pssst…..is anyone there?

i will write this post in lowercase as an act of humility and regret for not updating this thing in nearly a year. kids are a lifesuck. but so is facebook, feedly, netflix, you name it. i shouldn’t blame it all on the babe-now-toddler but i can blame some of it on her, right? sorry for my absence. so many friends are pregnant or having babies (including my friend rachel ann, just last night!) that i feel spurred to write again, not only about babies, but about life in general.

for (more than) the last 19 months, i feel like my life has not been my own. pregnancy feels like your body is possessed, because it is. rearing a newborn feels like living under a benign dictatorship. and parenting a toddler feels a lot like being out on parole — you get out a little more but your still being watched, your every movement monitored. often, you can’t even shower or pee by yourself, which is actually more like prison. knowing several formally incarcerated women, i typically frown at prison jokes. but there are some uncanny comparisons to be made. but on top of that, we were told last January, around the time i fell off the blogging train, that we were being moved to a different church out in the country, 20 minutes from the closest grocery store. [being married to an itinerating methodist minister means my life is doubly not my own). we have since moved and learned to love our new church and the mooing cows in the pasture across the street. but it also means i spend even more time alone than i did when living in the largish city of raleigh. staying at home with a child is isolating, even more so when you live in a rural area. 

i follow a lot of mommy blogs. well, i should say, i follow a lot of blogs of women who happen to have children, usually small children, and are continually trying to rediscover who they are in the midst of rearing small lives and caring for small bodies while their own hopes, dreams, ambitions are put aside. what i like about these women is that they struggle. they wrestle with the stay-at-home parent role. they document their toddler’s screaming fits and don’t try to pretty-up a life that many of us know is covered with soggy cheerios and dirty diapers. they recognize that underneath the breastmilk-stained shirts and the unkempt hair lies a woman whose identity is something beyond motherhood, even as they stay home all day being pushed around by their little benevolent dictators. i’m inspired by these women, take comfort in their words and enjoy the glimpse into their chaotic lives that we so often miss in the filters of instagram and restoration hardware catalogues. i can only hope others take comfort in my words, even if they don’t always extol pregnancy or motherhood. and that my friends and acquaintances who don’t have children will forgive me for my absences over the past year and a half. it’s still me under here! believe me, i would give my right leg to sit in a coffeeshop with you and talk about nothing child-related. i’m still working on how to do this all well….being myself, being a mother, using my gifts and pursing my goals while caring for a sweet, spicy, clingy, independent tiny lady.

thanks for your ear. more to come.  

 

 

Self-reflection of sorts…

Neal sent me a letter last week and asked me what I’ve learned about myself since coming to l’Arche and the ways I’ve changed. Considering my infatuation with personality tests, I LOVE opportunities to self-reflect. And like most experiences that I have had, however good or bad or mundane, I always learn something else about myself, my place in the world, my faith. L’Arche is characterized as a place of growth, not just for the core members, but more often for the assistants, the non-disabled. Very few assistants pass through this place without being profoundly affected, changed by their experience. In fact, I would argue that those who can come away from “living l’Arche” without any sort of self-revelation really haven’t lived l’Arche at all. Or, they were incredibly self-knowledeable to begin with – which is rarely the case.

Anyway, here are something of the things I’ve learned (about myself, the world, community, etc) via my experience in l’Arche over the last 9 months.

1) Living in community is work. That is to say…any idealized notions regarding community one may have before entering into l’Arche are eventually replaced by the day-to-dayness of life. What we are doing is counter-cultural, so to think that living in community would be cake is rediculous. It takes time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to make a community function, to meet people’s needs, to feed, clothe, and house human beings, let alone make life both interesting and stable. Honestly, if you find community living easy and natural, then you probably aren’t living in community. There’s a difference between living under the same roof and living in community. It takes effort. And it’s worth it.

2) I have a much larger capacity to be patient than I ever thought possible. When I think back on things that would intially make me ancy or annoyed, such as waiting in line at the DMV, I have to laugh. I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly patient person before, but I realize now that this attribute can be acquired with much practice. All of our core members’ conversational styles are centered on pattern and repetition. Several times a day you will hear Fritz refer to someone’s medical crisis, his mother’s heart attack or Kevin’s seizures, despite that fact that these episodes happened years ago. And Linda has a long series of questions that she will ask you upon leaving or returning from some event, or if you are eating an apple after dinner or if you change your clothes or any other seemingly “new and different” activity taking place. And Eduardo inquires inumerous times about where people are even if he knows the answer. And Hazel, who can only articulate a few things at a time, has a tenendcy to repeat those things again and again until she feels she has gotten her point across. As one who finds it annoying to repeat herself or to here repetition of others, my patience in this area has increased (necessarily) 10 fold.

3) The stark distinction we’ve made between abled and disabled persons is a myth. I may be “normal” developmentally according to societal standards, but I have my fair share of disabilities as the next person, and the “disabled” folks whom I live with have a abilities far beyond my own. I need just as much care and support and assistance as the core members do, but not necessarily in the same areas. When I am upset, Linda is calm. When I am forgetful, Eduardo remembers. When I am lonely, Fritz is my friend. When I am tired, Hazel is full of energy. This is mutuality, the give and take that occurs in community. Where I am lacking, another is strong. This is interdependence.

4) I am more gentle and calm than I imagined. Much like my acquired patience, I seem to have acquired the ability to be calm and gentle (is there any other way to be around the core members?). In reality, our only response to the core members can be calmness and gentleness. When Eduardo’s bio-chemical state is causing his anxiety and aggression, I must react with gentleness, even when I feel like being anxious or aggressive in return. This flows into the larger understanding of peace-making as a way of life. Jesus tells us that there is no other way through conflict and hardship but with patient, persistent gentleness, turning the other cheek, responding without violence. I can talk pacifism up and down and all around, but I’ve only really begun to live it. And in the end, living peaceably is a choice, not some gift we are bestowed or something we are born with or without. We must choose to be gentle and calm in crisis, to control our anger, to love the enemy within us, to love those who hurt us. I would never have characterized myself as a peaceable person, but I can at least live it. Really, it takes practice.

5) I need friends. Not just warm bodies in a room (like most extroverts) but people who care for me and support me and people I can care for and support in return, whether they are present or scattered across the globe. I recognize that there are those individuals are perfectly content to live the rest of their lives alone, who do not prioritize their friends or family above other things, or are satisfied with limited or sporadic communication with loved-ones. But I can’t wrap my head around how or why that would be enjoyable. And because I really do value my relationships above all else, I am much more vulnerable to being hurt (which I’ve most definitely experienced this year). Devon and I were talking about how when relationships fail for us, it is the ultimate devestation. Nothing else compares to it. So letting go of friendships and relationships is very difficult for me, even if it’s for the best, even if I’m poured myself out and have received little in return. It’s like I walk around with my heart exposed, vulnerable to arrows and other assaults. It’s especially hard when others don’t realize that about myself. I’m such a sap. But in l’Arche, it really is about relationships.

I think that’s it for today.