Flop 2.0

Kind readers, Parenthood 2.0 hasn’t been all that swell. Actually, It’s been an abysmal flop. I had hopes, though not high nor lofty….just hopes, that the second time at it, so to speak, would work out better…smoother. Alas, that was pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

Ten months ago my son showed up on my doorstep, penniless and homeless.  I told him to come, of course, when the call came from out of the blue.  I can remember that night as if it were yesterday.  After the call I had a hundred things swirling around in my head.  A do-over might be just the thing to break the estrangement …one that he initiated, I might add.

He rolled in around midnight looking nothing like the son I saw some four years prior. He said “Hi Mom. I’m tired….I need to sleep.”  Not even ten minutes later he was in the basement.  It’s been his cocoon since.

My bullet point plan to help him get back on track has been met with both stubborn resistance and absolute refusal every step of the way from day one of his arrival.   What was I thinking? I should have known I could never break through, after all he’ll be 36 once summer is over.

It is what it is now.

I seethe that his father enabled him financially for fifteen years.  His idea of showing love was not to get down into the trenches but to throw money from afar.   If our son would have been forced to fall on his face at 21 it would have been much easier to break bad habits, form new ones, LISTEN to sage advice, LEARN from mistakes…and so on and so forth.  In other words….GROW UP.

Of course that is just my humble opinion.  But, what do I know?  I’m just the mom.

I’m split into: one part of me knows unequivocally that I did everything in my power.   But the other part of me?  I feel like a complete failure.

I’m done, inside and out.

Once again I am showing him the door.

Once again he is nowhere near a path that will help him flourish…

It’s a cliché…but ever so true in our situation: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” 

My heart aches.

Tears dot my cheeks as I listen to music by Ludovico Einaudi.

Blue thoughts swirl around me as his soulful, contemplative notes linger in the afternoon air…

Will I ever be able to sleep without profound worry again?

Let it go! ….says a voice from somewhere.

Sigh.

Yes.  It’s all I can do in this moment.

Do I dare continue to have hope for him? 

Of course I do.  I will go to my grave taking hope with me…

I’m the mom.

My Love is infinite…To the moon and back and beyond…for both my son and daughter.

I’m reminded of a Tweet just this morning from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish Yourself: The Buddha advises us to create the feeling of joy and happiness in order to nourish ourselves before we deal with the painful feelings.

I like that sentiment.  It’s just what I need now.

I think a walk with The Poodle is in order….

then perhaps a dip in the neighborhood pool.

Nothing like water –whether it’s from a swimming pool or the ocean–to wash the blues away.

There is bliss in that.

Not There Yet

A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

A burst of color in the brown dust of the Sonoran desert

The weather has turned cold early this year I’m thinking as I walked The Poodle early this morning. Cloudy, somber gray skies greeted the two of us as we stepped out the door for our morning constitutional–The Poodle for his business and me, for more steps to register on my Garmin VivoFit activity tracker. Bundled up against the brisk 35 degrees, I realize our weather is not nearly as ridiculous as in other parts of the U.S. this week. Rocket-man, away on business travel, reports that this morning its minus three degrees in Colorado Springs. That’s not normal for this time of year!  So here goes…you won’t hear me say this often….I’m grateful that I am here and not there!

I walked without listening to music this morning. I was content to listen to the rustle of autumn leaves still stubbornly clinging to their branches. If I would have been plugged-in I would have missed the commotion to my left as I walked down the steep hill. Four or five Deer had caught wind (or sight) of us and were running for cover. It was then that I noticed a lone fawn running back and forth through the thicket of trees and brush. I could hear her crying. I realized she was frantically searching for her family. The deer that had bolted must have heard her cries as they stopped abruptly and turned around. For a moment or two they all stood still, as did I. The Poodle sat at attention. He knew something was going on but from his lower vantage point he couldn’t see the deer. As the deer stood stock still, only their ears were twitching, as if sensing, or perhaps listening. I imagine they were trying to determine the direction to go in to find their lost one. Strangely, I didn’t hear a sound from the group of deer. I would have thought that one of them would call out to the offspring. It didn’t seem to matter though. Perhaps some kind of silent communication took place as in the span of but a couple of minutes the fawn was able to reunite with the family and off, deeper into the brush, they all went.

Witnessing the reunion was a lovely moment and it made me smile for the rest of my morning walk. I’m glad I wasn’t, as I frequently am, buried in my iPhone, either searching through music on my playlist or thumbing through emails as I walk. By unplugging just for a half hour or so I was able to experience everything a bit more….well… mindfully.

Mindfully. Mindfulness. That’s a word that has become more popular in the last couple of years, or so it seems. The Oxford dictionary gives the definition as:

1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something:

2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.

Eat your meals mindfully ….take mindfulness breaks during the course of a day…meditate….and so on. And indeed, this mindfulness approach (even when I didn’t realize it) made those stressful months caring for my mother easier.  I loved those early morning walks in the Sonoran desert.  Sometimes–when I wasn’t venting to a friend about what was happening with my mother–I was able to put everything that was going on aside and just enjoy the beauty around me.

Mindfulness is something that I’m striving to get better at despite the fact that I’ve fallen off a consistent yoga/meditative practice ….or exercise in general. One of the reasons that I’m trying to get better with this mindfulness stuff is that there is still family baggage to sift through. I don’t have to tell you folks….you already know; the approaching holidays brings this stuff out!

So, as I write I’m acknowledging that this imperfect soul is trying to ignore the simmering anger associated with my very own twin brother. Focusing on the present moment is the only “weapon” at my disposal. My battle? Oh, I’ve got a number of them but what comes to mind in this moment is my brother. Do I forgive my brother or….what?

His egregious behavior when our step-father passed, and his subsequent abandonment of family duties during a time of great need has both my sister and I seeing red….blood red….still, after eight months have gone by since Kurt’s death. Most days since the day my brother turned his back on us I have not given him a precious moment of my thoughts. In fact, I find myself telling people I meet, “Oh…I have a sister in Virginia,” consciously making no mention that I have a twin brother too. I may have been estranged from him before Kurt’s passing, but after my brother slammed the door on us in every sense of the word, he may as well have died in my eyes.  Naturally, this feeling does not make my heart feel good which is why I’m struggling here.

As twins go, my brother and I couldn’t be further apart from each other in just about everything. We’ve been estranged for many years although in my heart I have wished him nothing but love and good things. I used to feel guilty about our estrangement but more than anything it was about survival. Our childhood certainly left a lot to be desired in the nurturing department and my brother received far more of the physical blows than I. We’ve got scars to be sure but there are other souls in this world that have suffered far greater brutalities than we have. Still, as his twin sister I did my best to shelter him growing up. Eventually, I gave up. I had to survive too. I played by the rules; he decided not to which is largely why he was always in trouble.

So just yesterday a quote came across my way on the subject of forgiveness.

“If you cannot forgive and forget, pick one.” ~Robert Brault

Hmm.

So does “forget” mean, literally….forget ….as in fail to remember all past terribly boorish and reprehensible behavior? Or does it mean forget entirely that I even have a brother?!   I’m ashamed to admit my feeling at the moment is that it’s much easier to do the latter.

I suppose I should consider more thoughtfully the following excerpt by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and poet, Thich Nhat Hanh:

If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in people we love as well. Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well.

I honestly think about this for a moment. We have both suffered through life’s ups and downs through the years but it’s how we deal with those challenges that matter. I’m certainly not perfect folks but I do believe that I can honestly say that I’ve come through a lot of it with a certain amount of grace…and I’m still muddling through, trying to get better. But even if we have family baggage to contend with (and who doesn’t?) in times of a family crisis, you throw that bag into a closet, slam the door shut, and take care of what needs to be done. My brother didn’t have the courage to do that.

Sigh.

I take a deep breath and release it.

And then I think….

To hell with all this mindfulness.

Clearly, I’ve got more work to do on this journey but today isn’t going to be the forgive and forget day.

I’m not there yet.

I’m only human.

Five Is All It Takes

daises

“The Miraculous Smile”

“ In our face there are dozens of muscles, and when we are angry or afraid, those muscles hold a lot of tension. But if we know to breathe in and be aware of them, and breathe out and smile to them, we can help them release the tension. Our face can be completely different after one in-breath and out-breath. A smile can bring a miracle.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

I read this bit of “everyday wisdom” early this morning in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh entitled “Your True Home.” It made me think about these past difficult months and how little I smiled. So much tension and so little, despite my best efforts, of conscious deep breathing during moments of high tension…and there were many moments!  I know this because my jaw is feeling the effects of all that clenching and frowning and teeth grinding. Frankly, It’s a wonder I have any teeth left after all these months. I didn’t even practice yoga (only one class in over three months!). I thought it was due to laziness which, I confess, I’m prone to all too often. But when I thought more about it, I simply wasn’t in my mind-set to practice anything with all that was going on around me. I had barely enough energy to get through the day. Seems counter-intuitive I know. When the body and spirit is undergoing a great deal of stress and turmoil even a fifteen minute yoga practice can be the answer to calming and soothing the mind–to letting go–even if that letting go is just confined to that space of time on the yoga mat.

So, It’s clear I need to focus more awareness to my facial muscles. I do a quick on-line search and learn that there are about 43 muscles in our face! I had no idea there were that many! However, only five of them are important to the world, according to Susan Sherwood a contributor on curiosity.com in brief article about Neuroscience Psychology (http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/how-many-muscles-in-face). She states, “Happiness. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Disgust. Surprise. Those are universal emotions, and it takes five facial muscles to display each of them to the world.”

Just five muscles is all it takes.

So when my neighbor handed me a bouquet of Daisies a couple of days ago…just cut from her garden…and just because….”To bring sunshine to your day,” she said….my heavy heart couldn’t help but burst into a smile! My entire day exploded into sunshine. In fact, I’m still smiling days later as I enjoy the flowers that brighten up my kitchen table in the gloom of this dreary, rainy day.

And when I was just beginning to feel a twinge of that pity-party syndrome flare its ugly head because Rocket-man is away again, I get a text message from my sis about an upcoming road trip that was planned on the spur of the moment:

sis: I hope you don’t mind but you’ll have to share a bed with Alexandre.

I look at the text and smile.

me: I get to sleep with Alexandre?! I punch in emoticons–smiley faces and red hearts– that express my thoughts.

And then I think ‘PILLOW FIGHT’! In a flash I see pillow feathers flying about the room as Alexandre-the-Greatest and I are jumping up and down on the hotel room bed. Oh boy. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell my sis…or Alexandre-the Greatest about this image!

sis: Yes…. And we all have to go down to the lobby at midnight in our P.J.’s because they serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the guests.

Hmm. I usually turn into a pumpkin before 10 p.m.

I pick up the phone this time to call sis but Alexandre-the-Greatest picks up.

Before I can say a word he says, “Hi CC! Guess what? We get to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at midnight but you have to wear your nicest pajamas, OK?”

“Hey little man!” Say I. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at midnight? Oh My! Do they have chunky peanut butter? Because that’s the kind I want!” I gush with a gusto usually reserved only for my Alexandre-the-Greatest.

I can hear him asking his mamma if they have chunky peanut butter and she says “yes.” He returns to the phone and his little voice is matter of factually affirming that he will have chunky peanut butter too.  Now all of my facial muscles are working and my belly muscles as well as I laugh and share his excitement.

I go to bed with a much lighter heart and all it took was being open to the simple pleasures of life to work five muscles.

Yes…I’ll work on TAKING FIVE more often. A smile can bring a miracle. Bliss.