“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Lindbergh’s notion of mother as the axis of the household wheel really resonated with me, as did her descriptions of being pulled off center and distracted by a million aspects of the “wheel” of life. Her comment that saints were rarely married women made me smile, because it makes me think of Wayne’s Dyer’s comments that gurus rarely have eight kids, because there is nothing like the experience of parenting to shake your sense of yourself as someone who has it all together, spiritually or otherwise. And, it makes me think about how after some reading about Zen philosophy, I decided that Buddhism and Zen were not for me, because attachment is at the core of a mothering life. I got super irritated with old Buddha and his remarks about being “non-attached” and I thought, “easy for you to say, Mr. Go Sit Under a Tree and Wait for Enlightenment while your wife stays home and takes care of your kid—I guess she was too unenlightened and ‘attached’ to let go.” Being a mother has taught me a lot about relationship as the ground of being and relatedness, not non-attachment, as the core of a rich human experience. As I described in a prior post:
I have learned a lot about the fundamental truth of relatedness through my own experiences as a mother. Relationship is our first and deepest urge. The infant’s first instinct is to connect with others. Before an infant can verbalize or mobilize, she reaches out a hand to her mother. I have seen this with my own babies. Mothering is a profoundly physical experience. The mother’s body is the baby’s “habitat” in pregnancy and for many months following birth. Through the mother’s body the baby learns to interpret and to relate to the rest of the world and it is to mother’s body that she returns for safety, nurturance, and peace. Birth and breastfeeding exist on a continuum as well, with mother’s chest becoming baby’s new “home” after having lived in her womb for nine months. These thoroughly embodied experiences of the act of giving life and in creating someone else’s life and relationship to the world are profoundly meaningful.
Anyway, Lindbergh says:
…to be a woman is to have interests and duties raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essential circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes…
How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living…
She also acknowledges the essential, and yet often difficult to find, need for solitude to find stillness as the axis of the revolving wheel of life:
…Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves; that firm strand which will be the indispensible center of the whole web of human relationships. She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as ‘the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still…
This beautiful image is to my mind the one that women could hold before their eyes. This is an end toward which we could strive–to be the still axis within the revolving wheel of relationships, obligations and activities…
… she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself…
…It need not be an enormous project or great work. But it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day—like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters most is that one be for a time inwardly attentive…
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Gift from the Sea
I recall feeling this way about my own mother—that she was the center of our family, the anchoring space, the core to return to.
Other thoughts from Lindbergh that I related to after finding them online when reading reviews of her book and stories about her life include:
“I cannot see what I have gone through until I write it down. I am blind without a pencil…I am convinced that you must write as if no one were ever going to see it. Write it all, as personally and specifically as you can, as deeply and honestly as you can. … In fact, I think it is the only true way to reach the universal, through the knot-hole of the personal. So do, do go ahead and write it as it boils up: the hot lava from the unconscious. Don’t stop to observe, criticize, or be ‘ironic.’ Just write it, like a letter, without rereading. Later, one can decide what to do.”
And that made me think about story and being a story woman and I also saved this quote (not from Lindbergh):
We constantly weave life events into narrative and interpret everything that happens through the veil of story. From our smallest, most personal challenges to global issues that affect nations and generations, we make the world fit into the story we are already carrying. This unceasing interplay between experience and narrative is a uniquely human attribute. We are the storytellers, the ones who put life into words. – Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher (via The Circle)
Here’s what’s been happening in my wheel lately and the stories I’ve been weaving (Zander featured heavily the last time I wrote a primarily personal update post. This one has more moments from Lann):
How funny that we had to wait for spring before being able to actually make a snowman this year! (*note bat posed for imminent destruction too!)
Last week, Lann had his first test (yellow stripe) in taekwondo. He did a good job!
In the car on the way home from a different class, Lann was planning his birthday party (Sept). He wants to learn how to make silicone movie masks. He said: “I’ll do the sculpting and art part, you do the reading and talking about it part, Dad can do the sitting around with his mouth open part, Zander can do the running around and squealing part, and Alaina can do the napping.” I said: “does Dad really only sit around with his mouth open?!” And Lann said, “Mom, in AWE!” He also said they’re going to go to the Drury Inn and dress up in Lord the Rings costumes, “and, we’ll have to hang up a sign that says Nerdfest.”
That same week we were briefly discussing the massive scale of the universe and the fact that the Earth is hanging around out there in space, spinning, and Lann said, “sometimes my brain hurts when thinking about a selection of topics.” And, that reminded me of a long ago Lann story when he was about four. We were doing the whole, “I love you as big as the sky” type of thing, and I said, “I love you as much as the universe–and guess what, the universe has no end, it keeps getting bigger, and goes on forever!” And Lann said, “oh mom, that’s so beautiful I don’t know what to say.”
The week before, Lann hitched a ride to taekwondo with Baba and since I was on break from class, I was home with Zander and Alaina (usually they go grocery shopping with Mark while I’m in class). Zander came running in to get my iphone so he could take a movie of something and I heard him their room taking a movie and narrating to Lann as he does so, so that he can give him the movies when he gets home and catch him up on what Z’s been up to while they’re separated! Good buddies!
We’re dealing with ongoing dental issues with Alaina. Despite our heroic efforts, she’s ended up with the most severe problems of any of our children. Last week I took her to the local pediatric dentist. He was really nice and informative and Alaina did really great with him. However, she needs a LOT of work, more than I thought, and it is going to be really expensive. She needs the crowns she already has replaced because they were not fitted correctly by the first dentist and there is decay around/behind them, plus she needs four other crowns and also two regular fillings. :*(
We’re definitely going to have to go through the general anesthesia route. The local pediatric dentist only does this work in the hospital and we got the estimate from the surgery center for the hospital portion only and it was $8900. Our insurance will cover part of it (we’ll still have to cover about $4500), but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that that is absurd. What a broken system. Taking your kid to the hospital for two hours to get their teeth worked on just should NOT cost $9000, no matter who pays for it, that is patently ridiculous. So, I’m going ahead with the consultation I made for her in Springfield on Wednesday. I called in advance to double-check and they do their oral surgery work in an outpatient surgery center rather than in a hospital and their estimate for the clinic part is $2000, total. That is more like it and is worth the two-hour drive (one way). I wish I hadn’t bothered taking her locally, because now we just have to do the exact same thing on Wednesday and then still go back. She has to have a physical first, before she can have anesthesia, so I also made an appointment for her first-ever visit to the doctor. What I really, really wish is that I’d just taken her to Springfield in the first place, last year, when we first started to get her teeth taken care of. I am so angry with the dentist we took her to in St. Louis. I was happy with the same office for Lann (different dentist, 8 years ago), but I have HATED everything that happened there with Alaina and I wish I’d never taken her there. I feel like they actually caused the problems she has now by not acting to treat the teeth I first brought her in about and then doing an absolutely CRAPPY job on everything they did after that. I don’t actually feel like I really have energy to really be angry though, my primary feeling is sadness and anxiety about what is to come.
In a cuter Alaina story, I made myself a little sculpture to use as a pendant, but Alaina appropriated it. When I finally put it on her, she said…”dooool.” I said, “did you just say ‘cool’!?” And she said, yes!
She also “knits” and likes tiny dogs…
And, I guess our kids should be in a band:
Lann drums too!
We went to my sister’s house a couple of weeks ago and the kids immediately took to my brother-in-law’s drums. Neither had ever drummed before and Zander really rocked it! Alaina singing was a moment I captured last week when I was printing invoices and she was sitting behind me putting on a show.
In my own news, I finally renewed my ICEA childbirth educator certification after dawdling on it for a long time, but I let my CAPPA certification lapse. It was a hard decision, but made the most sense. I’ve been moving on from birth education for quite some time, and continuing to shell out money for something I’m not using often doesn’t make a lot of sense.
My new classes begin today! After the hectic disequilibrium that comes with the final week of a school session, the following week feels a lot like coming home from being out-of-town—excited to see your familiar life, yet also slightly panicky about needing to “catch up.” Plus, there is so much to be unpacked…and then, BOOM, two weeks off is SHORT. My online class is full and my two in-seat classes have 12 students each. There was a lot of prep to do get ready for them–I always forget that these “breaks” aren’t about having a vacation, they are about preparing for next session.
I’m not sure how good I do about being the “axis,” but my wheel is a pretty fulfilling one