Our world is fragile
yet crocuses cup sunshine
and daffodils bloom
Our world is fragile
yet crocuses cup sunshine
and daffodils bloom
The toddler tumbles like laughter
over the dry grass.
Disregarding all signs of mourning,
she chases the crows with open delight.
She greets everyone she sees,
all the mummy’s and daddies and “bapa’s,”
convinced each one is part of her family.
She even ambles after a thin, pink-shirted man
with a slight bend in his back,
calling: “Bapa! Bapa!”
When we reach her sister’s grave
she sits happily on my lap,
and leans over to pat the “Staahhh.”
I tell her it’s Josephine, a name she can’t yet say.
Unphased, she takes her nursing blankie
and flaps it about and pats it
until her sister’s stone is nicely tucked in
with her name peeking above the blanket.
“Baby, nigh, nigh,” she tells me.
Then grabbing her blankie
she trundles off to seek new adventures
and waves, “Baa-bye!”
trusting I will follow.
I kiss the dusty stone
Flowers have no muscles
yet they move
open / close
smile at the sun
kiss the sky goodnight
How is it possible?
Have you ever thought about this?
Only through their emptiness
are they able to be filled
The water of life coursing through their veins
gives them strength
Help me remember this
when I am parched and drooping
but refuse to drink
Fill me with this aqua vitae
give my spirit life
make my body rise again
to gaze at the sun
The faces of old friends
grow dearer with each passing year
Every wrinkle a trace of their joy
a reminder of the fragility of life
Precious and dear
the ones we love
Each grey hair adds to their beauty
for time adds to the treasure house of memories
we share with them–
they are ever more familiar
This poem was written for my former downstairs neighbour and dear friend who has now returned home to Egypt with her husband and children. It was an honour and a joy to share our lives with them, and to find a warm connection that overcame any differences.
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere!! Peace be with you. May you always be supported, embraced and encouraged by your fellow moms all over the world! Go team! 🙂
Upstairs: a crazy crew of kids
six littles bouncing, dancing, singing, banging.
Downstairs: two small sweeties,
running, shouting, playing, laughing.
the mothers scold, cook, cuddle and caress.
the mothers mother
day and night.
the women sing
in Arabic and English,
songs of faith and lullabies
unique yet universal,
of one heart.
the women weep,
mourn lost babies–
precious ones snatched away too soon–
in each other’s arms
these mothers find warm comfort.
the women pray,
observe Lent and Ramadan,
break their fasts and rejoice together
over homemade sweets.
the women hope,
cherishing the new lives
nestled in their wombs…
little tiny babies
due at the same time.
May they be best friends!!
In the world there is hatred
but not in our house.
there is love.
Have you stopped to listen to the evening birdsong?
The same song since you were a child…
this eternal song, performed over and over
against the mellow backdrop of the light blue sky.
The clouds are smudged with charcoal
but their edges glow.
Does it capture you? Hold your gaze up and out
to the peaceful grandeur of the reclining day?
Are you torn away from the endless hunt
down the dark halls of your brain
where you relentlessly seek childhood secrets
and broken pieces of yourself?
Deep in this maze of self-analysis
the batteries of your flashlight may run out.
There’s only so much you can understand
Look to the source of light and beauty.
Listen to that bird who trills again and again:
“Life’s good, very very good. Life’s good, very very good.”
Remember you are only a tiny piece
of creation and a recipient
of this gorgeous gift that is life.
Put anxious internal wanderings
and the pursuit of your own perfection
in their place.
Live and love your now.
how my heart is bursting
with the beauteous warmth of you,
your cuddly down-softness
snuggling in my arms,
fluffy dark hair caressing my cheek as I cradle you.
And yet in all this glory
a bittersweet strain of music
tugs at my heart,
because you are so much like her,
your big sister who was born asleep,
eyes closed forever,
and here you are
I want to cry grateful tears of sorrow
when you squeak and grumble like a little bear
because your sister was so silent.
And when I smell the milky scent on your neck
because your sister never tasted milk.
I was left bursting but alone…
my arms like edges of an empty cradle
with only myself to rock.
I get choked up by your little hands
which look exactly like hers–
long slim fingers and grandma’s double jointed thumbs.
They’re curled up in tiny fists above your head
in the abandon of sleep,
yet warm and ever ready to grasp my finger
instead is still, pale, and cold.
In this bittersweet place
I love you both
and want to give you everything:
all the affection and tenderness
I wished to give her
but also want to give you for yourself.
I drink deeply both of sorrow and of joy.
How life and death are woven together
in this strange tapestry where all the shadows
make the colours brighter.
What is painful
and what is precious
have become inseparable
and love runs through it all.
Today at our parish we had a guest speaker, Georgie, from the Pacific Postpartum Society. She came to spread awareness about postpartum depression and to give some insights on helping families cope with it. During the presentation, we did an exercise where we compared what “the perfect mother” would do, as opposed to what the real mother would do. “Always be patient and smiling” vs “losing her temper sometimes,” “always making gourmet meals” vs. “ordering pizza or making Kraft dinner sometimes,”keeping the house gorgeous all the time” vs “coping with mess.” You get the idea.
We did this exercise to emphasize the pressures we put on ourselves to be “perfect”– to be “leave it to Beaver moms” who always have a clean apron, a bright smile and freshly baked cookies in our hands. Georgie talked about how our happiness is greatly effected by our expectations, and how far we fall short of them. This is compounded by all the images of seeming perfection we see online, where we only glimpse into people’s lives after they have been edited and airbrushed. Someone joked we need more realistic magazines, like “Mediocre Homes and Gardens.” Recently I saw a funny meme that had a cartoon woman and read “World’s Okayest Mom.”
Why do we keep going after perfection like rats after poison, when we know how miserable it makes us to compare ourselves to others? There are many sayings to help us: “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” “best is good, better is best,” etc. Being gentle with ourselves and humbly accepting where we are at is much more likely to bring peace to our families than striving for unattainable perfection and then beating ourselves up for falling short. As the cleaning guru the Flylady says, “You’re not behind, you’re where you are: now jump in!”
My buddy Monique and I have a “one awesome thing” check-in. We call each other and share the one awesome thing we did that day. It could be anything…that we sent an important email, that we cleaned out the fridge, that we did a cool art or baking project with the kids, that we had tea with a friend who really needed a heart to heart chat, whatever. The point is to focus on the little successes, rather than the long list of “not yet done’s.” As a bonus, the joy of celebrating those little accomplishments is energizing and helps us feel brave enough to try a little more.
Embracing our imperfection allows us to appreciate real life and to accept it, mess and all. And it gives other moms permission to do the same. Rather than wasting time wishing we were like someone else, we can pour our energy into becoming more ourselves, and fulfilling the unique missions we all have. Now that’s beautiful. So next time you wish you were a perfect robot, like Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” remember that for all his intellect and calm demeanor, what made him really special was when he developed the ability to feel emotions. We feel pain, we are weak, we struggle, we laugh, we love–because we are real. And teaching our kids to deal with their real life emotions and direct them towards love is likely the most important thing we will do as parents.
Taking care of ourselves and learning to love ourselves as we are, while always trying to grow better, bit by bit, will be the first step on this journey. Fellow moms, let’s walk it together!
Lovely readers! How I have missed you all! One New Year’s resolution….to write more often!! To not hesitate to post…to follow inspirations and forget perfectionism. Who knows what good can come from words conceived in joy or sorrow…they are better shared.
There was a gorgeous black and white card I saw when shopping for stocking-stuffers. It was of a little girl wearing fairy wings, standing at the edge of a small precipice. The card read: “But, Mother, what if I fall?” and on the inside, “Oh, my darling, what if you fly?” It almost moved me to tears. The idea of this daring vulnerability, this willingness to take a creative leap and reach for one’s dreams, despite fear, is to me both brave and beautiful.
I am so excited for the new year–a fresh start and new projects. I have a new poetry book in the works, thanks to the warm encouragement of my mother and sister-in-law who asked me, “So, what’s next?” I realize it gives me great joy to have a project…something to ponder dream about while I am doing the dishes and housework–something to reflect on in quiet moments when I hear the Holy Spirit whispering.So I want to encourage you all to dream big and take lots of little steps each say this year to achieve your dreams…and may this process bring you much happiness!
I am thinking lots about habits and happiness because of a wonderful book my awesome husband got me for Christmas called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. She is a hilarious and warm-hearted New York writer, fiery red-head and mom, so of course I love her! She realized one day that while she was basically content, she could still be snappy, irritable and impatient at times, and didn’t always savour the beautiful moments as they came. How, she wondered, could she be more happy, not by making any dramatic life changes, because she already loved her family and career, but by reflecting on what brought her happiness, what brought her stress and grief, and then trying to build habits that were more conducive to joy. She does this by seeking to change her own habits and attitudes, rather than blaming or resenting others for things she finds hard.
She describes her journey of researching happiness, consulting everyone from psychologists to saints to friends in a café, and then testing out their theories by working on important areas of her life each month, like her home, marriage, parenting and career. This might sound intimidating, but it is quite the opposite. Her frank and funny descriptions of trying out her different monthly resolutions are as fun to read as a novel, and really helpful, too. For example, in February, the month she focussed on her marriage, she tried for a week of “Extreme Nice.” No snapping, dumping, nagging, etc. After describing how positively it affected things at home, she jokes about her relief when the week was up, as her tongue was sore from biting it so often!
She found that personal stories and examples do more for inspiring growth that vague stats and studies. Personally, even reading about her happiness project has made me more aware of savouring my own happiness, and seeking to make it grow. As Rubin reminds us, happier people make those around them happier, so being happy is really the best gift we can give to those around us, because joy is infectious. I so recommend this book to help inspire you to seek happiness this year by building habits of happiness and changing your heart so you can find it more easily. Her blog has tonnes of helpful resources, too. Here is the link: Gretchen Rubin
Happy reading! And have fun with your resolutions…I will write more about that another day!
You are like a velvet flame
enveloping me in Your warmth,
surrounding me with Your light
till even my insides glow
and the beating of my heart
is a pulsating brightness
emitting Your love.
a burnt wick
a cracked and snappable thread
a lack of light
remember those days
almost 12 years ago now
when I was so excited
to receive You for the first time?
When I imagined You coming to
take up residence in me
the way a cat curls up cosy
on her master’s lap,
bringing warmth and comfort?
Thank You for being with me
my true muse and soul’s friend.
May I always speak Your words
spread Your love
shed Your light
and bring the twinkle of Your beauty
into the world.
(Image from watch and pray blog)