“Hello, I’m Angie.”
Without hesitation I answered: “Hi. Please make me normal again.”
My whole body buzzed with tension. Oh whom am I kidding? It was frank anger. I wanted to get away from it all. I needed space. It was in that spirit that I rolled out my mat and waited for Angie’s instructions.
“For today’s class I want you to think of the lesson you learned during the holidays.”
Lesson? What lesson? I think back to our holidays, my first with my boyfriend and his kids. We had intended to start our own tradition with the girls, but it turned out to be a bust from the beginning. Cut your own Christmas tree fell on an 18-degree day. It only brought about complaints and wishing they were at mom’s house with the fake tree. Decorating the tree? I had elegant silver/white ornaments; the girls wanted color. Presents: we addressed their needs more than their wants. More clothes, less toys. On Christmas day, they joined us for lunch. We prepared a savory lunch; they wanted sweets. I had had it with the holidays. My lesson was to skip it altogether for next year.
“I learned that change is good,” Angie interrupted my thoughts.
Wait a minute? That’s a good one. First Christmas with a new family is a change, certainly challenging. I’ll go with that.
“Let’s start by coming to the front of the mat…”
But midway through class, as I went from tree to dancer’s pose, something happened. I inhaled, felt a drop of sweat travel down my neck, and on the exhale recited let go. I felt the tension leave. I felt stronger. That was it. Letting go was my lesson, not change. Let go of wanting to be perfect. Let go of pleasing everyone. Let go of expectations. Let go and be free. Breath by breath, drop by drop, I let go. When I did, space opened. In that space there was room for everyone. In that space, kids could be kids and complain if they needed to. And I didn’t have to take it all so seriously. Instead, I could see this new little family as a source of love not fear.
Class neared its end. Through tears, I came to seated meditation.
“I hope you are ready to face the challenges of the day ahead. Perhaps you learned to let go.”
Ah, she knew.
A friend of mine is going through divorce. It is quite the process, as some of you may know, and I have been privy to as much as she choses to share along the way. Things are a bit more complicated because they have children. Naturally, she was anxious about telling the kids when they separated. She worried about what will happen, how the relationship with her kids will enfold, what will the future bring, etc. Remarkably, though, both were committed to co-parenting great kids. Now new anxiety started over how the little ones will take it. There were lots of tears shed before she and her husband sat down with the kids.
During my phone conversations with mom I shared those concerns hoping to gain some perspective and give the right advice/feedback since I don’t have kids.
She started with how kids are more resilient than you think. The younger they are, the easier they can adapt. A couple of my friends, who had been through it, had said the same. Still, I insisted about how devastated my friend is and how she broke down when we last spoke.
The reassuring tone stopped.
“Let me ask you this. Are the kids healthy?
“Are the parents well? Healthy? Loving? Committed to being there for the kids afterwards?”
“Then darling, it’s just divorce.”
“Well, divorce was created for a reason, for people who are at a point where they can’t live together any longer. People lost their sons in the war. Remember the massive earthquake? Think of all the kids whose parents died in the earthquake. And you know what? Even after all those tragedies, lives went on. Your friend, her husband, and their children are alive and well. It’s just divorce.”
Ha. Where was that sentence when I was going through divorce?
Mom doesn’t have too many requirements, just no black mugs. I pour her tea in a white mug and come to the table for our last breakfast of her trip together. Time flew by and I am feeling heavy in the heart that she is leaving.
She looks out the window and remembers how during one of her trips in Iran she saw the moon on one side of the road and the rising sun on the other.
I smile but mom sees through me.
“When I’m feeling down, I try to think about upcoming plans,” she says. “What’s the sense of being sad. I think about making the house beautiful. Maybe put a candle on the table. I think about what I can do for others. One of my plans for next Ramadan is to donate food to a mosque for the needy. But my big project with your father is to build a library in a village north of Iran. Dad wants to do something to keep the young kids out of trouble, like a sport center, but I think the library is easier to accomplish.” She starts drawing a square. “All you need is four walls with a ceiling. The village carpenters can then build bookshelves and a desk. That’s it. I will do the work of getting book donations.”
By now I’m too busy admiring my parents than feeling heavy. That’s the beauty of generosity. You move beyond yourself.
She goes on:
“If everyone does a small act for others, the world becomes heaven. When you have the means, help the ones around you, your family, friends, and then just expand the circle. Don’t discount people because they don’t have the same beliefs as you.” She quotes her favorite saying by a Persian sufi, Sheikh Abol Hassan Kharaghani:
“To any soul who walks on the earth, give bread and don’t ask of his faith, for he who in the eyes of the divine is worthy of breath, is in this world undoubtedly worthy of bread.”
I nod, this time with a genuine smile.
Those of you who read my posts regularly know my mom’s ability to see the positive in every situation. If not, read Not So Foxy Lady or A Message From the Universe. She is arriving in the U.S today and I thought of doing a special project. Those of you who have issues and feel stuck please post it and we’ll have mom tackle it.
Let’s have some fun with mom.
This brush with Sandy reminded me of another mom story.
I grew up hearing things like: If you play with matches, you’ll wet the bed; or after you sneeze you should stop what you are doing and say the equivalent of seven hail Mary’s (Muslims say peace be upon Mohammad), before resuming whatever it is you were doing. Now add to that the years of residency. Doctors are like athletes. Very superstitious. As a result I have a habit of connecting totally unrelated matters with a high degree of certainty.
About a year and a half ago I was dating someone and was still in the evaluation stage, a bit uncertain. One night, as one of the storm chicks: Bonnie, Julia or Irene, was roaring thunder and throwing needles of rain at the windows in a blast of fury, we (the gentleman caller and yours truly) were making plans for a future rendezvous. All of a sudden a loud bang shot me up from my chair. Then everything went dark and the phone silent. This sound was different than a thunder. In the dark I walked to the balcony and opened the door. Pine tree branches popped into the living room. Christ almighty. Another treetop? You see, Mother Nature had graced me with the first one years ago, when I had just started college. She decided to throw the top of a tree on my Toyota tercel (well technically mom’s) while I was driving to school in a storm.
I pushed the branches back out and shut the door. In the morning I went to explore the situation. The double trunk tree that the previous owner of this house had called “love tree,” that my ex and I had inherited in a fit of sentimentality, now had one trunk. The other had fallen down, making a hole in our former TV-room, its top branches on the balcony. After shedding a few tears just out of helplessness and needing some time to digest the disaster, I got in my car and drove away, probably to the gym.
Naturally, I called mom to give her the big news.
“Ma. I think this is a message from the universe. Maybe I shouldn’t be dating this man.” It never occurred to me that the tree once belonged to another couple. Perhaps they were in trouble? No sir. This was my message.
Mom listened carefully, then answered: “Well or maybe the universe has another message for you.”
“What other message?”
“What was the tree that got hit? The couple-tree, love-tree, right? The one of you and your ex.”
“What room did it ruin?”
“Where he spent most of his time, right?”
“Well darling, then the message is clear. The universe just put an end to that relationship. It’s telling you to move on. Now go plan your date and have a good time, will you? You are not getting any younger.”
A couple of weeks ago, one day, I decided to walk to the library instead of going to the gym. It’s about four miles each day. I figured a nice nature walk would do me good. I almost always leave in and out of the garage door, except on rare occasions when I go for walks.
On the way back I walked to my front door to find something under the porch. It had removed the lattice wood part to get there. On close inspection I realized whatever it was, it was not alive. I leaped over all three steps onto my now half-stained porch, opened the door and jumped in feeling creepy crawlers on my skin. “Ew…Oh my God. I’ve become that person. Locked in the house and surrounded by dead animals.” Is there even such a that person? I started hopping from one leg to another, shrieking out loud. You understand this wasn’t just a matter of being grossed out. There was an element of how could this happen to me involved. I briefly toyed with the idea of gloving up and retrieving the creature, but that meant feeling a corpse. I’m not that brave. Besides it could have rabies.
I called our town hall. They referred me to animal control. If there’s a stereotypical terrified Middle Eastern woman image, it was here, full blast. My conversation with the woman went like this: “Hi. Um…” And then a high-pitched blabber. The woman tried to get more information.
“What kind of animal is it?”
“I don’t know. It’s long. It’s dead. I don’ know what to do. What am I supposed to do? Can you come get it?”
Before long she sent a boy in his twenties. He quickly looked at the creature and diagnosed it to be a fox. Probably the same fox that had represented nature to my urban mind before, and sent me running for my camera to capture its beauty. Now beauty my arse. Get this nature representative away from me.
To be polite, I decided to go step outside (I couldn’t carry all the conversation from behind the glass door). Out I went, jumping the three steps and kept walking until I reached a safe distance, about fifteen feet away from him.
The man pulled the fox out, placed it on the grass, examined it, then put it in a bag.
I stood there internally Oh Godding.
What was with all the sensitivity act? Hadn’t I seen death during residency?
He finished up, put back my broken fence with the same damn gloves.
“Thank you sir. What else do I have to do as it related to this thing?“ Fumigation? Vaccination? Ew.
He looked at me with amazement.
“Nothing ma’am.” Chill.
I thanked him and walked inside all nauseous. Ok maybe even hyperventilating a little.
By that evening, in the way little kids run to their parents for sympathy, I emailed mom for a compassionate word hug. I told her all about the the dead fox under my house and waited for a supportive email back. You know what she said?
“Well darling, you could have used its fur for a shawl.”
See that’s my mother. Where others see negative, she artfully finds a positive angle. Here’s a new version of, “when life gives you lemon make lemonade.” When life gives you a dead fox make a fur shawl.