It’s still not winter, technically, but we all know it’s here. At least, those of us in New England know it, and I know we’re not the only ones. I’m doing ok with the season so far, coping through little strategies like going to bed early, indulging in little comforts, and counting my blessings. Life is busy, though, so very busy.
I’m trying to soak up the joys present in each day, to take some notes on the good stuff. The thing about that good stuff, however, is that sometimes it comes all wrapped up with the difficult stuff, and you can’t have one without the other.
For example, Free and I were talking yesterday, and she was trying to explain to me how she feels about her teacher. She likes her a lot, but there is something she doesn’t love about her; it became clear to me that she was struggling with how to name it. Finally, she looked at me and said “Mom, the problem is that she just doesn’t seem to notice when someone is sad.”
Wow, I thought. She just nailed one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned as a teacher; if you don’t meet them where they are and recognize them as emotional beings, you will never fully reach them intellectually.
I was taking this in and thinking about how I still struggle to identify when my own students are feeling sad when she went on to give me a third grade example, mimicking the teacher listening to a child’s important story about his feelings only to respond with “well, ok, but now it’s time to do our math.”
The way Free told this story was so funny–slightly exaggerated, and grinning at me with her hands up towards the end as if to say “I know, mom, what you’re going to say–math is important too.” We giggled together, and I just listened, letting her get it out and affirming that what she said mattered. She was talking about something difficult, but through that, we found a good moment together.
I used to worry more about the future, about what will come next, about all the bad things that can happen. It’s not that I’m not afraid of all those things anymore; in fact, I’ve been around long enough to see some fears realized. Now I just understand a little better that worrying about them won’t help us respond in a more effective manner if they do happen. What does help is being receptive to what is being offered to us in this present moment.
If I thought for very long about all the years ahead of me with Free, the middle school years and the high school years and the empty nest phase and all the terrible things that might happen between now and then, I would go crazy. If I tune into this present moment, however, I might just find that my daughter has things to teach me, things that can help us both navigate the years ahead.
Tonight I listed to Newman’s daughters tell me about some of the things she is struggling with in her life. She’s going through a lot, and although my heart is with her, I don’t know how to help. I listened, and we talked, and what I do know is that it felt like a gift to just sit with her, to recognize the blessing of her reaching out to me and asking to talk, to feel the power of both of us opening ourselves up to be in a meaningful relationship with each other. That gift is one I do not take for granted, and I’m less concerned about where it will go than I am about soaking in this moment of sharing openness for all that it is. This young woman is on a path to find herself, to know herself, to carve out a space of healing and independence, and I want all of that for her, especially given that I have found some of that strength in myself and know its power.
Winter is here, and it is a time to dig in and rest and try to find peace with the darkness in order to find the light again.
And that’s all that I have in me right now. Sometimes life is more in the living than in the writing.