Lately I’m stuck on a phrase that isn’t helping me. Have you heard of the idea that we are making it up as we go along? We are making it up as we go along.
We are making the coffee and toasting the bread and waking the offspring.
It is winter time.
Given a day off, I sleep until 9 am.
I keep pulling one book off my shelf with this title on its spine: The Anatomy of Hope.
I need to practice hope like it is a yoga practice that can’t be forgotten just because everyone needs me to be me today.
How do you practice hope? How do I not get stuck thinking I’m making it all up as I go along and today I don’t want to do what I get to do? Which is figure out how to be 45 and watch an 8th grader make her way into high school and sit next to an 11-year-old who finally has latched onto her independence just as her body grows taller than my chin height. While tending to a marriage and being a friend to some while letting other relationships slide away for now.
To be truthful, I don’t always makes the coffee. Most often, my husband makes the coffee. And making coffee with an automatic coffee machine is so easy I don’t even need the word stupendously in front of it.
Still, I think about my co-author of a self-help book (that we never published) telling me we need to continually refresh our spiritual practices that give us sustenance.
Writing is one of my spiritual practices. And the poetry retreat I attended recently kick-started that. My work life (at ParentMap.com and elsewhere) is going well. That is not an active sentence. Let me compliment myself actively. I write a new column called Parent Fuel. Last year I edited a fabulous column every month called Ask the Experts. This may all sound like a pat-on-the-back tangent, but it’s not. Today my writing practice showed my hope. I interviewed someone who is doing hopeful work. It was a reminder that all of us are doing hopeful work every time we step out of our way to be kind to someone or to help another person. Hope is as simple as that.
Hope is as simple as picking up The Anatomy of Hope this morning and flipping to a page I had turned over when I read it years ago. In this chapter, the author Jerome Groopman, MD, wrote about his own journey back to being physically active, how he didn’t believe he would return to good health but someone convinced him to try, to find hope. I think of how much I want to run, how I keep telling myself it won’t happen, I’m not dishing out money to go get fixed. Ah, but I do run, small sprints we when are hiking. I am going to yoga again. We have a new bed and I am less sore. I don’t need a miracle fix and even now, when I say I’m not running, I still sometimes run and I don’t fall over in excruciating pain when I do run.
Sometimes I think the 40s bring us so many difficulties that I tend to think negatively. That I can’t make it up as I go along today, that I don’t have what I need. All I need is to stop thinking that I am making it up as I go along all by myself. That teen almost ready for high school offers me big hugs sometimes when she can see anxiety start to spread on my face. No, she’s not responsible for me. Yet this part where she sees me with love is a learning moment for me. Accept the love, I say to myself, and we hug. A writer I only know via emails and social media tells me she sometimes is writing for me (Nancy) when she is writing. She is an invisible thread in a beautiful shawl that sustains me even as I feel so alone. I am not alone.
Which brings me to some words from Rilke that I once memorized. I pulled them out this week, and ahh, there’s the balm I need. Repeating just some of this poem reminds me that I am not alone making it up as I go along. I am with my people, near and far, alive and not alive, walking into the future right now. I hope you feel that rope underneath you today, too.
I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
to make every moment holy.
I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough
just to lie before you like a thing,
shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action;
and in those quiet, sometimes hardly moving times,
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body,
and I never want to be blind, or to be too old
to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
and I want my grasp of things to be
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the wildest storm of all.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God