Photo: Daffs in mom's garden
I've gotten lots of garden time lately and while digging and weeding and planting I have offered my grief to the wind. Compost and rich soil and myriad heavy-on-the-purple gardens heal me, and it seems time for a post that's a little less soggy.
The death of my father has altered me in ways I didn't think possible. I seem to be at a turning point and I've been quiet - quieter than ever before. It comes at a good time, though. In so many ways I'm at a crossroads. And rather than choosing a path just yet, I'm content to only observe the options in front of me for now, with a newly discovered detachment (admittedly tinged with a wee bit of depression).
What I ponder these days is letting go.
Sometimes, the solution to a dilemma is found in what initially seems counter-intuitive. Take balancing, for example. If you walk a thin beam, ala gymnastics, the impulse upon losing balance is to tighten up, to shift lower, to cling to and toward the beam. But the solution, really, is to lift & elevate instead. As my pilates instructor would say, "Reach! Reach!" If you doubt this, find a curb and give it a whirl.
I do well to remember this logic when what I'm doing continues to be wrong and I feel stumped for a breakthrough forward. Parenting is such an area. Parenting a teen, especially. Just when I want to cling it seems I must instead learn to release. And as with balancing, it is again the better choice - and surprisingly steadying.
There is so much joy in parenting a young adult, and yet wistful sadness as well. When it finally sank in that my relationship with my oldest, Brady, will forevermore be defined by his need for independence, I felt an ache for the young needy child that once was my captive babe. Bittersweet indeed, though I'm finding the more I release and trust, the closer we remain - and for that, I am so very glad.
For years I've carried that bit of dread as I worried that his teen years might be marked with power struggles, silent treatments, and resentment, even though somehow I doubted we would end up that way. Still too soon to cash in my chips, surely, but since I'm not one for power struggles, I know that I offer little to rebel against. "Pick your battles" has been a constant mantra for me, even though there've been fewer and fewer battles I've found worth picking. We're just far happier together when we don't judge how the other chooses to spend time.
People ask me how I can homeschool and be with my kids all day long. I'm never quite sure how to answer, but the truth is we probably do the complete opposite of what folks assume. I do not control their time, we do not regulate by strict schedules, and I do not use stickers, carrots, whips, or cartwheel-turning to coerce. In fact, there is no teacher-student facade going on in this household. I see no reason to recreate something that we've voluntarily rejected in school, for one thing. And why create an arbitrary relationship when we have a perfectly legitimate and natural relationship - parent/child - that works beautifully? We are partners in this journey of learning. Forget school and its worksheet world, "life twice removed."
And how to "get" my children to learn? Back to the balance beam. I couldn't make them learn if I wanted to. Don't cling, release. Don't force, get the hell out of the way. The single best way to ensure your children live a rich, varied, interesting, inquisitive life is to live one yourself. When I'm tempted to force something down their throats, I give myself a time out.
There is so much beauty in taking a step back and resisting the urge to control, manage, or cling. And sometimes it means the difference between peacefulness and angst; or love and adversity.
It even allowed me to usher my father, lovingly, into the next realm. When I meditated for healing as we sped to him, it was working - I could clearly see and feel the healing, loving light as it surrounded him and, hopefully, soothed him. But once I got to the hospital, I could not retrieve the same connection, no matter how hard I tried, or how deeply I focused. And as I held his hand and stroked his leg during his final moments, I suddenly, intuitively, knew it would be better to cradle him and release him. Clinging to him, hoping for something that could not be, would only make the journey more painful for him, and he needed us to guide him through with love and commitment. Being one to travel inward, I even found that I was actually blowing out with each exhale - a little lift to ease his passage.
Thus far, this wisdom of opposites has served me quite well. It has allowed me to examine my own motives when my urge is to control (or even manipulate). It has shown me that freedom really is the most empowering thing, and when we threaten to take it away we should expect resistance - the natural reaction. And it removes unnecessary struggling. Why create struggles? No worries, there will be plenty without our adding fuel to any fires.
While I was speeding to Wisconsin to be with my father, and feeling the visceral pain and fear, it crossed my mind that created conflict is so senseless. Why do we create conflict when life will deal us heavy blows for which we ought to reserve our energy? The war in Iraq, top-down ministry, heated and personal attacks over referendums and committees and who-said-what....
When the solution, really, is simple. Be nice. And when you are inclined to cling - don't. Instead, breathe out. Release. Trust. Honor freedom.