This morning I woke up feeling so naturally happy. My son was sleeping horizontal in the bed next to me. My husband had kissed me before his commute to work, like every morning. I had a long day ahead and was waking up late; I had to rush to get out on time. But I wasn’t stressed or overwhelmed. I didn’t have anything grand to look forward to, it was just a regular day but I felt overwhelmingly grateful and with joy in my heart. I think that’s wonder, in the body, and mostly, in the spirit.
Here is a photo of what I was up to today: running a thesis workshop for Masters students.
When I was little I loved the Super Bowl because it gave me 4 uninterrupted hours to play with my friends. We used our imaginations and ran castles and pirate ships and went on Safaris. Sometimes we’d drop downstairs for some chips and dip or apple juice. The adults would be watching the game. Then it would be back to playing.
Tonight we invited our next door neighbors over to watch the Super Bowl and the wonder, for me, came from the anticipation and joy and delight in my son’s eyes awaiting to play. He waited out front then once the kids got here he showed them a new hot wheels course. Later in the night they made a fort in his old crib.
The crib was the safe place and the rest of the room was “lava” and it was that moment I remembered all the “lava” of my youth and wondered: when did the lava stop? I’m going to work on imagining lava spilling around me, again. More fun that way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how wonder is not quite what I hypothesized it as: deep and accessible. This experiment has complicated that definition and challenged it. I think of wonder as small surprises, natural delights, the changing of time, growth. But overall, today this phrase came to me: The World is For You….Not Against You.
What do I mean by that?
I was trying to pick just one wonderful thing that happened today, and my mind was moving like a spider across a web, trying to pick just one. So I will share them, chronologically.
At 6:45 am, my son knocked on my door. He sleeps in a crib and I’ve been scooping him up out of his crib every morning for 3 years and eleven days. The knock made me pause. My boy was getting bigger. He was a monkey and could climb out of his crib easily, but even in his athletic ability, he still called my name in the morning from his room. Him knocking startled and delighted me. I told him to jump in my bed and get some more rest. I wasn’t ready for this moment, yet, I was. Of course I was. But in a way I was sad to realize my son wouldn’t need me in the ways I’d been accustomed to. But I was delighted by his independence, his growth, his joy to come and find me.
At 10:00 am, I entered a fairly empty TJ Maxx looking for thank you cards to send to everyone who so lovingly bought my son a birthday gift and/or attended his third birthday party. I know handwritten thank you cards are so old school, but I love them. However, once inside TJ Maxx one cannot just buy the desired item one came for then leave. (Cardinal rule!) I stumbled upon an orange Nike Oklahoma State hat…..normally $25, on sale for $6. This was a moment of wonder to me. I’d been wanting a hat, there the hat sat, on the shelf, waiting.
At 4:45 pm, I was on a jog. Well. It was more of a walk than a job because it had been cold and I had been busy so I hadn’t gone as frequently. When I run I play Spotify music from my phone that cozies up inside an athletic fanny pack. And as I was running, the birds chirped like it was spring, a melody, their own song. They were louder than my music and I attuned my ear to listen to just them. Before iPhones and digital music and cassette players — there were the birds. To sing and sing and sing some more.
So, world: how do I pick which wonder? Perhaps a side effect of this experiment is noticing wonder more, subconsciously. And by seeing more than one wonder a day, I affirm that the world is on my side. I can look at the small three moments today and see this to be true.
Today I began again. I decided to dedicate every Friday to writing my book. It’s a memoir and it requires a deep dive into a story that still brings me grief. “It’s so hard,” I told my husband on the phone. Last summer, I wrote a funny novel. However, writing about your life warrants deeper more complex and un-finished emotions. But it is worthy work, and that is why I do it.
Tonight, my friend, Tanya, who is also writing a memoir about illness and family, similar topics of my own book, sent me this beautiful article titled, “Grief is Healing in Motion.”
I’ve copied and pasted it here. It’s short and full of wonder. Grief is motion, grief is love.
“Grief is the response to a broken bond of belonging. Whether through the loss of a loved one, a way of life, or a cherished community, grief is the reaction to being torn from what you love. As Martín Prechtel teaches, the words for grief and praise are the same in the Tz’utujil language because you can only grieve what you have dearly loved.
We grieve the loves we’ve lost. We grieve our abilities vanishing through illness or age. We grieve the loss of faith in our religion. We grieve our children leaving home. We grieve the paths we didn’t walk. We grieve the family we never had. We grieve the suffering of the planet. But while grief may look like an expression of pain that serves no purpose, it is actually the soul’s acknowledgment of what we value. Grief is the honour we pay to that which is dear to us. And it is only through the connection to what we cherish that we can know how to move forward. In this way, grief is motion.
Yet in our culture, we are deeply unskilled with grief. We hold it at a distance as best we can, both in ourselves and in each other, treating it as, Joanna Macy says, like “an enemy of cheerfulness.” There is unspoken shame associated with grief. It is sanctioned in very few places, in small doses, for exceptional occasions such as death and tragedy. Beyond that, it can feel dangerous and weak. Perhaps because we fear we’ll drown in our despair, or because it means falling apart in a world which values ‘holding it together’ above all else. But grief plays an essential role in our coming undone from previous attachments. It is the necessary current we need to carry us into our next becoming. Without it, we may remain stuck in that area of our life, which can limit the whole spectrum of our feeling alive.
Grief is the expression of healing in motion. As you make the seemingly bottomless descent, it helps to remember that grief is the downpour your soul has been thirsting for. Because what remains hidden for too long doesn’t change. It is calcified in place, often sealed by shame, left untouched and forgotten by time. But when it can finally come into the open to be seen, it is exposed to new conditions and it begins to move. It rises on a salty geyser of tears, sometimes sung to the surface by a terrific moan, streaming down our cheeks until it moistens the soil where we stand, preparing us for new growth.
Have you ever noticed how beautiful a person is after they’ve wept? It’s as if they are made new again by the baptism of tears. Indeed, when something stuck can be released through grief, we are freeing up a greater capacity to love.”
If you know me between the hours of 7-9 am, you know my favorite show on DVR is Daniel Tiger on PBS. And don’t worry if you feel bad about not knowing this. The only person who does know is fast asleep as I write this (awaiting his third birthday party tomorrow!).
The songs, Daniel, Tigey (Daniel’s stuffed animal), his friends, teachers, community, parents, the diversity of people and families, the trolley. It’s all the secret ingredients to make me watch episodes over and over with my little.
Today’s episode was about wonder. Of course I jumped out of my skin with excitement. What I’m learning about wonder is that it means different things to different people. For Daniel Tiger, wonder is about finding out more. Putting your curiosity hat on. In a playful way.
As I reflect on this at the end of the day, I think the most I wondered today (through Daniel’s theory) was about going to a car dealership and asking to test drive three cars in the rain. I probably won’t buy a new car but I wanted to see how a couple different ones drove. So I followed Daniel Tiger, gave the guy at the dealer my ID, and test drove some SUVs.
I learned a lot about the cars and the salesman. He’s proposing to his girlfriend next weekend in Oregon. She’s a DPT student at OU, near where Nick works. There was nothing wildly profound about the experience except that it was pleasant to get out of my own routine and as Daniel says, “try and find out more.”
This is my view from the couch. Not pictured is too many streamers of varying colors, tons of balloons, a couple more “happy birthday” signs. The cat is on my lap. I can’t wait for my son to wake in the morning and be so excited by the decorations and balloons. We asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he replied, “cupcakes” and “maybe balloons.” To be three! So much joy and wonder in the simple delights of a birthday celebration. Tonight I’m feeling gratitude: for my son, husband, our families, friends, animals, and this life.
I thought my “wonder” today was going to be me posting a photo of Takis with a can of La Croix. What a wonder the combo of spice + crunch + fizzle can do to a palette.
But then I overheard something a little more wonderful…
When Nick was putting pajamas on Bennett after his bath, Bennett asked him, “Will you always take care of me?”
I don’t know why but that question got inside of me (and it wasn’t even asked to me!). He has awareness, and impressive and compassionate thoughts.
Will you always take care of me?
I hope so, my love. I hope we all take care of each other with our love forever and ever and ever.
My boy turns three in 10 days. I’ve been reflecting (and crying! gosh…) about my role as “mom.” Tonight I RSVPd to a birthday party. For years I talked to other moms as the “big sister,” but now that my child is walking, talking, makng friends, I’ve entered the new land of talking-with-other-moms as a mama myself.
Life, man. Life. And time.
In 18 years I will be 50. 18 years ago I was 14, just starting out in water polo, about to get clear braces, and about to begin thinking about my driver’s permit.
There is so much of me that still feels like I am that 14 year old girl. So much of me feels like I would stay that girl forever. Now I’m 32. In 18 year I’ll be 50. In 10 days I will have a three-year-old.
When our plane touched down in Oklahoma, I was sleeping. Like one of those tilt-your-head-back and catch the flies kind of sleeps. Reader: I never sleep in public places (and half the time I have trouble sleeping in bed). So you can bet I was some kind of exhausted.
Our flight the night before had been canceled due to mechanical errors, so American rebooked us for the next morning. At first I was annoyed (it was so AMERICAN of them….they do this to us a lot). But then I was relieved. One more day at home in California. One more day with family.
That night (the extra one) I went with my mom and dad to my dad’s work party. Since he retired from being a Principal, he became a banquet bartender at a fancy hotel. The hotel was throwing their annual holiday party. Last year I was able to go too — so it felt special to be able to go again.
During the loud ’00s dance music, and while my dad played Blackjack with fake money, my mom and I walked the property. We found a jacuzzi and slipped off our shoes, and shared a few moments together while looking at the stars. It was one of those picturesque scenes out of the movies — a mother and daughter connecting. With three other siblings, a husband, a dad, and a son, it’s rare for my mom and I to be able to just sit uninterrupted. And it was lovely. (It was also fun seeing my dad mingle with his hotel co-workers….he loves a good time.)
(As I write this my mom is FaceTime-ing me. She must know I’m writing about her!)
On our drive home to our little town of Stillwater, OK, from the airport, it felt good to be back. That’s a mini-miracle all on its own. Because to be honest, living here can sometimes feel….different. So the shift in perspective was a welcomed one.
And to really grasp today’s wonder, when I came home, our friends who were watching our cat and plants left us donuts. AND (the best yet) one of my orchids (one that I wasn’t sure about) sprouted a new branch. A teeny branch, which will grow into a full stem, sprouting new buds, to finally BLOOM. Orchids are my soul flowers. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them this year.