Five Minutes

It was only for five minutes. But it was the best five minutes of the whole day.

In the middle of thawing the turkey (don’t you hate that part?) and making the stuffing, the phone rang. I thought it was a family member with the annual mandatory Thanksgiving greeting. But when I glanced at the caller-ID, it said my son’s school. The one in Montana. The one I left him at thirty days ago.

My first thought was – oh shit. What did he do? Are they calling to tell me he’s expelled? That I should buy him a one-way ticket home pronto? Expecting the worst, I hesitantly clicked the phone’s on-button and said hello.

“This is the Monarch School. I am calling to ….”

My heart beat faster. I know it’s the Monarch School, you fucking idiot. I can tell from the caller-ID. What bomb are you about to drop in my lap? That’s what I want to know.

“… let you talk to your son for the holiday call.”

Holy shit, I thought. Good news? The best news? I get to talk to my son for the first time in a month?! My body immediately went from stressing out over the worst (now what am I going to do to get him through high school?) to elation for the surprise. Tears poured down my morning face. I get to talk to my son. I get to hear his voice.

I immediately put the phone on speaker, screamed at my unknowing daughter to put the now meaningless Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on mute and ran to the couch so we could have five minutes. Five short minutes to connect with my son, her brother.

I couldn’t talk fast enough. Poor guy. I barraged him with questions. Are you okay? Are the people nice? Are you making friends? Are you losing weight? What’s up with the bad grade? Do you still hate me for sending you there?

There was just not enough time. I only had five minutes.

At one point, he said to me, “Mom, you’re manic!”

I retorted, “Of course, I’m manic. I only have five minutes!”

For five minutes, the love poured back and forth and then in a flash, time was up. He had to go. We reassured him (or probably more myself) that we’d be there for Christmas and then sadly, I pressed the phone’s off button.

Our five minutes had come and gone.

My daughter and I embraced on the couch, crying in the messy mix of joy and sadness. My son, her brother, was okay. And yet his being missing from our Thanksgiving table was a sight we’d never get used to.

It was only five minutes. But it was the best five minutes of the whole day. It was more than enough to warm my heart and change the tone for the entire day.

Maybe, sometimes, five minutes is all we ever need.

These Are My Days

Grey hair? Check. Less energy? Check. Memory loss? Check. Hot flashes? Creaky knees? Boring Saturday nights? Damn it. Check, check, check.

Yes, I have all the signs of solid middle-age creeping into old age. But recently, I discovered yet another symptom of rounding the proverbial bend … a cluttered calendar.

I’m not talking about the marked -up paper one that runs my day-to-day life. I’m referring to an internal emotional calendar that is now salt-and-peppered with embedded emotional memory. 

Think about it. After decades of living, there are few days … and certainly, no months … where something significant has not occurred in your life.

When we are born, other than the mandatory cultural and religious dates, we have a blank slate with that now one important date – our birth day. Yee haw! Like a new coloring book waiting to be filled in, we start the process of living and coloring in those once blank spaces with an emotional overlay. Very soon, those dates are no longer meaningless. They fill with feelings associated with the day’s happening – albeit joy, pain or some variance of in-between emotion.

On this date, I graduated high school. Buried the family dog. Left for college. Had sex for the first time. Had my heart-broken. On this date, I got engaged. My parents got divorced. I got married the first time. My father died. On this date, I gave birth to my first child. Had a miscarriage. Learned of his infidelity. On this date, we traveled to Paris. Conceived our second child. Got mom’s cancer diagnosis. On this date, I got fired. Got divorced. I won the custody battle. I landed the big promotion. On this date, my ex was born. I moved west. The police knocked on the door…

… You get the idea.

No longer is life – and the passage of time as we mark it – emotionally clear space. Our previously white-spaced calendar is no longer waiting around with hope and a smile for what “will be.” The middle and later years bring with them colored-in feelings associated with days gone by.

Yes, we can live in the present and bring a new energy to our days. But, history stands meaningful and certainly undeniable. Our once blank-canvassed hearts are rich with an array of complicated stories and significant feeling.

So, I say, let’s stop fighting the system. Whatever the calendar’s date, every day we awaken is a gift. An opportunity to open the scrapbook of our soul and celebrate the whole freakin’ thing. All the good, all the not-so-good. All the celebrations, all the loss. All the triumph, all the mistakes. All that once was and all that will be – even if just for today.

Because I’m here … it’s all of me … my filled-in calendar as historical witness of my one brave adventure at human living, my small but oh-so-mattering life.

Standing Up

“Wait for me, Mom! I can’t get through the crash zone!” yelled my daughter over the surf’s roar. While my son and I had already swum into the ocean’s calm, she was still swirling in the water’s chaos, unable to control her flailing limbs. “Just stand up!” I hollered back. “It’s only a foot of water.”

My, how we forget. Just like my daughter fighting the waves on Guatemala’s breathtaking coastline this past summer. It’s only a foot of water.

Like her, we too walk in knee-deep seawater. A wave comes crashing towards us and all of sudden, as if surprised, we are knocked off our feet, salt pours through our mouth and nostrils and we are caught in the wave’s menacing grip. We are left thinking the worst – “This is it. I am gonna die.” 

But, we forget. We forget that all we have to do is stand up. We aren’t drowning. We’re only in a foot or two of water. The sanded seafloor is still there.

My feet work. My legs are strong. I can replant myself anytime I choose and resurface into breath and life.

Such a frightening scene is exactly how we feel when we get emotionally triggered. It’s as if we are standing ashore. Peering out at beauty, excited to approach its offering. As we ease in with excitement and anticipation … boom! Holy shit. We’ve lost our way. Everything we knew and counted on is gone, swept away by some form of verbal or emotional assault. We’re suddenly out of control, being overtaken with thoughts and feelings from this harrowing trigger that came out of nowhere, that is now controlling my internal world.

As our life flashes before us – while we are being carried out to sea with salt in our mouths – we forget that we’re really not powerless. All we have to do is stand up. Recall who we are and how far we’ve come. That we can make choices and set boundaries. That we can re-center ourselves in the grounding that we have worked hard to create. That a sanded bottom cannot be permanently taken from us.

Once we have recovered, dried off, taken a cool drink and caught a few drops of the sun’s warmth, we try again. Hope is renewed and that ocean keeps calling.

Perhaps this time, I won’t be knocked down by those waves. I’ll march forth with new determination. I will resist being caught in some else’s emotionally provocative turmoil.

Or, if I belly-up again, that’s okay too. After all, those waves are robust. But maybe, just maybe, this time, I will be underwater for shorter and pull my feet under me quicker. I will arise dressed in my red “Super Cape” declaring, “damn you, wave! No messing with me.”

My feet work. My legs are strong. I can replant myself anytime I choose and resurface into breath and life.

To Heal and To Grow

Our most intimate relationship has two purposes – to heal and to grow.

That’s it. Yes, we can have fun. Make babies. Split the bills. And do all other things “life” as a team. But the primary reason our partner exists is offer a safe space for emotional expansion in order that we may become our most alive self.

I know it sounds boring. But, really, it’s the cheapest therapy in town. And certainly comes with the most perks.

Let me explain.

When I give my partner something that he or she has longed for all their life, I am supporting his or her healing. Kaboom. Gold to the heart. Furthermore, by giving it, I am stretching to grow parts in me that have long been shut down. Ones that enliven me when reawakened. As a result, I grow. Bonus. And of course, vice versa. Everyone wins.

If your partnership is not challenging you in this way, not providing you with this unbelievable deal, there may be a few things to consider:

1. You are not going deep enough and settling for superficiality;

2. You have understandably been taught the wrong idea about the purpose of relationships (hint: roses, chocolate and candles are not involved);

3. Either you or your partner (or both) are resisting healing and growth based on conscious and unconscious fears;

4. You are with the wrong partner.

I say, why not ride the gift horse? It’s there for the taking. Hands down, it beats disconnection and serial monogamy any day.