Children

High Longing Time

We tumble along. One million two hundred nine thousand six hundred seconds since your last crossing of this threshold. You drag laces, one sneaker tied, loops as big as elephant ears. The solar-powered calculator in your hands breeds digits, times 24 times 60 times 60 again, weeks days hours to the tick-tick of your lengthening hair and harried length, stretching past the Sharpie scratch on the wall from your birthday just yesterday or so it seems.
 
Seams licking ankles, cuffs crawling up shins. These soft sweats kissed the carpet last winter. Before that, they would have swaddled you like the arms of giants. You are barely mine now and I keep losing my grip on the serrated edge of knowing you never were.
 
You ask who is heavier, who is taller, who has burped the most. I tell you it’s all me now but you’re catching up quick and so you pop off about two dozen rounds of air-bubbles from your well-honed esophagus. If I could believe in fate enough to beg its mercy, the height discrepancy may see-saw into its new alignment in due course.
 
I help you with the other shoe and touch my head to your chest. You let me do this and I imagine I can discern heartbeat under shirt, skin, wiggle. “Before you know it, baby, it’s going to be like this. You’ll go to hug your mama and I’ll be here looking up at you.” You grin and something like a chuckle rumbles and I catch the hot flicker of victory in your eyes.
 
Too soon, boy. This autonomy you so crave will come galloping at you and you will burst like the nascent tumescence fidgeting in Jack’s beans. You will spill out and unbend and rise to scrape the hot gas line threaded along the underbelly of the sky, soaking yourself in propellant and peril. Then, like the rest of us, you will swing your head around in big-eyed bafflement and search the crowds and corridors for a guidebook, a teacher, and elder, a guru. A fire extinguisher at least. And if you have not learned to temper your hunger and trust your own haphazard attempts at choice, you may find exactly what you seek.
 
This, if you care to heed my feeble warnings:
 
Watch out for love-bombs. Straight lines. Icons and iconoclasts. Listen to prophets with only one ear. Hold the lover with only one hand. Sniff with at least one half of your sixth sense the air around the champions. Shape the words to name what you smell.
 
Beware recruiters and their recruits, the faithful and faithless, backwoods zealots and penthouse swagger. Give a wide berth to anyone who woos death. Check the ink on any gospel. If it doesn’t smear, protect your flank.
 
Question most that beat synced so truly to your own.
 
All of these will have you for the small price of one fraction of your mind. After a trial period, the rest will be drawn down in monthly installments. You may forget to read the fine print. It happens to all of us.
 
Try anyway.
 
Do not cull the breadth of your head. Do not shave a hair from your longing.
 
Don’t be fooled.
 
Or do.
 
Don’t listen to me.
 
Or do.
 
You rise as you fall and the other way around too. Even now, I cannot catch you, even as I stand on my knees with my forehead brushing your chin.
 
I cannot, but I will stay here. As long as you need me to, I will pretend.
 

Change

Small Act

In the office next door, a co-worker is hammering at the walls. New art is going up. She strolls along the hallway glancing into our offices, gathering ideas. “I just want to do something about this big space,” she says. “It isn’t inviting.”
 
Another co-worker tells me that she left a plate in the sink last night. Unlike me (or just about anyone I know), her challenge is to become more messy instead of less. She has a tendency to put things like sleep further down the list than, say, dusting her bookcase. “And you know what else?” She smiles. “My husband took his shoes off in the hallway, and I just left them there.”
 
It is the last day of January. The New Year is well behind us along with most of the resolutions. Tomorrow morning, treadmills around the world will stand in blinking perplexity at their sudden abandonment. Thousands of just-started screenplays will languish on bedside tables. We return to our familiar selves.
 
Despite this tendency to regress, just about everyone around here is making improvements. Arriving on time, looking up bios of therapists, sending thank-you notes. Marathon training may have fallen off, but one friend actually does bring her own re-usable grocery bags now every day.
 
Sweeping transformations rarely take. Folks create a little more rightness in their lives one simple step at a time. It is the small act, trained into practice, that becomes the way we are.
 
I had fun doing a little research on habit formation recently. The piece I wrote on the topic is up on my department’s website here:
 
Habits in Training: Six Tips for a New Year
 
Hang a picture, hug a friend. The official start of 2013 is behind us. The real New begins right here.
 

Uncategorized

Happy 100 Days: We the Undersigned

Whereas
in 100 days we will say good
night to this year. We will rise in the dark
January morning to a new
beginning.
 
Whereas
I do not remember
my resolution when this year began. I probably did not
find the courage to make one.
This morning,
the cool light of the equinox
returned it to me.
 
This is my contract
With Joy.
 
The agreement is made and takes effect on September 23, 2012 between myself, hereafter known as “first party” and the creative juice of the universe, hereafter known as “second party.”
 
The provisions of this agreement are as follows:
 
During her tenure, the first party will
Stay alive
stay awake
trust her gut.
Greet her sadness
before letting it blow past,
shake hands with anger
then release her grip.
 
The first party commits
to noticing one beautiful thing
for every one that brings her sorrow,
watching her step
for quicksand
and seeking a way
around.
 
Her service requires
smiling
when her face has forgotten how
glancing at the moon
when she would rather stay blind
speaking gently to herself
as if she already is the woman
she is becoming.
 
The term of this agreement is 100 days and shall be open for re-negotiation on January 1, 2013.
During the aforementioned term, the first party commits to choosing a minimum of 100 moments of happiness.
Each one, a pause:
She will submit a record of one each day
in writing
and when possible, speak
her gratitude for it.
 
For services rendered by the first party,
the second party,
maker of joy, will take care of the quality
of the goods
and the timing
of the deliverables.
The second party provides non-payroll benefits in the form of insurance
against despair.
 
Documentation of service will take the form
of punching the clock and ticking
the box.
One glimpse of beauty each day, a promise
small yet signed in a scratch
of autumn light at this, the first of the last of the year
in which two parties give
over
to a single promise
of renewal.