On hard days, happy moments, breathing and why we need to document it all

I.

First, Rumi:

“every breath you take
makes one of two choices:
you either surrender to your soul
or struggle with doubt”

…because the joyous Yuletide season is the most brutal time of the year for me, and for so many of you, and this year, for someone I love, it just got even worse, as bad as it can get, and what can we do?

Breathe…

II.

Second, Agatha Christie:

“All this poetry and music and translating Shakespeare and Wordsworth into Arabic and Chinese and Hindustani. ‘A primrose by the river’s brim,’ etc. … what’s the good of that to people who’ve never seen a primrose?”

Oh, Dame Agatha. I hope you’re lampooning the character who’s saying that, but if you’re not… I’m so sorry.

III.

Third, Ender:

nbtb-Happy Sledding Ender

Caption: This is a happy moment.

IV.

Fourth, a resolution:

I have not been as good at jotting down, documenting those happy moments as I used to be. I am so very grateful for the iPhone camera—and for Instagram—and the ease with which one can freeze one of those moments in time.

My New Year’s resolution, I think, is to document more, in ink—and in pictures.

I’ll try to share, why not? But mostly—it’s for me, my record. And for them, of course. I want them to remember me remembering them, if you know what I mean.

V.

Fifth…. breathe. Remember. Breathe…

VI.

Finally (don’t stop breathing), tis also the season for the bellyaching of overfed bellies and New Year’s resolutions that will lead to a fitter, slimmer, happier (ha!) you.

So, would-be-dieters, Rumi is totally on your side:

yesterday you filled your stomach
with all kinds of bread and goods

you became so sluggish
so sleepy

what comes of such indulgence?
either recklessness
or the need to go to the toilet

sounds of moans and mourning
come from the soul while fasting
but the only sound that comes after a meal
is a low-pitched rumble from the rear-end

so friend
if you want to hear what the soul has to say
then skip the meal;
if you want to hear from the other end
then bring the bowl closer to you

You’re welcome. 😉

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. The Rumi poem translations are taken from Will Johnson’s Rumi’s Four Essential Practices: Ecstatic Body, Awakened Soul, and they’re Johnson reinterpretations, in part, of Nevit O. Ergin’s translations of Rumi into English from Turkish—which were translated by an assortment of translators from old Persian into old-then-modernish Turkish. What would Dame Agatha think?

Look!

Fragment 1

Her: Look!

Me: No. I don’t wanna.

Her: Look! Come on! How are you going to understand if you don’t look?

That’s the point. I don’t want to understand. If I don’t look, if I don’t see, I don’t have to start to understand. I can stay here, away. On the periphery, full of judgement, empty of compassion.

Her: Look. Please. Look.

I look.

Fragment 2

An on-the-fly-translation of a Rumi poem in response to the burning of a manuscript:

“She said, I set this fire for a reason. Don’t question what you don’t understand.”

But if I don’t question what I don’t understand how the fuck am I ever going to know anything, learn anything?

Her: Look. Just… look…

I look.

Fragment 3

I have not idea what I’m looking at. What I’m looking for, I know. Truth, right? What else do we ever look for?

Truth. Some version thereof.

Flora: Mom? What is truth?

I look at her. I try not to lie.

I suspect I do.

Fragment 4

Look, a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“What happens next depends on you.”

Of course. Always.

Her: What are you going to do?

I look.

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-look

This should have a post-script, I think, don’t you? OK. Let’s do it:

You: Fuck, Jane, were you stoned?

Me: Stone sober, beloved. But pensive and playful at the same time. Also, generous. I wanted you to look. Did you?

 

“The child weaned from mother’s milk…”

I.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.”

Rumi

Rumi’s translator, Coleman Barks, calls the poem that begins with these lines “Unmarked Boxes.” It resonates.

II.

Confession: I’ve just read my first parenting book in near a decade (see The Day I Stopped Reading Parenting Books): Anthony Wolf’s I’d Listen to My Parents If Only They’d Shut Up: What To Say And What Not To Say When Parenting Teens.

This is not, incidentally, a book review, but if it was, it would say, “It has good parts. It has bad parts. Read with a critical filter, take what’s useful, discard the rest.”

III.

I have a teenager now. I am still as much in love with him as I was with the newborn who woke me up every two hours. I will be more frustrated with him than I was with the toddler who pummeled everyone in sight… but that’s fine. That’s part of the package (It doesn’t get easier). My love for him has redefined how I understand, feel, experience love. Myself. The universe. I love him, unconditionally, and I will love him, unconditionally, until my experience of the universe ends.

Here’s something most parents don’t want to hear: he doesn’t love me unconditionally. No child loves a parent unconditionally. Meditate on that.

IV.

Whenever you tell me you love me. I think about what you might possibly feel for me, and what I think I feel for you, and compare it against what I feel for this child, for his siblings, and… if that is love, this is not.

You: Semantics. Always, with the fucking semantics.

Me: Words are important.

You: “What language does so spectacularly is lie, that silver-tongued projector of illusions.” That’s Coleman Barks, so you know it’s true.

Me: Fucking poets. Always telling the truth with their lies.

V.

That Rumi poem, the next line, it goes,

“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box…”

(I was going to be a petty atheist and replace the first words with an ellipsis. But, I didn’t.)

I’m not sure about the metaphor. Is my son an unmarked box? Am I? Mostly, I am very literal—and there are still three unmarked boxes of loss in the space where I create.

VI.

I make my nocturnal teenager crepes and carry them up to his bedroom two hours short of his preferred waking time of noon.

Cinder: Best! Mother! Ever!

Jane: I know. Now wake up and get your sibs out of the house so I can work!

xoxo

“Jane”

photo (14)

P.S. Rumi, same poem: “I don’t want to make anyone fearful / Hear what’s behind what I say.”