Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: August 2017

Optimism and Other Lies

I recognize I can come across a bit too Pollyanna for some folk. Someone remarked recently, “I love your optimism!” and while I appreciated the sentiment, I doubted it’s truth. I can understand why people might interpret my attitude as Glass Half Full, but it’s not entirely accurate.

I completely see, feel, and understand the ways in which the world is terrible. The friends fighting brain cancer and the storms decimating innocent people’s homes. The systemic way in which all people aren’t valued in the same way. There’s no way you can put this world in a prom dress and declare it’s fine, just fine. It’s not.

The pretense of a rosy world shattered, if in no other way, than how I continue to experience October. What people might smell in my attitude isn’t optimism – that everything is good if you just look at it the right way. Some things are terrible and they suck and it’s okay to name it that way.

What I am, however, is hopeful.

I believe this whole thing is headed in a particular direction, a place with goodness as a baseline. (And actually, I believe that about our starting point as well.) What we have here, among us, is a kitchen in the middle of making the salsa. A mess. A sink full of dishes, splatters on the wall and my shirt, with scraps of vegetables attracting the fruit flies. This is the creation process. There is a deliciousness in our midst; we can smell it. We can see evidence of it around us. And it’s not yet. We’re still shuffling bowls of tomato cores and getting jalapeno seeds too close to our eyes. The scent of what is to come permeates our present atmosphere to the point we can nearly taste it. And still we wait for things to cook down and become as they should be.

That is the underlying Hebrew tone of the word hope: To wait.

Optimism brushes off the negative, the part of the glass that is empty. Hope endures it. Hope takes it all in. Half is gone, half is full, and when it’s all consumed it’s going to be very, very good.

This is our work. We’re partnered in the work of creation, bringing about the reality we believe we’re headed toward. Not a passive, “It sure would be nice if…” waiting, but an active wait. In the words of Anne Lamott, it’s “planting trees for children whose grandparents were born yesterday.” Perhaps the literal trees, and maybe we’re also planting ideas into generations that we won’t be around to hear them repeat. In any case, the value doesn’t diminish.

So friends, when you hear me cheering for the good, have confidence that I’ve not forgotten the terrible. It’s here. And, I won’t let negativity bias win. It’s not an either/or question. This life is a Beautiful Struggle.

Optimism, pessimism, or realism? This isn’t an interesting conversation for me. My questions revolve around: Is this big  ol’ human experiment going somewhere? And if so, is it worth it?

Is the salsa worth the messy kitchen?

My answer, so far in this life, is undoubtedly yes. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

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Free To Do

I’ve never been a Pinterest Mom. Birthdays around here consistently include a cake in a 9×13″ pan, from a box. I have had little time or energy for anything cute, including teachers gifts, helping in school classrooms, and birthday treats. I’ve kept a swarm of children on my legs for 7 years; making cutesy butterflies out of fruit didn’t make my list of priorities.

I didn’t volunteer in the classrooms of my older kids; I always had a baby at home needing care. To put it simply: I couldn’t be a SuperMom. With some inner work, I moved to a place where I didn’t feel that I had to do these things. I knew that “enough” was enough for me. I knew my priorities – what mattered to me in my work of mothering – and stuck to them. I let grandma do the crafts.

On the first day of school this year, I sent my kids with homemade cinnamon rolls for their teachers. I even printed off a cute little card. (One of my biggest successes of the summer was getting my printer to talk to my computer. THIS, my friends, deserves a medal.) Granted, the treats weren’t wrapped in burlap because I don’t know where to buy those kinds of things, and then I would loose them in my basement. But the note, you see, was cute. “Here’s to a sweet year!” it said. I texted a friend: It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore!

But here’s a secret, one I feel will serve you well: I felt zero compulsion to do such a task. There was no little angel sitting on my shoulder saying, “a good mom would make baked goods.” I lost that little angel with the third kid, when I gave up on matching socks.

What happened on the first day of school is that I felt free to do something. Not compelled. Not guilted. Not forced. Free.

If you’ve seen the movie Bad Moms, you know that getting rid of the Mom Guilt is big time. There’s so much shaming involved with how we choose to mother, be it what we put in the bake sale or how professional our kids’ science experiments appear. Keeping up with Mrs. Jones exhausts too many moms. To those who feel imprisoned by Valentine’s Boxes, I admonish you: Break Free!

And.  Also. I think we need to notice the Mom Guilt associated with moving in the other direction. In our freedom to Not Do It All, we’ve started to eliminate the freedom To Do. My friends, we’re not just freed from, we’re freed to. We get to choose the direction of our energies. We get to do good – the good of our own essence, the good we were created to do.

Here’s what I’m discovering: Freedom is intimidating. Someone who knows how she wants to live, and moves according to her values can conjure up feelings of inadequacy in people around her. We misinterpret someone doing her thing as the standard to which we should be doing ours. But the only one holding me to that standard is me.

Teachers are not expecting you to make cinnamon rolls next year because I did it this year. And I am not interested in some sort of cinnamon roll making contest. What I am interested in, however, is what makes you come alive. What ideas spark conversation? What makes you want to clear a little time in the schedule? You should do more of that. Not because you should; because you can.

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Leaving the Homeland

Remember when I wrote about how we need to live and work not just according to our strengths, because those other places will eventually need strengthened? Well, this is why: Soccer season.

This year the biggest 3 decided to play, which many people would celebrate and I at least pretend to. But now the reality has set in, and I’m delivering children to a soccer field every night of the week during the prime of Jr. High football season, rendering JJ useful only to other people’s children.

I know this is no new news to most people with a child over the age of 5. This is the way the world of big kids works. You shuttle, you shuffle, you keep lawn chairs in your trunk and you beg your mother-in-law to help ferry children about in exchange of promises of the best nursing home someday. (A long time away, someday.)

And I know most people can roll with this climate. They do not understand why I would have an existential crisis over knowing when to feed my children dinner. Ah, but they are not raised in the Wingfield Way: Making simple decisions challenging, since, forever.

If I ask three Why’s (which continues to be one of the best bits of wisdom for getting to the actual issue), it’s not about dinner or time in the car, or even the pace at which our August and September is charting. I’m staring down at newness, and a little bit of grief.

After a million years of experience having a thousand little ones in my home, day after day, my life is shifting significantly this year. While I dance in celebration of a few days of peace to get actual work done, this new land of bigger kids is foreign. You’re asking a mom with top notch sippy-cup filling experience to know how to consistently arrive on time for pick ups and drop offs, which is the equivalent of asking a music teacher to take over the phys ed program. Of course it can be done, but not without practice and patience and instruction and a bit more patience.

In a million ways, I love Big Kid Land. The oldest two are a whole lot of fun right now; I love seeing their personalities and interests and the way they see and experience the world. I love that they want to try new things. I don’t bemoan the next stage. It’s not bad, it’s different. The newness is still so shiny, I can barely look at it directly.

But there’s something about the place where you began, in little kid world. I see mamas nursing babies and think, awww, me too! only to realize it’s been four years since I’ve had to unsnap at the sound of a whimper. I’m not actually in that place anymore.

I’ve been shipped to a new land, and I only speak small phrases of the language, and “donde esta el bano” is “which field are we going to?” My native tongue is only useful in small neighborhoods around me. Now I must learn a new language, new customs and ways of interacting with society. I get messages from coaches saying, “this is a travel team. We have home and away games, as far as Arcadia,” and I feel like I need a translator.

Growing up is terribly hard, and I think it only gets more challenging as we get older. Growing up as an adult is simply the worst. We’re not as flexible as we used to be, we have our habits and our ways which can be helpful but also can slow us down. But if we’re living, we’re growing. Sameness shouldn’t be our goal, for we will be sorely disappointed and miss out on new beauty with our narrow direction.

Here’s to us, mamas (and daddy’s), learning and growing beside those we’re raising. May we have grace with ourselves. May we have an openness to the new and unknown. May we receive the blessings of a new stage and a new land with gratitude and joy.

Visit me elsewhere:

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