Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: beautiful life (page 1 of 32)

Halfway to Launch


Not four or five, the way he is forever etched into my memory (as my early parenting years seem to be sticking like  a case of PTSD and I’m perpetually believing that my children are 4, 3, 2, and newborn). Now my biggest is nine.

In case you’ve not done that math before, the average age of a student at graduation from high school is 18. This means I’m at the halfway mark. Half over; gone. Half to go. We’ve accomplished so much, come so far, and yet we have that distance again – and this next half will be even tougher. We have the exhaustion of this first leg coupled with brand new terrain. For the oldest kid, that’s always the toughest part – learning to roll with the new conditions. Figuring out how to navigate new things; social relationships change, what he believes to be true about himself changes.

It’s in this second leg that he will begin to unwrap what it means to love someone outside his familial tribe. He will switch gears, not just learning how to learn, but absorbing the ways of the world and synthesizing it into his own unique viewpoint as the basis of his operating mode. He will press into the boundaries of independence, and it’s his job to begin to explore. The expanding nature of the universe requires that he will go places and take steps that I never did. I can translate my wisdom and experiences, but they will not be the same.

In many ways, it would be easier if he would just do the same as me. I could tell him exactly how to step; his feet could fall into stride with my own footprints. I could ensure his safety this way, falling into any holes first. My head says this is the safest way to go about getting through this second half of childhood. But I know this isn’t the existence I want for him.

My heart says to teach him how to spot a hole, how to step mindfully, and send him in his own direction. I love my life, but do I really think that repeating it is the best thing this world has to offer him? I’ll welcome him to trail along, if that’s what he wants; a life of small-town living and tending to home-things is on the menu from which he can order. But if he’s feeling like a big city dream, then I want to give him the tools to take that route. If he yearns to be an adventurer, literally sailing or exploring, then I want to teach him the baseline skills to make it happen.

My job isn’t to pull him along on a leash. Of course, that’s the easiest way. And a little bit of the first half of childhood is exactly that; keeping them close so they can learn the ropes. They get familiar with the routes and explore from a governed distance.  Then we remove the leash but bring it along, giving a bit more distance. Our voice is always near and they circle back often. Finally, someday, we open the door and send them out; they return when they want a break or are hungry or tired or lonely. They know how to return home.

launchThis second half of childhood will be a lot less leash, yet still taking the trek with him. Honestly, this is harder on me than him, feeling the weight of this useless leash in my pocket, watching with worry, wondering how far is too far? can he hear me from here? does he have his eyes out for this turn?  

The analogy isn’t perfect; I’m raising a human, not training a puppy. The ultimate goal of training a puppy is to have an obedient dog, one that stays with you forever. That’s not the description of a grown man, able to contribute to society both in meaningful work and in living a life that radiates peace, joy, and love to his family, community and greater world. This will take far more nuance than running familiar routes and giving firm commands.

We were intentional about the methods we engaged for parenting our children for the first half. Now that he’s able to tie his shoes and pack his lunch and do his laundry and walk to the park by himself, I find myself having to think critically again about how to engage this second half.

This half has much more to do with trust: trusting myself (and JJ), that we’ve laid a good foundation of love and acceptance. Trusting him, that he’s in tune with the goodness of his birthright and living from that place more often than not. Trusting the world, that we can gracefully allow others to make mistakes when it’s safe to fail. Trusting my community to love him and accept him, even when he’s not perfect.

So here we go. Staying close, walking free, in this year of nine.

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Here, kitty, kitty

When we lived together, Kristy had a cat named Ned. My archenemy. I’ve never loved cats (like most people who are allergic), but Ned made it easy for that slight disfavor to evolve into an extreme dislike. He was loud, and when Kristy left for a period of time, he got louder. He was a moody kitty, and he gave me the attention of a 7th grade bully – frequent, and not in a loving manner.

While Ned was his own kind of cat, he wasn’t unlike cats in general. My friend Patty once told the most hilarious story of her dad wishing they had a dog, but having a cat instead, and trying to teach it to walk on a leash. They simply don’t do that. They don’t have the obedience and lovable nature of a dog. A person who loves cats tends to love the unloveable. (The world needs more of these people! I’m just not one of them.)

To be fair, let me give the positive qualities of cats:

1) They catch mice. I might be convinced of a barn cat for this reason, once we get  barn.
2) They always come back. In fact, it’s common knowledge that if you don’t want a stray to return, you have to turn off that compassion and the temptation to provide a meal, because if you do, congratulations, you now have a kitty. My sister just bought a house that came with a cat because the former owner fed it a time or two and now she gets to buy the kibble.

Today is one of those days where I’ll be parenting solo for the majority, on the verge of a week where I’ll be parenting solo for the entirety. I’m thrilled that JJ will get to enjoy experiences he loves – and we all know he puts up with my own tendencies to leave for an adventure or two. Yet even before I went to bed, my mental state began to shift as it does in these times: preserve and endure. Make it through without going mad.

There’s a space for survival mentality, for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with hoping to preserve your own sanity. Yet, as I woke and turned to a poem by Victoria Erickson (a new favorite; I’m reading Rhythms and Roads), she had words for me:

“when you give this day all the courage, love and intensity you can.”

I have to admit, those words to not reflect the way I tend to approach my days of solo parenting. I don’t bravely face the challenge or seek the potential joy. Which, perhaps, is why I tend to never find it.

Maybe joy is a little like the stray kitty. When you feed him, he’ll keep showing up. 

You see, I tend to conserve. Any leftovers go back in the fridge, “just in case.” On these days, and in these situations, I don’t have the generosity of spirit to be tossing my scraps into a bowl on the back porch to tempt joy my way, which might just be the reason that nothing appears.

And why wouldn’t I be tempting joy my way? My girl, Brene (when you quote her enough, you get to be on a first name basis, even if she doesn’t know your name), says joy is one of the most vulnerable emotions we experience. To abandon yourself to love – to open so completely to another, or to a situation – can feel overwhelmingly vulnerable, which is why it’s easier to slip into my preferred method of Survival. If you don’t open yourself to joy, it won’t reject you, right?

So my tendency to shut out joy like a stray cat hasn’t served me well. My days of survival will end exactly as I direct them, with exhaustion and, likely, frustration. A day filled with joy will also likely end with exhaustion, but wouldn’t I rather live with the tiredness that comes from showing up, engaging, and loving? I can tell you, I would. I do.

Just because I have this habit doesn’t mean I have to continue in its pattern. So here’s to bravely showing up to joy, today. With all the courage, love and intensity you can. The day awaits.

Here, kitty kitty.

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Funerals and Musicals

It’s no secret that our family hates October. Actually, I feel a large proportion of Upper Sandusky hates it. Everything dies in October; the leaves and the the people we love.

I’m not sure if the Star Players, the local community theater group, intentionally chose October as the season for their annual all-ages musical, but if they did: genius. It’s exactly what we need. Not just to “take our minds off of things” or to “numb the pain.” Of course, escaping into a story for a few hours is a good way to set down our grief for a moment, but it’s more than an epidural for our funeral season.

Watching the leads yesterday finish the first act in complete harmony, my eyes automatically started watering. The tears returned when the whole chorus set into a song about being our weird selves – and not just because I identified personally as a misfit. I watched the Pinocchio character step into his role and show no restraint. He lived and danced into his character fully and it. was. beautiful. The Sugar Plum Fairy danced big and loud and you could see something come alive in her eyes that radiated all the way down from her soul.

I’ve yet to go to a community theater production and not cry at the curtain call. Not because I’m reliving my stage life (because I don’t have one) but because of the connection it evokes. There’s nothing I love more than seeing people live their gifts so feely. Community theater is unpaid and under-appreciated, yet these folks show up for the rehearsals, put in the hours for practice, and subject themselves to critics and criticism.

All for the sake of beauty.

Their voices, their acting, their delivery of certain lines of comedy isn’t something that can be mass produced and easily found. They conjured that up from deep inside and then shared it with the world. It’s as if they were willing to dig into the muck in which we wade and pull out the treasure chest of jewels and hold them up to everyone willing to show up for a $15 ticket and say, “See! It’s here! There is beauty among us!”

Despite what I feel right now about the month of October, this world does hold so much beauty.

I see it in the parents who gather together to send their children off to homecoming.  There is so much beauty, not just in the kids cleaning up and dressing fancy, but in the shared sense of Where did time go? How did s/he grow up so fast? amid the excitement.

And even in the heartache, I see a beauty in the full-force recollection of one of our community’s favorite educators as we learned of his passing. The shared grief reveals a certain element of connection as people light the darkness with their individual memories of a shared beloved. Each comment, each photo, each quote is a candle, held high.

I’m reading Brene Brown’s newest, Braving the Wilderness, and she writes about these elements of Inextricable Connection (emphasis mine):

All of these examples of collective joy and pain are sacred experiences. They are so deeply human that they cut through our differences and tap into our hardwired nature. These experiences tell us what is true and possible about the human spirit. We need these moments with strangers as reminders that despite how much we might dislike someone on Facebook or even in person, we are still inextricably connected.

Perhaps that’s the lesson of this particular October. Not just that it continues to be a terrible time, but that it can be terrible for all of us and we can share in it’s terribleness. Perhaps it’s the brokenness of this season that binds us together, forming its own kind of beauty.

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