Monday, October 12, 2015

The True, Blessed Quiet of Monday

It's a foggy morning outside the big picture window here in the kitchen. Overnight, our raspberry leaves are becoming more golden, less green. There is work outside which will wait for the afternoon...

...for now, I wait for my second cup of tea to steep and drink in the silence of our house. Off in the distance, some landscaping equipment is growling along, destroying vegetation (sounds like a wood chipper). Other than that dull buzz and the now-noise-concealing hum of the fridge which just kicked on, it is peaceful. No human words, no bids for my attention, just the timer signalling that the tea is ready to be poured.

Silence is something which is valued and treasured. It's almost an endangered species in some ways: we are raising children who crave constant stimulation which comes with lots of noise. Our entire culture seems to have replaced the sun with screens as the center of our individual universes. I'm guilty of that as well, after a fashion-- sometimes it's not easy to pull out of the spoon-fed entertainment world and to tend to real life. Writing on this laptop does help, though, in that it makes  me focus on what's around me in my own real world.

In true Monday fashion, what's around me is this, in no significant order:
Floors which need sweeping and wiping (again)
A basket of laundry which needs emptying
A counter and sink full of stoneware, china and glass waiting to be washed
The old duvet cover, recently replaced, waiting at the bottom of the basement stairs to be washed and then stored.
And a yard full of leaves to be raked up to add to the compost pile

This morning I was so happy to know I was coming home to a quiet house, nothing mattered. Quick, cursory breakfast of veggie sausage on toast spread with Chevremousse (if you can't have cows milk cream cheese, this is the best thing ever!). We left early for school so Kiddo could ride his scooter and play with his friends before the bell rang. I had made a bunch of balloon 'fidgets' (stress balls,  you can find the activity here) for his classroom and the look of absolute surprise and delight on his teacher's face when I handed her the bag was so lovely--

I'm sure she values quiet as well.

It is the quiet which allows our minds to wander and discover new ideas, new solutions. This isn't a universal thing, but I do my best thinking in the quiet moments-- absolutely the best thinking happens in the shower. The white noise of the water and the fan drown out everything else and allows me be present in that moment. Which is what I should have been telling my own parents when they complained about my long showers: I'm thinking in here! Be happy I'm using my brain!

The promise of quiet makes me happy beyond measure. On Saturday Joe took Kiddo out to run errands. I folded four loads of laundry in a silence which was like a balm, soothing the irritation of a morning full of demands. See how I remember this? Quiet laundry folding time was a gift, not a chore. This morning, knowing I'd be coming back to a tranquil house, I had more patience for Kiddo's endless desire to be reading comic books instead of getting ready for school. Sure, five minutes on the timer, and then "Please keep your agreement. It's time to put that book down and go brush your teeth." Knowing that there were no human demands waiting at home for me gave me more grace toward our boy.

There are a lot of poetic thoughts about quietude-- and I really could go on and on.  For a great many of us, though, this is how we get filled up spiritually--not with chatter and attention and praise, but in the space and emptiness. There is respite in having moments of nothingness, there is clarity and substance in what should be void of meaning. It is the sole purpose of silence, to me-- the space around it. Much like standing at Cascade Head, looking out over the Pacific and the coastline to the south, getting a sense of where we are in our world, not in relation to where one parked the car or where the beach cabin is, but in relation to our lives as a whole. Silence allows space for objectivity, which is a powerful perspective. Objectivity allows us to see beyond our own interests and feelings, it gives us a wonderful sense of pulling back and taking in the entire situation. It gives us the ability to appreciate what others might want or need. Objectivity frees me from having to deem according to our societal dualism as strict 'right or wrong'; instead, it encourages deeper thought and nuance and this helps me to better understand and live in my world.

My cup of tea is gone now. The sky isn't brightening any, but that's not unusual on a fall day here in Portland. I've had my quiet and now I feel ready to move to the next task, and the next, and the next. The swish of a broom, the clatter of silverware, the chugging of the washing machine, the raking of leaves... work is noisy. But that's okay. Balance is everything, right?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Where We Are Now

This morning is one of those that I love: productive, peaceful, perhaps slightly philosophical. I'm in a season of my life that is busy and enjoyable, and this fall day is idyllic with its bright sunshine and cool mornings. The leaves have started to turn but the trees are still full, so the color is everywhere I can see. Rusty golds, crimson greens, all of the opposites of the color wheel working together, the sky pale blue as a contrast to everything I see.

This really is bliss.

This is a morning of a new life, newer than my life felt last month or more especially, last year. This morning I walked with a friend, whose life is new in a different way. Her child has moved away to college and she is gently pushing into her own new territory of being a mom from a distance. She photographed some stunning purple beauty berry as we strolled through the neighborhood; took a moment to send it as a good morning to her beautiful and intelligent daughter. I admire how my friend gracefully treads into this new phase of life and I feel fortunate that in watching her, I will learn much myself.

Home, I got on my exercise bike for a while, then my efforts turned to work outside. After years of random digging--or so it seemed from the looks of the backyard, I've begun a project of digging out a rain garden (yes, we had one before, but downspouts were moved) and using the soil to regrade some areas in the yard which have been stumbling hazards. It's hard work, but very, very satisfying. I'm being nicer to myself, taking breaks, deliberately rotating through a variety of tasks so that I don't strain my muscles so much. Stopping before I feel deep strain instead of my old habit of working through the pain. The gorgeous dahlias up front are in bloom, the sweet olive tree out back is in what can only be described as a most heavenly flowering season~ the peachy scent of those tiny flowers is just divine.

Today is a quiet one for me. This year I've taken on more responsibility at Kiddo's school. Last year the woman who headed the geography program kept introducing me to people as 'the person who is going to take over for me'.... and finally, I bit. She let me shadow her for months before handing the task over to me. This has been a huge, good new thing in my life. I get to use my brain again! The program has challenged me at times, how to effectively serve the 300+ families whose children make up the second-through-fifth grade. What's resulted is my creating a website to support the students and their families to this end. It's been great to provide something which has been so well-received and to know that a need has been fulfilled.  Along with this, I'm at the school for three other volunteer activities and this makes for a more structured life than I've had in a while.

Sometimes, it's easy to think-- to believe, really-- that there is some sort of determined trajectory to work toward. That life has a Plan (yes, with a capital "P") that one should follow. It has occurred to me that the 'right' plan is probably rarely permanently right, but more 'right for right now'. We are fortunate in that Joe has a job which allows us to have me home for Kiddo and the house and the cats... and for me. I think I'm a far better person with the quiet time, a better mom in the afternoons and evenings, a better partner.  I'm also happier with these new responsibilities, which push me to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. Taking life beyond the scope of thinking up "what's for dinner?" and really stretching has been good for me. It took some time to enjoy being out of the work force, and it's taken some time to want to take on more responsibilities. In the past, I never would have seen myself as being a part of an event planning committee, and yet, here I am, doing just that! A year ago I would have felt intimidated by all of this and now it's just happening as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, so much of this is reflected in my parenting. As I'm focusing more on my own things, Kiddo is getting opportunities to grow as well. I've stopped reminding him so much about things, just figuring that it's okay to let some things fail for today if it means we remember them tomorrow. I'm allowing more natural consequences to things (forgot to unpack the lunchbox? oh, the cold pack isn't frozen, guess you can't pack a yogurt. Bummer.), and I'm allowing him to have more say in how things go during his days. Knowing more about him, his abilities and his natural tendencies gives me better ideas of how to help him help himself and how to gauge what he's really needing in the moment. Sometimes this process looks and sounds messy, but I think we are both happier, both with life and with each other. His friendships have changed, deepened, in some ways. So have our conversations. Little kids have a lot of ethics questions which pop up: everything from "why can't I talk about how much money I have saved up?" to what sort of qualities determine if a person is a good friend or maybe a not-so-good friend to have.

He and Joe have started up with the Boy Scouts; Joe was an Eagle Scout and thought it would be a good experience. As he's the Den leader I'm heartened that our family's ethics and respect for people of all stripes will be upheld. There's a lot of focus on building character and striving for some rather virtuous qualities, and this introduces a vocabulary you might not have heard as much at our house last year as you do now. Those qualities are a great filter through which to think about our actions. I've been giving him more praise along those lines, concrete "I've noticed that you nearly always hold the screen door for me now when I'm locking up; I never even have to ask you any more. It's very thoughtful and kind of you." In between the moments of his scooter antics, Minecraft-addiction and always being on the move, I'm noticing more maturity. A wee bit more, but it's those qualities we pay attention to most which seem to grow and blossom.

This has been a long post-- I realize I should stop for lunch. Dishes are waiting, I still have a shower to take, and there are quite a few other things which want doing before I go pick up Kiddo at three. This life is my dream life, for now. This moment, I have my dream job, for now. Nothing is 100% perfect, but everything seems like it is exactly how it is supposed to be in this moment and that's good enough for me.