Wellbeing and Family

Honeysuckle in May

A half step out my front door the scent comes to me. Unmistakably. At once I’m on a porch in southwest Oklahoma, a kid visiting various relations, that honeysuckle climbing along my grandparents’ porch, me ducking wasps and avoiding doing the dishes. And I’m 42, on this porch in central Oklahoma escaping a pandemic, that honeysuckle over somebody’s garden fence, out of sight, out of reach.

Life feels altogether bifurcated. Past and present. Present and future. Then and now. Now and after. We are not ants caught in amber. We are not forevermore.

Threads connect the disparate parts of this life like the underside of a tapestry. It makes no sense, the honeysuckle now leading me back to the honeysuckle then. The scent driving a smile onto my anxious face. Telling me the world hasn’t changed in every dot and dash.

Whether that honeysuckle or this honeysuckle, they both remain beyond my reach. Threads I hold onto.

The challenge becomes this: how do I lay threads in the hearts of my boys even now, even in Covid-19 America, that they can pick up and smile with in thirty years? The smell of soil in a freshly turned garden? The comfort of one home cooked meal after another? The sight of parents working and playing in the same place? In our relative safety and privileged with our cocooned existence, how do I make sure the small things count?

I’m sure from the underside of the tapestry, it will seem as random as that honeysuckle, the thing that they remember as warm and safe and happy from this time. I couldn’t manufacture it if I tried. I can only spin threads of warmth and safety and happiness, of validity and value, faith and love and gratitude, for as long as I am able and hope they weave something incredible for a future we share.

Annual Theme Life

2019 Theme Announced

As is my custom, I began searching for a theme last October around the time Halloween decorations took flight all over the house. This is my fifth year to choose a theme, and the way I do it is to pick a word or phrase that applies to all aspects of my life. The words– Intention (2015), Reinvention (2016), Discipline (2017), and Ambition (2018)–have caused no small amount of trouble. Yes, I blame the words.

But the words have also been a balm in times of uncertainty and a growth mechanism. If nothing else, they help me focus my efforts. They force me to acknowledge where I’ve been and where I want to be.

I considered a bunch of words for 2019: abundance, forward, optimism, openness, new, support, begin, enlarge, reach, stretch. None of these told the whole story of who I wanted to become in 2019, and I finally settled on the phrase Planting & Watering. It comes from a new testament Bible verse: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3: 6.

I am a Christian, and I believe these words. I also know they apply in context to the conversion work that Paul and Apollos performed–their preaching and teaching and service.

However, most of life revolves around the principles of planting and watering and someone else granting the growth. Hamilton in the eponymous musical said the same of democracy. I’m saying it of most of my life. As a Christian, I do believe God gives the increase when the planting and watering concern what concerns my God. Most of that comes down to love. I don’t believe my God will give me more money because I work harder. I do believe my God will increase something for somebody when I work toward love.

The older I get, the more I realize how little I control in this world. Having a teenager will do that. In relationships, the most I can do is plant and water, tend my side of the relationship. The increase comes, if at all, out of so many variables, most of which I cannot affect. For example, I want my kids to carry a lot of life skills into their adulthood. But I cannot force them to learn anything. I cannot force them to practice or to remember or to care. I can only plant and water. I can only show what the skill is, why it’s important, how to do it, and then practice it myself. Planting and watering.

I want my kids to understand the world and to love people and to care about humans and the planet. But I don’t control any of those actions–my children’s understanding, love, or care. If I focus my mothering energies on planting and watering what I hope will grow, then maybe…Maybe it will grow. And if it doesn’t, I won’t regret the effort.

This is true of my marriage, my friendships, and so much more. It’s also true of my own physical and mental health. There are factors I don’t control, like heredity, past choices and failures, aging, accidental injury, or future illness, among others. I don’t wholly control the increase or the growth in health areas. I can plant and I can water. Then a host of variables–environmental, hereditary, etc–will conspire to increase or decrease my health. I don’t believe I’ll regret having done the work, though. Whether it’s getting enough steps or sleep, or seeing my therapist, or eating cholesterol-lowering foods, I likely won’t regret having done it regardless of the outcome.

I felt this weight lift off me after I chose the phrase. The weight of expectation and disappointment. The weight of regret and failures and shouldas and couldas. Another weight lifted from my working shoulders. I no longer feel burdened with making an agent or publisher choose me. Lean in closely. I never controlled that anyway. Now I am free to plant and water by writing more, editing better, drawing anything, and sending it out into the world. The increase will come, or it won’t. But I’ll never regret the work. I’ll just have more fun doing it.

This topic will simmer here on the blog all year. I’ll tell you what I planned and how it’s panning out. If you gain anything from it, excellent! If not, I don’t regret a thing.

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