Saturday, February 19, 2011

Precious Moments

“This is a precious time.” My Mom would say emphatically, looking lovingly at we three children at Christmas, a moment around the dinner table or during a family hug. Her eyes were shining and open.
We would gather in a family huddle, all five of us, and after seeing “The Dark Crystal”
We would all make a low chanting sort of “Ahhhhhhhh…” a communion of sorts.
You might have to see the Dark Crystal to really get it, but I’ll explain. There is a moment when all the old, scraggly, good guy creatures raise their heavy heads up and chant to connect with each other. No matter where there are, they connect, they are stronger and they are separate, but one.
My mother made a point to let us know daily that we were loved, that our lives are precious and that being together is the best. Saying I love you was second nature to her. We greeted and parted with hugs and “love you’s” and “see ya’s”...we blinked the lights at the door repeatedly as she departed honking the horn on the way down the rocky driveway. We waved and blinked until she was well out of sight. She rubbed our backs and feet, cradled our heads when we cried and watched us, amazed as we played Barbie’s. My mother’s entire being was, and still is, precious, valuable, beautiful and gleaming with love.

My father didn’t say that moments were precious. He didn’t look at us vulnerably or even very "lovingly" usually, he was working…but he did initiate the “Ahhhhhh..” moment many times. He did pat my head before sleep sometimes, his huge rough, calloused hand weighed down on my forehead and eyes, saying. “I’m here, you are safe. Go to sleep.” He did read to us occasionally, his deep vice rumbling as he read with energy and emotion the dramatic bank robberies of “O’Henry”or exciting escape scenes of “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”. Those were precious moments. He didn’t do that often. He often worked until dark. After dinner he worked on crunching numbers for the summer business, stuffing envelopes as mailers to get business or discussed boring adult matters like taxes or student loans with my Mom while she made lunches. He worked a lot. Providing for us. For him to take time to read us a story or pat our heads before sleep was rare and precious.

I think about these precious moments often as a parent. I may not say it the way they said it or do what they did, but there is creation and love in the new ways.
We hold hands before every dinner now, and each take a moment to look each other in the eyes (thank you to my Bulgarian house mates in NYC who taught me the proper way to cheers is to look each person in the eyes as you clink glasses.) That moment of connection acknowledges our separateness and togetherness as a whole. We say our dinner prayer which we borrowed from our son’s preschool five years ago… “God is great, God is good, and we thank you for our food. Amen.” Being grateful together is precious.

Between dinner and bedtime is precious time with Daddy. Sometimes they pig pile, tickle and wrestle on the big bed. Sometimes we talk a family walk in our neighborhood with flashlights in the winter or barefoot in the summer, soaking up the last bit of soft evening sun before bed. Laughing together and being outside in nature together is precious.
I hum a lullabye to them most nights, soft, off key notes soften the darkness and settle the boy energy like a splendid sigh. I make up words thanking God for nature, our home, Nana, Papa, Grandma and Grandad, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, teachers and friends by name. Feeling blessed with abundance of community is precious.
In a recent trip back east to see my family of origin, I had alone time with each person and I was very aware that that moment was a very precious time. Dancing with my niece, clapping for my mother's art, indulging on dessert with my father, celebrating my brother's and fiancées engagement, meeting their friends and being all together, was deeply precious.

In this moment I am present to the preciousness doesn’t come from the doing…the walking, singing, dancing, clapping or the tickling…it comes from who we are being in that moment. Looking into each other’s eyes, being present, being free, being peace, being fully self expressed, being love. It’s what Buddhist monks chant or meditate on for years to obtain, what Christians pray for hours to be, it’s available to all of us in a moment. There is no “someday” I’ll be enlightened, no “thing” to do to get there, no confession or redemption that will save us and THEN have us be blessed or in God’s favor. Many might disagree. There is an order to things, traditional, just the way things ARE they might say. I don’t disagree; I just come from another place. Empowerment now. We all have access to enlightenment and heaven on earth right now, in this moment, if we just get present to how precious it is, exactly the way it is.

Zen Honeycutt

It’s All His Fault: My Son and a Bully

It’s happening again. I see my eight year old son walking toward me on the side walk with heaviness and resignation that, if I were in the privacy of my own room, could have me weep.
I am present, however, and a Mom, and I am very aware of the brief window of time I have to listen to my son talk about his day before playing, homework and brotherly bickering begin to dilute the reality of his occurrence. Later in the day, what happened at school becomes more and more of a fabrication, a story to tell to entertain, dramatize or garnish pity or attention. Nothing wrong with that…I just want to get to the source of his disempowerment sooner rather than later.

So I kiss his cheek with verocity, rub my hand through his shiny, deep walnut colored hair and let him settle into the car. Then I ask him how his day was. He sighs.
“Not that much good, Mom”
“Oh? What happened?”
“Well John choked me again. And did karate moves on me.”
Oh Wow." My Mother Tiger neck hairs are stirring, and yet I am careful not to get worked up. He’s here, his neck is not marked, I am listening.
“Yeah, and I know what you are going to say, What did you do? Did you tell him to stop??? But I did Mom and he didn’t stop no matter what I said, he grabbed me around the neck and didn’t stop!!!” His frustration is bubbling over now, is face getting the rush of red anger, his lip beginning to quiver.
The sorrow in my heart drops into my stomach like a rusty anchor from an old ship. Clunk.

I have heard about him getting picked on many times before. We have coached him, written emails to the teacher, showed him the block move. For a moment I make up in my head that this is just the way it is going to be, my son is just going to get picked on, and it’s all the darn bullies’ parents and the bullie's fault…and ok maybe my fault too. Then I remember that as a parent it is my job not to control the circumstances or other people, it’s not my job to protect him from being hurt ever, it is to teach him to be powerful in any situation. I remember that things happen to all of us, people behave in ways that we don’t like…we can’t control that. It’s who we are being that makes the difference and empowers us in our life. In order to empower him, it’s not about me telling him what to do, it’s about getting into his world, his occurrence of it all, that will make a difference for him.
So I ask him, “What else do you want to say about it?”
And he settles down, pours it all out, and I listen to the woe and anguish of being Ben in second grade with John bullying him everyday at recess. When he’s ready I ask him questions, here and there, like “ What happened then? Or What did that feel like for you?”
Eventually we got to a place where he was done talking about it, had gotten it all out, and then I asked him” Well is there anything you would like to do about this?” Usually I would have assumed he was going to do something about it and just said “ So what are you going to do about this?” But my instinct told me he may have resisted that assumption. It’s all about choice in life.
He thought about it.
“ Well maybe…remember when Dad showed me the block move? Are there other moves you could teach me?”
We went home, I used my experience as a little sister to teach Ben some moves to get out of a choke hold and being grabbed from behind. It was fun and he was empowered.

The next day he came home even more disempowered. "The moves didn’t work." he said dejectedly. John just knocked him down. He wasn’t fast enough…he couldn’t figure it out. It was written all over his face. He had a bad day and it was all John's fault. What we resist persists, said the coach in my head. Just be with it.

This time I was determined to listen more and just not try to fix it. He talked about it and I didn’t ask him what he wants to do about it. I just got his was like I dropped everything and sat down with him in this yucky mud puddle of sad feelings and just sat there with him. We wallowed together. Eventually, he was done with that and we got up and went about our day with no mentioning of fixing anything.

Today, he walked toward me with a perky stride in his step. Before he is even settled into the car he begins to share, “Mom it was a really, really, really good day. I found out that I was saying bad words to John about his karate moves that he doesn’t like so we made a deal. I won’t say those words and he won’t do karate on me.” He is talking so fast that he stumbles over his words, so excited in his triumph that the words really don’t do the joy justice.
His face is bright and shiny, soft and happy, confident and proud.
My heart is free and surprised and delighted.
Wow Ben! High five!” We smack hands happily. “What did you do to make that deal?”
“ Oh, I just talked to him.” It was simple.
“ You did! You listened too. You got his point of view.”
“Yeah, he has his point of view, too.”
“You also took responsibility for your actions too, Ben. That’s awesome. That’s where you got your power to have things go the way you want. Are you proud of yourself?”
“Yeah, I am.”

He may not have ever wanted to be friends with John, and he may never be. But there is so much more possible now for his life, the confidence, power and ability to alter his life, now that he has listened and taken responsibility. There is that old saying that when you point a finger at someone else there are actually three fingers pointing back at yourself. Ben got that. And not because I told him what to do, not because he “should” be friends, but because he was vulnerable and shared his life with me and I gave him the space to just share how it really is for him, without planning it, without judging, assessing or fixing and then he took on his life for himself.

I am glad I am writing this down, because something tells me I might need to remember this now and then, especially in the teen age years.
Thank you Ben for being courageous and creating your life responsibly. And for being generous and sharing your life with me. I learn from you and I love you endlessly.

Zen Honeycutt

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love and Other Questions

As Valentine's Day nears and annoyance and anxiety in men across the nation rises, whatever our romantic status, we find ourselves thinking about love. What is it and how do we express it? How important is it to express it in a certain way? What, most importantly, are her or his expectations and how am I ever going to meet them?

Today, I greet my 5 1/2 year old son Bodee at Kindergarten pick up with a twinkle in his eye. He holds a brass colored metal box with the words " Nikki" written in a child's handwriting. Too excited for the formalities of hello hugs and kisses he launches immediately into an explanation of this precious box. Nikki gave it to him to hold, and it has a diamond in it, and she's his friend and he gets to have it until ...ummm May, or next Monday...
I am delighted with his energy and I ask if she gave it to him or is he borrowing it. He clarifies that he is borrowing it until Monday, we think, and he shows me the plastic gem stone and note cards in the box like a special treasure. I comment how nice it was of her to lend it to him and he agrees, "Ya", he says, "she's my friend". I ask if he would like to put something in the box when he returns it to her, to give to her, as a Thank you.
"Ya" he says, perking up even more, the gears begin turning, "What could I put in there?" I ask him what he think sand he says "Ummm well, what do girls like Mom?"
It occurs to me that he is perfectly, simply brilliant.
It is in the not knowing that we create anything.
"That's great that you asked Bodee, (I am guilty of generalizing here, feminists, sue me) girls like pink and pretty things could ask her too... usually they like princesses, flowers, gems and rings and necklaces."
Bodee thinks about the choices carefully. " Let's get her a ring." he chooses.
I have an idea. "Remember that ring that you, or was it Ben...gave me, the pink flower one?"
Bodee says " That was me." reminding me forgivingly.
"That's right! Ok, well, would you like me to give it back to you so you can give it to her?"
He looks at me with serious brown eyes and deep meaning...
"No, that is just for you. You keep it. We can get her one from the machines with those balls in there with 25 cents." He is sure this is what he wants to do
In that moment I get what love is, from my five year old, in a new light.
It is, first of all, excitement, expressing and sharing.
Love is generosity, giving meaningfully, and most importantly, being in the inquiry of what matters to them. The fact that he asked what girls like, that curiosity, will serve him well in the years to come. He could have just decided to put a toy car in the box. But no, he wanted to know what she wants. Beautiful.
If we all just wanted to know what the other wants more...
what a beautiful Valentine's day it would be if we simply asked.

Zen Honeycutt