Saturday, 5 August 2017

What I want my kids to know as they grow

I am going into surgery for a hysterectomy in a few days. Being the intelligent enough, rationale enough, and calm enough adult I am, of course, completely terrified. So what follows is my ‘in case I die’ letter. Humour me. Or don’t and just stop reading now and save yourself all the eye rolling and tongue clicking. It’s up to you. I know it’s going to be fine but I’d like to leave something in case it’s not, and it’s never a bad time to say important things to people you care about. It’s never a bad time to take stock things you’d like to share. It’s never a bad time to sum up the blessings of one’s life. It’s never ever a bad time to say “I love you”. I’m not so deluded or morbid to write everyone I’ve ever met a million good bye letters (actually I am but I’m also too tired and too lazy). But I’ve got 1 in me. This 1 is for my sons.

There is much I have yet to learn and figure out. But I have learned a bit in my life. I want my boys to know these things …. Or at least hear them. What they do with these observations is up to them. Since they were born I have whispered this prayer to the Universe. “Thank you for my children. May they live long, mostly healthy lives. Let them find love. Let them be happy. Let them be good people.” The thought of not witnessing their journey to ‘adulthood’ (whatever that means) pains me beyond words. But if they were to finish growing up without me I would want them to consider these things and be self aware enough to ask important questions of them selves.

Keep your needs and wants in balance. In this world, NO ONE should go without what they need but many do because so many can never get enough of what they want. And we are all complicit in this truth. I have endeavoured to never be a person of great exorbitance. It’s ok to want things. But just be aware that the world will never run out of things to desire. Never. The cup of acquisitiveness can never be filled. Like most things in life those cups just keep growing larger. Insatiably larger. And pursuing the perpetual filling of that cup can often push other cups aside; cups like love, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and human relationships may all get dwarfed. It is my belief that no one has ever found happiness trying to fill this cup. In fact it is my belief that striving to keep this cup as small as you are able is a key factor for happiness. I want you to remember that I was gleefully happy with a smooth flowing pen and a brand new notebook to fill, a sun warmed shore rock in my hand (only to hold not to keep), a bracelet made of smooth glass beads, or a colourful pair of chucks.

Admire ambition. We’re all different. The path of fulfillment is different for everyone. Everyone has cups they want to grow and fill: achievement, mastery, education, discovery, travel, experiences, invention, leadership, even power (if benevolent). People who have the grit to know what they want from life and go after it are strong. It takes focus, self discipline, imagination, tenacity. Most of us lose our way. I lost my way. Or maybe didn’t lose it but found a more ambling path and decided I enjoyed existence. But I wish for my kids ambition …. Not blinding but measured, not greedy but passionate. Just be mindful that your goals should not take away from others, you must act in good faith with your humanity, you must not be so focused that you sacrifice your relationships, and you must make good friends with failure so that it never shatters but teaches you. Lastly, tie your ambitions to your sense of purpose to rise above materialism and selfishness. I think maybe that’s the trick. And if you end up more like your parents (without much raw ambition) then do your best to not fall into the traps of laziness, purposelessness, resentment, and apathy. It’s ok to find purpose in living a simple life filled with work, joy, family, friends, service, curiosity, and gentleness. I think some of the most admirable people live quiet lives as good people and simple wishes. That’s admirable too. Just be as YOU as YOU can be without hurting others. You will fail sometimes because we all do, just be as true to you as you can.

Be kind when you can and stand for kindness when you can’t. I struggle with this all the time. The world often feels divided into 2 camps. Those who think that powerful, cold, ruthless, controlling people are strong. And those who feel that generous, caring, thoughtful, inclusive people are strong. I believe it takes much greater strength to be kind. I hope you do too. It’s the harder path to walk though. Pettiness, resentment, discouragement, exhaustion, longing, greed, frustration, anger will shriek in the back of your head all the time ….. acknowledge those voices and then do your best to let them go. I have so much trouble with those feelings, those voices, it often takes all the strength I have. But striving to be the person I want to be keeps me going. I’m not there yet. Call it my life’s work …. And I think it makes me strong to try to be kind. Just remember that kind doesn’t mean passive and apathetic. Sometimes you must be a real asshole to stand up for kindness. Human rights and true global human equality through knowledge, science, and education don’t require kindness to defend and advance, they require standing for kindness. Let’s call it “active kindness”. Do your best to be actively kind.

Be curious. Never lose that. Please. Never stop wondering. Please. Let imagination and creativity and inquisitiveness always be the spark in your eyes.

For starters learn the fucking difference between socialism and communism. Holy shit. Please. In my opinion, it’s not wrong to believe society should be built around “we” and not “I” at it’s basic level and then make room for personal freedoms, personal success, and individuality. People who say the word “socialist” as an insult need your wisdom and a diagram of how the political spectrum and compass works. Sigh. Talking people down from ideological viewpoints and into real issues is exhausting. Just do your best.

Volunteer. Engage. You should do your best to walk the Earth in gratitude and you act on that through service. You don’t have to do everything. Just do something. My Grandmother said “many hands make light work” and it’s true. It is also true that no one person can change the world but a few people can change a corner of it.

Vote. Vote with your heart and your head in concert. It’s going to break your heart and tax your reason but remember to stay engaged. I hope you’ll follow a good and thoughtful leader with no answers before a disingenuous and affected leader with promises.  And if you find the courage and desire to run for office then know I think you are among the bravest humans on Earth. People who run for political office to serve the greater good are truly abused and underappreciated in our world. We have built a political climate so cruel and invasive that the only people who can survive it have no soul ….. and then we wonder why most of our politicians seem soulless. Sigh

Laugh. As often as you can. Laughter humanizes. Laughter heals. Laughter is contagious. Fake laughter can become real so fake it until you make it when the world is hurting you. Find the funny in life because life is really funny.

Weave yourself into the lives of others. Interpersonal connections with others create a net that holds you together when you fall apart and catches you when you fall. And you do that for others too. It also creates the fabric of a life fully lived. The people you love, like, laugh with, celebrate with, problem solve with, create with, grieve with, grow with, ‘be’ with, are life’s greatest treasures.

Pack joy into the everyday. Make it a priority. My Mom always says “don’t wish your life away”. Don’t wait for special occasions or trips or achievements to be happy. Make contented happiness as essential as air. Life will throw you things that make that impossible sometimes. But if life leaves you breathing then hang on to joy as an irrefutable part of it. If happiness is a choice then choose happy. It’s not as simple as that except maybe it is. I’m still trying to figure that out.

Find love and take care of it. Love is alive and it needs to be nurtured. Value it. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Grow it. And let it go if it is lost or irreparably breaks and then believe in it again. Your Dad is the best partner I could ever dream of. He’s my best friend. He’s my courage. He’s my strength. He’s my reality check. He’s my comfort. I hope we make each other better people. I know we make each other happy a lot of the time. After 25 years he’s still the jam in my peanut butter sandwich. If you can, find that.

Know that you are the best thing I’ve ever done. And I was never the Mother I hoped to be. Never even close. I was just the Mother I was. I hope it was enough. You are amazing people and growing more amazing everyday. If I was a composer then you two would be my Magnum Opus. If I was a painter you two would be my Masterpieces. I am a Mother and you are the favourite and best thing I’ve ever done. I love you more than you could ever ever know, or at least until (if you choose to) you have children of your own. I love you with a kind of anxious hurt I can’t describe. I want so much for you. But mostly I wish for you to be good, kind, happy people. I wish for you health and happiness. I wish for you purpose and friendship. I wish for you love. But I loved you first. I am your Mother and I love you ‘bigger than the Universe’, ‘bigger than the stars’, ‘bigger than forever’. I love you to infinity …… and then just a bit more than that.

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