The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have a problem – with word art.
Last week I went to IGA and almost walked out with five – count em, five, pieces of word art. I slapped my own hand before I got to the register and restrained myself to one. It said:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
For heaven’s sake.
The worst part is, I. Loved. It.
If I get the opportunity to grow old, I will be the crazy cat lady with no cats and one thousand pieces of ridiculous word art. (It could be a Saturday Night Live sketch, if I was clever enough to write it.) At the very least, my kids will tell stories about their barmy mother who never saw a cheesy inspirational quote-on-stretched-canvas she didn’t like.
At least they’ll always know what to get me for Mother’s Day.
This year, Mother’s Day began with brilliant fuschia gerber daisies and the smell of coffee and sausages.
I read John Green’s Paper Towns as I got ready. I spent time with people who remind me of the joys of motherhood. I ate slightly-too-spicy Thai food with my own wonderful mother.
David ushered me out of the house for coffee and shopping with one of those people who – in good and bad – want.. mostly… to hear the whole truth from me.
It was truly a picturesque day, until…
I returned at five o’clock with those special kinds of bargains found only when shopping with friends. David had installed three more stairs of floor while we were gone. The girls played quietly in the living room as I stumbled through my kitchen, wondering what to make for dinner.
All was tranquil.
Twenty minutes later, I heard David’s – alarmed – voice. Elliana. Elliana! Where. Did. You. Find. The. Scissors?
I shut the fridge door and stepped around the corner. My youngest stood with her hands on her face, dressed in her sister’s former ballet costume and sporting a brand-new, devastatingly-horrible mullet with shoulder-length side burns.
She looked from David’s horrified face to mine and erupted into tears.
I just wanted it a little bit different.
I abandoned dinner to leftovers and found the scissors she’d discovered, which, of course, had been tucked away on top of our fridge.
(This was not the first time Elliana has cut her own hair, after all. )
(This was also not my first day of motherhood, either.)
I frowned and poked and prodded at her not-so-little head. One thought turned over in my head –
I liked this day the way it was.
These past weeks of tearing down, painting, and renovating our house have both exhausted and energized.
I’m getting things the way I want them.
I’m liking things the way they are.
I’d like to call it contentment, but as I trimmed and sheared Elliana’s hair into a somewhat-styled shape, I realized it was nothing more than
… (sigh) Control.
A year ago, my family was a mess. Our marriage, our lives, our jobs, our children, their education, was all out of control. We poised on the edge, frail. We tried to hold it together but both knew we were primed to break into a thousand pieces.
Sometime around November the tide turned. I saw the things others saw. I saw the most important thing, which was that I spent too much time imagining what others saw – and I started to talk. We started to talk – to each other, and to wiser and steadier friends around us.
Together we admitted defeat and pulled ourselves back to function.
Piece by piece – emotionally, physically – we’ve rebuilt our home, and thursday night, in our new, cozy, tidy (yay me!) basement, perfectly set up for snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug-movie-nights, we watched as our favorite TV show ended.
I wish I’d known I was living the good ol’ days when I actually lived them.
My chest got tight in those final Office moments. With Andy’s surprisingly poignant reminiscence and Pam’s gentle, there’s beauty in ordinary things, I remembered why I loved this show so much.
David caught my eye and smiled.
Nine years ago, we were very different people with very different ideas of how to have fun. Thousands of time we’d asked ourselves how did we get married and what did we have in common and seriously, how can you be so different from me? Everything I enjoyed – in music, TV, books, in anything, it seemed – David detested. Everything he loved I thought was boring.
Then came The Office.
My brother had handed us a copy of the first season with the words, you have to see this.
One night while I was at work, David watched the entire disc. When I came home the next morning, he said, spend twenty minutes with me on this. If you don’t love it, I won’t make you watch any more.
From the moment we heard the words, absolutely, I do, we were both hooked. Offbeat, irreverent, awkward, horrible, outrageous, and brilliant, The Office made us laugh at ourselves and our lives in ways we desperately needed.
Slowly Thursday nights became Office nights. Just-learning-to-walk ten-month-old-Noelle bounce-danced to the theme song. Once she started to talk, she’d end bedtime with, you watch Michael-Pam now, Mommy?
We couldn’t really explain to other people why we loved this show. We just knew it was the first time we had both loved something – together.
And if we loved one thing together, maybe we could love other things together too.
So, as I watched the closing moments of this first thing that David and I had loved equally, as I let the truth of beauty in ordinary things sink in, I almost didn’t hear David say,
We’re living the good ol’ days right now, you know.
The thing is, I haven’t been so sure.
A shift emerged in our family these last weeks. Change is coming – and not the change we expected. Just as we’d learned to make peace with most things, another string pulled, and our path turned again.
These strings pulled in my mind as I shaped Elliana’s whack-job into a marginal pixie cut last weekend.
I liked this day the way it was.
I liked my life the way it was.
Friends, let’s be honest.
Most of us don’t like tension. We resolve it as quickly as we can. We pursue resolution with the mentality of an athlete pursuing a prize. Our medals are peace and quiet. We revel in the it’s over now and I can breathe moments.
But those moments don’t last long. And when they’re over, we wonder why all the bad things happen to us when in reality,
It’s never really over
It never really should be.
At least, not yet.
I read a story to Noelle this week about a man who tried to resolve something too quickly. He’d been told he would have a child. He became too old to have one. His wife was also too old. Both tired of waiting, he eagerly agreed to her suggestion to have a child with her maid instead.
Forced resolution often brings disastrous results.
How many times have I tried to move the strain before it was ready to be moved? How many times have I gnawed at the pressure in my heart, my brain, my chest, trying to make it over before its suppose to be? How many times have I made horrible decisions because I just didn’t know how to wait?
Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that easy is good and difficult is bad.
What if we’ve got it all backwards?
What if the reason we don’t recognize the good ol’ days when we’re in them is that
the good ol’ days always have a bit of tension?
Here’s the thing: I need the tension.
It’s not good for me for everything to go right.
Perfection breeds expectation of continued perfection; continued perfection invites a Baby WaWa tantrum the moment something goes even the slightest bit wrong.
Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension. – Joshua L. Liebman
What if we weren’t so quick to resolve all our tensions? What if we let them simmer? What if we let patience work a different kind of perfection in us? What if we grew to understand that
We can’t grow without tension, nor can we truly live without it.
And I hope when the moment comes, you’ll say, I-I, I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. Yeah, with every broken bone, I swear I lived. – One Republic
I learned so many things about Elliana that day I cut her hair. I’m tired of being the baby, she told me. I want to grow up. I want to look older. I want to be different.
Sixty minutes of shaving and shearing and fixing and mending molded tears to laughter. I hugged her tight when it was over.
I think you got your wish, girl.
I’ve watched her in the days since. She’s begun to reinvent herself. She’s facing frustration head on. She’s becoming new.
So am I.
I liked my life the way it was.
But, thank God, it won’t stay that way.
The good ol’ days will become new good ol’ days. We will laugh and cry and worry and laugh some more.
Which leaves me to hope we might know just a little
when we’re living it.