“It’s time to go!!” I shout from the bottom of the stairs. We were headed out, again. If it was to a swim meet, one child would already be in the car, fuming that we were making her late, again. If it was to baseball or volleyball or summer job or volunteer work, then the 2 children who were not participants in that activity would be dragging their feet. Why was this so hard? Weren’t they DOING what THEY wanted to do? So, again, I shouted “It’s time to go!” but I followed with “Or I will start singing!!!” Because my children were never motivated by my anger or distress or exasperation or expletives. They were motivated toward faster feet by the innate desire to NOT listen to me sing.
Perhaps it was my repertoire… A favorite of mine was one of their fairy tale favorites, “Once Upon a Dream” from the Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Inside my head this sounded just like the quasi-operatic, 50’s-era, beautifully tressed, but ultimately distressed, damsel. I also frequently called upon the show tunes from the high school musicals I performed in. There is nothing like seeing me start into the “Anything Goes” finale, complete with choreography, along the deck of the swimming pool to get them out of the water and in the car. But it was my stylized rendition of the “Milkshake” song that moves them — and scars them, still— the quickest, so I saved it for when the clock was really ticking. Like now. Why were they BEING so difficult?
It was just to a movie. So, while I like to sing, I shouldn’t have to. This was fun, right?
Suffice it to say, it was August… a calendar anomaly in between “end of season” and “start of school” when I would go from being ridiculously busy to busily cramming moments that you hope add up to memories into a small pocket of time. “We are going to have a good time if it kills us!!” Kind of mentality. We were headed to the beach the next week but I thought a light hearted flick would do the trick so I took an afternoon off and we went to see the movie “Click”. In it, an architect, played by Adam Sandler, finds Christopher Walken in a Bed, Bath & Beyond and is given a magical remote control. With the click of a button, he can fast forward through those mundane moments of life so that he could focus and take care of business. He moves through his wife’s conversations and children’s activities in a blur to find, at the end, that he has all of the success he ever dreamt of, but he didn’t have them. He didn’t have his children or his wife as they had gone on with their lives without him. And all he wanted to do was go back. Rewind. Undo the decisions that he thought had been magnificent and redo the mundane.
As the credits rolled, we sat, rooted, in our seats. The blur that had been our summer became a blur of tears as my children were just as caught up in the message as I was. We had spent a lot of time in the car together on our way to our activities not realizing that we were actively avoiding the best part. It wasn’t where we were going and what we were going to do there, but being together. Managing our lives that way meant the schedule was the master and we were only remotely connected, logistically, to each other in the service of that schedule. Ironically, we were connected, at that moment, by our lack of connection.
I had taken my kids to the movie for the easy laugh that Adam Sandler body function movies usually provide, but the laugh was on me. Click. Breathing in the fake butter smell and breathing out the ego-mystical faith built on Oprah’s aha moments and protestant hallelujah’s, I prayed. I asked God, I kid you not, “to give me someone who would allow me to focus on my family next summer”. Right there, while the credits for the movie “Click” scrolled up the screen, I prayed for remote control. Of my schedule. And of people, of all things.
“Dear God, please put the people in my life that need to be there to do the things I need to do”.
Those of you versed in the power of prayer probably think you know where this is going. But, I had been pretty successful with that prayer. I was always delighted and grateful with the result of this… I would think of someone or need expertise on a project and then “poof” there they were. Out of context. In a grocery store or airport across the country. It was wonderful, this synchronicity. I realize now, that was like a teaser. A movie trailer for what was to come. A gateway prayer that pulled me into the ritual of praying because I thought I had some measure of control over the outcome. But with one click on that remote control, my life was rewound. I thought I was asking for an assistant in my business so that I could take time off for all of my kids activities the next summer. What I got was pregnant. At the age of 44, with my same husband of 18 years and with children who ranged in age from 10 to 16, God pushed the rewind button in a way that forced me to wholly refocus on my family in a holy way.
It was immediately apparent that my biological clock was broken and that I had no control, remote or otherwise. The new life that was growing within me could not grow without me and so I set about letting the clocks run down on the parts of my life whose time had come. My business as an interior designer filled my schedule and my head but not really my heart. My children’s activities filled their hearts but broke our days into such tiny fragments that our lives, not just our summers, were as fragile as a pearl necklace. Pull too hard and then, when it breaks, you are on your knees desperately trying to find something of value. I was on my knees, knocked up and knocked down in the very same moment by the very same force. At the time, it felt like it was being forced upon me but it didn’t take long to see that it was the beginning of something sourced through me. It wasn’t over, but I was about to be the fat lady singing. I was not just late, I was 14 weeks along.
It was time to get going… but, to where? To what? I felt choked by the changes and my willingness to humiliate my kids into action with my antics now was about to be turned back on me. This did not fit into my life plan anymore than I could fit into my jeans. As my growing belly slowed my step, the steps I was to take became more evident. The more obvious my circumstances became, the more obvious the choices I needed to make became. The remote control was not in my hands but I used it to push the pause button so that I could gather my breath and strength for the new life that was coming. The baby’s, yes, but also mine.
I would love to tell you that it played out like a fairy tale. But it didn’t. And even though I’m going to fast forward through it right now, that’s the good part and I will get back to it. Because getting back to it is the point. That year at the beach played out like a horror story of control as I was the one between the illusion and truth. I was forced to see what was truly out of control. I was going to be bringing another child into a home that was already broken. I got what everyone who prays is asking for. An answer. An immediate fulfillment of my “order”. I prayed for “someone” who would allow me to “focus on my family” by the next summer. While I didn’t understand it, in April, of 2007, I got exactly that, an unscheduled child who added grace to my life. At first I thought she was a reason to stay and work on my marriage. Instead she became the reason to leave. I could not do what I needed to do as a wife and be the mother I needed to be.
In duality of being and doing according to plan, I had prayed to the God of Productivity to help me fit it all in.
Its been 10 years since that visit to this beach and a new understanding of the doing of being came when we went back to that familiar place this summer. My children had grown up going to this beach several times a year. As wonderful as our memories were, there were ghosts there, too. When marriages and families are falling apart there is no place you can go to escape it and there were years that the beach was simply a beautiful backdrop for some truly ugly scenes. The divorce process had caused an “elimination diet” where we cut out all places and experiences that poked us in places that were still raw and painful. We had stayed away from this place because we had loved it so much. We also stayed away because we feared it would be a repeat of what we hoped was past.
What we found when we returned were find new ways to play in that old, familiar setting. We ate at our favorite restaurants and found some new. We rented bikes, like always, but took different paths. We found a new stretch of beach that rewarded us with a bounty of hermit crabs, herons, leisurely sun rays and leaping manta rays. In zip lining, we found that the gravity we felt in ghosts of our past was now necessary to help us “fly”.
“Make me who I need to be, to do the things you need me to do”.
My journey back to this beach was possible because of the work that sprung from that original prayer. The request for the “someone” that I thought would be an assistant but was a child? It ended up being me. And the work I thought I had to do? It ends up not being mine, at all. The duality of choosing between the “do” and the “be” that I had fought against was already within the person I fighting for, all along. The struggle wasn’t between them, the struggle is what brought them forth. I was the one who was moving too slow, doing too much, to see what I needed to be.
My last morning on the beach, I slipped out of the house for a walk. In feeling pulled back to this beach I felt I had been pushed forward with grace and integrity and gratitude and I just wanted to revel in it a little longer. It was low tide and as I walked along the edge of the water I knew the lessons of the week had lessened my fear and deepened my faith and I was toying with, yet, another evolution of the prayer. I was no longer questioning the whether of it, I was questioning how. How do I do what I need to be? And then the answer came. As I was walking, deep in thought, I heard a noise to my right. There, not 10 feet away in the surf, was a dolphin. We had witnessed dolphins playing in the surf all week — mothers and young and multiples of up to a dozen — and had encountered them as closely as we could while jet skiing — but here was one, joining me on my walk. The noise that had startled me from my reverie was her breath. Dolphins are a symbol of duality as they dwell in water, yet breathe air. They do what they have to do to be what they have to be without thought. The rhythm of this magnificent creature as she dove into the depths only to rise for a breath matched my stride and my steps as if to say, “Just roll with it. And breathe”.
“Make me who I need to be, to lead others toward being who they need to be, to do the things you need us to do”.
My prayers had led to a relentless review of “how I got here” but always ended with a “but now what?”. Well, I have to come out of my shell. From those lessons I have been able to create a map that not only represents past events but provides a framework for
going forward. A framework that is a blueprint for crafting your own journey. It is not only how this mama found her bearings, but how you can, too. This is the process that birthed MamaBearings and I must share it in order to keep it. By speaking up and advocating on behalf of the abused as a CASA. Toward innovation and education on ADHD, learning disabilities, bullying, depression and suicide. Toward helping others understand the patterns of behavior that underly every system around us as an Archetypal Consultant. Through story and workshops and community engagement through a spiritual center. Even hermit crabs live in a community so in the coming weeks, I will begin reaching out. Rolling with it. And breathing.
Join me. There will be stories of anger and desperation and exasperation, with, quite possibly, expletives but there will also be lessons of joy and insight with humor and yes, singing. Because, as the leader of the junior church choir, my mother, used to say “I would rather hear a loud wrong note than a soft right one, because it means someone is willing to sing”. I am willing. Bear with me. It is, most definitely, time to go.