Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

What must they be feeling?

February 9, 2013

I try to imagine what the families of the murdered Sandy Hook Elementary first graders are feeling. How are they surviving the vicious taking of their children whom they will never hold in their arms again? I stop far short of really opening my heart to the bottomless well of their pain.

When my husband and I married, my stepmother gave a toast on behalf of my late father. She said to me, his youngest daughter and someone who struggled for years to understand his love, that I would never know the depth to which my father felt my every joy and sorrow.  Indeed, I had never imagined that my Dad loved me in such a visceral way. Perhaps, then, his anger at the choices I’d made while growing up was born from the pain those choices caused me.

When I had my own child, I began to understand on a much deeper level what my stepmother meant. My baby son feels like a living, breathing part of me who is no longer physically attached to me (except when he’s nursing!) There is an energetic connection between us.   When he is away from me, a central part of me is elsewhere. My heart beats now in and outside of myself. When he cries, I ache.

At four months, when I clipped his thumb instead of his nail, and he began to wail, I sobbed as if I could feel his pain with him. “This is what she meant,” I thought.   At five months, when I had to leave him behind in the daycare room for the first time, I felt like I was leaving the core of my being behind, taking only the weeping outer shell of myself to work, wondering what I was doing.

It holds true on the joyous side as well – when my son laughs, smiles his wide-open grin, talks his sweet sounds, or beams with pride at his newfound ability to stand, my heart expands beyond measure. Being in his sunny presence is the most simple, pure joy I’ve ever known.

Our son is wholly his own, he loves his growing independence, and he is still part of me and my husband. Is this physical, emotional and spiritual connection because we (and God) created him, he grew inside me, he feeds from my breast, he snuggles his little body against mine, and rests his sleepy, curly head on our shoulders? I don’t think my Dad did much of that beyond help create me, but apparently he felt love for me at a profound level. Something I had never understood, until now. And something I thought was perhaps just true for mothers, until watching my husband with our baby boy.

When I told my mom about the thumb-clipping incident and surmised that these intense feelings for my son would lessen as he got older, she said no, they wouldn’t. Her five daughters are now in their 40’s and 50’s. They haven’t gone away. It seems that feeling another’s pain and joy as if it were our own is a lifelong part of parenthood.

Because of the tragedy of Newtown, I’ve wondered about the potential for unfathomable pain in loving my son so deeply. Will I lose him? I have friends whose children have died very young, their time together cut impossibly short. I’ve realized it could happen to anyone and could happen to me.  No amount of prayer or begging seems to make a difference. I tell myself there is nothing to do except cherish everything about him and be awake to each present moment. Let this “little Zen master” (as Jon Kabat-Zinn calls children in the home) teach me over and over about the preciousness of now, and impermanence.

The joy of being his parent is so great and the privilege of caring for his heart so tender, it is worth the horrifying risk of unimaginable heartbreak. Perhaps that is how the Sandy Hook parents are living through this nightmare, able to survive their grief because of the unforgettable sound of their children’s laughter, the physical memory of small, sweet arms wrapped around their necks, heart-filling pride at the little people their children already were at six and seven years old, and an all-encompassing love that continues.

Joy Returns!

February 22, 2010

Many of you are aware of the sorry state I was in at Christmastime. I was down in heart, to be sure. I deemed it blessed then, only to realize later just how true that label was.
 
Yesterday, during a retreat at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Brother Curtis Almquist from the Society of St. John the Evangelist reaffirmed for me that when our hearts are broken – broken open – God can come in. Usually, God has been patiently waiting for a welcoming of His ever-available and powerful love.
 
I also find that when my heart is vulnerable, it is more sensitive to the slightest healing grace. Similarly, when my own will has repeatedly brought me to a dead end, I become far more attuned to the subtlest of Divine leadings.
 
So here we are eight weeks post-Christmas meltdown. And I’m deeply well. You see, after I placed my love life in the hands of God (with a touch of resignation), to my surprise, God delivered immediately. Now, I know that God often delivers in ways I don’t recognize. Yet this time, the gift came in clear-as-day and in such a form that I knew it, or rather he, must be from God.
 
A dear girlfriend once spoke of the comfort of being “well loved” in her long-term marriage even through its tests and trials. She wished for me the same feeling. I knew deep down that despite having been in a few romantic relationships in recent years, I had not been well loved in quite a while. Nor had I loved particularly well.
 
Perhaps I had to understand just how well I am loved by God before I could really experience that on a human level? Perhaps God wants me to know Him now through a man’s love? I will say that I’m amazed by the experience.
 
I heard a few lines of Psalm 30 yesterday that perfectly capture my gratitude for this gift I’ve received:
 
“O Lord my God, I cried to thee for help,
   and thou has healed me…
Weeping may tarry for this night, 
   but joy comes with the morning.”

 
Joy did return, and boy, is it a good feeling! When I start to fear that this too shall pass, I take comfort knowing that joy and weeping are ongoing parts of life. I’ve come to trust that God will use each to deepen my relationship with Him.
 
In the meantime, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this.

The Year of Love!

December 6, 2009

When my sister and her husband were starting to create their family, she declared to him, “This is going to be the year of sex!” (It worked!)

So, on my 41st birthday, I’m declaring that the year ahead is going to be the year of LOVE! And since love always works (even in those mysterious ways that we don’t quite understand at the time), I know it’s going to be a super-powered, super-fun, super-fabulous year!

I commit to you today that I will make good on my declaration by: contributing love to my community by sharing what I have… discovering and creating love through my work in myriad forms… loving my body and taking care of my heart… expressing selfless love for and experiencing fabulous love with a man (whoever he may be!)… and channeling love to my family and friends through prayer, encouragement, laughter and acceptance.

In yoga this morning, my teacher Kyra read a poignant story* about Mother Teresa’s choice to start serving the West and her reasoning that while we may not be starving for actual bread on any comparable level to the people of Calcutta or Bombay, we are starving for the spiritual food of love.

When she received the Nobel Prize, Mother Teresa was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.”

So, today, this little missive will be shorter than usual because a) love – generating it within yourself and sharing it with others – is all you need, and b) I have to go get a birthday pedicure (lovin’ my toes!)

xo for your own coming year!

Happiness, Meaning or Both?

September 21, 2009

When I worked in New York as a 23-year-old, I used to walk home through the West Village crying my eyes out. No one noticed. This was Manhattan before 9/11. I lived in a SoHo loft, went out with friends, saw countless downtown performances, and rode the subway to the Cloisters at 190th Street whenever I needed solitude and a park that didn’t have creepy dudes doing creepy things.

99% of the poetry I wrote during that time was sad. I knew that I was soul sick.
 
At 26, I escaped Gotham for Aspen. I didn’t know how to ski. I didn’t own a mountain bike. (Both soon rectified!) I had moved there to manage a dance festival, to be in the middle of immense nature and to live with nice people who said hello on the street.  When I volunteered for a community project and my team leader was strung out on coke, I knew I needed something even more than mountains.
 
I went to a small, dark church with about six other parishioners. The sermon was one that I will never forget. He spoke of young people’s pursuit of happiness instead of meaning; when, really, meaning is where it’s at. This was a huge relief to me because a) I wasn’t great at happiness, and b) meaning gave me an anchor.
 
Thus was born my exploration of life below the surface. 
 
Several years later, my oldest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43. The thought of losing her was more terrifying and incomprehensible than my whole meaning-filled being could stand. So, after much devotion to my soul, I changed gears.

Awareness of life’s brevity and the singular importance of love and family was a given during that time. Happiness however… was long overdue. Moroseness would do nothing to serve my sister. I vowed to make that six months the best of my life. The highlight was celebrating her recovery by inaugurating the Annual Bare Chested Boobie Romp (now in its seventh year!) Happiness… I was hooked!
 
While fun as hell, after a while of living in hedonistic pursuit, I came to know deep down that it wasn’t me. Not solely, nor soul-ly. I yearned for depth to ground my pleasure.
 
I’m not the life of the party, nor am I Ghandi. 14 years after that Aspen sermon and many workshops, therapy, coaching, yoga and pole dancing classes later, I’ve come to believe that my life is about both: happiness and meaning. 
 
Some of you lucky dogs may have been born with this wisdom. For me and perhaps others, it’s been a journey that couldn’t have been forced.
 
My Dad once told me in his backyard that I needed to “lighten up” (which I didn’t take kindly to!) Just before his death, he thanked me for the “pleasure of my company” after a road trip, just the two of us. I believe the shift was partly due to finally being my true self with him, and partly due to revealing a new self – one that has been hard won. I’m glad he got to experience her for a short while and I’m grateful that I get to live her now.