Love grows

When I got a brief text message from North Carolina late one hot mid- July night in 2005 that read simply “9 pounds 5 ounces” I felt my heart grow in a way that I never experienced before.  Two years and three months later, five years ago today, in that same hospital from where that summer text was sent, I watched a swaddled newborn be carried like a football down a long hall to the nursery, and felt my heart grow in a way that I never experienced before. Before the birth of wee-one #2, who is lovingly referred to as “Bug” I was afraid, truly, as to how I am supposed to love more than one grandbaby and thought often, “how can I possibly love another child like I love this one?” (meaning wee-one #1 who is lovingly referred to as Sweet-Ti) and having had only one child of my own, the way the heart grows when it gets full was confusing to me…OR I guess it could be better stated that I did not realize that the heart is nothing at all like the stomach, which on Thanksgiving for example,  gets so filled that you can’t possibly imagine putting anything else in it…I have learned, through the births of the daughters of my only daughter, that the heart just expands and fills and swells and does not get stuffed, that you can’t over-fill it.

I used to say, after the birth of Sweet-Ti, that I had no idea how much love I had inside of me until she came into this world.  I just could not believe how much I could treasure this human who was not mine.  I thought I loved my daughter, but the love that I felt for her daughter when she arrived in 2005, just boggled my already often boggled mind.  When my daughter and son-in-law told me a year and a half later that they were having another baby, I was really perplexed as to how on earth am I supposed to do this???  LOVE another one…

The first morning with wee-one #2 at home (I went down to North Carolina this time too to help)  I had awakened to give her her early morning feeding so my daughter and son-in-law could sleep, and I was on the couch holding her, watching her eyes dart around under her droopy eyelids and feeling her little body sigh with contentment with a satisfied belly, and wee-one #1 got out of bed and sat beside me, and I reached for her with my free arm and there I sat, holding all that love and I realized suddenly that I did in fact have enough love inside of me for them both.  It was like a miracle.  I had no idea I could do THAT.

When their family decided they wanted to be in NJ and moved back from NC I knew my life would never be the same.  I was prepared to be a hands-on single Nana.  I seldom call either one by their given names.  I hear their laughter through the woods between our homes and they are in and out of my house as if it were just an extension of their own.  To be so in love with my neighbors is a most beautiful thing.  Now my heart is full in a way I never ever dreamed it could be…I not only have the daughters of my daughter occupying much of my heart but I now have the daughter of the man I love as well.  I often was told during my life that I was cold and distant but somehow this cold and distant woman has found herself hopelessly devoted to little girls who are not her own.  Love grows, in wonderous ways…

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It’s just a house

I’ve heard people say that, about where they live, and I guess for some it is just four walls.  To be clear, mine is just a rectangle with a bright silver roof, plywood siding, painted sheetrock walls…nothing “special” by most people’s standards…but I know what this rectangle means to me.  Four years ago today I got a building permit and three years ago today I got my certificate of occupancy.  Exactly one year, of working here every morning before work and every night after work, doing whatever needed to be done that I did not sub out.

I bought a big fat Sharpie marker and wrote myself loving notes and blessings during construction…on the sheathing, on the sub-floor, on the joists, on the rafters…I designed the plot plan, I pounded nails, I wired a few outlets, I installed walnut floorboards, I learned how to do custom trim, hung doors, drilled hole after hole after hole to run speaker wire, and stained all 84 boards that became my siding and hundreds of feet of pine and cedar boards that became my trim and fascia…there are too many tasks to name when you write about building a house from scratch.  Some nights it was just hours of sweeping nails and sawdust.  Some nights it was music blasting while caulking baseboards.  Some days I realized that I had used more power tools that day than most women ever use in their lifetime.  Day after day and night after night I watched as my vision came to life.

I drew my own plans and watched in awe and amazement as each day what I saw in my mind’s eye over those moths of planning came to fruition.  A few things did not go well, and I did have one big sob fest when I walked into the house one day after work and found all my switches and outlets were standard and not  modern.  It all got changed the next day, but not before big stupid sobbing tears from frustration…funny how something so “petty” to some was such an “issue” for me…and then one day I realized I was done.  My dad and my mom and my friend and I had worked countless hours together along with all the subcontractors I hired and the morning came when I got my phone call that my C.O. was ready.

It is “just a house” sure, but it was truly a labor of love to bring an acre of woods into a place to call my home.  It is now so filled with laughter, and music, and love that I can hardly believe this is my life.  I have had to move furniture to make temporary room for drums, and the two beds upstairs in my loft are now inadequate now that I have three little girls in my life, and I have had to reorganize drawers and closets to make room for two where I just assumed only one would ever be…but my “plan” was to make a home for myself not just a house to live in, and I still get a little giddy when I go up my driveway, that I get to live here.   It may be just a rectangle with a roof, but it is truly where my heart is.  I still have dreams of being able to afford to travel and see the world, but I am comforted to know that even if I never get to go anywhere again, I have a place that I love that I call home.

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

What do you see when you look in a mirror?  We can’t see what other people see, a mirror reverses an image, so when we look at our own reflection it still is not “real” or “true.”  My parents tell me I was a beautiful baby, a beautiful little girl, a perfect child, a good kid, all the accolades one would expect loving parents to spill all over an obedient & well-behaved child.  As a teenager, like most I suppose, I rebelled, quite a bit more than they expected or certainly anticipated, but still, despite my “bad” phases, there was still a moral compass in me that always tried to steer me back to GOOD.

I was brainwashed in a way to believe, truly in my heart, that all this goodness was going to “GET” me somewhere or something.  When I was younger, I had no idea, where or what, only that there seemed to be some reward ahead of me for all the “perfect daughter-ness” I possessed.  I waited.  I made terrible choices and many mistakes.  I was a super successful college student and a really hard worker, a very caring, despite my youth, mother, and still I waited…for what I am not sure, but for something more than what was.  Through every heartbreak, sadness, disappointment, terrible choice, and bad decision, there always remained hope, anticipation for whatever the universe had in store for me next.

Over the years of my life, since I left home at 17, I grew more and more discouraged, that no matter how hard I worked, how kind I was, how good I was, there was still this GOAL that I could not achieve.  This unattainable something else that would come to me for all these hours of breathing.  Sometimes I would stare at the reflection in the mirror, this girl,this woman, looking back at me who had no idea what she was doing but only that she had to keep going through the motions of this so-called life because the alternative was nothingness.  I went through periods of really high highs and really low lows; often knowing what I was working towards or reaching for, and other times being utterly clueless and just going through the motions .

When my sister got engaged I was wrought with depression.  Why was she getting what I always wanted?  It felt sickening to be so envious of my sister when I should have been so happy and excited for her.  I wanted somebody to love like that too, and to love me like he loved her.  I felt awful for feeling awful.  When my daughter got married and left home I grew so tired…I had no idea what my purpose was.  I had raised a human to adulthood and did the very best that I could and I felt empty…total nothingness.  I drank and smoked my way through many weeks and described myself as feeling like I had been cut from my neck to my knees and had nothing in the middle.  It was maybe the lowest I had ever felt, and to be clear, my experiment in 1985 at being married and playing house was a really, really low time.  Then one morning I just felt better.  I looked in the mirror and felt like me.

That lasted for a time.  I can’t say how long because before long, I was back in my high-low mode…being blissful one day and feeling confident that the world was mine, and like turning off a switch I could then go to feeling unsure and unfulfilled and uneasy.  I thought about trying antidepressants, not because I was “depressed” but because I felt unstable.  Like everything about me was precariously balanced on the head of a pin, like all my parts and all my wishes and all my dreams and all my successes and all of my failures could just spill into the abyss at a moment…but I realized one day that if I tried drugs to find a balance, and they did not work, then I would be left feeling hopeless.  I always had hope I would “FIND” myself.  I always had hope that I would discover my true image, the me I knew who I was but could not see.

Over the last few months I have noticed I look in the mirror less and less.  I’ve stopped asking that image “what am I doing?” and I have stopped asking that image “what is next for me in this life?” because somehow I suddenly and unexpectedly find my life fuller and complete.  When the beautiful face of the boy I love lights up when I walk into the room, I see in his face that he sees something in me I do not see in myself.  When the daughters of my daughter wrap their little arms around my neck and kiss me with wet slobbery lips and look into my eyes and smile with their whole bodies, I see in their faces that they see something in me I do not see in myself.  Maybe that is the truest reflection of myself I could wish for, love in the eyes of those I love.

Got Love?

What is our goal as humans on this earth, living this life, now?  I think ultimately all we want is to love and be loved…sure we want ‘stuff’ and ‘joy’ and the basics like food, shelter, and clothing, but when those actual “needs’ are met, what else is there…companionship, friendship, and love.  That’s really all there is.

Sure, we all have behaved badly at times to those we love, but to be good and deserving of love we have to love back.  We have to act towards others as we want others to act towards us.  I have tried, truly, for all of my adult life to be a loving person.  To be kind.  To follow that golden rule of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me…it seems rather simple, but so many people just don’t get it, ever.

Only a few times in my life have I been treated without kindness from one to whom I was good, or at least I thought I was good.  I try to err on the side of forgiveness if you know what I mean…I try to live with the belief that most of us are inherently good, that most of us are genuinely nice, that most of us are basically honest and truly compassionate…but, there is always a but, there are circumstances some of us find ourselves in when we don’t get what we give.  Mountains get made out of mole-hills and an inch turns into a mile and little tiffs get blown way out of proportion.

I have been told over the years by men in my past that happiness comes from within not without…and one of my father’s OTHER creeds, of his three rules of life, is Happiness Wants What It Has…but I have often found my disposition too influenced by outside stimuli and not holding true to me, my insides, my thoughts, my beliefs, my framework for living…But here we are- summer is over- it is October today, and we are in a new season…it makes me think of that song from RENT, Seasons of Love:  How do you measure, measure a year?  In daylights, in sunsets  In midnights, in cups of coffee  In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife  In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes How do you measure, a year in the life?  I feel ‘happier’ and more content this first day of October, than I have felt perhaps in any first day of October in my life.  Is it because I finally Got Love?  I finally GET what it is supposed to be about?  I finally have my within in line with my without?  I have no answer to my questions…but I got love and I suppose that has made all the difference.