira--- Sabbath of Song.  A few dozen people came together to learn and stretch and grow and teach.  Silly me; I thought I was there to learn more about Songleading-- using music and song to lead congregants in prayer.  Simple stuff.


What I learned was all about love, and community and faith.  Yes, faith.  That damned elusive thing, that spark of God and hope that I chase with all the singularity that a drowning woman chases a life preserver floating just out of reach on a dark and wave-wracked sea.  Throw in a bit about vulnerability and truth and honesty and you have the weekend.  Our teachers stood before us, offering themselves, whole and pure and unafraid, without pretense, and made a glorious noise as they lit a path to God.  I followed.  We all did, joyously, surrounded by love and faith and hope.

How?  I asked.  I demanded.  I pleaded.  How do you do it?  How do you show up, vulnerable and raw?  How do you give?  How can I?

And really, that was my prayer.  My quest had gotten me this far: from "Fuck you" to "How can I?"  I want to serve.  I want to give.  I want to be an unsheathed flame, dancing along a path to God, letting others in to find their own paths, their own joy, their own prayer.  I want to leap.  Please God, let me leap.  One more time, let me learn the lesson of soaring.  Let me believe that I will be caught.

And my teachers, every one of them, whether they stood in front of us in service or beside me in prayer (because everyone at Shabbat Shira was my teacher), they all answered so simply, so stripped of artifice: you just do.

It is not what you pray; it is that you pray.
It is not what you do, it is that you do.
It is not what you sing; it is that you sing.

Do.  Act.  Pray. Sing.  Serve.  The grace (and gracefulness) will follow.  God will catch me, soaring or stumbling in the dark., God waits to catch me  And, after I have rested a bit, caught my breath a bit, then God and I, we'll dance.

Dedicated to my friends and teachers of Shabbat Shira 2010.
Thank you  <3