Hone

Skull slams my glasses, the bridge
of my nose screams and tears erupt.
This child barrels through his days,
cranium a cannon shot propelled across
the room. Parenting is a contact sport, full
of all that salt water of sweat, tears, gore
and brokenness. He exposes my weak
spots, seems to be programmed to hone
in on them, pointing out just where I need
to care a little more kindly for myself, the places
I’m tender, sensitive, bruised and wounded.

Note to Self

I am giving notice:
my home will be more
messy than I like, our meals
will not be as balanced
or fancy as I used to make,
my makeup will be mostly
nonexistent, my clothes
will be simple and not likely
trendy. But I will see more, catch
the exact tenor of my child’s
giggle, will trace the slight
curve of his calf as he jumps
and jumps, will note the clouds
sinking like a too loose skirt
over the mountain range, the way
my son exclaims over the tiny
point of light blazing
through the marble’s shadow.

Child’s Pose

I stretch face down, my nose
pressed into the pile
of the carpet, lungs dusted
with the remnants of early
summer wind storms; no matter
the amount of sweeping, the aroma
is dry and dust. A rust-clay
stain and the places the two-year
old has expressed his newfound
skill at directing his pee,
the marker ink tracking
race car lanes in a loose s-curve,
the crumb of pizza crust, dried
tomato sauce like so much pollen
fringing the edge, the almost
ivory llama color of this rug we chose
from the clearance rack, because of course
it wouldn’t last, and the grape-juice
purple and chocolate-ice-cream-colored
ones were not on discount. The lines
from where a butter knife gouged
miniature troughs, a curled-up bandage
from a make-believe scrape, bits
of crayon-label paper littering the corner,
scattered scraps and snatches, a fleeting
testament to the collected order
in this chaos, the fullness
of my days.

Mango

The flavor of San Francisco,
honeymooning in juice
bars and smoothie shops.
Butter luscious, smooth, and ripe
with a pepper bite, sweet
and spice kissing like

chutney. The taste
of Las Vegas, the saffron
color sorbet crowned
with blackberries, the craving
for fresh fruit flaming
from my six-months swollen

stomach. Season of waiting, baby
in me ripe and almost ready, when
I found mangoes at a discount and greedy
filled my bags, only to break
out angry in rash round
my eyes, lips, and hands.

My two sons feast on the fresh
fruit as I carefully slice a slip
from the stone, pass it to a small
palm and summer wafts
warm in my nostrils. This
is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

On Taking Up Space

“…I think [a woman] should have the right, on occasion, to move in extravagant clouds of her own making. The right to sail forth with all flags flying while the rest of us tumble about in her wake. The right, when she wants it, to take up some space.”
-Alyssa Harad, Coming to My Senses

This is what I want from this dance thing, I think, as I watch our instructor execute a jumping turn, knees bent behind her, toes pointed and arm like a streamer over and around her head. Her gracefulness defies the simplicity of the jump. Simplicity notwithstanding, I am still self-conscious to attempt it. Memories of a wood floor rushing up to crash into me during my very brief ballet experience, as well as multiple falls ice skating, seem to have written it in my bones: awkward, clumsy. But this, this freedom in breaking contact with the floor, the lightness and whirl and flowing arms, all bound in certain beauty, this is the desire that sparked in me when this instructor invited me to join her folk dance class.

I wanted to feel beautiful in my bones–beauty in the movement and graceful in taking up these spaces. More than just taking up space.   I want to inhabit, to grace the space. The stage is a three dimensional canvas, and we are taking the paint to all the corners, leaping, turning, running this chain of bodies from curtain to edge.  We are striving to cover the ground, and risk results more approximating a game of crack-the-whip than a daisy chain.

There is beauty in all the styles we’ve learned tried. I loved the loose, bouncing Turkish dance mimicking fishing nets and undulating waves of the sea– its allure was in its strength, its power grounded in forceful stomps and kicks; and the energetic beauty of the Bollywood was colorful and exhilarating even without bright-hued silks adorning us. But this Israeli dance has the type of traditional beauty I’ve always felt eluded me. The steps are balletic– saute, chasse, glissade– delicate, with a strength that buoys them.

And it is worship.  Eyes lifted, arms an offering,this dance is a gathering of gratitude for providence and harvest, a dance of praise, of grace.

We grape-vine a circle, opening our bodies as much as possible.  We want to be more than we are.   I imagine the larger stage, wonder if I will be able to stretch my legs long enough to cover the ground. Our instructor smiles at an invisible audience, and I hope my sinews and muscles will learn this lightness, that I will be able to smile soon, too.

***

Dancing is such a bold act, a brazen way of taking up space. Of saying that I deserve to be here. That Someone values me, and deems me Worthwhile. My small sons know this intuitively. They fold and fling their limbs, leap the rug and laugh. The music flows from their fingers and toes. They haven’t learned inhibition yet, or the desire to blend in; they never worry about being in the way.

I delight in their dancing.

So I bring the unfamiliar combinations home, practice the toe-points and twirls, leaping in my bedroom, in front of the mirror, in front of my sons. They smile small and curious, inviting and encouraging. I laugh at my dizziness, at myself, at the fun I am having.

Motherhood–the gestation and birthing, the nurturing and nourishing, the dancing with my children– has been writing a new story in my bones: My body is good. My body is blessed.

 

 

More Questions than Answers: Tuning In, or Tuning Out?

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I’m thinking a lot about asking questions lately, about certainty, doubt, what I know that I know, what may stand some adjustments.  Some of this has to do with my lifelong habit of thinking in terms of What If? (This is both a blessing and a curse, a subject for another post).

So I’m trying to keep track of my questions, and one of the things I’ve been reflecting on is the nature of Self-care.

So many times, when I’m especially tired, I restlessly seek a quick fix–a scroll down Pinterest, a bowl of chocolate ice cream, magazine fodder.  Escape.

But what I really need, what actually nourishes, takes a bit more time, more intention.  It requires marginAnd it’s tuning in, rather than tuning out.  It’s taking the time to notice why I’m feeling depleted, and ask myself what I most need at this time.  So many times, though, I am like a caged animal anxiously seeking any escape possible.  Escape is not the same as self-care.  Escape is about tuning out my feelings, my circumstances, the ones who need me and only leads to further retreating, and further selfishness.

I’ve found that true self-care, though, leads to care of others.  When I choose things that are truly renewing, that refill my emotional, physical, and spiritual reserves, they contain the common element of tuning in: to myself, to others and to God.  From the simplest of activities–a walk in nature, a hot bath, reading a good book; to the most luxurious, say, a massage– silence and space are often involved.  The opportunity to inhabit my body, my emotions, my circumstances, and relationships.   Space to question, listen, and receive.  When I take the time to notice the true need beneath my restlessness and anxiety, I can better take care of myself.  And once I’ve helped myself recharge, I can tune into those around me and help take care of them.

Along these lines, for me, watching a television show, for example, is usually a way of tuning out; it leaves me more depleted than recharged, and results in my being more selfish as I grasp at anything that seems like an escape, unwilling to relinquish any more of my already dwindling energy and time.  Like getting caught in quicksand, thrashing about to get out of the discomfort as quickly as possible only results in more sinking and more panic.  But if I find the strength to slow down and relax with intention, I can slog out of the pit.

So my first line of questions when evaluating whether an activity is actually self-care or an attempt to escape:

Does this tune me into my self, to my relationships, and to Christ?  Or does this attempt to tune out those voices and needs?  What is the underlying need for me to address here?

The second question that I want to ask:

Is this what I want to teach my kids about taking care of themselves, the example I want to set for them? 

I want them to learn healthy ways to take care of themselves, to take time for being outside, for resting and exercising, for getting their cup filled so they can continue helping others.  So, in practical terms, if exercise, for instance,  becomes a way to escape my family and responsibilities–going to the gym every day by myself for hours, for example–then maybe that’s not the example I want to give them.  Getting us all out the door for a walk in the neighborhood when tensions are rising, on the other hand, is always a good choice.

And so, a question for you:  What qualifies as self-care for you?

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Changing Plans

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A few weekends ago, we headed out for a drive through the country, looking forward to open vistas, an extended conversation, a walk in the country.  We passed a small stone church on the outskirts of the county, one that seemed anomalous in our corner of the southwest.  I’d like to get a picture of that, I mused aloud, and, careful what you wish for, the next thing we drove over a jagged piece of metal that planted itself in the front tire of our van.  So we pulled off into the parking lot directly across from the little chapel where all three boys assessed the damage and proceeded to change the tire.

In his book Margin, Richard Swenson, M.D., talks about having the space and time to be interrupted, particularly by God, in our lives; that sometimes the most important thing that will happen in the day isn’t on our agenda.  This was one of those times; our outing didn’t go as we had planned, but it was quality time together, all of us learning, and I had the opportunity to record it.

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Donut grin.

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This takes serious effort.

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