Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons (What I Learned From Peeing)

Dear Chuck,

Last night I checked in on a favorite blog of mine. The author is an open-soul sort, the kind who realizes some of the things she does on a daily basis are a little embarrassing and posts them on her blog anyway because that's how she is. That's not all she writes about, but those are the posts I find most entertaining.

Today her post was about being out of her house for the first time since she had her baby two weeks ago, and how she laughed so hard she peed her pants, and she was pretty sure people noticed, because she was on a stage singing for a large group of people at the time it happened. Some of her commenters suggested she was either an idiot or had no shame for this post, and they wished she would post about nicer things than peeing on herself.

Your mother, in true-to-herself fashion, could only laugh. In fact, I chuckled so loudly I startled the dog out of a solid sleep, and he glared at me as only dogs can do. What tickles me so much about these posts and this author is how honest she is with her readers. There's a life lesson in that, and I wanted to share it with you.

When you write a blog, or keep a journal, or attempt to record any part of life, what you get are snapshots; moments that can be removed from an entire experience and reflect whatever side you want. Human nature tends to seek out the shiny, happy moments; ones we can enjoy as light pleasantness without getting broader, more complicated emotions involved. It doesn't just happen in blogs, though. It happens when we answer the question, "How are you?" with "Fine," even if everything is not. It happens when we avoid making eye contact with the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, or refuse to see a doctor regularly "because what if he finds something?". Feigning ignorance of all things unpleasant is a way many of us go through life, and I think that only serves to alienate us from each other further. When all you can see around you is shiny, happy perfection (whether it's real or not), you can start to feel like the less-perfect stuff you're going through means you don't measure up; like the something that is wrong is never, ever going to be right again and your life is a miserable failure.

Repeat after me, Charlotte; perfection is plastic; those snapshots aren't real. You are never alone in the world. When your life seems dark and scary, and you've peed your pants onstage in front of a bunch of people, the best thing to do is share your imperfections and laugh, because that's what life really looks like, and who knows? You might help someone who is going through the same thing realize they aren't alone either.

I love you, my ornery marker-wielding darling.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Apology, and a New Start

Dear Charlotte,

It's literally been years (just over 2, in fact) since I've written to you, and for that I'm sorry. So much about you has changed since I last posted a message, and part of me wishes I'd taken more time to write some of those moments down for you. I say "part of me" because the rest of me was busy living those moments with you, and I'll take participation over observation any day.  Tonight though, I'm feeling nostalgic and a little emotional, so I'm writing to you in the hopes that this letter will provide some measure of comfort to you when you're in the same boat.

As I write this, you're singing along to Barney and Friends on Netflix, and finishing the better part of a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. You're three and a half now, and while you're not quite riding the pro circuit of potty training, you're an enthusiastic amateur. That's a pretty bad metaphor, but it's all I've got, so cut your mom a break and go with it, okay?  You're a funny kid, and you are bursting at the seams with personality. You have an opinion about every. single. thing. you could possibly have an opinion about, and your laugh is as quick to bubble to the surface as your temper.  You're also smart as a whip, and you are just overall one hell of a kid. I'm so proud of you every day.

Today you asked me to knit you a pretty pink bracelet of I-cord, and I happily complied, because both Daddy and I wear I-cord bracelets too and I would knit you a Winnebego if you asked me. Then you asked me to make one for Aunt Christi (you LOVE her, by the way) and that later led to Aunt Kate (you LOVE her too) asking for a bracelet too. So tonight I'm knitting I-cord bracelets for people, and that's what led to this letter.

It's no secret that I knit, or that I love it. I post about it on Facebook occasionally, and every now and then I post a photo of a finished work.  I carry a bag of small knitting with me everywhere, and I've been known to knit at train crossings and whild waiting in line at the bank.  The thing about me is I'm a process knitter. I enjoy the actual act of knitting more than I care about enjoying a finished piece. The repetitive motion and busy work for my hands is a soothing meditation for me. When I'm at my most emotional or most off-balance, knitting is what soothes me and gets me back to rights. And every time I pick up my needles, I think about the person who taught me to knit.

My mother actually taught me to knit first, but my Mamaw taught me to purl, and she taught my mom to do both, so I say that my Mamaw taught me. She was a big influence on me for a large part of my life, and I feel like more of me is like my mom and Mamaw than anyone else. You should know that you come from a line of strong women, who tend to face adversity and downfall head on and use the bull-headed stubbornness they're born with to their advantage.  When I knit, I think of my Mamaw, and when I'm feeling bad, I remember that I'm like her, and I find a way to get through whatever's bothering me.

What's bothering me now is that my Mamaw is sick. She has pneumonia, and she's fallen a couple times, and now she's in the hospital and it looks more and more like she won't be going back to her apartment, but to an assisted living facility instead, if we're lucky. She's 86, and as long a life as that seems, I'm still not ready for the hard stuff that's going to happen. I also realize that if she lives to be a hundred (which she won't be happy about) she will not see you graduate high school.  Of course, neither will your beloved dog Tug and that's just the circle of life, blah blah blah, but I can't help feeling like you're going to miss out on a great lady.  You're a lot like her, because you're a lot like me; I'm a lot like my mom, and she's a lot like her mom. And everytime I pick up my knitting, I think about her, and how hard things are right now. And it occurs to me that I don't think she knows how much she impacted my life, how much of an influence she had on who I am, both directly and through the daughter she raised who raised me.  I'm going to tell her, and I'm going to spend the time I have left with her doing what I can to make sure she understands how much of me is because of her, and because of my mom. 

But it also occurs to me that maybe you don't know how much of an impact you had on my life, and how much your existence and who you are has changed who I am, for the better. So I'm going to try to make sure I tell you every day, and for the you that could be reading this some day, I'm going to try to tell you too.

I love you, Charlotte Ophelia Hurst. You bring sunshine to my life.