Category: Big Thoughts
Topics I’ve been meaning to cover …
The way our neighbours and friends are bringing us food regularly, and what an amazing mental boost that has been (not to mention being good practical help, too). I meant to photograph us enjoying each meal, but my good intentions got lost in the whirr activity–the thought seems only to occur to me to AFTER supper. Dirty dishes = not a compelling, or (sadly) original, subject.
The way I always need to learn things the hard way–why is that? The easy way would be so much … easier.
The way, immediately following a moment of self-congratulation, I do something that reminds me how ridiculously human I am. Fallible, weak, BITCHY. Pardon the swear, but no other word quite sums up my Being today. I am so growly, so irritable, so lacking in patience, I’m even getting on my own nerves. Heh. Thankfully, the weather turned sunny again today, and after hauling three children to the grocery store, I arrived home and observed to my husband that the day was gorgeous and that my children, lovely as they are, were driving me insane, and he kindly suggested that he could take them all out to the backyard to play. CJ loves being outdoors. He would live out there full-time if we’d let him. The others agreed to give the great outdoors a shot, too, and that’s where they’ve spent the last few hours. I stayed inside and cooked; which is almost a novelty, thanks to our kind friends and neighbours; and seems to have improved my humour.
Kevin’s leg continues to heal incrementally. He gets around on it amazingly well. On April 20th, he’ll go back for more xrays, and will possibly get the splint off at that point, and begin rehab–if the bone’s all healed. He is definitely much more tired at the end of the day than we are used to. But that’s one of the things I’ve gotten to learn the hard way in the past month–I can get up early! Not only that, I actually like being the first person puttering around the house, and it’s given me a few minutes of quiet and calm to start my day.
Life. Difficulty = richness = damn hard = good. (If this doesn’t seem to add up, forgive me; math was never my strongest subject).
Can you guess what Albus is eating? Yes, it’s what’s marked on the freezer bag: frozen red peppers. He and Apple-Apple ate half the bag after supper last night. Local Red Pepper Popsicles.
Kevin has the flu. He’s utterly out of commission, and I’m worried about him. I’ve been trying to remember when life got so hard. It feels like we’ve been running a non-stop marathon, but where was the start line? Months ago, years ago. Last night when Fooey was having a nightmare, and it was 10pm and I’d been on my feet and working all day and just wanted to fall into bed myself, I held her and these words came into my head: “This is the only moment. This one here.” It gave me incredible peace and strength to think those words. I felt unexpectedly capable: of being present, and of giving what needed to be given, right then.
CJ and I came upon a car/pedestrian accident yesterday. We’d been playing in our front yard, enjoying the sunshine, when I noticed a disturbance at the intersection very near our house, so we walked down to see what was happening. It had just happened, though three people had already gone to the woman, and were comforting her. There was nothing I could do; someone in a car had already called 911. It shook me. Life’s randomness, unpredictability, sadness. We cannot protect ourselves from it.
But my nature is optimistic, hopeful. I believe that attitude matters, that how I react to situations matters, that I have it in me to be … calm, present, patient, whole. That’s why I wanted to hang laundry today. It seemed medicinal. Being outside is medicinal. Sunshine is. This is the only moment.
I’m beginning to understand what “labour of love” really means, when referring to an artistic endeavour. This collection over which I’ve been labouring for several years is beginning to qualify, methinks: it matters deeply to me that I get it right, that the end product feels real and true and good, and until then it’s like being caught up in compulsive behavior. This need to push on and try to finish the book to satisfaction, no matter what. That’s the love part: it doesn’t matter any more to me whether the book will ever be published, whether anyone else on earth will read it, just that I get it right.
Labour of love = hopeful futility?
Every once in awhile a labour of love gets published to great acclaim, and it seems so obvious, such a perfect ending, well, of course, this was bound to happen when he/she slaved over it obsessively for sixteen years, naturally, the end point is worldly reward. But it’s ever so much more likely that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s ever so much more likely the labour of love lives in a shoebox in the attic instead.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Just that the other version makes for a better story. And I like a good story.
Random thoughts kicking around …
1. My friend Katie’s Facebook status recently read (to paraphrase): “Katie is grateful for all of the reasons she is tired.” I’d like to borrow and adopt that as my own default tagline. There’s nothing wrong with complaining and worrying sometimes, but I’m a big believer in attitude making a genuine difference in how our lives proceed. Not that daily gratitude will prevent disaster and sadness, but that disaster and sadness will be made easier to bear. I am thankful not to have to test this theory, except in small ways, at present.
2. Experience = wisdom. Right? Somehow I’ve always accepted as fact that layers of experience, age, will gradually result in wisdom gained. Except I’ve had the revelation that it’s possible to keep discovering the same things over and over again, in slightly mutated form, such that it would seem all that marvelous experience hasn’t been exceptionally integrated into a grand interior mural of cohesive wisdom, but is hanging about in separate clumsy segments waiting for me to trip over it again. Partly, this is to do with age itself, and the feeling that time continues to speed up, and the fact that my brain is actually about two seasons behind, right now. It’s so hard to maintain a focus, to remember the resolutions, to stick with the plan (while trying to remain flexible) and ultimately better oneself. The previous sentence would be a terrible mantra.
3. Speaking of mantras, my siblings, when confronted with the above rambling non-mantra, suggested I should keep a “Life’s Little Lessons” kind of diary. A list somewhere with those nuggets of wisdom recorded.
4. Just had another thought: maybe it’s not that important to remember these lessons. Maybe experience simply kicks in during a regular day as situations arise, everything from walking to the library in the rain pushings a stroller and pulling a three-year-old on her bicycle (and enjoying it, as experience tells me such moments are fleeting), to rewriting a story a million times over, because there is always something more to learn.
5. Little Life Lessons have a tendency to sound bland, trite, and obvious written down.
6. Still, it might be nice to return to thoughts like: I like baking bread! Or, I’m glad for everything that makes me tired! Or, three-year-olds need to feel like they’re independent sometimes! Or, you can always say your sorry, even if it was an accident! Et cetera. Yup, that could become addictive. (Why each life lesson cries out for an exclamation point, I cannot say. But it does!)
7. Writing. I want to blog about the writing, but nothing coheres into firm thought, just the usual angst-ridden blether. I’m finishing a poetry collection right now, mostly on young motherhood, and memory. And I’m continually writing and rewriting these stories in the Nicaragua book, and wondering how many more years will be wasted/usefully applied in pursuit of that book, and whether perhaps the subject is just too loaded and therefore doomed. Perhaps I will understand more clearly when this draft is done, but if experience has taught me anything … no, I won’t.
8. What was that about daily gratitude? Here’s a little life lesson: it is infinitely easier to be grateful for and to love my children than to be grateful for and to love my other creative outlet of writing. I have such a simple relationship with my children, despite the minute complexities. I just love them. I trust my instincts about them, and have never questioned this journey we’re on together. But the writing … I love it and crave it and need it; and hate it and resent it and agonize over it. I haven’t yet discovered the antidote.
This week’s theme: Indian spices; curries.
Goal: To use some of those less-popular legumes and pulses now languishing in our pantry. These strange small hard dark chickpeas that never seem to soften, no matter how long I boil them, for example. Kevin purchased several pounds awhile back on the advice of a taxi driver in Thunder Bay (no kidding). And that bag of black-eyed beans.
Meat to be thawed: 2 lbs pork sausage; 4 lbs turkey parts.
To kick off the week, I’m planning red-lentil dahl and rice with peas for supper tonight. Admittedly, that will not diminish our supply of peculiar chickpeas and black-eyed beans … but it’s all about inspiration. I’ve discovered in my Indian Cookbook, by Madhur Jaffrey, some recipes that should fit the bill.
Pork with Chickpeas. Chicken (Turkey) with Tomatoes and Garam Masala. Black-Eyed Beans with Mushrooms. All recipes also call for fresh or canned tomatoes, with which our shelves are laden. In Extending the Table there’s also a cabbage (local) with lentils recipes I’m keen to try. Further recipes making me drool this afternoon are Kusherie, an Egyptian meal of lentils and rice cooked together, served with a cumin-spiced tomato sauce, macaroni, and fried onions. But we’ve run plum out of onions, and must replenish next market trip, so that will have to wait. Another nice plain meal whetting my appetite is Khichri, rice and lentils cooked together with potatoes and some milder spices: cinnamon, cloves.
One final (promise!) Big Thought arising out of last night’s walk: There’s something about being in motion that frees the mind to think reflectively; and, if the motion is shared, to connect. Maybe that’s why road trips on highways seem to have a mythical quality, everyone in the vehicle sharing that forward motion, that journey. Same with walking. Not so with city driving, in which forward motion is constantly thwarted by street lights, stop signs, other cars, pedestrians, et cetera. Being stuck inside a motionless vehicle is frustrating precisely because it feels like we should be moving. It doesn’t matter if we’re wasting mere precious seconds of time; the sensation is of a much larger waste, that sensation of being stalled in perpetuity, in the midst of the journey. Walking somewhere might take more actual time, but because we rarely have to pause for long, and aren’t moving that fast in the first place, we don’t have the same deeply irritating feeling of interruption.
Apparently CJ did wake and squawk briefly several times last night; Kevin said these episodes lasted mere moments, but because he was in another room, and we’re running two humidifiers now (so much for cutting down on energy consumption), I didn’t hear the babe and instantly leap to grab him up and feed him back to sleep. He is now 20 pounds, 6 ounces. Weighed today. I’m noting that here because I seem incapable of noting it anywhere else.
I’m only a tiny bit torn about moving him out of our room. Mostly I’m looking forward to reading before bed (while lying in bed), and to resting more consistently, ie. more than an hour or so consecutively. And I’ll still get to bring him into bed for snuggly night feedings, just fewer and further between. It always seems to come to “it’s time.” This may be the case for every transition. Something just tells me when it’s time.
To speak of a more fundamental transition, I’m finding myself in this New Year thinking often about life beyond primarily childcare. Researching possibilities. Feeling excitement, even impatience.
Kevin stayed home Monday morning so I could write, and he reflected afterward how these moments will never come again. You either decide to spend this time with your growing children, or you don’t, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t spend this same time with them later. They will be grown. You can’t sit on the kitchen floor while CJ practices standing and taking a step, and Fooey gobbles handfuls of peanuts perched on a stool, talking utterly non-stop. Sometimes it feels too slow, too boring, too quiet. Sometimes it feels like you need some positive feedback, some notice, some worldly recognition. That feels vain to admit, but there must be something in human nature that craves recognition, recompense, for work done. But this isn’t regular work. You might even argue that it’s not work. It’s living, life. It’s experience. It’s definitive.
And I’m trusting that I’ll know when it’s time to shift my focus, that I’ll know when my time has come to get up off the floor. Maybe it will be when CJ can run away from me, or when Fooey has her nose buried in a book, or when Apple-Apple can cook supper, or Albus can walk to school by himself. I’m just guessing. I never know it’s time … till I know.