Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Qusings: Darkness

I used to write poetry. I wrote it fairly often when I was 13, and I wrote it feverishly when I was 16. Writing poetry felt like sharing secrets...with myself. As dorky as I found the idea of poems "writing themselves," I knew that was what I had going on when I let my mind break boundaries and bask in the abstract. It was a feeling I rarely achieved with anything else; with music, if I took the time to improvise, I had to think hard about where I wanted to go. With art, if I let my mind wander, I drew funny things and weird things. With poetry, however, when I let fly my imagination, I came up with deep, dark imagery.
It was a little bit scary.
Was I secretly angry? Was I a deeply dark person?
And that was a little bit exciting.
On one occasion, during my first poetry bursts at age 13, I took a risk and showed my mother a poem that I felt had been well crafted. But it was a dark poem, I guess, because it mildly alarmed my mother. She asked if I really felt that way. And I did not know what to say. Did I? I thought that was the idea-- when you feel this way or that way, you create a poem that reflects those feelings. Even if the poem wrote itself, didn't it mean that was how I felt, somewhere in my mind? Just a little bit crushed, I tried to understand my mother's concern. I realized she just wanted to be sure I was a happy girl.
For a while I studied the poetry that my mother enjoyed. She told me about her grandmother, Hortense, who had many poems published. They were sweet poems, beautiful and lovely. I liked them. And, wanting to show that I at least desired the same talent, I tried to write my own lovely poems.
They made me laugh.
In a bad way.
So I kind of gave up.
When my second burst of poetry writing hit me at age 16, it came as a necessity. And because my poems were not bright and endearing (or of particular skill), I felt daring when I ever ventured to share even one. I sat and wrote, letting delicious words seize control, making the poem evolve without a planned outline, and when I finished, I read through with the feeling of having discovered a secret about myself. A secret that must have come from far inside the recesses of my mind, a secret so secret I never knew it was there.
A dark secret.
As each poem finished, I felt validated. My emotions, quite often peaking high and sharp, turned to a smoother consistency. I had my outlet with poetry. For a while, I felt a little dangerous with my new passion. I knew there was more to me than most people got, and being exclusive in my personal goings on, this revelation delighted me.
But I think some shame followed me. I never sought dirtiness, but I thought my dark toned poems would shock people into thinking I had problems with self esteem, problems with depression, problems with life. It scared me that the darkness in my poems would make someone think the darkness was the real me. I felt like I was supposed to write those pretty poems my great grandmother wrote, and I felt so sensitive about my lack of talent as well that it seemed I should never share my poetry unless I could somehow write it flawlessly.

Why do we call it darkness? Why does it need to be airy and light to equal happy and good? As I look back, I believe I did have some problems with my self esteem. Normal problems that nevertheless should not be taken lightly. Maybe my poetry was even more honest than I would have liked to admit!
I understand that good things uplift and enlighten people. The argument might stand that if I had tried to write light poetry, it would have "lifted" my darkness, too. The problem with that? My "darkness" was a secret-- a secret to ME, even. I did not know it was there. Maybe because I had difficulty acknowledging any grains of trouble (still true of me today). So I could have written page after page of light poetry and never felt any emotional response. What would it mean to me? Why would I need to comfort myself if I felt completely content?
It was when I let my poetry evolve into these secrets that I found those shadows, those darknesses. And having written them, they could evaporate and leave me lighter (when I never previously knew I needed that). Almost like a free session with a psychiatrist (which sessions honestly seem all about self-discovery, as I understand it). Like running. Like any emotional release.
I think that so long as we are not seeking a "carnal darkness," it is good to explore our personal darkness and in the process learn more about ourselves. Being human, we each have a certain "darkness" to us. And it is not a bad darkness. It is just the part of us that never sees the sun, like the dark side of the moon. We should want to know what is out there...what is in here.

Now, I am going to do something daring. Because I want to be the kind of person someone could feel comfortable with in their own "personal darkness," I will share a poem of mine that is uncomfortable-- and poorly written according to my judgment. If you take the words at face value, it is full of lies. If you take the words with the full impact of attitude they throw around, it encompasses the moody rebellion (and even sarcasm) that secretly stirred in my 16-year-old self.
And here is what I am talking about: had you known me at 16, you would have known a very happy Qait, just a less mature version of who I am today. You would not have thought of what this poem portrays.
But being a 16-year-old girl, I had real emotions that reached both ends of the spectrum. The important thing is that I found appropriate relief of the more troubling feelings with poetry, and with that help, I was able to focus on being a happy person.

Why Are You Reading This
16 years old

Ask them why they did it
Maybe they’ll blink for you

I dropped it; they beat me
I picked it up; they beat me again

Ask me why I want to
I doubt I’ll answer you

I wonder if I care 
I don’t really wonder, do I

Tell me I’m not supposed to
Perhaps I will ignore you

I’m not ready; they push me
I am and they won’t let me go

Scold me, it’s alright
I won’t be listening

Ask me where I am anymore
Maybe I’ll give you directions

Forget my name, go ahead
I’ve already forgotten yours

Tell me I should
I have heard you, be assured

I might not believe you
I might not believe myself

Do you think you care
I don’t think I do

Ask me why I did it
Maybe I’ll blink for you

And now, if you would like, you can forget I ever wrote that. The poem means little, if anything, to my current self, but it says so much about (and means so much to) the 16-year-old self from which I grew.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm sure you don't want to see a close up of my feet. 
So just pretend they're model feet or something (like not being mine makes them so much better?). 
At least they're clean. 

They're just blobbies of bronze on the gold, with wobbly black lines drawn partially around the blobbies. 
Blobbies and wobbliness are easy with nail painting, right?

This was not hard, but it was not easy. 
And...confession: I never did get around to doing my right hand beyond the grey nail polish.
This was not really how I envisioned the design, but it's fun. 
Cute...but I'm ready to be done. That kind of girliness has a time limit with my tolerance.
On to something else! 
We'll just have to wait and see what I do next time.

March Creations

At the beginning of the month, I made cardboard boat for Ender. It took very little time...and very little imagination. Really: I did it while he went potty. I sliced a rectangle out of the side and duct taped the piece on top (later he ripped it off because he didn't want a roof on his boat).
I never really counted it as the monthly creation, since I was planning something else, but he looks really cute and happy in it.
Yep...nothing very special!

He's a bit teary because he tripped on his way down the hall.

"Aargh!" That's a scarf and a sleep mask.

And of course, a pirate would get bored out at sea without his LEGOs. 

My mom knew I had some malachite beads and requested earrings made with them for her birthday. And of course...somehow I forgot to take pictures. I kept reminding she took some pictures for me:

She also took pictures of another gift I made for her-- a book wreath. I made one for Michael's mom a few Christmases ago. That first one didn't take me very long, so when I started my mom's wreath, I planned the same amount of time. It took me two or three times as long, and I didn't realize until I was nearly finished that I wasn't leaving as much space between the pages. No wonder! 

Here's the tutorial --> click! And I might mention: you need a book with at least 300 pages. If you make the crowding mistake I made, you need more like 500 pages... 

My mom wanted me to know the poinsettias are not a permanent decoration.
I guess she'd want you to know too.

It might be cool to use books with already-colored edges on their pages. You know those old books with red or green? For my mom's wreath, I used a Mary Higgins Clark book, Weep No More, My Lady (heehee). And then I had to fill in with a book that had matching, creamyish pages-- Cheaper By the Dozen (a good book, unfortunately). Neither were very old, so the pages didn't have much aging going on. For the wreath I made for Michael's mom, I used a really worn, aged-pages book called Lying With Lions or was on the Free shelf at the library...and wow, that book was much better off as a wreath. I got a fast read of it as I tore the pages out one at a time, and there was a 6-page "scenario," shall we say, that I wouldn't dare put in the wreath! I promise I averted my eyes (with only enough glancing to know when the whole mushy ordeal was finally over). (I just have to be very clear here...even if all that explanation looks defensive and guilty, hahaha!). 
Six pages?! I wonder if that's normal!

So! I realize a book wreath might horrify some people. That's okay. :) I want to do one for myself one day, even being the book lover I am. As long as it's a trashable book, like...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hard Day Softened

I have had a string of hard days with the kids, particularly yesterday and today. Scarlett's second tooth is most likely pressing its way through her gums, and Ender has been going through a phase of some sort (perhaps residue of his own case of cabin fever from when we were sick?).
I am holding myself together fairly well with prayer and Olympian efforts to simmer down when all I want to do is lash out and just roar for a measly two seconds. Roaring would supposedly make me feel better; I believe that while I want to do it, but when my mind is clear, I know the truth: roaring just makes it worse. For all of us.
So I resist. Sometimes little cracks form in my dam and a few tears leak out.
Here are some quotes that help me feel capable and calm, loved and loving:

"This is grace: The willingness to give what has not been earned and what may not be deserved---it is certainly the highest virtue and the deepest expression of love." 
(Excerpt from the 9/11/11 Memorial Service of Music and the Spoken Word )

I know children are some of the most Christ-like people in the world. And I know they are innocent. That should mean they deserve all the kindness and love we can offer, but that's easy to forget in the daily momming. After all, we have to measure our parenting by the daily happenings, so when we think of what our kids deserve, we think of it in terms of punishment or reward for their daily deeds or behavior.
When I read that quote, I remember that the point is not whether I think my kids deserve pampering. The point is that I am their mother, they are my kids, and I love them. When I remember that, the willingness to give comes to me a little more readily.
This next one reinforces my belief that I am called to be a mother:

"...My work equals passion, commitment, vibrancy, and aliveness. The place where the world’s great hunger and my own gifts meet. It is my “music.” The things I am “called” to do on this planet. The wild and precious life I have to offer to the world. Work to me does not connote drudgery or burden (except when I make it so, by expecting inhuman quantities of productivity from myself)."Molly Remer, guest post at First the Egg, a feminist blog worth reading once in a while.

Thinking of Molly's words helps me bring excitement back into what I do. I am a mother with purpose, not a mother by chance. Molly also recommended (in one of her own posts-- sorry I can't find the exact spot) what is a special birthing technique that she also uses for other occasions to help herself acquire needed inner peace:

(I am open) (to birth)
(I am ready) (for my baby)
(I welcome) (my labor)
(I am confident) (and strong)
(Right here) (right now)
(I am equal) (to this challenge)
(I embrace) (this moment)

These words so effectively bring back the incredible, peaceful power I felt while giving birth to Scarlett that I remember I am capable of finding peace and calm in the most extreme times.
This last quote is something of a call of duty, a charge to be a strong woman in all I do.

"Every woman, whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good or harm. Every woman by her virtue or her vice, by her wisdom or her folly, by her dignity or her levity is adding something to our national elevation or degradation." —John Angell James

For anyone struggling with a hard day, *hugs.* You have my love.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Deciding to Break

Michael and I had a sort of revelation that has improved our parenting recently. We're trying to be more patient and gentle-tempered with Ender. I had a thought, suddenly, that halted all other thoughts; I was praying, kind of "angsting" about my struggles with patience, and I realized that I had been deciding "breaking points."
Have you ever been upset with your kids, telling them they need to do something (get their shoes on maybe), and in your head you think something like "if I have to tell them ONE more time..." or "if he won't do it now..."? If you don't have kids, what about a time you've just felt so frustrated with your seemingly fruitless efforts that you decide you're done if you don't find a reward soon? It's deciding a point that we'll just give up. We just feel like we're done, that's it, we tried. We break.
I'm aware that there are situations where it's appropriate to be finished after one last, token effort. I'm not talking about those situations. So don't worry. I'm not judging!
Michael and I talked about this, about how we don't need to decide limits for our patience. The limits are there, for sure, but we can keep stretching ourselves. We can keep trying. It has changed us in the last week or two. When we feel our tempers rising, our patience ebbing, our sanity ready to snap, we realize there's still room in our hearts to be kind and try again. We can choose to reign in the mounting inner demon (haha, now that is one scary image! My inner demon is very ugly).
It certainly hasn't fixed everything-- Ender still sometimes dawdles and stares back or says NO when he's supposed to be getting his shoes on (or whatever), but what our change has fixed is the love in our home. We're no longer pushing the Spirit away by giving in to the urge to "break."

*     *     *

In high school and college, I had a little motto for myself. I believed that a day wasn't bad unless I let it be bad. That's still true, to an extent. I believed that my attitude could/would/should change bad days around. I knew that I could make the difference for myself, that I was in charge of my days, so I ought to be cheerful and optimistic. But surprise: that is REALLY hard for me as a mom.

This morning was very hard for me. It's kind of my fault. I didn't get up before the kids, so we were up all at once trying to get our needs met all at once. I resented being needed, especially since Ender was cranky about everything (big, awesome birthday yesterday + not nearly enough sleep = nothing is to his liking). I felt a lot of stress, and I felt like I had set the stone rolling in the first place, so in my mind, I was behind all the stress. Thus, more stress at feeling like I ought to be the solution to the stress. Ugh, stress stress stress.
But I kept trying to be kind, and I kept trying to be calm. I didn't want to "fail" by deciding a breaking point for myself. After dropping Michael off at school, I knew I needed some kind of an outing. I wasn't ready to go home (I'm still not over having been stuck at home for two weeks while sick-- cabin fever!!!). My lovely idea of an outing: take Ender to the story time at the library! I know. I'm so chic and stuff.
I tried not to exude stress the way I felt it, because I know how dampening that can be for other people's moods. But I almost couldn't help it. I sighed when Ender sat down in front of me, at my feet where I couldn't go around him...hauling my fat purse and the carseat (with a groggy Scarlett waking up). I sighed when he moved like a snail to scoot to a good seat. And I sighed when I sat down. I didn't mean to, my stress just kept leaking all over the place!

Then a beautiful woman sitting next to me shifted to make more room for us, and she talked to me a little. I could imagine how unapproachable I looked, and I worried that she would give up when my first effort at conversation fell flat (as in, I gave her nothing to go with, in spite of myself). But I tried again, and she smiled, and we talked. We became friends. Her name is Natalie. She has three beautiful children with beautiful names, and she is a warm and kind person. I felt like she was daring and brave to ask for my phone number. I felt flattered that she hoped we would see each other again. I felt her sincerity, and that's why I felt lifted in every way.
Smiling became very easy, and I felt new strength filling me so I could be the good mom I was trying to be.
I feel blessed by her kindness, and I feel blessed for my efforts to be good this morning.
I think I'm doing it right. Because I'm trying. I know I will keep making mistakes while I plow through this immense learning process, which is one of millions of other learning processes. I know that sometimes I will probably "break" anyway, but I hope it will not be premeditated breakage.
I'm not deciding to break under pressure. I'm still hoping. I'm still wanting to be a good mom badly enough that I'm not giving up. And that, regardless of how many times I trip and stumble, is the right path.