Thursday, February 10, 2011

Out of Sorts

I don't know why it's so hard to leave my house every morning. Maybe it's just that out of sorts feeling that dogs the month of February, especially after successive weeks of snow. Maybe I'm obsessing about my follow up appointment with Uncle Sam next week, and the continued spinning of my wheels the audit will require. Maybe I'm plagued with guilt over the bills for my aunt that I have not yet submitted to her disability trust for the month of January, the first time I have not been on top of that, ever. I feel as if I'm sliding down a slippery slope of unmet obligations, trying to find a redeeming crevice where I can grab hold.

My daughter, too, seems out of sorts, crankier, broody, worried about whether she'll get into college and not really taking it in when I tell her that she has nothing at all to worry about. The eleventh graders at her school are feeling the pressure. She's decided she's not going to discuss with her classmates where she plans to apply because she doesn't want to have to deal with their opinions about her chances or their unspoken worry that she might take a spot they want at a particular school.

She actually told me that everyone at her school gets straight As except for her. I looked at her. "Really!" she said. I pointed out that this was not really possible. "Well all my friends get straight As," she insisted stubbornly, "and they don't even try that hard." I think she was feeling sorry for herself, and maybe she was feeling pressured by the day-in-day-out insistence of things, a feeling I know well. How can I explain to her so that she truly understands that there are good colleges that will want her? "You have to say that," she says when I try to assure her. "It's in the mom manual."

And the other night she said to me, "Remember Chris Chin?" He was the eleventh grade boy who jumped to his death during January of his junior year when my girl was a freshman and still new to high school. He had been in her Spanish class. "He was where I am now," my daughter noted. "What must he have been feeling?" I felt like an idiot, because I hadn't been paying attention enough to realize that Chris Chin would hover over this year for my girl and perhaps for her entire class. They were so wrecked when he jumped, so heartbroken. And now they are at the same pass, wondering if they have what it takes. If I could tell them anything, I would tell them that the story is never over, it is always unfolding, and a twist here or a disappointment there cannot turn aside its beautiful momentum, not if you believe that there is always more around the corner, more experiences to entertain, much more of life to break your heart and mend it back tenderly and feed your very soul.

My child is still passionate about things—cooking, photography, dance, writing, most of all her friends. She is out in the world every chance she gets. In just one month, she will be among ten students traveling to South Africa for spring break to teach art to under-served kids at two township schools. The students in my daughter's group have been meeting every week for months now to work out their curriculums. My girl has chosen photography and she's busy coming up with assignments and ideas for how to inspire the kids. She's such a good soul. She has a laugh that sprinkles happy dust over anyone who hears it. She's compassionate and deep thinking. She's quirky and enjoys the quirky in other people. She doesn't quit.

I am trying to let her be a little cranky, to not require sunny all the time, just because that is who she has been for most of her life. I am trying not to be worried about moody and broody. But I need to pay attention here. I need to push past my own blue mood and not infect my household with it. It helps sometimes to sit in the house after everyone leaves in the morning and have a good cleansing cry.


  1. I can relate to so much of what you write, and take solace in so many of your words as well. I struggle daily with being who I need to be or being who I need my children to see. It's particularly hard in February with teenagers and menopause and such things. I try to do my crying in the shower and feel washed clean when I'm done. Your daughter sounds like an amazing person, and I hope this is just a temporary response to the pressure of figuring out the next thing. I recommend hugs for everyone when things get scary. Take care or yourself while you're taking care of your family. Sending you a hug over the wires.

  2. I feel such angst when my children are down or searching or worried or ill or...
    And they are all grown up. It never ends. And sometimes it's hard because I feel down or searching or worried or ill...
    And how to rise above and be there for them and it never ends, Angella and we want to be the best we can be for these remarkable babies of ours.
    We do the best we can. Sometimes perhaps the best is to allow them to see us worry and then see us carry on and break through it, just as they will. Just as they will.

  3. Mel, i am so glad you are here. it means a lot that you *get* this.

    Ms. Moon, with all you are going through this week, I so appreciate your taking a moment to tell me this. i send love to you, my sister spirit. you have a healing energy. i think it is love.

  4. Angella, the part of this story that really jumps out at me is that she's going to put her considerable photographic skills to excellent use, to kids who will really benefit. What a great opportunity for her as well as those she's serving. Coming on the heels of her trip last year (was it Italy? The memory is not so good) for cooking, she's getting such great experiences and can't help but be getting more well-rounded. I hope she realizes what an asset she'll be to whichever college she goes.

  5. Deborah, yes! I think so too. But then I'm her mom, so i'm going to tell her that you, with credibility intact because you are not reading from the mom manual, said this! In any case she will certainly grow from the experience, and maybe it will help her put things in perspective, too.

  6. We just finished dinner and I had to ask for the conversation to stop because my stomach was getting upset. I can't wait til this college stuff is done. Mine has gotten into 4 really good schools but she won't hear from her #1 and 2 until the first week in April. I will light a candle for you and your daughter on my "wisdom and education" altar. It makes me feel like I am adding something positive to the situation instead of just worry! It's easy for us to see the bigger picture but the heartbreak is so real at their tender age.

  7. crying cleanses the soulo. everyone needs a good one every once in a while.

  8. This makes me long for the days when my daughter lived at home, even though she was never accused of being overly sunny, she held my heart in her hands, the same way that yours does.

  9. It chills me, this post. I wish I didn't understand it. The pressures and expectations we put on all ourselves and our children can be so overwhelming, even the straight-forward practicalities of life can crumble.

    There is, in this, an awful lot that is ordinary - life goes through such cycles. They are painful - but the wheel goes round.

    However, there's been a destructive philosophy around for years that we can be and do whatever we dream of / aspire to. It adds to these pressure by suggesting that, if things don't work out as we'd like them, there's a moral failure involved and we have to cope with this thought along with our natural disappointment. In turn it means we aren't able to settle into 'what is' and be pleased with our lives. The thought that there's always something better and beyond can turn all sorts of successes sour.

    Best wishes to you and your daughter - to her friends too. My thoughts are with you as you grind through forms and formalities.

    I do hope what I say here is encouraging rather than touching sore spots. Responding to posts rather than sitting down, elbows on table, cup of tea or coffee to hand, can be so risky!


  10. Kathleen, thanks for lighting a candle. I know where you are. I remember being in that place with our son.

    Candice, it does indeed.

    Deidre, they do hold our hearts in their hands. They don't even know.

  11. Lucy, your comment chilled me a bit, because I know what you were responding to in the post, the unsaid. There is so much pressure on our children, and such temptation to feel that only certain "name" schools are worthy, and the rest are of no consequence, which translates to "we" are of no consequence. I am trying hard to help liberate my daughter of that, which is hard because she goes to a school where that is part of the unspoken conversation. In the very air. When they worry about not getting into college, they're really worrying about getting into one of the "right" colleges. we parents are susceptible too, and only laser consciousness can fight the not-so-subtle brainwashing. It is not so easy to balance the scales. But thank you for your concern, Lucy, and for engaging and writing as you have. I do take it in the best way. Raising children will make you pray.

  12. For your daughter, her classmates, that is a very dark image to dispel. So many unknowns. Your thought, of saying the story is never over, that its beautiful momentum will endure, is what I believe. It is hard at any age to see the bigger picture, in the 11th grade, even on my 50th birthday, I don't think I was aware that a bigger picture existed. Our children see us survive disappointment, reversals of fortune; maybe we model resilience for them. That is what I hope. The only super power I desire is the ability to smooth my son's path; we know that's not possible. Raising a child, now an adult by many years, does make you pray. My heart is with you.