Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Quit: Fearing Silence.

Learn the goodness of silence while washing the dishes. While watching the middle years dog get slower, more sleepy.

Quit: Comparison. 

Compare yourself with the small women, then look at your hands while scrubbing the bathtub, while herding the water towards the drain, and see that they are your mother's hands; she would not want this storm for you. She would say: look up at who you really are, at what has come before to make you. Take pride.

Quit: The Punishment of Sleeping Late. 

The alarms go off at 7:00. Now you must set two, yet even kitchen music cannot shake you when sleep--always the best just before waking--has embraced you like a warm flood, like a longed for familiar body, one that is heavy and worn out good. When it's like this, don't fear not waking; sleep until you are no longer sleeping. You're allowed, and there will be weary days to come.

Quit: The Punishment of Midnight Hours.

Your month of birth was a summer month. Your mother gives you this quote: And then it was summer; warm, wonderful summer. Stay up. Keep a light on low, radio too, beside the bed. In summer: hair grows quicker, books you forgot about come off the shelves, skin turns brown and even you are proud. Shame would be to waste one single summer night. So don't. Walk the dog at midnight in nightgown and bare feet. Those who see you will smile.

Quit: The Punishment of Reaching Towards the Missing Ones.

Summer is the season of kindness. Be kind. No matter if it's met with silence. The world listens. The message gets heard.

Quit: Not Writing. 

Just remember: in the thick of it is the deepest, purest content.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Dream.

When my mother was little, she used to dream of being a farmer. There was a stretch of land on the south shore of Flathead Lake, where now a Wal-Mart and Safeway sit, which she had marked as her dream-time farming land. She'd have horses and gardens. She'd make her work working with the land and what it gave her.

Today, my mother holds a demanding job with the State Library in Helena, Montana. She's got two Masters degrees. She's in charge of a lot of projects and people. When I go home to visit, she comes back to the house after a day of putting in nearly twelve working hours, and as she drinks the glass of wine my father will pour for her, she tells me that sometimes she worries that she's not doing the thing she's 'meant to do'. She doesn't mean that she regrets letting the farming dream slip--that one probably went the way of the actress/singer/movie star dreams when she was ten years old--she just means that even though her work challenges and interests her, she worries because she doesn't feel 'called' to do it. She does the work, and does a damn good job, and even gets excited, some of the time, but when the day is done for her, the day is done. She doesn't take the job home with her, thinking and figuring and planning out new projects, as some of her colleagues do. It's a conversation we often have; we know others who would say, without missing a beat, that what they do for a living is the thing they're 'called to do'. Not my mother. And so far, not me. And it often gets me thinking: is there something wrong with that picture?

There's a lot of talk these days about finding that which is your life's purpose; your 'dream', your 'big pursuit', your 'meant to do'. Much of the time, these terms are connected to the stuff we do for a living; our day's work, after all, constitutes a pretty hefty portion of our life's making; if we don't feel called deeply, true to our destined 'duty', when we wake up on a Monday morning, then clearly we're doing the wrong thing, right? 

But what if our 'dream' has nothing to do with our nine-to-five? Our money-making? What if the thing I feel called to do has more to do with my home life, and less to do with my economic offering to the world? Faced with the question, 'What do you really love to do?', I find myself becoming filled with worry, because I don't really have an answer to that question, not the kind of answer that I assume such a question is seeking. I don't answer, 'help others', 'promote peace', 'make things', 'teach people', though sure, in certain degrees, in certain arenas, I do love to do those things. I hope I am doing them. So does everybody, probably. Instead, my answers follow along a more private line: I love to put on my headphones and go running, I say. I love to talk to my mother, my father, my sisters. I really love to cook and listen to pod-casts. I really love going to movies and eating really-bad-really-good popcorn. I really love reading in bed, swimming in Flathead Lake, walking my dog, harvesting my garden, getting a new haircut. Can I do any of these things for a living? Don't any of these things constitute my 'dream'?

Or what if the answer to the question What do I want to do with my one precious, fragile, fleeting life? is this: I want to surround myself with people I love, who truly, unreservedly, love me back. I want to be a mother someday, and give another good life to the world. I want to have a happy home. I want to be a generous and patient partner. I want to read good things, eat good things, go to beautiful places, come home again, laugh an incredible amount, sleep good sleeps, drink a little, use my body, learn new things, keep holding tight to my faith, keep keeping on as best as can be done.

Maybe we don't have to put constraints around the 'dream' question; there's the hope that we won't mind too much the thing we do for our day's work, there's even the chance that we'll love it best, but I don't believe it should be all. I don't think we should be afraid to say, when called to discover the thing we're meant to do, that we simply want to do the handful of things that bring us to our center happiness. It's the answer my mother and I always ultimately come to, whenever we have the dream debate. And it's never a new revelation to say so, but it always bears repeating.

Thanks for reading.