Wednesday, June 30, 2021

I'm Sorry: Parenting in the Time of Global Despair


“The lake feels like lotion!” the little boy shouted to his friends, treading water at the base of the ladder, “so smooth and refreshing.” I lay on the other side of the dock, my head propped up with a life jacket, reading my book, Love Becomes Us by Amy Bloom. It was hot, hotter than it had ever been in the Pacific Northwest where I live. 

My family had been lucky. We escaped to this mountain lake on a planned trip with my brother-in-law and his kids. Instead of 108 degrees, it was only 99 and we could hang out in this cold glacial lake all day long. 

The little boy shouting was eight or nine years old, skinny and tan, happy and energized. He jumped off the dock over and over, laughing with pleasure every time. I remember the days when my daughter had that kind of ease, that kind of access to simple pleasures. 

These days are complicated. The world feels like it is ending. There was the pandemic, over a year of lockdown seeped with fear and longing. And now this heat, record-breaking, devastating —to  people, animals and nature. This heat is preparing our region for fires that will destroy more land, more humans and wildlife, more homes, more trees. Like last summer, we will be stuffed into our homes, windows sealed, hiding from the smoke outside. 

When I was eight or nine I didn’t think about the earth. We never talked about it. I remember waiting in line for gas at the Shell station on 54th street with my mom. I remember her explaining that Jimmy Carter was rationing gas because there was an oil crisis. I lived a life, essentially into my twenties with the ignorant luxury of not worrying about our dying planet. Back then we didn’t talk about climate change or global warming. I wish we had. Maybe if we had things would be different now. The planet I am leaving my daughter wouldn’t be so hot and angry and scary.

My daughter is sixteen now. When she was eight she knew things about the earth. In third grade, she raised money to support people who lost everything in the Japanese Tsunami. She’s always known how to recycle and compost. She grew up with Hybrid cars and conversations about red meat at dinner. She is keenly aware of the crisis our Earth is experiencing.

And, she is becoming an adult during this crisis. Like Elizabeth, the protagonist in Bloom’s, Love Becomes Us, my daughter is traversing the complicated emotional landscape that comes with adolescence. Elizabeth is wise beyond her years. She can see the hypocrisy of her parents and the other adults around her. Like most teens, Elizabeth is struggling in her own way to just get through the painful, confusing adolescent years. 

As I read my book, I can remember what that felt like, how my emotions moved through me when I was that age. I have glimpses, flashes of memory. I remember when I was seventeen and all I did was cry. I cried on the road trip I took with my family. I cried in my room at night. I cried over gifts I got at Christmas. I cried and cried and I didn’t really understand why.

Yesterday I told my daughter that I was tired of her speaking to me like she was mad at me all the time. “I’m sorry,” replied, “I do feel angry all the time.” She said it so matter-of-factly, with such certainty that my vision blurred for a split-second. I scanned my brain for something to say but there was nothing. “Noooooo,” I cried to myself, “I don’t want this for her.”

I’ve been here before. It’s the heartbreak of motherhood, the moment when I know clearly that there is nothing I can do, no balm I can smooth over a scraped knee, no lullaby I can sing, no goodnight story I can tell to make everything feel better. 

I think about the earth all the time. I am terrified about where we’ve been in the last year, afraid of what is coming. When I talk about my worries, sometimes my daughter will say, “Please Mom. Please stop. I can’t hear this right now.” And I know she is frightened too. Unlike me at sixteen, she is aware. She knows things. 

While my daughter is living the emotional thunderstorm of hormonal adolescence, there is a blanket of disaster overlaying everything. How will she manage this? How will she find her way? 

The path we are on, the too-late feeling I have about our planet, is often too much for me so how do teenagers who are just waiting to get to the next phase manage it? What do they think when the next phase is filled with 108 degree days, fires in the rain forest, and global droughts? 

There are good times too, like yesterday when my daughter and her cousin sunbathed together for hours, took the kayak out, and loudly sang songs on the deck that echoed across the lake. I know that along with being angry, my daughter is happy too. Like all teenagers, her landscape is complicated and unpredictable. 

Adolescence is a global disaster in itself. It is an earthquake, tornado, tsunami, and hurricane wrapped into an eight to ten-year period. I know my daughter will get through this period. And as she ages, she will figure out how to move through all of the disasters in front of her. She will find moments of joy and celebration and excitement along the way. But I feel for her. I feel for all of the teenagers right now. Their burden is profound, beyond any that I could have imagined at that young age. 

There’s no balm, no simple fix for this. When the conversation about the environment comes up, as it so often does these days, all I can do is look at my daughter, and say, “I’m sorry” because I am. 


I really, really am.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Taking "Old" as a Compliment


Right now I am reading Justine Bateman’s book Face: One Square Foot of Skin. It’s about beauty expectations for older women with a particular emphasis on the pressure to get plastic surgery to stay young-looking. Young is the standard for beauty. Old is the standard for ugly, washed up, hard to look at. In her introduction, Bateman talks about how, as a young actress, she longed for the smile and worry lines she saw in older European actresses. Somehow, despite growing up in Hollywood, she saw beauty in these signs of aging. Throughout the book, she shares a series of vignettes she’s collected about other women’s experiences getting older.

I have great empathy for women in Hollywood. The pressure to stay young-looking is profoundly dysfunctional and incredibly destructive to the natural process of becoming older. Bateman is pushing back against this. In one chapter she sets a scene of “old” being beautiful. She depicts a handful of women hanging out on the golf course eschewing sunscreen, hats, or anything else that might hinder the natural process of developing wrinkles. In this vignette, wrinkles are beautiful. They are a roadmap of one’s life. As an aging woman myself, I recognized the absurdity of this scenario but still, I loved this chapter.

I recently started working at my friend’s consignment shop. We sell women’s clothing and accessories. The store is a friendly neighborhood destination — lots of regulars and occasionally some out-of-area stragglers.

Yesterday while I was working, an old man came in with an old woman. I am fifty-two so old to me means at least seventy-five, probably eighty. Very old means the high eighties or nineties.

As I approached the couple to tell them about our sale, the man came by and, standing way too close, said, “You remind me so much of my ex-wife.” I politely nodded and pointed to the area where everything was 30 percent off. He came up to me again and said, “I really can’t believe how much you remind me of my ex-wife.”

In my mind I was thinking his ex-wife looked must have looked like him — a white-haired, old-looking version of him. And I’m not proud of this feeling, but I was offended. I didn’t want to look like that.

A few hours later a very old woman came up to the counter to pay for a pinky-peach linen blouse. “I love this color,” I said to her as I rang in her item. Then, realizing that my blouse and pants were also that color, I laughed and said, “Ha Ha. I’m wearing that exact color from head to toe. I guess I really do like that color.”

“Peach is good for us as we get older, the very old woman responded, “it softens and flatters us.”

“I’m her,” I thought to myself as I folded her blouse into tissue paper and tucked her receipt into the package. My mind went into a slow panic — like the dishwasher being emptied into an anti-gravity chamber, forks and plates and coffee cups randomly floating around looking for a place to settle.

I felt confused. I wasn’t ready for this. “I’m only fifty-two,” I thought to myself. And then gravity returned. All the dishes and silverware clattered on the floor and I was back to reality. I saw the absurdity of my thinking. I am getting older. We all get older. I will be lucky and grateful if I get to be as old as this woman. Very old shopping at a cool consignment shop to boot!

I believe in the old adage, “beauty is skin deep.” I have tried to drill that belief into my daughter’s head for sixteen years. I tell her grandparents not to comment on her looks. If someone says what a beautiful young woman she’s growing into I quickly snap back, “and SMART!”

But I see my daughter focusing on her looks, garnering great self-esteem from the attention she gets. And I’m no different. These two moments in the store, where separate individuals commented on my age, went right to my ego. These two comments were telling me, “you’re old,” which I translated to mean, “you’re not beautiful.”

I am getting old. My hair is getting gray. I have smile and laugh and worry lines. The skin on my hands, arms, and legs is getting crepey. My kneecaps hurt when I garden. There are lots of signs that I am getting older.

Society has done a number on women. Instead of feeling accomplished for the forehead grooves that come from years of hard thinking, problem-solving, and accomplishing things in my life, like millions of other aging women, I’ve fallen prey to the dogma that I should try to hide or erase those markings.

I have friends who do Botox. And I have friends who’ve had other lifts and tucks. It makes them feel better. I get it. We’re all part of this bigger messed-up system that hates wrinkles and all things old. My reaction to those two comments in the store yesterday shone a light on my internalized disdain for aging, and thus for myself.

The woman with the pink blouse might have been beautiful had I looked at her long and hard enough to even really see her. But I hadn’t. Because she was very old I simply dismissed her and then, because we were alike, both older than younger, I dismissed myself.

That utopian scene in Bateman’s book where wrinkles and other signs of aging were revered seemed so farfetched when I read that chapter. It was like reading science fiction. But why? I’m grateful for the life experiences that have given me wrinkles — all of the summers playing in the lake, the years of walking I’ve done, playing soccer, riding my bike. My forehead creases come from years of reading and writing and parenting. I wouldn’t change any of that stuff so why would I change my face?

I’m on the young side of old and if I’m lucky, I’m going to keep getting older. The patriarchy is not going to suddenly change and proclaim, “older women are beautiful.” Victoria’s Secret will likely not start using menopausal women in their ad campaigns. Now that I’m older, I see clearly how these societal norms have influenced me adversely. When I first started reading Bateman’s book I thought to myself, “I’m not like these Hollywood women.” But I am. I may not be getting plastic surgery, but I believe the same things they do.

I don’t want to believe those things anymore. Those messages don’t serve me or any women, young or old. The next time someone comments to me about being an older woman I am going to smile broadly, feel the wrinkles around my eyes and mouth fire up, and say, “Thank you.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tiny Moments: Gratitude for the Small Things


I remember when I was a new mother. I was consumed with my baby. Nursing, changing, soothing, adoring. Every moment was taken up with her presence. I went back to work when my daughter was six weeks old. I was lucky. I had my own business and was able to go to work in small doses — three or four hours at a time — so that I could come back home and be with my baby. I loved going to work. It gave me a place to connect to myself, to be social for a few hours, to remember who I was before I was a mother. But still, I hated leaving my daughter even for those short periods of time.

Having a baby is a lot of work. There is very little freedom. It’s like lock-down only you’re totally hormonal and in love so you don’t feel it as harshly. I remember moments of utter frustration when my daughter nursed for eighteen hours of the day. It was her only means of soothing whatever was troubling her tiny soul. In those days I wished for more freedom, for a break. I felt trapped by parental responsibility. I had a life — work to do, emails to respond to, friends to see — and I was tethered to this little being, unable to take care of the other aspects of my life.

Now my daughter is sixteen. She just left on her first road trip. It’s a small one, to a city just a few hours away, but it feels like she's traveled a thousand miles. At sixteen my daughter is wildly independent. She wants to be up, up, and away, gone from the clutches of her parents and her teachers, her coaches, and all that is familiar. She wants new and different and exciting. She’s got a list a mile long of things she wants to do in her life and most of them don’t include me.

These days I see my daughter in tiny moments — a short morning check-in over oatmeal and coffee before she hits the ground running. Maybe an afternoon shopping at Goodwill together. Often she comes home past my bedtime and I try to make myself stay up to welcome her home. Occasionally on these nights, we’ll have a spontaneous TikTok browsing session and I’m grateful for the chance to laugh together, to see what her life is about these days.

On the last day of my daughter’s sophomore year, I planned to have a family dinner but when she got home she’d already gone out to eat Bahn Mi with her friends. She wasn’t hungry so we sat on the back patio for a half hour and toasted the end of the year with a lemonade mocktail. It was short and sweet. It was all she had to give at that moment and I was grateful.

I got to watch her play soccer yesterday for the first time in over a year. I don’t go to games anymore because now my daughter is old enough to drive herself. And, she doesn’t really want me there. On the way home, she ranted about the heat and the lack of subs. It was familiar and strangely comforting to be in the car with her that way. The whole experience was only a few hours but I soaked it up like a long vacation after a hard year’s work. I’ve been driving carpool and watching her play soccer for over ten years and it’s always a delight.

We’ve switched, my daughter and I. Our roles have inverted. I understand how she feels. Now she is the independent one, the one with a bigger, more exciting life. She has business to attend to, parts of herself that cannot be nourished by me. Now I am the hungry one, longing for the familiar connection we once had. Our relationship has changed; our roles are different now. These days the connections come in small moments, tiny precious encounters.

I’ve heard older mothers talking about this change for years but I didn’t fully understand it. Yesterday my friend sent her sixteen-year-old off to backpacking camp. Her daughter would be in the mountains, unreachable for two weeks. A few hours after she put her daughter on the bus I asked my friend how she felt. “Sad,” she said, “I miss her.” I knew exactly how she felt. Even when my daughter is sleeping soundly in her room one floor below me I miss her. She’s here, but she’s far away. I know it’s a good thing. She’s moving on, living her life, becoming an adult. But the missing is still there.

It’s not unlike the feeling I had when my daughter was six weeks old. When I had to go to work, to be away from her, even for a few hours, I missed her. I relished the moment of coming back home, opening the front door and scooping her little body into my arms. It was such a clear, easy feeling. I was taking care of my baby, doing my job.

That baby is all grown up, but I still feel that desire to scoop her into my arms and squeeze her full of love, to know that I am doing my job. My job looks different now. It’s not as obvious or simple. My daughter doesn’t need me in those same ways. But she still needs me and I’m figuring out how, trying to follow her lead.

What I’ve learned is that the moments of connection are still here. They are smaller, more fleeting but if I look for them I can see they are here. The morning chat, the evening cell phone scroll, listening to a rant on the way home from a soccer game. The key is to be open, to watch for the opportunities to connect, and be present and grateful when they come.

Unresolved: That Uncomfortable In-Between Place


 I’m unresolved. Much like anger or elation, unresolved is an emotional state. It takes energy. It distracts me from being present. It is a niggling, uncomfortable state. It’s not there all the time, but when it shows up it is strong and clear.

Almost a year ago I lost a friend. She didn’t die or move away. She just became lost to me. We were friends for thirty years and then one day we weren’t. It’s like she went on a boat and never returned. She’s okay. She’s still friends with our other friends, but she’s lost to me. I don’t understand why she decided to stop being my friend and this confusion eats away at me. I have so many questions.

I am unresolved. What do I mean by unresolved? There is a sense of loss, the feeling of longing. And confusion. Because of the way our friendship so nebulously ended I have no clarity. Maybe I would feel resolved if I knew she was really gone. But she’s still here, just a few miles from my house. There’s a term in psychology — ambiguous loss. I think that’s what I’m experiencing here. I am in a confused, delayed state of grieving. There was no closure with this friend, no clarity and so I am unresolved.

Several times a week I think about calling my friend but I know she won’t respond. I’ve tried reaching out numerous times and she hasn’t reciprocated. So I don’t call or text. The impulse just sits there reminding me that I am unresolved. I haven’t let this friend go.

My unresolved feelings are like an in-between place, a bookmark between the comfort of our friendship and the sadness of its definite end. I’m frustrated because this lack of resolution is lasting a long time. It’s been months and I still dream regularly about seeing my friend. I still have her phone number in my head. I have so much anger about how she dropped me like a rotten banana in the compost. I’m unresolved.

Part of being unresolved is focusing on the other person. I wonder so many things: Is she happy?; Does she miss me too?; Is she unresolved? In focusing on what my former friend is thinking I am prolonging this state that I am in. I am wrapped up in my ego — worried about how she and other people see me —  instead of my own experience with the loss. 

To come to a resolution with this friendship, to actually grieve the loss, I have to throw all that other stuff out the window. I have to let go of what my former friend thinks about me, what she is telling our other friends about me. That’s the hard part. Once I let go of all that other stuff I will have to enter the true grief state of this loss and that makes me too sad.

Strangely, it helps to just have a name for this state that I’m in. I’m unresolved. I’m not happy, not sad, just somewhere in between. It feels comforting to define that. At least I know where I am. And it helps to remember the good things about our friendship. Too often I just feel anger when I think of my friend. Maybe that’s why she comes to me in my dreams. Maybe that is a subconscious invitation to remember the good things about our history. 

Being unresolved is uncomfortable. It’s like wearing shoes that rub your heel or a bra that rides up one armpit. But it’s also a form of self-preservation, a way of staving off the painful feelings of truly grieving. Ambiguous loss is often the experience people have when they lose their relationship with a parent because of dementia or a spouse because of addiction. The person is still there but not in the way you want them to be, not in the way you knew them to be. There’s a sense of waiting for a moment when things might change — when your mother recognizes you or your spouse finally enters treatment.

That’s where I am. Waiting for the moment when I’ll know for sure. I’m waiting for my friend to write me an email explaining why she ended the friendship. I’m waiting to know something for sure. I’m waiting for some kind of sign that there really is no hope, that our friendship is truly over. For whatever reason, I just can't face the loss yet. I'm unresolved.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Learning to Live with The Wolves

When my daughter was two, a friend of mine said, “our job as mothers is to prepare our children to live in the world.” I remember when I heard this my heart broke a little bit. I didn’t want to let my little girl go. And I still don’t. But now she’s sixteen and my job to ready her launch is more critical than ever.

Parenting a teenager through a pandemic and then watching them enter back into the big bad world is one of the most harrowing, unmooring experiences I’ve had as a parent. During the pandemic, my daughter was isolated, lonely, depressed, and unmotivated. I worried about her mental health on a daily basis. But I knew where she was all the time.

And now she is vaccinated. All of her friends are vaccinated. She is free. They are free. My daughter has a car and can drive wherever she wants. She went from having no options to infinite possibilities. And I am scared shitless.

Being a mother is like being a shepherd. I am charged with the responsibility of guiding my daughter safely through life until she is on her own. During the pandemic everyone was on the same path —  staying close to home, protecting ourselves and each other from the big bad wolf that was Coronavirus.

Now the wolf is not as strong, it is not an imminent threat and we can all roam the pastures without worry. But as the shepherd I know there are other predators to my little sheep. My daughter is not at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 like she was two months ago but there are other wolves. For a mother, there are always wolves — lechy men who look at my daughter when she fills her gas tank, parties with alcohol where kids lose their senses, drunk driving, peer pressure, social media, eating disorders. I could go on.

But the point is that these wolves, these fears, are mine, not my daughter’s. My daughter is alive with independence right now. She wants to be with her friends or she wants to be alone. The only place she does not want to be is standing by the shepherd who wants to keep her confined. But like any good shepherd, I am afraid of losing my sheep. My instinct is to pull out my staff, call my sheepdog and get my wandering sheep back into the field where I can see her.

But my instinct is not my job right now. I go back to what my friend said fifteen years ago. My job is to prepare my daughter to leave the safety of the pasture. She has to venture out where I cannot see her, beyond the protection of the fenced meadow. That is where she will ultimately live; now is her time to travel beyond the fence.

It’s agonizing — watching my daughter wander and not pulling her back to safety. As the shepherd, I worry about the wolves every day. That’s my job. But these are my fears, not hers. My daughter is on an important path of her own right now. She might wander into danger. She probably will. And if and when she does she will have to figure out how to manage. Sheep do it. They have instincts of their own — to run from predators or to stick with the flock when danger is afoot. 

My job now is to stand back and trust that my daughter can handle the wolves. It’s scary to watch her go. I worry that she’ll wander too far; that she’ll lose her way and never come back. But in these moments of panic, I tell myself that the fenced meadow will always be here for her. I will always be here for her. She needs to wander now, to explore beyond the fences. She has good instincts. She’s a smart, capable sheep and I know deep down that she’ll be okay. She’ll be back. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Energy of Worry

 

My daughter, a formerly straight-A student is getting a D in chemistry. A D. I find myself twisting into a knot of worry whenever I think about it. Does this D mean she will turn into a dropout? Does it mean that she won’t get into college? 

And part of me doesn’t give a fuck. The fact that my sixteen-year-old daughter has survived this year-and-a-half of pandemic stress without reverting to drugs, cutting, starving herself, or entering a deep depression is enough. I am grateful that she still comes into the kitchen for breakfast with an occasional smile. I am happy that we still eat dinner as a family. It gives me profound joy to see her driving off, finally safe and vaccinated, to hang out with her friends (finally!!!) instead of staying cooped up her dark room where she’s been for a year and change.

I worried throughout the whole crisis of the pandemic. I worried about the world, about my city, about my parents, but mostly I worried about my daughter. She is the receptacle of my worry. When my whole family and most of my community finally got vaccinated and the threat of COVID diminished my worry for my daughter fell away.

But then I just replaced my worry. Instead of worrying about her contracting and spreading COVID, I worry about her D in chemistry. This morning I asked myself what the point of this replacement worry was. At this point in the school year, there is nothing she can do to get her grade up. It’s a done deal. Instead of spending time being delighted that my daughter came out of this hideous school year mentally sound, I worry about one grade. Why?

At the same time that I worry about my daughter’s D in chemistry, I watch her engaging with friends, taking babysitting jobs, making cookies, getting decent grades in the rest of her classes. Worry is like fuel that keeps a fire raging. It serves some purpose for me, it keeps me engaged. Worry assures me that I am doing my job as a parent — that I am invested, aware, involved in my daughter’s wellbeing.

But what if I replaced worry with encouragement and excitement? What is I focused my energy on cheering my daughter on for scoring a great paying babysitting gig on Sundays? What if I applauded her tenacity to stick with a bizarre soccer season of socially distanced, mask-wearing bullshit? Wouldn’t that create the same fuel — the same feeling of being an active, engaged, supportive parent?

And wouldn’t it make me feel better? I think it would. But I have become dependent on, habituated to the feeling of worry. It is like an old, reliable friend, the one you always meet at the same time, in the same place for a cup of the same kind of tea. I’m bored with the worry. It’s not serving me and it’s not serving my daughter. By worrying so much I am missing out on all of the celebration, the good stuff. 

So what is my plan? Like all mental shifts, I have to be intentional. It’s like keeping a gratitude journal (which I do). Every night, no matter how hard or unpleasant my day was, I take time to write three things I am grateful for. It makes me happy. It sends me off to sleep with a feeling of contentment. It reminds me of all the good things in my life.

I could do the same thing with my worry. Every time I start to worry about my daughter’s D in chemistry I can turn on my mental heels and think about something I want to applaud her for. Last night my daughter and her friend were making cookies in our kitchen. They’ve been friends since they were babies and have a wonderful, comfortable rapport. They were laughing and joking, teasing each other; they were happy. 

I went to bed listening to their banter. While I ran a bath I wrote in my gratitude journal, just three things. One of them was the laughter downstairs. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Sign from Above: The Message of the Great Blue Heron

 

We are on the pregnant cusp of spring and summer where I live. All of the flowers and trees are full to bursting with color and fragrance. This morning as I sat on my deck drinking coffee I heard a cacophony of birdsong in layers. My mind was already on overdrive. I have a job interview today and I don’t know if I want the job. Is it right for me? How can I know? I wanted to simply enjoy this moment on the deck without the chatter of what-ifs that had taken hold of my morning solitude. 

I closed my eyes to quiet the thoughts. I could hear the robins and stellar jays in the background as the crows inserted their loud, rhymic caw-caw-caw like a trumpet on top of a gentle piano melody. 

The sun was warm on my face and the lake to the north and east of me was still and quiet. After I finished my coffee on the deck, I took my dog Freckles down to the lake for a walk. As I waited for Freckles to explore the grass at the edge of the lake I closed my eyes again to hear the birdsong. The red-winged blackbirds like to hang out at the edge of the lake with the waterfowl. The birdsong had changed; now the caws of the crows dropped into the background and the high-pitched trill of the blackbirds along with the slow heavy honk of loitering geese took center stage.

As Freckles and I walked, something drew my eye upwards to the top of a giant conifer across the road from the lake. High up in the branches I saw what I thought might be an eagle, but as my eyes focused more I could see it was a great blue heron. She was looking east towards the other side of the lake. Compared to all of the birds bustling around me, the heron was serene, perfectly still. She seemed to be at one with the lake. 

“Hello Heron,” I said out loud. I have a long relationship with Great Blue Herons. They have been my favorite bird for many years because they remind me, at always just the right time, that I need to be still. For all the years I’ve walked along the lake, the herons have been there, sometimes hiding in the reeds, occasionally flying slowly overhead like pre-historic creatures, reliably perched on the driftwood by the marina, and today, high up in the cedar tree.

I am in transition again — looking for the perfect job. I am happy right now and I fear that taking the wrong job will take me away from this happiness. The stress of it, the obligation, the pressure I put on myself, will drag me down into the chaotic trenches that I so desperately climbed out of just a few years ago. And, I want to work. Working fulfills me. It energizes me. Many days I long for the creative outlet that I get from creating projects, writing proposals, solving problems. But today I am worried. 

I watch the red-winged blackbirds perch on the shrubs on the shore of the lake for moments at a time before they reverse dive into the sky circling a few times and then coming back. They sing their high-pitched Spanish trill as they dive back down to their branches. And the geese meander back and forth across the grass, wandering dangerously into the road, stopping cars as they make their slow, choppy journey to the other side.

All the while the heron sits above, waiting, watching. She’s too far up to see the fish in the lake. Is she watching for her mate? Looking for a new place to fish? Maybe she is taking stock of the day ahead, quieting her mind before she enters the fray of life down at the water’s edge. 

As I watch the heron I am reminded why she always speaks to me. I want what she has. I want the presence and patience to settle, to step away from the hustle and bustle down at the lake’s edge. 

I turn on the path to take Freckles home and I feel peaceful. Like the wise sage she’s always been, the great blue heron reminded me that the quiet presence she possesses is also right here with me. It was with me earlier this morning on the deck when I closed my eyes to turn off the chatter. And it is with me right now as I look towards the future, unsure of what the perfect job is. 

I think of the heron in the tree, patiently waiting for the right time to come down. There will be a moment when that heron decides she is ready to join the others at the water’s edge. She will leave her peaceful perch and find her place among the geese and ducks and blackbirds. And I too will find that moment. The perfect job will come. I will step back into the chaos. And I will try to remember the lesson of the heron — the peaceful presence is always here with me. 

Bye-Bye Binky

I was talking to my sister this morning and she told me about a friend of hers who recently “broke up” with her. My sister said her friend, ...