I keep forgetting to look at the water.
It’s all around me: on the walk to school, in pockets along streets we pass in the car, outside our bedroom window, and there, most boldly, at The Kid’s school, the harbour sitting below us in early-morning serenity. The water I’ve longed for a view of my whole life, and I continue to miss it. Because, you know, #life.
“What I want is what I’ve not got, and what I need is all around me,” Dave Matthews sang back in 1994, the heyday of my insecurity and identity-building, and I clung to the words for the wisdom I thought they provided, a message just for me in my rule-following glory: suck it up and be grateful. Well, now I’ve got both what I need and what I want, in almost dizzying measure, and here I am measuring my life in coffee spoons anyway, and complaining to anyone who will listen that my diamond shoes are too tight.
And yet…there’s grace for it all. Every moment of it.
That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? For me, at least. To stay in the moment.
This morning the universe seemed to be conspiring against me, which is a philosophical inconvenience when one believes in God, since “the universe” is a Person, and as such He seems to have it in for me most days before 9 am. The boys were taking their time (read: NOT) obeying my instructions, which I delivered as though we were approaching the beaches of Normandy and survival depended on our hustle; in reality, we were leaving for school drop-off with time to spare. But tell that to my high-anxiety, Type A personality (and when you do, wear a bullet-proof vest because she is packing…and bitchy). I couldn’t find the remote to the garage, which as a sentence I think may be the most #firstworldproblem ever uttered, and there was a bunch of other shit I can’t even remember but seemed pretty damn monumental at the time. Then I tried to compose a prayer out loud and just felt like the biggest joke ever. WHAT BUSINESS DO I HAVE PRAYING FOR/IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN? What will they learn from that: calm prayers uttered from the lips of a manic freak who just rushed them through their morning as though our lives depended on it? For that matter, what business do I have praying at all, after such a display of faithlessness, living as I do like the world depends on my control of it?
Well…I’d humbly submit that I have every business, in both cases. I mean, I still need air.
So I prayed, and the air defused a bit of the tension that filled it, and these two faces that keep showing up every morning, they looked back at me in trust. And I was reminded of the night last week, when they just would NOT STOP TALKING at bedtime, and all I could picture was the cover of the book Go the F*ck to Sleep and it is possible I kept quoting it under my breath. Then I felt both their tiny bodies, one under each of my arms, and the warmth and life coming from them, these two beings, these two boys, I longed for for longer than I even know. And I breathed, which also means I prayed, and it sounded like “Thank you.” Thank you for bringing me here independent of my trying and my identity-building and my rule-keeping and -failing. Thank you for this life that sucks the life out of me and gives it right back.
Last week TK had three hours booked at his therapy centre and Little Brother’s babysitter cancelled, so I ventured out in desperation with LB away from the centre and toward the centre–of the unfamiliar suburb where we know only one spot, twice a week. We walked twenty minutes and passed a playground and landed at a bakery. At the bakery, we had a biscuit and a conversation, and we stopped at the playground on the way back. The impending sunset and just me being me brought on nudges of anxiety that threatened to become waves, but he wanted to stop and jump off some steps in front of an office complex anyway. So I breathed/prayed and let him. A woman inside, sitting at her desk, saw us and waved. LB grinned at his achievement: “Higher! I higher!” A walk with a boy, with my boy, it can change an afternoon if I just show up for it.
Yesterday I was rushing, AGAIN, with time to spare. LB moaned in the backseat about his shoes hurting his feet, which I thought was bullshit but checked on anyway after we pulled up to TK’s school. I thought of the mindfulness technique I picked up in therapy: take the time to feel the moment. UGH. But I did, taking each shoe off, then each sock, and replacing them. It took maybe…a minute? He looked up at me, trust in his eyes. “That’s better,” he said, then his eyes moved to my initial necklace. “Where’s my letter?” he asked, and it took maybe…twenty seconds? To have a moment of finding the W, holding it out to him, seeing the recognition in his face, of being mine and my being his.
We walked together to TK’s classroom, where the kids were finishing lunch. His teacher grinned at me conspiratorially, handed me a thin but firm envelope. It wasn’t a report. It wasn’t a list of goals. It was his school photo packet, and she and his therapist and I went through them together. “That’s him,” she said to me as I held up the largest photo of his beaming face. “They so got him with that shot.” TK and LB came up next, followed by the rest of the class, who giggled and grinned over the photos. “Aww, look at James!” Then the other kids left for recess, and were it not for therapy, for all our challenges, the next moment wouldn’t have happened, and what would be the good in that? Because the therapist led us over to the corner where a car park sat, constructed in wood and glue and buttons and lights and love, three floors put together just for my boy. TK’s teacher grinned, and I tried not to cry, and later TK asked me why the therapist/friend had made it for him. “Because he loves you,” I told him. “Because you are so loved.”
These moments that come because of who and where we are, and what grace is, leading us to them not by our own effort but even more incredibly, through our ceaseless failures to recognise it until we have nowhere else to turn and nothing else to do: beholding the glory in front of us and staying there, an act of worship as simple and difficult as praying, which is to say, breathing, which is to say, #life.