Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Flawed Abundance

The last weeks I've slowed the pace of life, allowing time for gratitude, being, and total occupation of a moment. This deliberate, languid pace quieted the cacophony of thoughts and actions usually clamoring for my attention:

Rush. Do this. Do that. Orchestrate. GET IN THE CAR!!! Must do...Should do... Hurry! Oh shit. Hurry faster. Whirl, swirl, rush rush rush.

It's easy to continue to speed along, living on the facade while not delving into these inky, vital, churning masses. My new awareness makes the practice of being present easier and softer. More natural. I've seemed to step off the maddening swirl, creating a tapestry deep in rich nuances and emotions, allowing me to do the living and exploring that needed to be done.

As I've cultivated this slower cadence, any previously ignored or brushed-aside parts needing attention percolated to the surface. A collection of assorted subcutaneous themes (which, for me, usually reside just below the frenetic pace of life) actually gained voice and traction.

*****

At any given time, I help and guide my children. That's a given--I am their mother. Conflicts come and go. We talk, resolve, hug and regroup. With my newer, slower approach, however, I've quieted long enough to truly explore feelings and nuances where before I didn't necessarily allow enough time to delve.

Currently, my sweet daughter Abby is unsettled. The underlying, inky source of her conflict? Moi. More specifically, her perception that she isn't getting enough of me. She's been temperamental and short-fused. Sassy. Traces of disappointment and unease shadow her usually clear blue eyes. Luckily, she's started to master her ability to articulate her frustrations. While I applaud her ability to express herself, I must admit some of her observations are fairly biting. Like...

Mommy, I feel like all you do is text and tweet.
Mommy, you're always on your computer.
Mommy, when you're always on your phone, I feel like you're not taking care of me.

Ouch.

And you know what, she's right. My phone is my constant companion; it blings and pings and I slide that baby open, reading the current tweet/text/blog/email de jour. As a result, I'm only giving her part of my attention. I've created a situation where she feels she needs to vie for my attention. She's starving for me. And competing with my phone.

This is not okay with her. It's not okay with me. She wants and deserves solid, undivided, full eye-contact chunks of my attention. Her perception IS her reality. And therefore, mine. Her disappointment is palpable--her emotions raw. As for her perception that I'm not taking care of her--well, my first reaction was, That's preposterous! I mean, who does she think puts all the clean laundry in her room, the laundry fairy? And prepares the meals and drives to school and activities...,

but then I looked beyond her words and soaked up the message infused between them: I haven't been fully present in my moments with Abby. As a result, her foundation suffered hair-line fractures and I needed to patiently repair the damage. With patient explanation and gentleness. And time.

Luckily, I had it. This slower cadence I've cultivated allows time. Time to excavate and explore the ruins of a parental mistake. Time to create a cavernous space of possibility--allowing the dissonance to sharpen in brilliant focus. The priority? My daughter.

The steps I took to address Abby's concerns were neither novel nor inspired. Merely obvious footholds of problem-solving. I mentally created computer- and phone-free time. I let her be the one to end conversations. I allowed her be the first to end a hug. My epiphany lay in the novelty of my approach--I allowed space for the clamoring discord to have its rightful spot in the bright spotlight. Traces of Abby's doubt still linger, holding to the edges of her newly bolstered belief in her mother's love. Gratefully, I now see a returned brightness in her eyes.

*****

A woman, a mother, must stoke the fires of her own life. She must craft solitudes to fill her parched soul. I do this. I've gotten really good at this. But in the process, I've created an imbalance. Probably because I left myself thirsting for so, so long. And now, I must restore equilibrium--that precarious balance between my needs and theirs, constantly recalibrating, tweaking, stepping-back-to-analyze. The elusive balance is never easy; and it is forever shifting. I know that if I completely plunge into their lives, I lose myself. If I immerse completely into mine, I lose them.

*****

I read a glorious poem this morning and the following words resonated with salience:

Stripped of causes and plans and things to strive for, I have discovered everything I could need or ask for is right here— in flawed abundance.
(From Mark Nepo's poem, Accepting This)

My deliberate cadence allowed my flawed, cracked abundance to shine through. For this, I offer supplications of gratitude. For in the quiet magnitude of a moment, I learned the simplest, most profound lesson. Slow. Down. Listen. My hope: that the brilliant, humbling clarity will carry me through.

11 comments:

By Word of Mouth Musings said...

Creating a balance, its like walking a tightrope and some days I feel I may fall and fall and fall. I wonder if there is a safety net that will cushion the blow ... and then reality steps in. My children's needs outweigh all, my life is their life - interestingly, my husband travels and when he is home - he is awesome ... but his life is more his life ... mine is not usually mine. Small moments, joined together, remind me that I am still me ... I love the me that I am because of him, because of my children. But that other me ... it still has a voice in there :)
I love how you write, you always reach me with what you have to say - thank you!

Lindsey said...

Those hairline fractures? I know them. Both in my foundation AND in my daughter's. Good God, lady, thank everything on earth you are out there - we are so in step. Thank goodness. Have a glass of wine and call me in the morning! xox

Christa said...

'A woman, a mother, must stoke the fires of her own life. She must craft solitudes to fill her parched soul. I do this. I've gotten really good at this. But in the process, I've created an imbalance. Probably because I left myself thirsting for so, so long.... The elusive balance is never easy; and it is forever shifting. I know that if I completely plunge into their lives, I lose myself. If I immerse completely into mine, I lose them."

I do think, Denise, that you read my mind sometimes. This, this is so true and so key to moving forward.

Thank you.

lifeafterbenjamin said...

Oh. Gorgeous. I am struggling with that balance right now. The last thing I want is for my daughter to feel that she is competing for my attention - my love - with a computer, a phone, an iPad. And yet, and yet, there is a part of my soul that is only satisfied with things that she is too young to be a part of.
I think this is the ache of the Mother. Being ourselves, being with our children...remembering to just be.

Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities said...

"And now, I must restore equilibrium--that precarious balance between my needs and theirs, constantly recalibrating, tweaking, stepping-back-to-analyze. The elusive balance is never easy; and it is forever shifting. I know that if I completely plunge into their lives, I lose myself. If I immerse completely into mine, I lose them."

I can't tell you how much this speaks to me. I am not sure I believe in balance, but I do believe we must aim for it even though it might ultimately elude us. And 'inky'? Might be my new favorite word. Seriously.

Karen Maezen Miller said...

Look at how perfectly it works. She spoke and you instantly self-corrected. Easy to forget, easy to remember. Trust yourself. You're doing it.

Justine said...

Denise, your gorgeous words here mirror my soul. I think this elusive balance is something every parent continually strives for every day, and for me, some days are more successful than others.

Lately, certain events made me take a hard look at my own life, and I realized that in my constant search for the nebulous ideal, I failed to see that what I have before me is enough. In fact, as the poem beautifully depicts, I have it in "flawed abundance". Thank you for sharing this with us today, and as such, a much needed perspective.

Amy @ Never-True Tales said...

Flawed abundance...I'm going to remember that. Especially since I deal with the tug and pull of my priorities vs. my kids' all the time. They should be one and the same, shouldn't they? In fact, they are...my actions just don't always reflect that.

Nancy C said...

Beautiful. I struggle with my focused time...even when I'm with my boys, I'm not there.

I need to turn it off. I'm going to work harder to do just that.

Lovely words.

Christine said...

Just today I felt this acutely. I had a social commitment, one that I've bailed on month after month with excuse after excuse. I don't do well with busy Sundays. I prefer to languish in the quiet (ahem, sort of quiet) company of my family, find an hour or two to myself, and ready us all for the week that lies ahead. Out of guilt for missing so many months of this gathering I planned to go. But as I was doing some chore and started to feel my heart quicken thinking about all that had to be done today, I knew, I just knew I had to let this activity go, once again, and forgive myself for not being everything to everyone. I had to realize that for now I have to be only what I need and my family need.

And that quote...how I love it!!
xoxo

Mamaload said...

Denise -
Are we living the same life? ha ha. Yesterday my daughter took my phone out of my hand, closed it and said "This is going in the wagon." And you know what, she was SO right. The damn thing needed to be put away! Thanks for a great read.