And Then

Well.

All three of my children are now in full-time school. Under someone else’s watch. Outside of my home and my care for a good portion of the day. I was excited for this moment to come. It’s been 11 and a half years since I started having kids, quit my job and stayed home full-time to be with them. Today, when I dropped off my sweet girl and walked out the school doors, I didn’t feel much. “That was anticlimactic,” I told my husband.  Which felt completely  wrong. In the span of three minutes I changed from being a stay-at-home, full-time mother to not.  With no fanfare or recognition of the tremendous change. The platform of the last whole chunk of my life was removed and I was walking on nothing. I almost put my arms out to get my balance. I got to the car and sat for a moment, and then the tears came.

Those tears were unexpected. I love her enormously – this is not a case of wishing to be rid of a troublesome child – but she was ready, and I was ready. I thought I was ready, at least.

I had my list. Of all I would accomplish today

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Now Is Now

We were both silent for close to a minute. It was the best end to a book I’ve read in a long time and the final words hung in the air. I could taste them. The wisdom they quietly espoused. And I’ve been chewing on them ever since.

 ***

Being present is very popular these days. The phrase has almost become a cliche – something we modern day humans have latched onto as the thing that will solve our problems. Just be present, living in the moment instead of thinking about the past or looking to the future, and all will be well. We will be centered. We will find rest. We can move forward in peace.

I agree with all of this.

Being present is one of the archive categories on this blog, and that category holds the most posts of any other.

But.

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What Our Souls Absorb

I recently worked on a timeline for our elementary school’s 100th anniversary celebration, sifting through old photos, searching online for newspaper articles, discovering historic treasures at the university’s research library. It was a lot of work, but fascinating and enlightening and worth the effort, if only to learn about one particular man who has enriched my view of the world – the namesake of our school. He died in 1904, but the impact he had on our community and on countless personal lives is inspiring and incredible. His story is worth sharing. His legacy is worth expanding.

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A Mental Kick in the Pants

While looking at girls underwear at Target on Wednesday I saw something that stopped me in the aisle. A woman was walking with an older woman.  A mother and daughter it appeared. They were doing laps on the perimeter of the store, a favorite pastime for many people of older age: no obstacles for slower reflexes to work around. No issues with temperature and humidity. A seasonless, safe space to get legs moving. I’ve seen this often before, and I must say I’ve never thought it looked fun. But on this day, something was different. The two women were holding hands.

They walked and talked. And held hands all the way around. I watched for them as they lapped me in my hunt for girls soccer shorts, and I thought “That’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve seen all week.” They both seemed calm and content. The younger woman (fifties, maybe) didn’t seem anxious to leave and get on with the good part of her day; the older woman (70s or 80s) seemed glad, but not desperate, for her company. Maybe the younger woman held hands to offer balance to the older, maybe it was just a tangible form of connection, of expressing “I want

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Bare Bones

As soon as I read the fifth page of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr I knew I was in for a treat. When I described to my husband my stolen moments of snatching a few pages at a time, I said it was like eating candy. One of those Christopher Elbow chocolates with delicate, golden filigree on top and creamy ganache in the middle. Something sweet that you want to eat slowly – to savor; not the sugar-spike of a jolly rancher. It was delicious to consume Doerr’s beautifully crafted words. I even said some aloud, just to enjoy the sound. Let the syllables roll off my tongue and hit the air with a crackle.

“The eggs taste like clouds. Like spun gold… ‘How about peaches, dear?’ murmurs Madame Manec, and Marie-Laure can hear a can opening, juice slopping into a bowl. Seconds later, she’s eating wedges of wet sunlight.”

It left me full-up with the glory of language and it’s ability to convey feeling, but also with an empty longing. I got in the shower one morning, after ingesting a particularly lovely turn of phrase, with a sentence rolling through my head: I want to write something heartbreakingly beautiful. It repeated itself over and over. An ache of creativity hoping to escape. It was a rather selfish desire, I will fully admit, but one with which most writers can relate. When you love words – even the sounds of letters all by themselves – putting them together in new and fascinating ways to describe emotions as old as time, with which every single human can relate, feels like electricity in your veins. Not so much that it kills you, but enough to deliver a jolt and make you feel supremely alive.

When you get down to the bare bones

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And He Went. And I Let Him.

I let my son walk out the door this morning into potential heartbreak.

I wanted to keep him home. Hold him close. Shield him from hurt and hard choices. But I didn’t. I let him get into the car and drive off to meet his fate. And off he went.

“School drama,” as he put it to another parent overhearing his dilemma, had erupted. Drama indeed. He came home yesterday with worry, and it followed him to bed. It woke with me in the night and said hello as soon as I cracked an eye this morning. A dull, gray cloud hanging above our house.

We talked it over. He called a friend to clarify a misunderstanding. He worked it through with Marc and then again with me. “I wish I had taken notes about everything so I knew what to say tomorrow” he fretted as I tucked him in. I told him the truth was all he needed to remember. All he could offer.

We dealt with the reality of the situation, not trying to escape the uncomfortable yuck he would face today:

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I Didn’t And It Wasn’t

I drove with my kids to Chicago for Spring Break. By myself. Meaning I was the only adult in the car, able to drive, needing to stay awake. Anyone who has taken a road trip with me is now wide-eyed with horror and amazed that we survived. During our entire trip last to Los Angeles, up the coast to Seattle, and back to Lawrence, the only portion I drove was across the street in Yellowstone. I have what my friend calls carpolepsy – the desire to fall asleep as soon as the engine starts. I’m like a baby. When she fusses and you can’t get her to settle, put her in a car and the gentle motion does the trick. If it wouldn’t also mean death, I would hop in my minivan at the first sign of insomnia.

But as evidenced by my ability to write today, I did not kill four fifths of our family last week. In fact,

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Happy Regrouping

You might have noticed I’ve been gone a while. There are a plethora of reasons: sick kids, sick me, days off of school, and more of the same, but the deeper reason for the long absence from posting to my blog is I’ve had nothing to say. I’ve tried. The few chances I’ve gotten I’ve sat for my allotted three-hours-minus-travel-time-from-preschool-to-Starbucks-and-back and written crap. Or nothing at all. Which in itself is depressing. But there wasn’t much to be done since I can’t apply the often touted writer’s rule “write every day.” My rules are more like “shower every other day,” and “get some sort of exercise,” and “don’t let the laundry start overflowing out of the laundry room.” I do fairly well at these.

It’s hard to say exactly why the drought in well-formed and interesting thoughts occurred – perhaps February is cursed, maybe I just don’t do winter well, or it could be the fact that my thyroid had decided to take a break from it’s busy schedule. But luckily, the drought has passed and I had a glimmer of an idea today. Thank you March, spring, functioning thyroid.

 ***

I was recently waiting for several days on some test results that could have been bad news. Thankfully, I received good news instead. But the space between not knowing and knowing gave me a new swath of gray hair. I tried to stay calm, aware that worrying about the unknown accomplishes nothing but stress dreams and intestinal problems, but waiting is not my forte. It is one of my many nemeses (cold feet, hunger and relational conflict being others). I prayed. I breathed deeply. I exercised. But worry crept in and took over a number of welcoming folds in my brain. It found a comfy home next to the concern over finances, unmade summer plans, whether Mae will deal well with all day kindergarten next fall. Fretfulness takes up a lot of the spots in there. This, too, worries me. If my brain is filled with anxiety is there room for anything else? Maybe that’s why I can never remember what it was I needed at the store.

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The Good Bits

I was talking with Anne Lamott this morning.

In the shower. I have lots of conversations there, actually. Often they are arguments – a waking-dream way of working through issues, I suppose. I towel off with a better understanding of myself and even the people with whom I’ve hashed it out, better able to empathize and more in touch with the depth of my true feelings. But today wasn’t an argument – it was an interview. Me, interviewing one of my favorite writers, and a most fascinating human being, asking all the things I would if given the chance. Pondering life with one of the great ponderers.

It wasn’t real. I’m not insane. I simply like to think in the shower, and my thinking sometimes comes in the form of a two-way, fictional exchange. I’m totally willing to own this quirky habit and even recommend it to all of you. It’s free and multi-tasking therapy. What could be better?

To be in Anne Lamott’s presence and truly soak up some empathy and wisdom. That would be better. I would ask

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On Paper

Relationships are so damn hard.  All kinds.  Every day.  It’s exhausting.

I can’t think of one relationship with a human being (I’ve never been that mad at a dog) that hasn’t involved tension at the least and heartbreak at the most.  In love, in friendship, even in acquaintance (though lessened) the opportunity to be hurt exists.  If you looked at it through the lens of pure pessimism, or self-preservation, or in weary defeat, interaction with other people would seem ridiculous.  A futile and even damaging endeavor.  From the just-touching-the-surface discomfort of miscommunication to the violent wrenching open of your heart, letting pain and hollowness pour in simultaneously, human contact is absurd on paper.

And then there’s the untouchable, indescribable, incalculable other side.  The part where your heart stops with joy.  Where you swear death-by-happiness is a thing.  Where a friend writes you a birthday card full of the right words that couldn’t be more tailor-made and you remember why you shouldn’t give up.  Or when the man you love hugs you tight in response to your snarky, hateful comment and you get a glimpse of mercy that you wouldn’t know if you retreated into yourself for good.  Or your blue-eyed four-year-old says with a lisp that she’ll take care of you when you’re old and your heart gets soft and open and ready to love the whole world in response.  This loving stuff.  This caring about others.  This willingness to be vulnerable despite how it looks on paper is actually worth every ounce of effort.  I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  Welcome to being homo sapiens.

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About Me

I am a writer of truth, at least for this site. I write fiction as well, but you won't find it here. The truth is my jam, people. jbhavener at yahoo.com (yep, I'm old-school)

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