Saturday, March 1, 2014

Being in the Now (even when the now is 1 degree)


I know, "Live in the present," "Be in the now," "Enjoy today," .... when you're  living in the middle of the Polar Vortex you're thinking blah, blah, blah, right?!

'Cuz when the air hurts your skin, and every step has you worrying you're gonna break your neck fallin' on the ice, and everyone keeps going round and round with cold and flu season.... um, it doesn't make you enjoy the present. It does not feel like a present. It feels like that gift you'd like to return. Immediately. For another season. Balmy summer. Mild spring. Perfect autumn. Anything but the now. Which is midwinter in Massachusetts.

But then there's me. How can I abandon my love, my madly passionately in love with true love, the state of Massachusetts, when it is in one it's four perfect seasons?! Perfect. Perfectly imperfect? Well, not to sound Pollyana'ish, but I am remembering to appreciate the good sides of winter. Yes, even in March, when it is ONE degree when I walk out into our yard to let out our doggies at 6 am. No need for an -s for degrees. Just degree. Singular.

Winter, you ask? What are the "positives" of winter? The cold? The high heating bills? The constant shoveling and snowblowering and salting the driveway?

Yes, even with my dry skin and split finger skin and humidifiers ablazing, I am still appreciating the winter in Massachusetts.  I know I may be in the minority.

And I probably don't love winter for the same reasons some other people do. Some people love the winter because it gives them the opportunity to go skiing or snowboarding every weekend.

My appreciation for this season is for the lack of action, the inaction.

Don't get me wrong, I adore the fresh green newness of spring. I embrace our family getting out of the house and back into outdoor sports. And I love the heat of summer, the pool, wearing less clothes, the freeness to be outdoors all the day and night. And my favorite season of course is autumn, the brisk air requiring a sweater while we go apple picking and pumpkin picking and through the corn maze and trick-or-treating.

What I love about all those seasons is the opposite of why I love winter.

Those seasons are full of hustle and bustle and activity, which is fun and great, but it also makes me appreciate winter's inactivity.

Of course we still go sledding and walk the dogs daily and exercise, but the coldness of winter invites us inside, to be cozy and warm. The interiority of the cold season is what I enjoy. The fire in the fireplace, board games, reading books by the fire, drawing, playing, baking, cooking, all of these are what makes this season so wonderful for me to share with my family.

And I often admit to my friends' who can't get enough of summer that I actually find the intense humid heat here exhausting. I find myself saying that we wait all winter for summer to arrive to be able to spend so much time outdoors, and then are reminded of the reality of summer: the intense heat, the suffocating humidity, the mosquitoes, the deer ticks. Just when you think "Ah, a summer evening, I'm going to go enjoy my lemonade in the yard," you are attacked my mosquitoes, find a deer tick on your leg and flee inside the house. Ugh. Exhausting. As much as I always thought of myself as a beach lover when I was growing up, spending all my summers on the beach in Malibu, I've realized now that I can get tired of the heat on the beach very quickly, even with an umbrella and thirst quenching drinks and the frosty Atlantic to cool me off.

What?! Blasphemy! Who does not adore every single millisecond of everyday at the beach?! This is how I feel when I admit my feelings to winter weary East Coast friends. Which I understand. I do. I like to defrost my frozen bones as much as the next New Englander.

But for me there are positives to life outdoors during winter here. A big chunk of my life is spent walking my two large dogs. During winter, I find the fresh cold air to be invigorating. It feels wonderful to get big lungfuls of cold air while I walk my dogs everyday.

So, even while I am wincing when my skin hurts walking my dogs on single digit winter days, I remind myself to stop and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. I continue to feel so grateful to live where I live. My yard and this neighborhood makes me feel as if I live in Tahoe, which for this California native is one of my favorite beautiful outdoor locations. The trees and the clear blue sky of winter here inspires me to take off my glove (ouch!) (yes, I gotta get a pair of those genius gloves that allows you to have them on while touching the iphone screen!), and take photos of all around me, everyday.

That blue sky?! Are you KIDDING ME NOW?!!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I am afraid to not be afraid

So here I am again, trying to write.

Trying to share with the world thoughts, and maybe images, that will forever be out in the ether, out in the universe, out on the internet.

How does one decide to do this? I am not like international movie star Julia Roberts, where I present a persona to the public, play roles of others on screen, share only what I choose in interviews, and then retreat to the protected seclusion of my fortress of wealth and power and security guards, allowing nary a snapshot of my children to the world's prying eyes. No, I am a middle-class middle-age regular ol' American mother, who wishes to write and share about this journey of parenthood, of life, but then.....

It is the 'but then's' that scare me. That stop me. That prevent me.

I am tempted to read all the How Much and How Little to Share on Your Blog articles I can get my hands on. I am tempted to hand out little tidbits of sharing, all while protecting the motherlode. Because this world we live in is a scary one. Yes, yes, I know "It has always been a scary world, and it will always be a scary world." But, let's be honest, here, in America, in our current world, in 2014, it feels a whole lot scarier than in the past. Planes flying into buildings. Monsters massacre baby children in kindergarten. Predators wait to steal children at a moment's notice. Sick humans search the internet to find images to further their sickness.

With all of this, how is a person supposed to share? How is a mother supposed to do anything except exert all her energy to protecting her children, her family, their safety, their privacy, their innocence?

Sigh.  I sigh a lot in parenting I've found.

I had a mom friend, whose children were a few years older than mine, and we would get into heated discussions over what I considered being realistic and she considered being overprotective and unrealistic. Her children, ages 7 and 9, rode their bikes down the street to visit their friends, as we did in the 1970s. I could not imagine the day when I would feel safe allowing my kids, then 4 and 6, to savor such freedom as I did in the days of The Partridge Family and Zoom. And, now that my kids are now 9 and 11, it still feels to me like at any moment an unmarked van could drive up and toss them in and drive away, never to be seen again. She argued that there were no more abductions than when we were kids, that it just felt that way because the instant access to the news allowed much more information to be shared and known. I have never googled those statistics, and I am not sure it would matter. My number one job as their mother, as their parent, is to keep them alive. Some would argue, as she did, "No, your number one job is to make them independent, so they can fly the nest." And my cynical answer would be "Yes, that sounds all fine and dandy, but they can't fly the nest if they are gone or dead."

Ah, yes, the morbid nature of the worrying mother.

In the ensuing years, I have spoken with countless other mothers who feel the same as I do. Not that I take a vote at every casual school pickup conversation. This subject comes up with parents, male and female, all the time, with friends and even strangers. Many parents do not even question it anymore. Of course they do not allow their child to go in to the restroom by themselves. In an instant something can happen that will change the innocence of the child forever.

But then comes the question of age. The child grows older. The female parent can no longer realistically insist the 11 year old male child go into the female bathroom. A policeman I know would, without hesitation, stand in front of the door and tell people "My daughter is in there, you will have to wait." Part of me would like to drive over to our local police station and ask them their official stand on this subject. I told my own kids this yesterday. I would not allow my 9 and 11 year old to remain the car while I went into the store for a moment. My 9 year old daughter stated "You don't trust us." And, as much as I would like to assure her that the world is a safe place, instead I've told her what I've told my kids for years: "We live in a world where there are bad people who might take you away or hurt you. My job is to protect you."

I am guessing there may be some parents who chuckle and shake their heads at this point in my saga. "Ah, that worrywart mother, she needs to just relax and not fret all the time." And I would respond "You parent your way, I parent mine."

Because it all boils down to that, doesn't it? As I wrote in a previous blog post, about the subject of figuring out how far to go to protect my kids from physical injury, versus allowing them freedom to adventure, my ultimate response is: "No one is going to walk up to me at their funeral and say "Well, at least you weren't overprotective."

And back to the subject of writing. I would like to embrace the "Let go of all fear and write" philosophy. I think it sounds great, in theory, to write with the credo of "Have no insecurities when you write." But it isn't just about me. If I write about my family, about my children, that is sharing their stories, their personal lives, their world, also. And, with the internet, once it is written, it is out there, forever. Same as people warn about posting on Facebook, once it's out there, it is out there forever. Anyone can look at all that is written by you and about you. Do I have the permission of my children to share their lives and their world? When writing on the internet reaches literally the whole world?

So. I'm figuring it out. As the blog title states, a work in progress.