Monthly Archives: March 2010

Becoming Real

I have a love-hate relationship with Holy Week and Easter. (Okay, hate is too strong. I have a difficult, complicated relationship with Holy Week and Easter.)   First, there’s all the hocus-pocus associated with Easter. (Christmas has a lot of hocus-pocus too, but the traditions of Christmas – giving, celebration, family, food) carry me through that one.  Then there’s the fact that for choir members, Holy Week is a long, grueling marathon which starts on Palm Sunday and doesn’t end until about noon on Easter Sunday.

But more and more, I’m able to see Holy Week and Easter in a new light, as not about physical dying and rebirth, but about dying to those things that keep us isolated and in pain, in darkness and suffering.

And instead, becoming Real.

I was reminded of this today as I heard again this passage from the children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit”, by Margery Williams.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

As was pointed out in today’s sermon, the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, like the story of Easter, is a  Resurrection story. And a recovery story.  About having to go through the pain to find the healing, to go through the discomfort of learning to be honest so that I can be comfortable in my own skin. About being humble enough to recognize that my power is limited but God’s isn’t.  About recognizing that perfection isn’t the goal, but Realness is.

You don’t have to go to church on Easter to become Real. You don’t have to wave palms or wash feet. Those are helpful to me in my path to Realness, as they are a reminder of the journey from darkness to light, from isolation to inclusion and wholeness.  Through the pain to the healing.

But whatever your path to Realness, I wish you traveling mercies.

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Filed under On Being Episcopalian, Recovery

Spin the wheel

As I enter the college search process with my eldest child, I’m struck by how much more complicated the process seems than it did when I was in high school. This is partly because I’m not the one going through it now. It’s partly because, for many people, technology and cheap airfares make the world a lot smaller and therefore the college options more vast. Part of it is because I grew up in a fairly rural area where most of us didn’t know about a lot of the options outside a limited geographic area.

And Harold Thomas, our guidance counselor at Shamokin Area High School, did not help the situation.

Mr. Thomas (rest in peace) was a large man, with a voice that can best be described as “pinched.” (Imitating Mr. Thomas’ voice is still a major activity at our high school reunions.)

Mr. Thomas didn’t exactly see the world as filled with college choices.

In high school, we imagined that Mr. Thomas had a large wheel hidden somewhere in his office. Prior to walking into your meeting with him to discuss college options, Mr. Thomas would spin the wheel to determine where you would go.

If you imagine the wheel separated into 12 sections (think “Wheel of Fortune”), 5 of the sections were marked “Penn State – Hazelton Campus”, 4 were marked “Bloomsburg” (then a state college, now university), 1 was marked “other state colleges in Pennsylvania”, and 1 was marked “Penn State – main campus.”

If you suggested to Mr. Thomas that you might want to go to a school other than those on the wheel – say, Juniata, or Muilenberg, or Lafayette, or the Coast Guard Academy, or God forbid, Princeton – you were met with a quizzical stare that said, “Why would you ever want to do  that?”  And then, of course, if you actually wanted to pursue one of those “other” schools, you were pretty much on your own.

I have to say that, while the experience wasn’t terribly inspiring, it wasn’t terribly stressful either.

I see Emma, who is smart and mature and grounded and wonderful (and I’m, of course, not biased in any way) dealing with the dual pressures of seemingly unlimited choices, and worry that she won’t get into any of the schools on her list. And I know that her friends are going through the same thing too. Over the next year, we will explore options, visit Web sites and campuses, talk to people, look at brochures. Even though I’m “in the business”, I will experience it in a completely different way from the other side. It will be fun and scary. And at the end, she will land someplace where she feels like she is “home”, as I did when I visited Juniata for the first time, and as I did the four years that I was there.

I’m glad she has so many choices.

But maybe it was easier to just spin the wheel.

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A mother’s job

Two things have prompted me to think about parenting. Last night, I was watching a new show (one of the Jay Leno NBC replacement shows) called (surpisingly) “Parenthood”, which seems to me to be a fairly accurate representation of the struggles of parenting (with the exception of the character of the patriarch’s youngest son, who I think is not very believable and is also a total ass). Then this morning, I was reading an article in the Trib about a class being offered through some of the suburban high schools that supposedly teaches people to be better parents of teen-agers.

And then this got me to thinking about my parenting philosophy. Not that my personal parenting philosophy matters to anyone else, or is the right one. Not that my parenting philosophy results in my being a perfect parent. In fact, I have many stories of imperfect parenting. (One of my favorite examples  is standing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a then7-year-old Emma, shouting, “I did not pay all this money to have you come here and play with a Gatorade bottle! Now look at the animals!”) While I have never actually left my child at Chuck-E-Cheese, or forgotten to pick up a child from soccer practice, I have had many moments of getting to work and wondering whether I actually dropped the kids off or whether they were still in the van, because I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing when I dropped them off.

But while it doesn’t make me the Perfect Parent, my parenting philosophy does act as a filter for me when I’m faced with decisions. So here it is, for what it’s worth:

I believe that my job as a parent is not to make my kids happy. Nor is it to make my kids thrive. My job as a parent is to help my children learn the skills they will need to thrive without me.  Not only has remembering this philosophy been a useful filter for me over the years as I’ve had to make decisions in the heat of the moment.  It’s also given me great strength in overcoming the pull to rescue my kids, or to give in to what they want. To hold on. As a 6-month-old was crying in his crib in the middle of the night because he wanted a bottle, and I knew that if I held on, he would figure out how to get himself back to sleep. As that same child, now 6, had an anxiety attack over his upcoming swimming lesson, and I knew that if I held on, he would get through the lesson and have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride because he overcame his fear. As a different child begged me to bring to school her lunch-forgotten-on-the-kitchen-table, and I knew that if I held on, she would not starve, and maybe she’d be more likely to remember it next time. And as I drag a tantrummy youngest child to time out in her room,  and I know that if I hold (and hold on and hold on and hold on), at some point, maybe she’ll learn some self-control.

Help them learn the skills they will need to thrive without me. And then just love them as hard as I can.

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The latest list of lame excuses for not blogging

Yes, I’ve been in a blogging lull.  Part writer’s block, part other things, including:

1. Spending all my time wishing that February was over. (And look, all the wishing worked, because now it’s March.)

2. Playing Olympics bingo. (My bingo scorecard included the words “dream, mom, courage, pain, slush, grit, crash, and sore loser”…the last referring to the Russians, of course.)

3. It seems that every day there’s a new earthquake to read about.

4. So many new TV programs to watch at 9:00 on NBC, now that Jay is gone. (Jay is gone, right? Oh, he’s just on later? Did I miss a news story or something?)

5. Staring at Twitter, hoping that @ConanObrian will tweet something.

6. Preparing my job application for lieutenant governor of Illinois.

7. Trying to watch all of the Oscar-nominated movies. (Current count of Oscar-nominated movies that I’ve seen = 1. Unless “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” got nominated for something and I missed it.)

8. Figuring out what I’m going to wear on Oscar night. (I’m currently thinking sweatpants and a sweatshirt, pretty much like every other night.)

9. Kindergarten homework is kicking my butt.

10.  Need more balance in my life…between Facebook and blogging.

10.

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