Monday, August 15, 2016

Sabbatical Over: "This is Now"

Last week, I went to hang out with my mom and watch the Olympics for a couple of hours. We watched television and talked and ate. That's our routine every time I visit her: watch tv, talk, and eat. She always has treats at her place that we don't have at our house. Things that I would consume in large quantities over brief periods of time. Nutter Butter cookies. Fresh roasted peanuts. Miniature Hershey's chocolate bars. Mixed nuts (without peanuts). Lance cheese crackers. Cheesecake. K-cup coffee and tea pods. Those butter cookies that come in huge dark blue cans.

Yes, my mother, who lives alone, is a member of BJs. Why? So she can buy huge quantities of food to feed her family and friends as often as possible. She is one of the most hospitable people I have ever known. I remember many parties and meals and gatherings at our home during my childhood, many of which would include several friends spending the night, sleeping on couches and on the floor in our Brooklyn duplex. True to form, she is hosting the family reunion for the family of her birth, the Elliotts, this coming weekend. She already has the chairs set up in her living room, and she has made one of several trips to BJs and other stores to buy all kinds of goodies.

Anyway, last week I was sitting with her in what she refers to as her "woman-cave" watching television and eating fresh roasted peanuts. Except they weren't too fresh. Actually, they were quite stale. She apologized for the status of the peanuts and followed her apology with an invitation to me to open the large jug of mixed nuts she had recently bought in anticipation of the family reunion. I thanked her for the offer, but said, "Don't you want to save those nuts for next weekend?"

She answered, "This is now. You don't know what's gonna happen between now and next weekend. One woman who was supposed to come to the family reunion recently had to have emergency surgery and she can't come. This is now, Gail. This is now."

Her response landed immediately in my journal.
I am the queen of postponing things I like,
things I like to eat, things I like to do,
things I like to read, things I like to experience -
the more I like to eat something, the more likely I am to postpone eating it for some future time.
For some special occasion.
I spend more time than I care to admit figuring out ways to do things I love -
next week, next month, next year.
Just not right now.
Gail, this is now.

A little more than fifteen years ago, after getting undressed after church, it occurred to me that I always felt my best when I was wearing a dress or a skirt. Getting ready for church, choosing my outfit, was one of the highlights of my week. As I stood there looking at my "church clothes," pondering what pair of baggy sweatpants or uncomfortable jeans I was going to don, it hit me: if I save these clothes I love, these comfortable dresses and clothes, for exclusive use on Sunday, then each item will be worn only three or four times each year. And the rest of the time, the other 300+ days of the year, days of homeschooling and driving my kids to their music lessons and athletic practices and trips to the supermarket, all of which composed the majority of my life, I would be wearing clothing I didn't like nearly as much and that didn't look nearly as good on me. Sooooo - I decided to start wearing my favorite clothes every day. I no longer own baggy sweatpants or uncomfortable jeans. And every day, I get to pick dresses and skirts and jeans and tunic tops that I love to wear.
This is now.

When one of my kids wants to have breakfast or lunch with me, when they come into my bedroom and plop down on the bed to watch television or talk or just hang out, I say a silent prayer of thanks, and turn up my emotional/relational/parental hearing aid and listen closely. My children will soon be 20 and 23 years of age; the fact that they still like hanging out with me, telling me their secrets and asking my advice is miraculous to me. I will go out for a mother-son breakfast date tomorrow morning. Sure, I could have offered to cook breakfast here at home for him and the rest of the family. But when my 19 year old son asked me to go out on a date with him two mornings before we take him and get him set up for his sophomore year in college, I said "YES" - and thought to myself, "This is now, Gail. Go out with your boy. This is now."

When friends write or text or call and ask to get together for tea or lunch or dinner or a walk, I try to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Life is short.
This is now.

Drive six hours one way to visit the incarcerated son of a dear friend?
Go with her, Gail.
This is now.

Tell someone my story about kanswer,
my family's story about mental illness,
about the challenges of marriage and parenting,
about how hard this faith journey, this life journey can be,
even when telling those stories moves me to tears?
Cry if you need to, Gail, but this is your story to tell.
This is the time to tell it.
This is now.

Speak up against racism and prejudice of other kinds, even when it feels uncomfortable?
When I feel uncomfortable and those who are listening are also uncomfortable?
People are dying now because of fear and misunderstanding.
Say something now, Gail.
This is now.

Don't keep postponing the good stuff.
Don't even postpone the challenging stuff.
Don't save your best dishes or dresses or smiles or compliments for some other time.
Don't save your hard-won wisdom or deepest convictions for some more convenient time,
for some more comfortable conversation.
Tell the truth now.
Stand up for justice and peace now.
Live with joy now.
Go for a walk and watch birds flitter from tree to tree now.
Eat the Nutter Butter cookie -
or better yet, make some vegan homemade chocolate chip cookies - now.
This is now.

Thanks, Mom, for challenging me to rethink how I live my life.
And all it took was an offer to eat some mixed nuts.

PS. Thank you all for your comments and encouragement during this month of blogging sabbatical. Thank you for coming back to read my ramblings.
Thank you for coming along for another leg of my life's journey.


Lisa said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!

Carol said...

Thanks for this wonderful reminder to live in the moment and remember what's important. Such a smart mom you have.

Monee said...

What an incredible thing for your mom to say. Love it. The learning never ceases does it? Little nuggets of gold we hear that just (boom!) changes our perspective.

Linda K said...

I've missed you. But glad you had the time away. More glad you're back. Your words always inspire me, encourage me, make me ponder things, motivate me, etc. You got it honestly from your mom, a woman of wisdom. Welcome back.
Linda Kirkwood