Times They Are A’Changing

It’s true what they say–the less you write, the harder it is to write. It’s been a month since I’ve written here, and I suppose it’s about time.

The past month has been one of enormous change. But aren’t they all? We like to think we’ve got a handle on living, a sense of what’s coming, a method for navigating our particular circumstances, but that’s an illusion–or at least I think it is. Things are changing all the time. Things are enormously changing all the time, but mostly we don’t notice.

Take Peanut for instance.

In the last month, Peanut graduated from high school, enrolled in college, and flew off to New York for a quick five day trip with her lucky mama–that’s me. I hadn’t spent that much alone time with my girl since those first almost three years of her life–her older siblings were in school every day and her little brother hadn’t been born yet.

Peanut was not what you’d call a “good” baby. She cried a lot. She wanted to be held non-stop. But I had time, so I carried her with me everywhere, and I taught her to love the up and down motion that occurs when your mother is doing squats while holding you. This turned out to be a pain in the ass–MINE–pun intended.

But you know what else those early years with children taught me?

You never get it right.

Babies and toddlers are constantly reminding us that we have to go with the flow. And things are always flowing with those tiny growing beings. Just when I thought I had Peanut on a sleep schedule, she got a cold and the sleep schedule went out the window. Just when I thought I had a pretty good meal plan going for Sheldon, her little brother, he tossed his chopped broccoli sopping in butter to the floor and has not since eaten a green thing.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, in one of her many books or interviews or online classes says that change is always occurring–at the cellular level. IN other words, there is no stasis. (Forget for a moment that I did not direct you to the quote or section in her work and decide for yourself that you will look her up, order one of her books, listen to one of her many teachings on the Internet, and you will be forever changed although according to Pema, you already are.)

We cannot stop the march of time.

Cells reproduce and die, neurons snap, wounds heal and reopen and heal again. Children throw gloriously ridiculous purple faced fits and then sit calmly for hours. Hawks hatch from big hawk eggs in a nest down the street and fly away before you can zoom your binoculars in to get a look. Bird shit is washed away in the next rain and you’ll never find that nest again. This is the way it goes.

I fight change all the time. And fighting change is a hopeless endeavor, a losing battle.

I tell myself all the time–you’ll never get it right. I know it sounds pessimistic, but it’s actually pretty damned freeing.

A long time ago, when my two oldest children were toddlers only 15 months apart, Anne Lamott told me (no, not directly, but I like to pretend we are friends) that I was going to fuck up. It was a revelation to me. I remember nodding my head in wonder and relief because I was an uptight little mother worried about every tantrum, every banana not eaten, nap missed, watering eye, runny nose, all the scabs and bruises and those breathless NOs screamed with a demonic ferocity before red-faced and tightfisted my child collapsed into a writhing mess on the dirty vinyl floor.

I’m gonna fuck up, I thought. And everything changed. If I was going to fuck up, I might be able to just enjoy this glorious mess we call life.

Of course, I never remember this, but I’m a wee bit lucky because my kids and my husband are experts at reminding me that we all fuck up.

I hope they never stop because when I stop worrying about fucking up, I start looking around, amazed and awed by the ever-changing landscape that is life.

 

I Get To…

October.

For the last four years, October’s shorter, leaf-blown days signal the end of tennis season. This year, as the mums fan out in yellow and orange and deep purple blooms, as the Burning Bushes in my back yard go red, one oval at a time before dropping leaves like feathers on the grass, as tiny webs fly through the air and stick to my still bare arms, October ushers in the final tennis season.

Peanut is a senior, and last week she played her last high school singles match and qualified with her spunky doubles partner, Marie, for the state tournament where she will play her last high school doubles match.

Each of the three years prior to this one, I’ve welcomed the end of tennis season, the last of the all-day-long Saturday tennis tournaments, of the after-school matches that run from 4-8:00. Welcomed the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night Subway-less suppers, the end to the midnight oxy-wash laundering of the dingy white tennis jersey. And because Peanut has Type 1 Diabetes, the end of tennis season means that we don’t have to worry so much about overnight lows or stress-induced highs.

We catch up on our TV shows, the ones we have been DVRing since the new season began. We take walks at night and eat sit-down dinners.

As we all know, I’m a dreader. Normally, I would be dreading the state tennis tournament in Chicago. I would dread the long drive from southern Illinois. I would dread the city traffic, the distance between the different tennis sites, the cold weather, the early morning matches, the old Holidome where where we stay every year, but something funny has happened to me. I’m not dreading it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve dreaded one silly thing since tennis began.

This year, I get up early on tennis days to make sure that Peanut’s uniform–one white track shirt and a black skirt–are clean and folded. I pack the cooler with cold drinks and nuts and ibuprofen. I fill the car with gas, if the meet is not at home. These are not new things. I’ve been doing them since Peanut entered high school as a freshman. What is new, is that I look forward to all of it.

I’m not all-slumped shoulders with a deep woe-begone voice chanting in my head, “Another fucking tennis match, and I won’t be home until 10:00, and we’ll have to eat at Subway or McDonald’s for the 15th time this week.” The woe-begone voice never even showed up this year. Instead, I am Mrs. Giddy Anticipation, beaming out rays of happiness and joy. I get to attend another tennis match and watch my girl play again. I get to watch her hit her low heavy ball cross court. I get to sit with the other parents or joke around with the other tennis girls who call me Mama Bridge, and instead of embarrassment, I embrace it. I am Mama Bridge.

Is it possible that the ever-annoying, interfering auto-correct is correct when changing dread to dream or read or bread or tread? Has something changed? Is it me?

I think so.

About a year ago, I decided to insert get to for have toSomeone suggested it in an essay or a book. It might have been Shonda Rimes in her funny, smart, and entertaining memoir, Year of Yes.

I have to say, I always thought I should to learn how to say NO before I worked on yes, but because a wise, book-loving crone sent this book to me, I thought I’d check it out–and guess what, she was right. Shonda thought I should embrace my wonderful life, and I think little by little, I took her advice.

I don’t know if get to for have to came from Shonda or Pema or Glennon or Brené or Katrina or Amy, but I’ve been reading a LOT of women this year, women who know what it means to fail, to strive, to fall down, to dare getting right back up, to laugh, to cry, to be flawed and beautiful human beings, and by Goddess, I’m learning something.

I don’t know what will happen when tennis ends, but I don’t have to know. I’ll probably cry when Peanut hits her last volley, tosses the ball up for her final serve. I’m sure I will grieve a bit, the way I grieved when Peanut’s brother Lefty’s pitching career ended. Endings are a drag.

But you know what, endings are also beginnings, and I’ve been practicing all year at beginning again.

I’m learning, friends. I’m sure I will dread again, but I hope to remember how damned good it feels to dream or read or tread or even eat bread.

Tomorrow I will hop in the car, stop to pick up my awesome mom who is going with me, and drive our happy asses to Chicago. I plan to sing the whole damned way.