I can’t be who everybody wants me to be. I’m skilled not brilliant. I’m passionate not a force. I have energy for now. I am creative but slowly. I’m disorganized. I can’t multitask. I’m not big BIG picture. I’m not fine detailed. I’m Barbara. I draw pretty pictures not daring ones. I love showing people the love of Christ. I want to live every moment. I hate not having enough energy. I hate letting moments slip by. I hate thinking about the hours of television that could’ve been a novel. I hate leaving art projects undone. Why can’t all the projects be finished instantly? I’m disgusted by the idea of leaving something undone when I die. But I find it improbable and most likely inauthentic to who I am to ever finish everything at the same time. I want to meet Jesus now. And I’m frenzied for living another day. I love my bed. I love to climb in. I hate to get out of it. I love being in my mind. I love being creative, letting my mind work. I love it when my thoughts keep me up till four solving problems, unable to rest when beautiful visions are being built. Yet I scroll down my phone clicking back and forth between email, facebook, twitter, and wordpress, just to make my mind be still so I can sleep. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what God wants me to offer. I find out in the second. This is it. This is what you have to give. I’m tired. I’m crying. I wish others could see life as I do sometimes. It’s a gift this, the view, the creation, never bored in my mind. What would I do without characters talking, images parading. Just images, just stories, nothing grand, nothing that will affect the tides of politics or social justice. They’re not even true. They’re fiction as true as I can make them. I love stories. Some crazy story this, me, here, now.
So, for those of you who don’t know my dear little twenty-month-old baby number three, let me tell you he’s my “active child”. For those of you who don’t know dear little babies one and two, well, let me tell you, that’s saying something.
He likes to explore. He is not scared of strangers. And he’s fast.
And … AND … Mom and Dad have two other kids and six years of parenting experience lulling them into a false sense of security.
He once made a friend at the playground and tried to go home with him. He was very upset when the strangers wouldn’t let him into their car.
A few weeks ago he walked into the middle of a pickup basketball game at the park and took the ball. These big tatted dudes spent the next three minutes tossing the ball with him.
A couple of months ago he was playing happily in the donut room after church with the other kids. When we looked up he was gone. After a five-minute search we found him up in the balcony drinking the little cups of leftover communion wine.
And today, YES!, today he disappeared after Mom’s group. My younger two stepped out of the nursery behind me in a group of other kids. I turned for his shoes and when I turned back he was gone. I searched the gym. I searched both locker rooms. I went up the stairs. He was nowhere.
I began to freak out and enlisted my mom friends to help me. I went to the guys unloading equipment out a side door and asked them to please look out for a little boy in a yellow sweatshirt. I went to the balcony and alerted the quilting ladies to please hold onto him if they found him.
It may have been as long as ten minutes. It felt like forever.
And then someone decided to use the elevator. And there’s my boy, with the emergency panel open conversing with the first responder on the other end.
Of course, you feel better instantly as you do in these situations. As Ma would say to Pa, “Well, all’s well that ends well.” And they almost died frequently out on the prairie. Being stuck in an elevator for ten minutes would have hardly been worthy of the proverb.
I hugged and kissed my little bolter. My friend apologized to the first responder. Maybe it was my emotion, maybe it was being stuck in an elevator for ten minutes and unable to reach the “1”, whatever it was my boy was rather subdued on the way home.
I am not in high hopes that he has learned any lesson, but I certainly hope his Mommy has. I thought this post was going to end up being funny. But reliving it has just made me exhausted all over again. Goodnight!
I am happy to follow-up and tell you that the elementary school rehearsal yesterday went very well.
I am back, as they say, on the horse. After careful review of what is going to be rehearsed on Monday I have asked for another go at blocking and choreographing the scenes. The director kindly assented.
All of this may not seem like much, but it is indicative of much growth.
Let me tell you a story.
When I was in second grade I inadvertently won the privilege of standing in front of the entire school and reciting a poem. I hadn’t known it was a contest.
So, after the kindergartener and the first grader went, I got up on stage in front of all the K-8 graders in my school and recited my poem. I then sat down to watch the rest.
I will never forget what happened then. A fifth grader got up to recite her poem. She trembled and stuttered and burst into tears and ran off the stage. The girl may or may not have vomited. It certainly looked like she was going to.
I was mortified for her. How embarrassing! I didn’t even know that sort of reaction was possible. It was horrifying.
A couple more lucky speakers recited and then, a few moments later, everyone applauded as the teacher announced that the girl from fifth grade was going to try again.
The teacher said, “How brave of her!”
I clapped for the girl, but I didn’t buy it. The girl had run off the stage. “Brave” was something they said to trick her back up there. And I remember thinking, with my advanced second grade wisdom, that if that sort of thing ever happened to me there is no way you’d get me back up on that stage.
My heart found nothing brave or admirable in that moment.
Now, I am significantly older and, as with most things, when you practice not being perfect every day you just get better at it.
My inability to fail prevented me from doing a lot of things. It’s taken a long period of indoctrination to reverse it. In fact, I now find a special pride in my ability to fail miserably, experience rejection, and try again, even if it’s an elementary school production, even if it’s a novel.
So, here we go, keeping on, practice, practice.
Oh my goodness, people.
I was in charge of blocking a scene today. One whole scene and musical number, one hour of rehearsal, all mine.
I was bold. I was confident. I went over it. I went over it again. The director called. I told her I had it.
And I totally and utterly bombed, failed, miserably, absolutely miserably.
I’m not sure what happened. For one thing, the stage was much smaller than the one in my mind. Everyone was terribly squished. And then after I blocked their song I realized – they’re just standing there.
It was the most uninteresting thing I’ve ever seen.
And my chest starts to tighten and they’re looking at me as they say their lines and their parents are all lined up against the back wall watching me.
And a voice in my head says, “Barbara, I think you’re supposed to be telling them something right now.”
But I can’t open my mouth.
And then the voice says, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea what you’re doing.”
And then the voice begins calculating, “You have volunteered to be the assistant director and you know they have no director next year. You have as good as doomed yourself to this sensation for the next ten years until baby graduates from fifth grade …”
The voice was very unhelpful. My mouth had gone dry and I wanted to cry. I’m pretty sure what I had was a panic attack.
The director was there. She stepped in. She was having trouble reading my expression. She kept saying, “I don’t mean to step on your toes here.”
I shook my head. It was all I could do. Holy hell!? Was that a panic attack.
The director was very kind. She appreciated my “framework” and filled in the details. She fixed it. And she gave me a pep talk.
It is now 7:30 and I am curled up in bed in my pajamas. I will be watching a French movie and falling asleep soon after. Nothing else is getting accomplished today, nothing.
And tomorrow I’m preparing the crap out of my script for Wednesday.
And here comes the unhelpful voice, “But you thought you were prepared today.”
Over Christmas my sister was able to visit us in San Francisco for a few days. The sun was shining and the kids were restless, so we decided a walk was in order.
The sunshine can de deceptive. Especially in my little corner of the peninsula. When we stepped out onto the sidewalk I hesitated. It was rather more chilly than I had expected. But, I decided that warming up over the walk was far better than carrying three children’s jackets. So, onward we went.
We zigzagged our way through the extraordinary houses of the Sea Cliff neighborhood, admiring the expansive fronts of the colonials and moderns, each in turn. The last block of houses before the trailhead is low and modest facing the street. But through gates and between houses you can see stairs descending sharply down the hills, widening and opening up their ornate balconies and tall windows to the sea. The dark blue of the ocean sits cupped in the space between with the muted green hills of Marin across the bay, shouldering down against the wind.
I’ve said before how much nature hides tucked in and between the urban in San Francisco. The Land’s End Trail is no exception. The sidewalk ends, all of a sudden, giving way to cracked asphalt carpeted over with pine needles and the long faded leaves of the overhanging eucalyptus. They call it Eagle’s Point.
It was here that the wind hit us full force. The stoic houses owing us no favors, had given little indication of the wind they were entertaining in their arms. We gasped collectively. And I immediately regretted those three jackets, and all those hats and mittens, too. We walked the dozen yards to the lookout.
We watched the children lean into the wind as they let it push them back. They danced and squealed in a frenzy that at times approached panic. We watched the wind cut short white gashes across the face of the water and bend the cypresses back to such a degree it explained their normal angle as one of generous averages.
We stood as close to the edge as we dared, looking down the cliffs through the clinging shrub to the foaming rocks below, feeling the wind made bold from its unchallenged trip across the wide Pacific. The sound through the eucalyptus was a deafening roar, sounding so much like pounding surf.
But the day was sunny. And the light was bright on our path. There was such beauty in the magnitude of the violence, the trees that bent but didn’t break, the stripped leaves that were surprisingly found superfluous.
I laughed and shouted to my children, “Aren’t you glad to know that there is something so much stronger than you? Isn’t it nice to feel how little we are?”
The baby was in a carrier on my chest, his tiny fists curled into the warmth of my belly. My six-year-old and four-year-old were running down the path ahead, squinting into the wind and laughing. Yes, laughing, but at times nervously.