I wrote the piece below a year ago. On Memorial Day Weekend. It's a good writing, it captures exactly how I feel now and so why fix what isn't broken I am sharing it again. Have a warm and caring, honoring and connecting Memorial Day.
Planting A Purpose Tree on Memorial Day Weekend
My daughter painted me this painting. Back in March for my birthday. It is in the spirit of a Balance Tree - the concept being that the branches of a tree can only be as wide and strong as the roots. Such is the balance of life. And in the spiritual - that the soul can only flourish as high and as powerful as the body is grounded in the human experience. The branches and the roots.
A friend of mine introduced me to this concept - and showed me an image of a Balance Tree that she loved - and I loved it, too. And so, for my birthday, my daughter played off the Balance Tree image that I then showed her and created this one. She based the dancer image off a photograph that was taken of me a few years ago.
I am the trunk of this tree.
I love trees. And plants and flowers. Wood and leaves. I have a lot of them on my body. Tattoos of flowers with strong and true meanings. Branches that hold the petals and greens of the people that I love. Images that connote protection and grace, bravery and wisdom. And so the Balance Tree resonates with me deeply.
And then I learned about The Purpose Tree.
The concept is a bit different. The roots, in the Purpose Tree are the me. What I want and need. What is important to me. The things that make me strong and vibrant. Full of life and love. The trunk is the we. Family and friends. The people in my life that I care for, nurture and lover. And the branches of the tree are the all. The brother and sisterhood of others. The vastness of humanity and the wonder of the infinite. And the idea of this tree is that I first must nurture the roots - the me - before I can give to the trunk and then eventually to the branches.
Often times we don't do this in that order.
We forget the me in favor of our family and friends, or that vast world out there. We are mother, wife, lover, sister, brother, maker of foundations or save the whales methodologies. We take care of our bosses and our workers, our children and our parents and we forget to nurture the roots that are ourselves.
This mixed up order of all things nurtured resonates particularly deeply for me today. The day of memorial. We forget that I think. The today is not just the day of picnics and popsicles, barbecues and big, storewide sales. It is a day of remembrance.
And when I think about many of those, really boys and girls, that go off to protect the all, I am deeply aware that they did this before their roots were strong and grounded in the earth that was to be their own life experience. We asked of all these brave - while so scared, mostly young - people to tend the branches without a root system in place. The epitome of selflessness.
And so, in honor of this day of memorial - as I begin to grow my own Purpose Tree, little by little watering the ground where my roots will soon sit strong - I wish two things. That those that made it home - the lucky ones that we honor on Veteran's Day - can now take the time to tend their roots. Forget about their families and friends for a while. And understand that the world will wait for them, owes them this time actually. So that their foundation can be strong and, when asked again to show up for all of us, they can from a place of even greater strength.
And I wish to extend this gift to you, too. To tend your own roots. Care for yourself. And see that it is not a selfish thing to do. That actually it is the most necessary and selfless thing of all. For only when we are strong in our skin and soul, true to our heart and kind to our bones, can we then send our power and our grace out to others.
I got to see two sweet and good souls this past Friday. Old friends of my son who drove cross country and stopped in my little town to spend the afternoon with me. I love these two people. They grew up with my son and so grew up in my home and to see them together and loving and to get the chance to spend time with them, well.. this was good.
And so I drove them around to show them the best of Ojai and then we sat and talked and shared. And, at one point, the conversation turned to those comments people make - in that bantering and sarcastic way - that we feel compelled to agree with even when we really don't.
The specific comment that came up was about their trip. A two month long, across America road trip that ended here on the west coast. Good luck with getting along after all that time..... or something like that was a common reaction. All in fun....
But not really.
But because the speaker is joking and making light of the situation, the reaction feels predetermined. We answer God, I know, hopefully we can get through a few weeks before it turns bad... or something like that. And then we feel bad. Because this is not what we feel at all. We feel that this trip will be miraculous and that we will love each minute of it and that those moments that are challenging are just part of the whole and good and right in their own right.
This type of comment, these subtly and judge-y and always sarcastic comments are always negative and often hard to stand up to. It's because they are offered camouflaged by humor and so if we don't agree we are being too serious or too forceful or too something... but we are not being what the offeror wants us to be. We're not responding in kind. And so we're not seen as kind.
Even though what was said in the first place was not kind at all.
I want to say I always never did agree to these kind of comments. That I was never compelled to answer the way that was expected. That I responded in true alignment with my truth and not with the flow that I was asked to jump on. But I am sure I went along with it all so not to be looked at as difficult or have others think I couldn't take a joke or make light of a situation.
But then I had my children.
The comments like this that get me the most riled are the ones about children. Specifically made by parents about their own children but then offered up so that I'll feel compelled to go along and agree. In this, I never did.
I loved being with my kids. (I love being with my kids still, but there are now adult kids and this example is when they were kid kids). I loved being with them. All the time. At every age. When they were sweet and little and smelled like babies I held them against my heart as much as I could. And when they toddled around the house and yard and world outside of just our home and challenged themselves and me every day. I loved them when they were still little but growing up and independent already. I loved them in their teenage years. Probably my favorite years in many ways. They were so smart. And interesting. And intuitive and the conversations were rich and full and funny, too. And I loved them when they went off into the world and began their own, deep and knowing, lives outside of our home and my heart.
And so, I always hated those comments about the dreaded summer when the kids were home from school and how happy they were that school was starting up again so that their kids would be out of their hair. Or how lousy their teenagers were and how they hated to drive everywhere and it will be so great when they are out of the house. And I really hated when these kind of comments were directed at me. Because the expectation was always an I know, I know, I can't wait either.
And I never said it. Ever.
To agree was a betrayal of my children. And I betrayal of the beautiful relationship I had with them. Of the truth of what we were - my kids and I. We were great. Even when we weren't. And I was never going to make someone else feel comfortable by agreeing with them if it betrayed the beauty and love and enjoyment of my children.
And so I would say I really love being with my kids and so the more they are home the happier I am or I love to drive my kids because then we get to spend time together and the car is the best place to have conversation. And often times people didn't know what to say. The fun and light and this is all in jest banter that was happening got serious really fast and then the conversation usually just ended. And I don't think I was liked very much.
But I didn't care. Not when it was about this.
And then this really cool thing happened. The ability to speak my truth so clearly when I was honoring my children started to carry over into honor me, too. And I found I had the strength to be clear and true to what was true in all things that came up. That I didn't have to agree in those times when the comments - dressed as jokes and highly sugared - felt uneasy and untrue.
I found I was able to say actually it will be an amazing trip even if there are times that are challenging.
My daughter is in this play. This really amazing play. I wrote about this two weeks ago and said you had to go see this play. You do. Get tickets. It's running until next weekend - May 21st - and is so worth the trip into LA if you do not live in LA and if you do...well no excuses for you.
But this writing, it is not about this play.
And it's not about a conversation I had after the play. The conversation that I had after the play was with the playwright. The playwright is brilliant. She wrote this play when she was still in college. The beauty of the language of this play is one of the things - among many things - that I notice about this play. There is absolutely no extra words in the dialog. No fluff. No nothing. The writing is clean and forward and strong and every word is perfectly there. This is rare.
And so, when I spoke with the playwright last night, at the after party of the opening of Dry Land - which you really must go see - I thanked her for such profoundly beautiful and perfectly timed writing. And, after we talked about this a bit she said - I paraphrase here - that it was really cool to see this play that she wrote a while ago. That it gave her perspective. Or something like that. This might not have been her exact words but it is what I remember because it immediately reminded me of a certain perspective of my own.
And this is what this writing is about today.
It is about that moment when you are able to step back and out of yourself and your way of seeing that is your normal and see things new. I think this is what the playwright meant when she talked with me about seeing her play last night. Seeing it from afar because she had stepped away from it.
These moments like that - the ones where I can see things without my stuff attached - are amazing for me. Especially when these moments involve my children. When I can experience them without the filter of mother clouding my view and preventing me from seeing them. This does not happen often. It is hard to step out of mother.
This happened once when I was taking a yoga class from my son. If you didn't know, my son is an amazing teacher. Truly. I am not just saying this because he's my son even when I am very proud that he is. But he is also a teacher. In the truest sense. And is lovely and grounded and honest and challenging and takes his students deep into their practice and so deep into their souls.
And the first time I got to experience this, without the mother baggage that always comes to class with me, it was profound.
We were in his class and I was in my head. Meaning that while I was listening to his soft and honest voice moving us all through downward dog and warrior one and I was flowing with the flow of it my mind was off in mother thoughts - will he remember the sequence and I hope his students like him and how does he know everything and worry stuff and more - and then, no credit to me personally, it just happened - the mother chatter in my brain fell away and I was just, until I noticed that I was, in it and hearing this teacher and truly experiencing the wonder of him.
And then I noticed that this happened and shot back up into my head again to merge with my chatter once more.
But in those few minutes - and I do believe it was that long - I got to see my son as the man he is. It took my breath away.
This has happened with my middle daughter, too. The one in this amazing play that you have to see. The first time this happened was when she was still in High School and playing the role of Heidi in The Heidi Chronicles. And there was this one moment, that lasted more than just a moment, where I forgot she was my daughter and she was this amazing person. This instance where the mother in me took a moments rest and I saw my daughter becomes just herself without me attached.
And when I realized it my heart was full with the strength of this child that stood so strong outside of me.
Now my youngest daughter, this is a hard one. I have not yet had the filter of mother fall away when I see her. I say that I cannot see her clearly. I would love to be able to experience her, just once, without the filter of mother coating my vision. I would love to know what other people see when they feel the gaze of her light blue eyes or notice the intensity of her soul's breath when she connects to their spirit. She is a healer in the truest sense and I wonder at the wonder that others feel when they engage with her.
But alas, the mother in me does not yet stand down with this, my youngest child.
I think it will one day. At a time I don't expect. Just like it happened with my other children. A moment will appear where the gauze of mother is swept aside for those few moments. And I will see clearly.
And unfiltered perspective.
I broke my toe.
On my right foot. A little one. Not the baby one. The one next to it. The ring finger of toes. I broke it on a rock. At the beach. On Wednesday. Early evening. The sun setting and the sky starting to turn that magnified light that it sits into before turning pink when the sun hits the ocean.
I was walking up from the beach at this lovely time of day after a really lovely walk on the beach with my beautiful and perfect and oh so smart and amazing Doberman and my equally Navalicious husband. We were down in Ventura at the beach where the river head washes the rain waters out into the ocean.
The beach was covered with huge pieces of wood that many people had already gathered and turned into Tepee-like frames all along the shore.
I meant to walk back up the beach and to our car so I could grab my phone and then grab some photographs of the rising-into-the-sky structures of wood. And then my thought was perhaps I would write - at this Monday morning writing - about the wood and the rain that washed it down from the mountains near my town and onto this beach so many miles away. And about the flow of that and of life, too. That was the plan. But then I stubbed my toe against a rock.
And I broke my toe.
At least I am assuming it broke. It could have just dislocated at the joint. Either way, it was sitting at a now ninety degree angle from how it was sitting just a second before. And so I leaned down and bent it back.
It didn't hurt. Not really. Just made a really noisy click click sound as I moved it back into the position it was in before it was stubbed. Then I told my husband I think I broke my toe. Then I felt a bit queasy.
I had to walk back to the car. And then drive back to his car. And then drive home. I did this after first giving my perfect dog some water because her needs are always more important than mine. That is how it is when you own a dog as other dog owners know.
I gave her water. Then settled into the driver's seat to drive my husband back to his car and then drive myself home.
I mentioned that this is my right foot. Which means that it is my driving foot. I should also mention that I drive a standard.
I once broke my foot. This same foot that now has a broken toe. This was oh so many years ago when my middle daughter, who will be twenty-four this summer, was one. And so friggin cute. And I was standing on this old and wooden porch at the beach house of the uncle of my Navalicious husband and the wooden steps - which were rotted out though we did not know - gave way as I walked down them, my daughter in my arms.
As with the water for the dog care taking I explained above, I fell to the ground, without the use of my arms as they were there, holding up my daughter so she would not land along with me in a way that could possibly hurt her. This is how it is when you have a child, as other child havers know.
And once on my back with my foot in the air I said to my husband can someone please take Teagan and then I think I broke my foot.
That break was much worse than this. That break was the bone that runs along the outside of the foot. I could not use the foot at all. For six weeks. I drove a mini van at the time - an automatic car not a standard like my car now - and so would settle my broken right and driving foot on the passenger seat next to me and drive with my left foot. I had the middle one year old daughter and my son, who was four. I was not really able to take much of a break despite the break.
Now this break, of the little ring finger of toes, it was not like that break and so I was able to put enough pressure on the ball of the foot, far enough away from the toes to not bother the toe. This was a good thing as, since I have this standard car, I need two feet to drive. No resting on the passenger seat this time around.
So I made it back to the lot to my husband's car and then back to my town and my road on my house to ice and then tape this ring finger toe to the middle toe. And then rest. Finally.
So, you may ask, where does the big boot come in? Because it is quite a serious boot for a not so serious toe.
The boot is my daughters. The youngest one who was not yet born when the middle one went down with me on the rotted out stair of my husband's uncle's porch. She had the boot from a foot surgery a while back and after a full day of asking me if I wanted it and me saying oh no - because this was a little toe break not a full foot break and did I really need such a big boot? - I took the boot.
And oh my! I love this boot. I can walk without that hurtful sway of my hips that happens when I was not quite walking because I could not put weight on the foot to walk properly. I can walk which means I can walk my dog. And when we play ball I don't have to worry about my perfect Doberman landing on my foot while jumping for her ball. And I can drive without worrying about pressing on the brake too hard and hurting the break in my already hurt toe. And oh so many other things like walking down the stairs which is really hard without the boot.
So there you have it. The big boot and the little toe story with the happy ending. My toe is getting better. It's now a light green with no swelling. I can put weight on it when I'm just standing and it doesn't hurt when I sleep and roll over on it by mistake.
But I'm still wearing this awesome boot. For a few more days. Thank goodness it matches my shoes!
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.