Monday, October 24, 2011

winds of change

Last week I had to force myself outdoors. I had allowed myself to grow accustomed to the inertia that endless days of rain bring. I had forgotten how to properly acknowledge the sun- to get outside and bask in it. But, when I took The Baby out for a walk, the wind pressed relentlessly against us- strangling the trees and shaking them of the last leaves determined to hang on. It nearly lifted The Baby's stroller from my grip. I did not quite have the perspective to embrace the challenge of facing the gusts. It had been a trying couple of weeks. I had to make a critical decision regarding Henry's education which led to transferring him from his position in one of the most highly coveted academic programs in our city to a program of less fame but of much greater nuturance. I hoped that with the change, he would learn to smile again. I was already wound so tightly- worried over my child's well-being. I had beaten up my heart, my head, my chest in trying to defend my decision to choose in the best interests of my son over choosing to keep him in an elite program. It had consumed me. I needed justification to allow myself to also be battered by the wind.

I almost turned home as soon as we made it to the end of our street; but, I remembered the sticks Princess Commando wanted to collect to complete her longhouse project. The Baby was not befuddled by the gales which sucked her breath away. She was only concerned with following the moon which floated in a clear morning sky. So, I grudgingly continued onward, bending every few feet to pinch a brittle branch from the sidewalk. I filled the basket of the buggy with discarded frail limbs; but, it felt like it would never be enough. How many branches are needed to make a longhouse? I was propelled with the most overcoming heat and desire to scour the whole neighborhood for every last felled sprig. I imagined the mound of black and grey twigs I could build in my driveway. As I walked on, the wind spoke to me in bitter currents. It gave names to my nerves: school, expectation, doubt, achievement, worth, perception. Each one, a twig I harbored in my basket. I decided that my basket was full enough. It was time to leave some of them behind.

It comes with the change of seasons- this longing for closure before the shift occurs, before we are no longer in a state of transition and become settled into the reality of the season. There is a need to reconcile plans left by the side of the road- a piano still out of tune; stairs still crumbling and vulnerable to the abuse that winter brings; personal growth which is not as expansive as I had wished for in my January resolutions. Along with taking inventory of my children's winter boots, coats, hats- those items which we still need to acquire before the snow falls, I inevitably take inventory of the strengths and resources I need to replenish within myself before I head toward winter-toward a new year. That, invariably leads to a feeling of being unsettled- of questioning my decisions, my purpose, and, once again, my place. Upon catching up with one of my favorite people, my Uncle Mark, on his recent visit home, he asked me who I was, "Are you Amy,' the mother of four children'? Or, are you Amy, a woman with interests, talents, goals and needs who just so happens to have four children?" I had never really considered that there could be a distinction. And it made me realize how easy it is to become one dimensional- with one purpose: caring for the needs of one's children. Caring so much so- that it absorbs you fully until there isn't any room left for anything else. But, I am not sure I truly understand how to be the other version of myself. That requires a level of balance which scares me. How is it that it has become easier to sacrifice everything- rather than to try to hold back bits and pieces for myself?  

I'm coming to understand that filling up a basket with prickly regret and doubt and trying to re-purpose the pieces only perpetuates stagnancy. I know that I need to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone- set fire to that mound of twigs I have collected. I have to walk into the wind and let it rattle every last leaf off of me in order to feel that steady IV drip of creativity that I need to carry me through the winter. I have to learn to stop looking down at the sidewalk and instead do as The Baby does by choosing to follow the moon- accepting the expanse of sky before her without fear of getting lost in it. 


  1. Oh man, Amy. This is an amazing, beautiful article. I just read it twice, thinking to myself how much of me I heard in your words.

    Your uncle Mark is a wise man. I need that reminder about my PERSON, who I am outside of being named mom. But more importantly I need to just remember that I AM....

    I use a statement of intention every morning that reads: "I am peaceful and confident, sharing my gifts with the world."

    When I can remember that, I have the courage to face the harsh winds, look up at the wide open sky and remind myself how my gifts not only include being a mom (which is also a gift to ME) but also everything else that my full life encompasses. It really grounds me.

    I hope you have a few days of beautiful sunny weather and here's to starting that fire...

  2. I agree with the above poster. This resounds with me more than ever. It's so hard to find a balance within yourself at any point in your life. Especially when you have children. Your Uncle Mark gave me something profound to strive toward and to remember.

    Perfect post, Amy. This needs publishing!

  3. @Jen- When I was writing this, I was thinking about what you had written to me- in response to my comment about your essay about your brother. You encouraged me to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone. That has stuck with me. It is so difficult- so painful and so scary. I took a huge step last week when I spoke in front of a group of 3rd and 4th grade parents to try to sell our middle school program to them. I wasn't planning on speaking- and I thought I was going to die while I was up there. I don't even know if what I was saying made any sense (though others have told me that it was eloquent- of course, I think their ears need checking). Anyway, there was a moment when I could have just succumb to the fear and declined the invitation to speak. I am glad- even though I was hopelessly shaky- that I did not pass on the opportunity.

    Rachel, I am so glad that you found something familiar - kindred in what I wrote. I had a really difficult time pulling this together. It is so challenging to put that feeling of searching- of being a bit lost- and looking for oneself into words. My Uncle Mark (I call him my 'young' uncle because he is the youngest of my mother's siblings and he introduced me to MTV and Lucky Charms and all things fun and on the verge of being 'grown up') has always known- without delving too deeply into what is going on in my life- exactly what to say and what to teach me at certain stages of my life. We were at my cousin's wedding when he said what he said to me and it nearly knocked me off of my feet. It was the essential question that I needed in order to move forward. Maybe he needs his own blog? 'Essential Questions with Uncle Mark' :-)

  4. As usual Amy, your writing is so intuitive and remarkably introspective. But just as you are struggling with who you are as a singular person and also in your role as a mother, life is full of these stages where we can all get lost in the definitive relationships we carry out. I believe it is the same -yet different-at all times as our roles emerge and change in our lives. I certainly have gone through many a metamorphosis these last few years, as my children have become adults, as a grandparent, a retiree and also as a caretaker of my own parents. I think the key to being comfortable in our skin is enjoying the different roles we are in and to embrace even the roles we did not seek out or really choose. These transitions are like the changing seasons, taking time to adjust to. You have never been one dimensional Amy!!! Allowing the many elements of Amy to emerge is also giving your children a beautiful gift of seeing the many possibilities one can be in the world. Who knew the wedding would have such profound affects outside of a party!!! Thank you for sharing who you are in the world with the rest of us. Love you!

  5. Oh, Auntie, you are so wonderful! Love you, so much! xoxo