the edge of some new light

Driving west tonight, the city dissolves behind us.
I keep feeling we’re going farther than we’re going,
a journey that started in the deep inkwell
out of which our days are written.
Nothing is said to indicate a monument,
yet I perch on the edge of some new light.

-Naomi Shihab Nye, Lights from Other Windows

Thank you to my dear friend Denise for sending this right when I needed it.

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To my Daughter Leaving Home

Dear Grace,

When you were little, before you could say “v,” you used to talk about having adwentures.  Nana wanted to get me a vanity plate for my car, actually, that said ADWENTURE.

And now you’re off on your biggest adwenture yet.

Back in the days when our adwentures took us to the Children’s Museum and the Aquarium, I had a conversation with a dear friend from college.  In that conversation, which I remember vividly, I said that my most devout hope in raising a daughter was that she grow up to be smart and brave (I might, now, add kind and thoughtful to that).  Well, you’ve exceeded every hope I ever had.  You are smart and brave, and it is those traits, along with your love of adwenture, that are propelling you on this next step.

This present is both precisely the future that I dreamed about – a brave, independent daughter, flying towards her dreams – and the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a parent.  I’ve known this day was coming – the day you would leave – since you were born.  Our family believes in boarding school so I always knew this was a distinct possibility; it was a likelihood, even. And yet it has absolutely knocked me over with how hard it is, the saying goodbye. I know you know this since you saw me tearful a lot this summer.  I am sorry about that, but I also know you know it’s the shadow side of how much I’ve loved this season.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that these years with small and then larger children at home have been my favorite of my life.  So far!  Who knows: what’s ahead may dazzle me.  I hope, and frankly sort of expect, that it will.

One thing that will never change is how much I love you.  That’s only been growing since we greeted you, with your shock of dark hair and wailing cries, after a long, long, long labor.  I will never be able to fully express to you how grateful I am that it was you that the universe decided would be my first child.  I delivered you myself, that morning of October 26, 2002, and since then, in ways big and small, we’ve felt like a team.  You’ll always be the person who made me a mother, and we’ve learned a lot together.  That’s not over now, by the way.  There’s a lot I still want to talk to you about and teach you, and vice versa.  Our reality may look different now, but I know our bond is only growing stronger.

You’ve made being a parent easy, Grace.  It hasn’t always felt smooth, but I know the bumps have been small.  Had I listed all the things you are when I described my fantasy first child, the other person would have told me I was asking for too much. You’ve surpassed every dream I had for you. You make me prouder than I can possibly put into words.

So, my brave and smart daughter, my child who is taller than I am and a full-blown young woman, I’m watching you with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart as you dash towards your newest and biggest adwenture.  You are in the woods, and I’m standing at the finish line cheering, waiting for you to emerge.

Run your own race. I say this all the time and I know you know it. Study hard, run fast, get some sleep, make some lifetime friends and connect with an amazing teacher or two. I know firsthand the power of a school like the one where you are to change your life. The years  before now have been golden, Grace, and I’ll never forget them.  I’m just as sure that what lies ahead will be wonderful.  Hold my hand, and let’s go.

I love you, and I always will, and I am truly excited to watch you fly.

Mum

 

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the most authentic endings

The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap.  Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.

-Sam Shepard

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Seventeen years

September 9, 2000
Not the greatest photo of us, but I still love it because it’s pretty clear we’re having a good time

Seventeen years ago September 9th, in a thunderstorm, Matt and I got married.  We didn’t know what lay ahead, and I think it’s safe to say the years between then and now have been both exactly as we planned and nothing like we expected.

What is on my mind lately is how full circle we’ve come from that day.  It was the two of us then, and these days I can see clear to when it will be the two of us again.  That truth is filled with loss and sorrow, but also with pride and celebration.  From the moment I became a mother I knew my job was to let her (and then, 2.25 years later, also him) go.  That’s been crystal clear to me from day one.  That I didn’t know how hard it would feel is a topic for another post.

In his sermon at our wedding, the minister who married us spoke about Kilimanjaro, which we had recently climbed.  I’ll never forget how he closed his remarks, speaking of marriage: “Kilimanjaro is nothing compared to this.”  And he was right, and I’ve been learning that lesson every year that we have been married.  As I’ve written before, the views are as spectacular, too.  The climb of married life, like that of Kilimanjaro, has been unexpected, sometimes surprising, and once in a while I have had a hard time drawing a deep breath.  But like Kilimanjaro, the journey of marriage is head-spinningly glorious and unforgettable.  I have never wanted to turn back.  Matt was there with me as we neared the summit of Kilimanjaro in the darkness, and he witnessed my determination that day.  I feel the same way now: keep moving forward. It’s worth it.

During a few days in August when neither child was home, Matt and I looked at each other and saw both the young people we were in the photo above and who we’ll be in a few years when we’re alone again.  It was disorienting, I’ll be honest.  But I just have to remember that he’s my wingman and has been for many years: on the mountain, on the dance floor, in the delivery room, and in the years ahead.

They are not long, the days of young children at home.  They fly, in a blur of crayons and crying and then, later, hockey games and baseball games and track meets and Snapchat.  I think the key, when choosing a spouse, is taking a gamble that the person you stand next to in a white dress (or another outfit, depending on your preference) is one you’ll want to be standing next to many years later.  In many cases, that’s after the intensity of the family-focused years has ebbed.

2017 has held great new beginnings for all of us and a huge amount of tumult.  A lot of change.  I described the last month or two as “whitewater” to someone recently, and that’s what it has felt like. May there be both smoother sailing and gentler voices in this next year.

Happy 17 years, Matt.  This message, like life lately, is a little disjointed, but it comes from a place of deep feeling and tremendous commitment.  I love you.

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my new kind of prayer

The secret of life is not about knowing what to say or do.  It’s not about doing love or loss right. Life cannot be handled. The secret is simply to show up. It’s about witnessing it all, even the pain, and letting it touch you and make you not harder, but more tender. Showing up, feeling it all – this is my new kind of prayer.  I call it praying attention, and it’s how, for me, everything turns holy.

-Glennon Doyle Melton

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Summer 2017

One of our last family tennis matches, late August, 2017.  I promise Whit was also having fun.

This summer was jammed to bursting with beauty.  Possibly it shone particularly because we knew a big departure and ending threatened at summer’s end (Grace’s departure to boarding school), or maybe it just was golden, but for whatever reason there was a particular patina to these three months.  A few highlights:

We kicked off summer with a trip to New Hampshire where we went ziplining.  As is often the case, I felt flattened by the metaphors presented by ordinary life. The kids were brave (and so was I) and we were together.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, flying above the trees.

We spent a lot of time as a family of four (and as a whale pod of three, since Dad did a lot of golfing) at my parents’ house on the Massachusetts shore.  We swam and we biked and we played tennis and we watched LOST and we ate caramel M&Ms and we grilled on the back porch. We played cards, did puzzles, and watched the Red Sox under the slow spin of my parents’ ceiling fan. Our days together were largely unstructured and we put being together as a family above all else.

Whit loved sailing, and I hope he’s found a sport that he can enjoy during the school year.  Grace had a very successful tennis season, playing on our tennis club’s team which qualified for Nationals and personally winning the club U14 singles and with her partner the U18 doubles.

We had two wonderful visits with my sister and her family, over the 4th of July (and my mother’s birthday) and later at our cousin Allison’s wedding.  That wedding was a true highlight of the summer, as we watched a family member we dearly love (she’s precisely in between Grace’s and my ages, and we all think she’s the best) wed her long-time boyfriend who we also adore.  Welcome to the family, TDT!

I kept up my streak of reading books best described as Those You Can Buy in an Airport.  I found myself unable to concentrate on anything more challenging, and sought out stories that were plot, plot, and plot.

I turned 43.  I’m in the thick heart of life’s grand pageant now, there’s no question about it.  I continue to be struck by the non-coincidence that both my birthday and our anniversary land during the weeks of the year that I find the most liminal, the most striated with both endings and beginnings.  It is without question a melancholy time for me, and yet it holds some big celebrations.  This seems apt, and it’s also intensely bittersweet.

August was quiet.  Grace was at home, preparing for boarding school, and I worked a lot of days with her puttering near me.  She spent a few days with Matt’s family in Vermont, which was full of joy and waterskiing.  For anyone curious, Matt did not waterski. We passed the one year anniversary of his injury, and then of his surgery.

Grace and I picked Whit up at camp because Matt was in California, and had a happy visit to the place she spent six summers.  We returned to our pre-camp routine of family dinners, card games, and ice cream.  We saw Matt’s parents when they were here.  We watched some more LOST.  We read together in bed.  It was the best kind of ordinary, and I could see the shimmer in that ordinariness.

And then, just like that, summer came to an end.  September arrived with its host of changes, and our family spun off into its next and new season.  We are all still a little stunned and shaky from these changes – well, I can only really speak for myself here – but also deeply grateful for three months together.  I won’t ever forget the swims to the line, the family tennis matches, the candlelit dinners on our back porch, the quiet walks, the loud laughter.

It was a magical summer.  And now, it is in the rear view mirror.  Onward.

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August break

As I have for many years, I plan to take August off from blogging.  There’s a lot happening in this final month of summer: campers coming home (Whit), children preparing to leave home (Grace) and for new schools (both).  We have shopping and packing and laundry to do, as well as our final family dinners in this particular season.  It brings tears to my eyes to write that, so you can bet I’ll spend chunks of this next month in tears and morose.  But I’m going to do my damndest to live it well, to let go of my fear about what’s coming, and to pay attention, and I’ll be back in September.

I hope to see you then.

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wake up to the very life we’re living

Our intention is to affirm this life – not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation – but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of it’s own accord.

~ John Cage

Another beauty from First Sip.  I know, I’m a broken record, but check it out!

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Turning

It may shock some of you to hear this, but I can be heavy lifting.

I know.

Someone as melancholy as me, as attuned to both loss and sorrow?  Hard to believe.  But it’s true.

And it is getting more pronounced.  Well, to be accurate, my sensitivity is getting more pronounced all around, which means I’m more aware of both the dark stuff and the outrageous beauty. I try to focus on the latter.

But there are times when I’m swamped by all that feels difficult.  That’s not true right now: as I wrote just last week, this has been a summer full (so far) of uncommon beauty.  Of course, I also acknowledged that that patina is likely burnished by the endings and departure that lurk under everything right now.  But still, there’s a lot of beauty right now.

In the last week, though, I started noticing that the days were getting shorter again.  The nights are falling a bit earlier, and I am already aware of summer’s end even amidst all the riotous hydrangeas and hot days and beach swims. It’s as though the next season, and its accompanying darkness, is already encroaching in around the edges of the light and beauty of right now.

It’s that old preemptive regret thing, the way I can’t focus on what’s in front of me because I’m too distracted by what I can sense on the horizon. Everything is turning, so fast I can barely catch my breath: summer turning towards fall, Grace turning towards her leaving, Whit turning towards teen-hood and being a young man.  We are all inching forward on the ferris wheel and I am breathless at the view but also at what I know lies ahead.

I’m not the only person in my family who evinces this sensitivity.  On Sunday night, Whit was sad at bedtime.  It took me a while to drag out of him what was wrong (planting the seeds of another post, about the ways in which we should run into the burning building, or about how it is when those we love are at their worst that they need us the most) but he finally admitted, tearfully, what was on his mind.  It was a long list, but one of them was that “the summer’s already halfway gone!  It feels like we just got out of school!”  He was very upset. “I mean, summer is basically almost over.”  He swallowed, wiping tears from his face.

“I know what you mean, Whit.” I told him, rubbing his back.  I had no idea what else to say, since the truth is the awareness of how fast it all flies brings me to my knees on a regular basis.

With effort, I turn my face back to what’s in front of me, and take a deep breath.  My time on earth turns forward no matter what I do.  The bitter aspect of my orientation towards bittersweetness is unavoidable (so, by the way, is the sweet part).  What I can choose is where I place my attention.  So, once again, I try to do that right here.  Right now.

 

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acknowledging the good

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

-Eckhart Tolle

Thank you to Kerry, on whose lovely blog Next Trip Around the Sun I found this perfect line.

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