Joy: The Mess & The Music

Any excuse to look at something pretty. http://wallpaperswide.com/pebbles_4-wallpapers.html

Any excuse to look at something pretty. http://wallpaperswide.com/pebbles_4-wallpapers.html

Life has been emotionally overwhelming lately, so this post is a series of random free associations with (mostly) a theme. Maybe it will work best if you think of them like little stones you can tuck in your pocket, skip across the water, or nudge with your toe. (Ok, that was kind of rose-colored and presumptive, huh? Maybe these musings are more like rocks in your shoes. Yesterday while I waited for the elevator at the doctor, I realized my left foot hurt and dumped out my shoe to find…dry cat food…which, as it turns out, feels like rocks when it’s been placed, in large amounts, in your shoes by a toddler. But I digress.)

Revisiting the Mess(ability)

Last month, I said I wasn’t sure I could be a good parent in a messy house.

Thank goodness for a person’s right to change her mind.

My toddler daughter and I spent the better part of an hour simultaneously building a fort in the living room and dismantling it in a hilarious game of flop-and-dive. We were having so much fun, we started laughing…full-body uproarious laughter. I laughed so hard I literally did cry, and while I was sobbing I looked at the amazing chaos of our small living room and thought:

Maybe I CAN be a good parent in a messy house (some of the time).

Because if mess equals freedom to play, and freedom equals a space to be joyfully yourself — your whole, messy, flop-and-dive self — then the mess is not just okay, but necessary. Maybe the space to play wholeheartedly, without worrying about making a mess, is something good I can give my daughter.

Whoa.

Found at LunaGuitars

Found at LunaGuitars

Music Education & Doing it Badly

Tonight I went to Parent Education Night at Music Together, a musical immersion class that my daughter and I are enjoying this semester.

Here are a few musical facts:

FACT #1. I LOVE music. Not just a little. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I am always singing or humming or making up new kid-friendly words to some inappropriate tune (SuperFuss to the tune of SuperFreak, for example).

I discovered the magic of transition songs, so now I have scientific proof (or a Waldorf blessing, which might be stronger) that my incessant warbling is helpful. My 18-month-old and I sing our way to and from naptime, dressing, changing diapers, making breakfast, feeding the cats, leaving the house.

And.

FACT #2. I struggle to sing in tune. I struggle to clap in rhythm. Of my three sisters, I am the only one who has not sung in public, led worship, or had a solo. I have been told (more than once) that I am off key.

(Secretly, I have longed to sing in a choir — any choir — since I belted out “Turn on Your Heartlight” during third grade music assembly at Elmhurst Elementary School. Don’t tell anyone.)

So at the end of Parent Education Night, I turned to the very nice teacher next to me (not my regular teacher, no accountability – ha!) and asked if it really was true that I won’t ruin my daughter’s musical ability by constantly singing to her off key.

Vanessa (God bless you, Vanessa) answered me in the most wonderful way.

She said: well, if you wanted to teach your kid baseball, would you sit them down in front of a pro game? Or would you go out in the backyard and pitch the ball?

Ohhhh, right, that not-doing-it-perfectly-thing. I forgot.

In fact, Vanessa says that the MOST important thing is what I model for my daughter about music. Do I show her that making music is scary or fun? Intimidating or joyful? Open to everyone or only for the perfectly performing few?

Got it. HOORAY!

I sang all the way home, warbling joyfully.

Music as Spiritual Nourishment

Warbling in the car, I was reminded of my childhood friend and momrade, Shannon Friedman, who in this very wise comment, shared that one of her irreplaceable gifts to her son is music. She spends hours finding songs that will nurture her son’s spirit, his body-heart-mind-soul.

I realized that I love music, in large part, because it is my spiritual root. Music is my way in to knowing myself as beloved, as created-by-Love, as made-of-stardust. Even before I could pronounce the words, humming along as my mother sang in church and lit the candles on the Advent wreath was my introduction to the Holy, to Awe and Mystery.

I’m not as intentional as my friend Shannon in giving this gift to my daughter, but I could be. Music of all kinds can nourish our spirit, our soul. I was reminded of this by our dear friends, my daughter’s godparents, who gave us a bunch of CDs recently. I play them every day on the stereo in the kitchen.

Rocks on Manzanita beach

Rocks on Manzanita beach

Maybe Joy Is Where It’s At

I wonder if the theme in all of this musing about mess and music is Joy.

Joy is when the mess makes sense.

Joy is when the music doesn’t need to be on key.

Joy is the heart of the lesson, the best I can bring to this emotionally overwhelming toddler time of life.

HOORAY AGAIN! What a relief. Because while I struggle painfully with happy (such hard work, navigating disappointments and expectations), I’ve got joy.

In fact, I’m just now remembering that I wrote a song about joy. During my first year of graduate school in January 2009, I walked along the coast under a winter sun. I watched the river tumbling rocks on their way to the sea. Freezing cold and exhilarated, I sang:

Sing for joy, O my soul
Leap for joy, O my soul
Sing for joy, Leap for joy
Leap for joy, O my soul

The river’s wide, O my soul
The river’s wild, O my soul
Wild and wide, the river flows
The river flows, O my soul

God is wide, O my soul
God is wild, O my soul
Wild and wide, God is light
God is light, O my soul

The river’s joy, O my soul
God is joy, O my soul
You are joy, You are joy
You are joy, O my soul

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So, how’s the music (and the mess) at your house?

 

P.S. After writing this, I noticed that warbling home in the car after Parent Ed Night was a “Perfect Moment Monday” (yes, today is technically Tuesday, but details, details…whatever). Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Everyone is welcome to join. Peruse more perfect moments on Lori’s blog or add your own.

 

What I *Really* Want for Christmas

It’s late and I can’t sleep. Having just survived The Great Puke Apocalypse of 2013, I’m worried about the next few days. How am I going to make it through the rounds of holiday festivities and a week-long visit from my mother-in-law? I don’t feel prepared. I’m behind on everything, and the house…oh the house.

I’ve been working lately on trying to recognize and name my needs. I need a tidy house. This is hard to admit, because some part of my brain scoffs loudly and says that when you become a parent you abdicate any right to non-sticky floors or clean (let alone folded) dish towels (that you can actually find because they are in a drawer instead of toddler-tucked in with the pots and pans or tupperware).

NOT our tree. This is a stock image (c) Ursula Klawitter/zefa/Corbis

NOT our tree. This is a stock image (c) Ursula Klawitter/zefa/Corbis

But…I know it is a need (rather than a nice-to-have) because of the small flame of fury that leaps in my belly when I notice week-old banana mush congealed to the arm of the high chair. I tell myself: this isn’t a health hazard. It’s just disgusting. LET IT GO. But oh that flame, oh that fury.

It is hard to be all ho-ho-ho and welcome-friends in this condition. Plus: PMS. Plus: did I mention…Puke Apocalypse? And the tree fell over? TWICE. Broken glass ornaments and a sopping wet area rug. Also, we are out of cat food.

All of that is just (kind of) funny. Here’s the hard part: I am actually not sure I can be a good parent in a messy house. It is akin to sleep deprivation. I am irritable, because I’m not getting what I need, and furious, because I resent the need in the first place. All these other wise mothers on the internet, they have messy houses, and they aren’t about to snap. What’s wrong with me?

Ok, but that’s an awfully judgmental question, right?

So maybe I can ask, with curiosity rather than shame, why? Why do I need a tidy house?

The answer came fast and just took my breath away.

To be loved.

Because if I am too messy, then I am not lovable. If I am messy, you will be mad and might hurt me.

I have proof of this, I do. So many memories, from childhood. (No, I’m not sharing, you’ll just have to trust me.)

But I’m not a child any more.

The people in my life now – my wife, close friends, my sister – they don’t care how messy or disgusting my house might be. I know this because they say so, and they act so.

So it suddenly occurs to me that there might be a different way, a new way, that I might help myself survive the week ahead. Instead of making detailed lists, breaking my back to clean, and then feeling guilty because I neglect my daughter in choosing mopping over cookie baking and storytime, I could experiment with telling myself: Elizabeth, your house is a mess AND you are lovable.

In fact, you are messy and lovable.
You talk a lot and are lovable.
You obsess over details and are lovable.
You sing off-key and are lovable.
You ___________ and are lovable.

I just practiced saying these things out loud, and it feels really different…in a good way.

In fact, it feels a little like a miracle, like an incredible gift I just gave myself. Maybe THIS is what that whole return-of-the-light-holiday-magic-God-come-to-earth-thing is all about. Loving and being loved. Just as we are. Just as we — this minute, right now, without any clean-up — are. Lovable. Loved.

Oh I hope so.

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How are you lovable? Tell me!

Perfectly Crazy

Candy Sticks at QCandy.com

Candy Sticks at QCandy.com

I didn’t intend to write a “perfect moment” post this month. Now if it was a “perfectly crazy moment” then OF COURSE I could participate. Because I have had so many of those lately, selecting one would be like choosing your favorite flavor of old-fashioned striped candy stick, only a lot less sweet, and slightly disturbing. In fact, I think that’s as close as I want to get to describing my crazy moments other than to say: Hormones matter, folks. A LOT. And when you mess with them everything goes from ok-I-can-do-this to OH-MY-GOD-WE’RE-ALL-GONNA-DIE faster than you can say Clomid.

Ahem.

But it turns out I DO have a perfect moment post. It took my people — you — to help me find it. I posted what, at the time, seemed to be a help-I’m-failing-at-this-parenting-thing-will-you-hold-my-hand post on facebook and…well, darn it, the people who love me turned it into a CELEBRATION. A celebration of me and my mamahood. It made me four dozen candy stripe flavors of grateful.

So, thank to you, here’s my perfect moment:

“Every year the holidays are a huge struggle for me. I WANT to relax and enjoy what matters most: family and friends….but I also want a sparkly house, thoughtful gifts, and now that I’m a mom, to make the holidays magical for our amazing daughter. So my wife and I adopted a new mantra this year: Follow the Joy, which translated means, do what you love and don’t do what you don’t love. I am trying friends, really I am.

But it is hard to clean a house while chasing after a toddler tornado who is an expert at food messes and the redistribution of EVERYTHING. It is also very hard to grocery shop with someone who insists on walking, toddler speed, through a store full of busy, anxious people.

So today I finally surrendered. My house is a wreck, the laundry is in a heap on the stairs, half the groceries aren’t put away. But I just spent an hour playing with an empty to-go coffee cup with the girl. It was so much fun learning how to put the lid on. And off. And on. And off. And on. And off. Because I want our daughter to remember a Mutti who was present and loving and played WITH her, not cleaned around her and shopped in spite of her. It is so hard but I am trying.”

And here’s some of what I received in response:

“Awesome choice.”

“What a good Mutti”

“I struggle I the same way…”

“Big parenting win. Way to go!”

“You are wonderful. You will not regret the time you spend with your child.”

“Although, I have to say that when I look back, there really are some times when I wished I had cleaned the floors instead of going out and playing ball with my now-grown sons–okay: I can’t even finish that one. I’m laughing too hard…”

The kicker is that I really DO NOT do well when my living environment crosses the threshold of okay-messy into panic-messy. It isn’t about being ready for company or impressing people. It is about my own need for internal calm and that illusion of order in the midst of chaos without which I would lose all hope. Hope for living. So you understand..the stakes are high.

So I did clean my house later that day, after that perfect moment with my daughter. I HAD to. For my own sake of holding on to hope-for-living.

But you know what was awesome? When order was restored and the clawing panic in my throat abated and I laid in bed that night mentally rehearsing the food prep order for Thanksgiving, what I returned to again and again was…

that moment with my daughter.

THOSE PEOPLE WERE RIGHT.

They were right when they said: “The mess you will always have with you. The young daughter you will not.”

So, yeah, I’ll always have my own brand of crazy. But sometimes, in a rare moment of undeserved, abundant grace, I will choose wisely. And if I am especially lucky, this community of people who live down the street and across town and in the next city and thousands of miles away — you — will help me to recognize and claim it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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This is a Perfect Moment Monday post inspired by Lori Lavender Luz. Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between. On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Read more perfect moments on the blog hop.