Tag Archives: mothers

gratitude for a stateside attitude

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i have a lot of disparate thoughts this morning, hard to gather and sort in time for an early post. i awoke from a decent night’s sleep for a change…though still chock full of imagery and dream decisions…to a monday of pets gone wild, ants on the warpath and a procrastinator’s army of tasks to accomplish. my thoughts remind me of these ants, marching single file, breaking apart in a chaotic looking mission meant to culminate in wiggly piles of hunger on every trace of sugar or tiny food bit. it occurs to me now that the bounce in my step this morning may just be ants in my pants.

some of my disparate thoughts land uncomfortably on news items from the weekend. we’ve been at war, a real war with guns and helicopters in place of my metaphorical war on ants and racing thoughts. this morning i’m remembering 30 troops we lost to a combination of guns and helicopters, and the news that i now know another young widow. for all my losses and heartaches, the empathy i feel toward the widows i know….acquaintances, all of them…makes me ever more grateful that i’m here to complain about ants and dog poop, and that my little daughter has her father still, even if the family tree has grown a bit crooked.

i have a heart full of prayers this morning, both for our troops in the sand and all of the family members left behind to worry and fret, and sometimes, to grieve. it’s hard to understand all of this death and destruction and glean real purpose from the battles and mistakes of the last decade. our own terror has faded, if only slightly, since 2001 when all of our hearts began beating wildly on a crisp and beautiful september morning. it was horrific. and almost ten years ago. the loss this weekend reminds me that many of the people we fight with and for have lived whole lives with that kind of terror in their hearts every day…so much that they grow numb and hard, confused and angry. in many hot spots in the middle east, widows and childless parents are more common than long marriages and intact families, mortars more common than flowers.

we have it so good we’ve forgotten how hard some have to work just to stay alive. we complain about cell phone service in air-conditioned office buildings, crowded mass transit parking lots and platforms, wait times or language barriers on customer service calls, drivers who don’t use blinkers (ahem), and all of those inconsiderate people who wreck their cars during rush hour. i wake up mortified at the idea of using stop-gap neurotoxins on my ant invasion, while people halfway around the world keep masks on hand in fear of the neurotoxins of war. it’s so easy to feel small on this planet, for troubles to feel small, especially for those of us stateside, especially for those exposed at one time or another to the third world or real revolution. for the rest of us, with couches and cable, it’s easy to get lost in our daily struggles. it’s easy to forget to be grateful. it’s easy to spew vitriol about unfairness and entitlements. the truth is, we are entitled to keep breathing, as long as we meet our needs for survival and that’s about it.

for the rest of the gifts i take for granted most days, i feel my gratitude today. for the love and support of friends, for a monday full of mundane responsibilities and for the healthy, happy child whom i can hear breathing softly through the baby monitor thanks to dependable power lines and a cheap transmitter. i’m grateful for the opportunity to be my outrageous self, in a country of outrageous selves, some who leave you outraged, some who leave you inspired, and some who have absorbed unimaginable grief with a sense of duty and a lot of faith.

do you feel grateful today? for having 10 minutes to read someone’s blog as a latte slips down your throat? for having a life to live? for the love of your friends and family? for getting stuck in traffic on a smooth, 4-lane highway? for the opportunity to accumulate bills and struggle to pay them? if you’ve forgotten for a moment, take a deep breath and thank your higher power for the comforts you enjoy and even the challenges you face. it will make the comforts more comforting and the challenges less challenging.  it’s certainly working for me this morning.

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the Buddha on cookie crisp

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in a few moments, i will begin my mommy day. i will be better at it today than yesterday…but not because practice makes perfect. last night as i was coaxing my insomnia out the bedroom door, i opened and read a chapter of a book that a sharp and enlightened friend, also a new-ish mother, passed to me many months ago. the book is titled “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali. i’ve been remiss in reading it cover to cover…and without realizing it, i made it another “should” on my list of Admonishments for Procrastinators. when i mentioned to another friend that i’d only managed to pick it up and read certain parts that spoke to me in those moments, he said, “how very Buddhist of you,” or something to that effect. i loved it.

so last night i did it again, i picked up the book and selected a chapter toward the end. i was reading it, all full of myself for already “knowing” a great deal of the information, when part of it struck me full force in the chest and shook me with new awareness, spreading electricity from my solar plexus to all parts considered. and of course it did, why else would that chapter have been chosen for me?  the page i dog-eared, the question that started the movement inside of me, was predicated on such a simple twist of perspective…a simplicity so common to my greatest insights…like your quietest friend approaching with a hug and a knowing smile. it is a simple question reframed…a question we ask ourselves in the face of every decision, struggle or strain – “how do i approach this moment?” instead, ask yourself “what does this moment require?”  i first applied it as i was staring over a bowl of cookie crisp, chomping away with my head swimming in not very zen thoughts about the book and the Buddha. i threw the brakes on that train of thought and asked, “what does this moment require?” and my answer? “enjoyment of this loud and silly sugar snack.” from there i stared at each floating cookie, the dismembered chips floating and sticking to the sides of the bowl, and reveled in the crunchy ridiculousness of calling this substance “food.” it took all of 15 seconds of providing what the moment required for me to feel the smirky grin of understanding and connection crawl across my face. cookie crisp has never felt so good, never spoken to me like it did last night. it was the most zen cereal experience of my life.

in a discussion on the fallacy of “self” and its very existence, on the impermanence of everything, Sarah reaches deep into the Buddhist teachings to shatter my illusions of “the person i have become today,” and of “me-ness.” i have a lot to learn about and through meditation. i am a beginner with a busy and intrusive mind. i need it though, to sort through all the bounty, pain, joy and sorrow that fills my dreams and minutes. i feel comfortable living in this moment without a “self-image” except that i’m not very good at it…as indicated by the use of the word “i” at least 20 times already in these paragraphs. so perhaps it’s more accurate to say that i’m comfortable with the “idea” of living without a self-image, and that i’ve tried to think and read my way around any regular meditation practice.

that little taste of the Buddha, masquerading itself as a date with “whole grain” frankenfood, inspires me to write here, and to press on in practice and habits that feed illusory bodies and impermanent minds with something a little more substantial than floating cookies.

mmmm. floating cookies.