Eschew the shrew?

Within every trite platitude, there is truth and within every outlandish situation there is commonality.  Humanity evolves to the next generation without escaping our equal needs for vacuous heraldry and mute goodness.  The scales are in constant states of swinging instead of precariously balanced.  There is a manic need of acknowledgement and depressed need of maintaining the status quo.

The tentative and assertive nature of these emotions rage to the forefront during the holidays chock full of travel, crowds, work, housework, regular life and life worthy of a song or instagram.  These are modern problems but they are not born from technology.  We only have to study Greek tragedies or Shakespeare to remember that the pendulum swings; depravity and lying are not novel, and tragedy and despair are constants.  The progress of a better humanity is a reasoned proposition but its practice has yet come to fruition.

Why make living any more challenging?  Or, why engage to make it more pleasant?  I struggle with these questions.  I wax on-wax off while washing my dishes only to surrender this mindfulness when the wrecking ball slams into me.

Brain research tells us that trauma changes our brain.  What defines trauma for each person remains unquantifiable in the same way the the need to love and support our children is not measurable. Parents are expected to provide enough safety and love to protect our progeny from harm while managing to provide them with ample opportunities to gain grit and fortitude through struggle and discord.

What is the ideal iteration of this?  For whom is it ideal?  The parent?  The child?  Each child within a family?  Within a classroom?  Within a hospital?  Within a system?

The oath of do no harm seems worthy but illusive.  It is noble.  It is honorable.  And involves selflessness.

Love.  It is the answer.

It is simple to look instagrams of lives with love.  However, love which endures is not photogenic.  It is abysmal sunshine– too deep to measure and too bright to directly view.  Love that fights fiercely like a rodent for survival in a world in which there are powerful forces looking to eliminate it.  Shrewish determination — obdurate and relentless — culling the balance of goodness and grit.  It is letting a person carry the load for awhile when even waking up seems a struggle.  It is willing reaching out through the fog of exhaustion into the child’s request.

The past six months have been the most impactful of my adult life.

Friends have elevated.  Friends have fed.   Friends have prayed.  Friends have gotten mad on my behalf.  Friends have pushed and carried.  Friends have sent cards, some weekly.  Friends have listened.  Friends have wiped tears.  Friends have not abandoned but have been beside me. Beside the boys.  My brother has been an ear.

Every garden needs manure to grow, and the bed is fertile this year.  Like rose bushes blooming after a trim, friends have bloomed into our lives. Our garden has born strong stalks with prickly thorns, sweet earthy smells, and huge blossoms.  New growth inspired by the chlorine driven days and nights or hours talking about our kids and learning; golden ones grown in Gambier whose calls, cards, texts, and visits have pitchforked bruises into gentle bedding.

My sons are united.  Friendship between Houlder and Dell has regrown after dormancy.  Frazer continues to astound.  Porter has found solace in his brothers who have found endurance in modeling love to him and for him.

Yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast we were surrounded with friends and their huge family. Their camaraderie embraced us and love of each other sparkled.  We were also torn between the delicious food and confabulating and our grief.  Never have I have been unable to express gratitude but words failed me yesterday.  Thankfulness failed to emanate.

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Beset and beguiled in equal doses.

Like the yeast rolls Houlder made needing time to rise, our friends held a space for us to navigate the new.  It just left us speechless.  I awoke today wanting to voice these feelings:

We are honored by their kindness and goodness.

Grace is acceptance.  The aspirant drive of humanity propelling us to believe when we don’t think we can and are not sure we understand the gravity of the pendulum swing which has altered our lives.

Sustenance comes in messy and marvelous whispers to our soul.  We don’t understand the unreasonable nor do we understand the hope.  But we are we.  Choosing friendship.  Choosing us.  Sadness and laughter.  Thanks and acceptance.

Choosing gratitude may be marginalized by memes, self-help books, and Oprah, but it works.  It just not always look the same to everyone.  Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and blind can see.”  We know we have been blessed and thank everyone.  As we continue to explore new traditions and seasons, we are listening and seeing you who have called, fed, listened, driven, smiled, hugged, and just been accepting.  Thank you.

Humanity may be progressing.

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Schism

When I experience a shift in my universe, the world keeps spinning.  Is that hope?

When the order of my life is shaken like a snow globe, not a speck of glitter returns to its original place.  Is that possibility?

When no one knows, only my voice shouts in my ears.  Is that the new normal?

I read The Road  thirteen years ago, and I continue to think about it.  Facing chaos and destruction, there is love between a father and son.  There is a biological imperative of survival with physics demanding that time “like an ever rolling stream” bear our souls forward towards survival.  I have always felt this novel fictionally depicted all that change represented in my life.  It made manifest the schism I feel when gifted with new life or loss.  When the composition of my life changes, my landscape is ravaged. I am the little boy moving forward unsure, but sensing there may be reason to move. Even when hope is there, it is unknown and new.

Last summer I read A Little Life. Despair and love married together. Unavoidably connected.  Nature vs nurture vs epigenetics.  Privilege does not spare humans from humanity — both the gifts and the assaults. Depravity and cruelty climbing the hill to get there before kindness and love. Does one emotion exist without the other?  Regardless of success and intelligence, is there anything more base than my need for love and companionship?  Will I survive if don’t offer myself this grace first?  This novel’s exquisite exploration of friendship, familial love, and psychic pain causes me to reflect regularly.

Fiction changes me.  Inspires me.  Enlightens me.  I laugh and but more often I cry.

The Book of Joy hauntingly reminds me that compassion is suffering with a another person.  That joy is not predicated on a society of me but we.  That we will all suffer and we all need to examine the perspective of someone else. Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have given me an infinite referential gift.  This book sustains.  Their friendship holds the space for hope.

And today, I want that space.

In the climate in which I am living, it feels surreal.  Politically.  Socially.  Emotionally.

I have witnessed children who have everything, reject it.  Refugee children wait and absorb.

I have shared a community of holding up a family when one falls away from the fold. The beauty of many persons choosing us instead of me.

Then there is the phone call.  The one you know is different from the moment you answer it.

Eric was killed.

There we stood.  Surrounded.  Defined by this singular event.  A departure from all we knew.  Time pregnant with the weight of schism.  Six children.  Friends.  Parents.  Wife and ex-wife.  Brother, sister, cousins, uncles, aunts.

One of the small gifts of parenting is that the youngest among us take no mercy when limits are exceedingly raw.  Plodding through.  People weep because they are sad; five year old boys still want to play legos and color. The circle is unbroken moving forward in spite of heartache and loss.

I witnessed grief and joy.  And, selfless love beyond measure.  I walked with Forest, my step father for the last 30 years, struggling as he realized that he was not gone first.  Unmoored by emotions, how does an octogenarian build a new normal?  Can one life bridge decades of mechanics?

In fiction, perhaps, if we were living in Jane Austin’s time.

It is too soon to consider the hope.  The schism is too wide.  But, ache may be the bridge.

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