Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A day at the beach

Last weekend I took Lucia to Carlsbad, California to hang out with my sister's family in Lego Land. Lego Land is weird and kind of creepy because the Lego structures are all faded-- it's more like a haunted Lego Land. My sister was obsessed with how the management could ever keep up with the dilapitating Lego structures. It's a valid concern. The 280,000 piece mini Taj Majal must be a bitch to rebuild or even keep clean

Thankfully, we only spent one day at Lego Land. The rest of the time we lazed on the beach with the surfers and stoners. Being in southern California is always a trip for me. I feel like a species from another planet, at the very least from another country. While I sat with my book in my practical black bikini, feeling pale and pasty, musing about about what it would be like to be blonde and tan, Lucia had a wholly different experience.  I remember being a kid at the ocean-- soft sand, infinite water, sun sun sun. I was never bored at the ocean.

I still don't get bored at the ocean. I read, I people watch, I tan, I swim. But I'm a grown up. I know I'll have to leave beach-heaven at some point. I don't get the sand-salt water-sun intoxication I got when I was a kid. Last weekend, I watched Lucia and it all came back. Between applications of sunscreen and snack breaks, she explored with her older cousins. They wandered down the beach to the Boccie Ball game where she and her cousins giggled at the old guys barking "shit, fuck and damn." Lucia went off on her own, and I watched her as she repeatedly stomped on the sand, contemplating the effects of her feet on the sand. She sat for a good 15 minutes, staring at the Pacific, singing to herself.

When I was in my twenties, someone told me that having a child was a great opportunity to have the childhood you never got to have. I actually did get to have that beach-heaven childhood, but, lucky me, now that I'm a parent I get to have it all again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

You can't always get what you want

There was a period growing up when The Rolling Stones was always playing on our stereo. In dealing with her three rivalrous daughters, Mom had a fairly regular mantra, "You can't always get what you want."

There are probably three times each day when I have to tell my daughter that she can't have something that she really wants (like dessert, or skipping hair washing or a sleepover with Cece on a school night.) No matter how big or small the disappointment, Lucia's frown face is always dinosaur-sized. But her recovery is usually speedy. After a whine, a cry, a kick, she's over it. Usually.

Last week when Lucia really wanted to take a night walk, I blew her off, telling her it had gotten too late. Her disappointment was monstrous and her recovery was not speedy. She had a volcanic melt-down in which, through sobs and head-flailing, she managed to explain that we'd agreed. We had a plan. As I was gearing up to give Lucia my you-can't-always-get-what-you-want speech, I experienced a rare moment or maternal clarity. I understood her disappointment. She wasn't asking me out of the blue to take a night walk. We'd agreed and she'd prepared and she had a plan in her mind. So, in our pajamas, after brushing teeth, we put on our boots and walked to the alley to look at the waning crescent moon and the sun setting over the Olympics. It was lovely.

Since that nanosecond of clarity with Lucia, I've been thinking about my own relationship with disappointment. Whether it is my self-restraint keeping me from buying the $300 boots at Anthropologie, my quiet resolution in accepting that Lucia might not go to a bilingual school, or an unrequited crush, I know the feeling of disappointment. "These things are out of my control" I tell myself. My recovery, like Lucia's, is pretty good. I have the moment, and then I'm over it. There is always the part of me that wants to use the credit card or beg the school district or work magic, but mostly I accept my disappointment and move on.

The next line of the song "You can't always get what you want" is "But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need." And it's true. In the midst of accepting that I can't have everything I want, it becomes glaringly clear to me that I absolutely do have what I need.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big Feelings

I met Carol in a writing class. She was close to 70 and had a head full of shock-white hair. During each class we had to read our pieces aloud. When Carol read, she always sounded like Meryl Streep reading a book on tape. The first time I spoke to Carol was a break. I wanted to ask her about the commune she wrote about in her essay about her early life. I squatted down next to her and interrupted her as she flipped through her notebook. She nudged her reading classes up, angled her body slightly toward me, put her hand on my shoulder and looked down at me. I asked my question (something insignificant enough to forget already) and she answered me, never taking her hand off of my shoulder and never shifting her gaze from mine. The interaction was so brief yet I walked back to my seat wanting more. It was a couple days later that I realized that I didn't want more from Carol. I wanted more from myself. I wanted to be that grounded and calm and present.

I took the writing class in part to find a way to integrate all of the new feelings I was having as the result of some big life changes (moving, divorce, parenting) I'd experienced in recent years. I am on a road trip through the land of feelings. My emotions are all over the map- happy, melancholy, nostalgic, angry, mountains, hills and plains. At Lucia's preschool, they call all range of emotional expression "big feelings". I love this term to describe the emotional state of kids. We often have no idea what a 4-year-old is thinking. It's all just a morass of sensations they are trying to figure out. As adults, all we can really do is help the kids to name it. "It's okay honey, you've got big feelings about that toy (or that friend or that blanket or that apple)." I use the term "big feelings" for myself too. I even refer to "big feelings" when I am teaching yoga. It makes sense. Most of the time grown-ups can't decipher what's going on in their heads any more than kids can.

I've always been really good at dealing with physical discomfort. Rigorous chores, 42-hours of labor without meds, lack of sleep, hunger. I'm told that I have an incredible pain threshold and good stamina. But with emotional discomfort I am remedial at best. This past week I was having one of many bouts of big feelings. It felt messy, like the junk was seeping all over the sidewalk. While trying to "manage" my big feelings, Carol popped into my head. Her silver hair, her melodic voice, her clear, calm blue eyes. What would Carol do? She'd put her hand on my shoulder, look me in the eyes, and in her Meryl Streep voice remind me, "It's okay Laura. You've got some big feelings right now."

What am I worth?

For the first time in my adult life I am in the position of not having a "real job." I am on a chosen hiatus from being fully d...