Tag Archives: habit

Left Undone…

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“Is that why you do it?” my husband asked.

I had gotten a large envelope from a friend who had found a few things of my fathers in a work file. His large handwriting looped smaller where he had run out of space. There was also a script and a program from a play he had done when we had been living in Florida. I had said something under my breath about wishing he were here to ask him about the school play.

I considered my husband’s question. Do I do drama because my Dad would be proud, because he would do it, because he’s not here to do it anymore?

I remembered after he died how I tried for a month or two to get on top of all the marketing for his self-published book, how I vacillated about painting the last bits of his painting. Something in me was a-flurry to finish what he had left undone. I still struggle with the idea of leaving things undone; but shouldn’t an artist, if they’re doing it right, be still working on something when they die? I had to stop. I didn’t have the heart necessary for the marketing. I left his painting to the few base layers of hue that makes it still, to this day, rather, a misty suggestion of a landscpe.

I decided I wouldn’t have been able to continue with drama fueled solely on the love my father had for it. But it was a healthy process to realize where some of the credit is due. My love of drama is my own but the habit of drama is something that has been built into me.

As I told the students in rehearsal, “A successful painting is interesting to look at. A successful sculpture is interesting to look at from every angle all the way around. A successful play is interesting to look at from every angle all the way around throughout the entire play, a sculptural collaboration of artists existing in a single moment of time.” I doubt the elementary students quite appreciated the image, but it explains what I love best about theatre.

I have never known a time when my Dad wasn’t rehearsing some production, when there weren’t curtains and call times to be planned for. My early years are marked by my sneaking backstage and begging to be onstage. My later years are marked by productions of my own and the productions I missed (My brother’s Nathan Detroit and his narrator from Our Town! It still stings a little bit to think about today.)

It feels natural to be on the roller coaster again. I do it because I love it. I do it because it’s a gift to give others. I do it because it’s a habit of creation that was built in me by my father. And I do it because it’s a habit I want to build in my own children, his grandchildren.

I miss him so much. But new things, even piddly little things like elementary school plays, are still coming out of his life.

And as far as actors go, my little one is showing promise… 😉

We Have a New Mantra, Ladies…

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You know the scientific symbol for female, the one that’s the circle with a cross coming down from the bottom.  And then, there’s the male symbol, the slightly more wonky circle with an arrow flying out of the top.  The female one is steady, anchored down, because our reproducing tidbits stay put.  It’s the male bits that leave and fly all over the place, hence, the wonky arrow.

This is how they define male and female in organisms with different more unrecognizable features.  The male flower spreads, the female flower stays, anchored and waiting, in fish, in mosses, in humans.

In some ways I feel like this is accurate.  I stay … at home.  Daily life mostly revolves outside me, kids leave for school, husband leaves for work and I am anchored somewhere in the middle.  People return to me.

But in most other ways I feel that this is highly inaccurate.

Because if there is one thing we women do, it’s change.

We get our periods.  And we keep getting them. Then we have babies.  Our bodies change and our bodies go back, or don’t quite, as the case may be.  Then we lose our periods and, according to many trusted sources, continue to deal with ebb and flow of hormones … FOREVER.

We change. And most of this volatility is within us.

Pregnancy for me is pervaded by a sense of betrayal.  My body becomes a mysterious stranger waiting to sabotage me with a heavy club of nausea around any appropriately smelling corner.  Three times now have I been amazed anew at the way my body stretches, the way it opens, and stunned at how stinking long it takes to get back to normal!

I say it when I’m pregnant.  I say it at least once a month, “What is happening to me?!”

I’m a woman.  I change.

Perhaps this is why men are known for their distinct mid-life crises and women are not.  We do it by bits.  We aren’t overthrown by time all at once.   We get it in phases.

Phases!  Everything since my first son was born has been a “phase”.  Sleepless nights, clinging babies, teeth razoring their way to the surface have all been “phases”.  I have been beset by so many phases that I don’t think I’ve had a lick of normal in six years.  Do we talk of phases to make each other believe that there is a normal somewhere?  Thinking that there’s a normal somewhere that I’m missing is rather depressing. Do we want to believe that things will go back?

I can never go back to many things, my old bra size, my ability to sleep through anything, my ignorance of four other peoples’ bowel movements.   I am more efficient, more ambitious, and I’ve learned how to work.  I don’t want to go back.

I, then, hereby vow that I will not utter the deceptive phrase “It’s a phase” to any Momma, anymore.  I will instead choose to believe that we are in a boot camp of the most intense kind.

I will learn to duck and weave and roll.  I will become a delicate ballerina.  I will let it make me a master of change.  Like anything else in life that’s well practiced it will become a habit with me.  So, when the gray hairs come and I find my shirt still clean at the end of the day; when it’s finally time to get off this crazy monthly roller coaster of fertility, I will not be overcome.  I will be anchored in something steadier than myself.

It’s what we’ve been given to practice, Ladies.  Let’s do it well so our sisters, daughters, and daughters-in-law can do it better.

Our new mantra can be, “Normal is not a thing!”

Brave Habits…

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For the past few days my baby has been waking up unusually early. When he wakes up this early he’s not the happy baby that’s ready to be up. He’s grumpy and falls asleep on me again instantly.

So, on Sunday at six thirty I found myself quite awake in an apartment of sleeping people. We had bacon, but no eggs. So I walked down the two flights of stairs and into the sixty degree summer morning made chiller by the wind.

I was thinking about fear. I thought about how much people fear and the silly things they fear. I remembered how fearful I had been as a child when I had to interact with adults or make phone calls to strangers. I remembered my mother practically pushing me out of the van on the first day of soccer practice with a new team.

I got to the little shop on 25th and Clement that opens at six and bought some eggs and a small orange juice. I nodded to the workers unloading produce. I exchanged pleasantries with the owner. He’s a nice man with laughing eyes and we talk about our kids. His youngest is six, the perfect age, he says.

“So, I’m just getting there, huh?” I asked.

“Yeah, my daughter’s fourteen and all this,” he mimes texting on a cell phone and shakes his head, “just drives me crazy.”

I laugh, but I wonder if that’s what I look like sometimes. We say goodbye and I walk back out into the wind.

I think about fear again. I wonder if his daughter is on the phone so much because she fears loneliness. Could that be my reason? How can I be scared of loneliness if I’m never alone? How much does fear hold us back from doing more and bigger? If I wasn’t scared how much more could God do with me?

I remembered how scared I was before I went to Africa for a medical mission trip when I was twenty. There were things to fear. A girl had been pricked by a needle the year before and had been getting tested for HIV all the year since. I was going to see AIDS, polio, and starvation. God had shown me, at the time, that it was more than just a scary experience; it was a chance to be brave.

And doesn’t life give us so many opportunities to be brave?

How many things would I have missed if I had not been brave? Would I be walking the streets of San Francisco right now?

I say good morning to the crazy Bikram people on the sidewalk, freezing in their shorts waiting for the instructor to come let them in so that they can feel a bit of real summer before breakfast.

I was suddenly thankful that I was a fearful child. I breathed my thanks into the cold. How often do we long for a chance to prove our bravery, to be bold, to be daring?

When I fear, my chance arrives.

The streets are quiet. I look to the right and see the fog covering the bay, straight ahead and see it breaking over the tops of the trees in the presidio, little wisps overflowing at the top, dissolving on the other side. I wonder how cold it is at the beach with no break between you and the wind.

My keys sound loud in the stillness of the street. I feel the instant relief as the door to my building closes behind me. I walk past the sleeping doors of my neighbors and unlock my own. I consider the word “dormant”, “door-mant”.

I continue to think about fear, so insidious that we don’t often recognize it hiding in our reticence. I want to take the time right now to sit down and seek it out in myself, but we leave for church in an hour. What resistance in me is really fear?

And as I’m laying the bacon out strip by strip on the baking tray I find it strangely appropriate to think of Pa Ingalls. He reminds Laura that if you do something enough it becomes a habit with a body, just as anything else does.

So it goes with finishing things and bravery.

Practice, practice, practice…