Noticing (2013)

Three years ago, I wrote a chapter of my life in a little story ("What the Wind Told Me").

Jonah was two.

Now he is five.

Where did the years go.

He is away for the longest he has ever been away from me. I have not heard the words "Umma, Umma" (Mommy, Mommy in Korean) for what feels like much too long.

For me, time for mental space plus the absence of Jonah's huge presence have been utterly disorienting.  My perception and reality (which inevitably go hand in hand) are unfocused, hazy, confused.  And yet, with patience, this time is slowly bringing focus to things that have happened so gradually, I have failed to notice them.

This summer therefore has been about taking time to notice.  Or rather, NOTICE (an epiphany of this magnitude deserves caps and italics)!

The first thing I NOTICED: The silence is LOUD.  Within it, there are potential doors to anger, bitterness, regret, heartache, yearning.

There are also potential doors to joy, gratitude, freedom, acceptance, and sometimes the hardest of all, forgiveness.  The latter are always open, yet sometimes hard to keep open.  The concurrence of Jonah's absence with having real summer-time for the first time in over a decade has provided the catalyst for a shift in my vision.  During this unfettered time, I have been stepping my foot into each of these doorways.  It is necessary, in order to close some and re-open others.

I believe we all, humans, have these choices before us, always.  I think what matters is not so much that we find the right path or doorway, but that we are seeking.  The process of seeking is where and how we grow.  I believe both beautiful and not-so-beautiful doors must exist, in order to give credence to the ones we actually step through, same as one must know suffering or lack, in order to truly enjoy abundance.  The beautiful and the difficult exist together and present countless choices and ways of being.  And yet....our ambient environments become invisible in the rush of life, and it takes effort to really see it. 

The simple act of noticing takes intention and time.  Here are more things I've noticed:

Since the last time I wrote, Jonah has grown immensely in language, empathy, curiosity.  His eyelashes are impossibly long, and his sweetness is incredibly deep.  The endless I-feel-like-a-broken-record teachings that felt so exhausting are paying off:  My child is sweetly earnest, he makes eye contact with sincerity, he greets people when he arrives and when he leaves (meaning, he acknowledges and respects those around him), he says please, thank you, and excuse me and means it, he understands the importance of being truthful, he feels true remorse when he hurts someone and sadness when he sees someone being hurt, he shares his toys and treats and food generously without prompting because he delights in seeing how the other person reacts.  While being typically self-focused and lost-in-the-moment as 5-year-olds are, his circle of influence and his circle of awareness are growing ever outward.  It is a beautiful thing to notice.


His actions reflect his tender heart:  he filled my bed with hearts and ribbons and tucked his favorite orange bear under my chin when I was sick (imagine waking to that),

he asks regularly why we can't be together all the time when I go to work and he goes to school, he is indignant when he witnesses a child hurting another child.  He frowns when he witnesses injustice and asks why it is happening.  And he is hilarious:  he is incapable of walking without skips and jumps, he can eat a whole adult-sized Chipotle burrito despite being 40 lbs, he wants to wear a batman shirt with a velcro cape every. single. day.

While simply being Jonah, he takes up a huge amount of space, time, and energy in my world.  I didn't realize to what extent until he was gone.  What I realized today is that slowly, those concrete signs of a vast shifting of priorities and energies that occurred when I became a mother--the signs of aging in everything around the house, the tangle of weeds in the yard, the absent garden, the makeshift spaces--are disappearing.  In their place, my house is becoming a home again.  In making that happen, I am becoming a person again, outside of being a mother.  It is a step.  It only takes one step to begin.

I have been thinking endlessly about Jonah and all that he is/is becoming, in relation to all that I am/am becoming.  And here is something I have learned lately: It is very easy to feel, when there is actually time to think and BE, that one is not doing enough.  That something should be moved forward, that projects should be created or completed, that lists should be tackled, that 'something of consequence' should be accomplished, that hours and days should be filled with productivity.  The question that has been bubbling up lately is simply this:  But why?  Why should those things be accomplished?  Why is it so easy to feel some strange external pressure to be doing something that one is not doing?  And why is 'something of consequence' defined somewhere outside of me?  

My accomplishment the other day was to sleep in.

Another day it was to dust off some art and get out some journals.

I have decided those are absolutely 'something of consequence'.

Woah!  WOAH!  

I can define my own something(s) of consequence.

Here are other things I have figured out (and have been doing) so far:

For a time, read only other-worldly stories like Murakami and Vonnegut and the Graceling series and dystopian stories with female heroines and leave the teetering pile of professional texts untouched, without guilt.  Let your mind imagine things it would not have imagined on its own.

Picture those crazy scenarios, and then dream of faraway places and the vastness of choices allowed to us, if only we give ourselves permission to entertain them as choices.

Once established as choices, commit to something.  Then do it.

Wander around flower-filled places first thing in the morning and remove the finished blossoms to make space for new ones.  Or do the equivalent of this in a different venue. 

Cut flowers you would normally pass by without seeing, and put them in vases indoors.  Moving life around brings life to spaces and fresh focus to all that is ephemeral.  Things that are ephemeral bring to attention all that is precious.  And the things that are precious are ephemeral.  Knowing all of this feeds a deep sense of gratitude.

Exert daily to the point of exhaustion and least for a small amount of time.  Running connects me to the earth, to breath, to air, to sun, to rain, and to the life of my body.  It forces me to feel the importance of breath, to rely on strength, to love life and the act of living, to cherish my health.  What connects you?

Shed tears.  Crying is not a sign of weakness or vulnerability, but of strength.  It takes courage to release real tears and fortitude to understand them.

Something you are, or said, or did, has influenced me profoundly.  We are often the sum of the people we surround ourselves with, all of whom have something to teach.  Above all, lately I have NOTICED the true meaning of selflessness and unconditional love, both by living these the best I can, and by being the recipient of these by amazing souls.

Today I am choosing to be full of gratitude, for life, for motherhood, for Jonah, and YOU.

What have you noticed lately?