WALKING TO THE SOUND OF MY FAVORITE TUNE

I’ve just started reading another memoir, after having already completed three since the beginning of the year.

I love books, I always have. But I had somehow fallen entirely out of the habit of reading for pleasure on a consistent basis. As a teacher, I read daily by way of necessity. This is a very different gesture than crawling into a good story by choice.

Last spring, newly quarantined and in need of a screen-free distraction, I picked up a book that had nothing to do with Waldorf education. For years, I would only allow myself this indulgence during the summer because at some point, I’d developed this false idea that I must always be studying during the school year. That meant curricular reading only from September-June. The first week of summer vacation was always celebrated with a work of fiction, preferably something spectacular. A Pulitzer Prize wining novel usually fit the bill, and I’d eagerly anticipate that first morning when I could wake up, sip my coffee, and leisurely pore over every masterfully crafted word

By abolishing the arbitrary parameters I had established around what I would permit myself to read (and when), I inadvertently gave myself permission to begin reexamining all of my idiosyncratic habits and rituals and decide whether or not adherence serves my best interest. In the instance of reading, for example, I discovered that the inspiration I derive from devouring books of all genres is a far more potent supplement to my work than restricting my literary diet.

Also, full disclosure, I discovered the ability to check out audiobooks from my library through an app on my phone and literally my new favorite thing in life is listening to books read by their author. (A girl can dream.)

I mentioned before how setting a goal on goodreads gave me something to work toward when there wasn’t much else happening. My plate is decidedly more full now than it was then, but I’ve still upped the ante on this year’s challenge because I believe in capitalizing on strong momentum.

IN WHICH WE’RE GIVEN PARADISE

A good mother is not flawless.
A good mother knows she is flawed.

A good mother is not divine.
A good mother knows she is human.

Every mother is writing a story.

A good mother knows when to revise.

BLOOM AND GROW FOREVER

There is a tropical plant that hangs near the southern facing window adjacent to the desk where my teenage son had, until very recently, spent the majority of his time.

This plant was healthy and happy, shooting vines and sprouting leaves, practically bursting from every direction with new and vibrant life.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my beloved plant – the crown jewel in the small collection of plants I’ve managed to keep alive – was suddenly dropping yellow leaves with alarming momentum. I regularly pruned away what was dying, but the plant would not respond positively to my triage.

This morning, as I was urgently tending to another round of affected foliage, lamenting the further demise of this beautiful, living being that I have cared for diligently for practically the entirety of our time here this tiny apartment palace, a shocking realization flooded my mind when I saw something I hadn’t noticed before.

Nearly every one of the vines on this poor pothos of mine had attempted to produce new roots, a clear indication to even a novice horticulturalist like myself that the plant had outgrown its container. It had tried to propagate itself and I missed every single one of the signs until the plant had no choice but to whither. I was too busy admiring the grandness of its bounty, never recognizing that in order to sustain its rate of maturation, it needed more space.

Is there a more sobering thought than unintentionally ignoring repeated requests for support from someone something you love?

I wish I could have known better, sooner. But I didn’t. I had absolutely no idea.

After trimming two of the remaining vines, I placed them in a jar of fresh water hoping the threadlike tendrils just beginning to emerge will flourish in this different environment.

AND YOUR CONSTITUTION ISN’T MADE OF ROCK

A wise guru advises her devotees not to allow themselves to fall apart as such a practice has a tendency to easily become habit.

I’d like to be able to report that I am not prone to such displays of fragile character, but I made a promise to myself a long time ago that this would be a chronicle of honesty.

I endeavor to be a constant pillar of strength and composure, but that is simply not always the case. Recently, though, I’ve become like a brittle twig, splintering whenever the wind blows with an unexpected gust. And it has been especially windy the past few days.

How often have I been reminded that the only thing in life I can attempt to control is myself? I must learn to do just that.

HEART DON’T FAIL ME NOW

When lockdowns began suddenly last spring, our busy days came to a screeching halt. The shift was abrupt and disorienting and I can distinctly recall the uncomfortable feeling of confused, anxious restlessness that underscored every one of those first several days of quarantine.

I quickly became accustomed to the pace of sheltering in place, an altogether easy thing for a homebody like me to do. I look back on that time with such fondness in my heart which has now been further magnified by new circumstance.

I’m only able to sit and reflect so self-indulgently at this particular moment because our school rhythm has yet to begin. It is Monday morning, after all, but thankfully we are still on holiday. Instead of rising and heading straight into the day, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to slowly sip my latte and reminisce – the very last vestige of a morning unburdened by obligation.

Time moves forward. Gather with you now all the magic you can carry.

Does a mother ever stop longing for her babies?

And in conclusion: while considering a title for this brilliant missive just now, I searched my archives (as I sometimes do) to see if I’d used this particular quote before (I hadn’t!). For whatever reason, this vintage piece turned up, and I was instantly reminded of a million things, the most important of which is to never stop writing.

AND THE SOLES OF YOUR SHOES ARE ALL WORN DOWN

I managed to carve out meaningful one-on-one time today with each of my three kids, a monumental feat. Especially in the midst of navigating a new, unexpected family dynamic that adds yet another layer of difficulty to such an endeavor.

This is hard. I am trying.

THOUGH WE WILL NEVER BE HERE AGAIN

I’m easing into this new year. Dipping my toe, testing the waters. I’m not ready to jump in just yet, and I’m at peace with that fact.

Eventually, the holiday will end and I’ll emerge from the cocoon that always seems to envelop me during these sacred nights of winter. But right now, I’m trying not to force anything. Instead, I’m soaking up every last second of this respite I’ve been so fortunate to enjoy.

Cautious optimism, is what I believe this is called.

PS: I just overheard my daughter tell her friend (via FaceTime) that her “favorite book by far is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” as if I could love that sweet girl of mine any more than I do already.

COLLECT THE RHYTHM EFFECT

I can’t remember the last time I did not prepare black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, so already we are doing things a little differently around here. Instead, we took ourselves to the park – the whole lot of us: me, all my kids, their dads, and our beloved Papa – and played whiffle ball in the bright San Diego sunshine. I’ve decided the fun we had all together is a far better omen for good fortune the whole year through than eating a particular legume.

Also, the last time my moon blood arrived on the first day of a brand new year was 2015 and that turned out to be a really great year, so. I’ll take it.

HINDSIGHT IS 2020

Oh my goodness, the peaks and valleys of this year have been equally epic. For every sucker punch to the gut came a bountiful boon, every slap to the face matched with the warmest embrace, every yank of the rug revealing an even sturdier foundation. Tears and laughter riding always in tandem.

This year began on a high note. I believe it is ending on one, as well.

Practically everything that has happened between then and now has been unexpected. What I thought was going to happen, didn’t. And the sum total of all of it has somehow worked itself out to be of far greater value than I had anticipated. Few years have managed to force me to grow quite as much as this, and those each were years where I gave birth to – or lost – a child.

This year, neither of those events occurred, but I am no less transformed than if they had.

Those kind of life-altering occasions, for me, have always come with a certain kind of unravelling, of bursting open at the seams, which invariably leads to the process of mending. And as any skilled tailor will tell you, a garment can indeed be mended, but it will never be exactly quite the same.

Such is the case for me, today. I am not the same as I was on the first day of this year as I am on the last. I am me, of course, but I have been permanently altered.

I imagine it’s easy to interpret this as having been damaged and repaired, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. The thing is, life is meant for growing. Just ask any gardener. Growth is the indication that a thing is alive, and a lack thereof is cause for concern. But growth, even for the plant, is an arduous process. The seed must sacrifice itself completely in order to blossom, until there is no seed at all. Except the seed is there. And it’s multiplied. Because every blossom that the seed produces also bears within it the promise of new seeds. The seed has not been damaged. It has become more than it was before.

As I reflected upon this year, I was not surprised to recall that it was, in fact, a leap year. Sounds about right, to be honest. I have done quite a bit of leaping this year. Not always gracefully, often reluctantly, sometimes enthusiastically, ever faithfully. I have leapt, and I have learned.

The only thing left to do at this point is to leap one final time, straight into a brand new year. I’m ready to make the best of whatever comes my way.

AND IF YOU WANT TO BE FREE, BE FREE

Here’s a secret: I’ve cried every day this month.

A conservative estimate would suggest I’ve cried most days this year. But perhaps not as deeply as I have been this morning.

I suppose it’s appropriate that the year that will be remembered as the one that changed the world would end with perhaps this most significant change in my world.

Last evening, on what became his final night living here in my tiny apartment palace, I was finally able to convince Emet to watch my all-time favorite movie, Harold and Maude. There is so much I love about that film, but mostly I love the music.

My son is a musician.

It’s a coming-of-age love story.

My son is coming of age. And what love story is complete without a little bit of heartache?

When he was very small all the way up until we were separated during his 8th grade year, I recited a blessing to him. Never have the simple words been more true in my heart than they are at present:

Angel of God who is guarding you-
Be thou a bright star above you,
Be thou a smooth path before you,
Be thou a strong shepherd behind you,
Today,
Tonight,
When the stars are shining bright,
And forever.

Forever.