If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? -Rumi
Last weekend our friends invited us to their pool for the afternoon. We told our boys ahead of time that this “new pool” has a high dive and they could barely contain their excitement. When we walked up to the entrance and they finally saw the high dive, in the concrete flesh, they jumped and cheered and ran in circles like our pug when he chases his semi-curly tail. Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?
Oh the agony of adult swim!
The six-minute countdown was on and they stared at the clock, willing the second hand to go faster. Can we go? Can we go? Can we go? Eventually the lifeguard blew the whistle and the kids lined up at the ladder and began their ascents.
They didn’t even hesitate like I thought they would. They just went for it.
They walked to the end, looked out at the water below, gave a last minute glance to those of us on the deck cheering them on, and jumped. They threw their bodies into the air and their fears into the wind. They touched the clouds.
It was kind of amazing.
Because I expected some jitters and a few trips back down the ladder. I expected long pauses at the end of the board. I expected a one-and-done experience, maybe even a one-and-done-and-never-again experience.
But instead they kept going, over and over again, for hours. They climbed, they ran, they jumped. They never wanted to stop.
Except, of course, when one tried a “twister” and hit the water in a big back-flop. Then it was time for towels and tears and hugs.
My boys surprised me that day. More importantly, they taught me a lot about life.
Because life is like a high dive.
Life has climbs and planks and a lot of bounce. Life is scary but also exhilarating because it is so scary. Sometimes we keep going, over and over again. But sometimes we have to take breaks like vacations and naps and adult swims.
Life has risk and reward and choices. Sometimes we decide to turn around and return to where we started. But sometimes we take leaps of faith. We may surprise ourselves. We may surprise everyone.
Sometimes there are soft landings. But sometimes we flop and it stings. And then we cry and need a hand out of the water.
Thankfully, if we’re lucky, we have people on deck. They are the holders of the towels, the people who love us and encourage us no matter how big a splash we make, no matter how many times we screw up, and no matter how many times we turn around and go back down the ladder. They stand ready and they aren’t afraid to get wet.
Life is like a high dive, full of fun and fear and second chances. Sometimes we wince. But sometimes we soar.
Life is kind of amazing that way.
To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. -Jim Valvano
Yesterday I played in a golf clinic and I learned a lesson that had absolutely nothing to do with golf.
There were a handful of us practicing chipping shots when a young man, around twenty years old, walked up to our green. He approached one of the ladies in our group and they spoke for a few moments. He turned and walked away and I overheard her say, “See you soon!”
The rest of us continued our practice but she stopped and said, “I have to head out now because I’m going to go play golf with my son. He just told me he wants to play and I have to take any chance I get to spend time with him.” She was sincere and excited.
I stood up and watched her leave and I thought about what she said. I thought about how tenderhearted it was that she dropped everything, left her own plans and her own time, and ran after her son who wanted to spend time with his mom. It was obvious how precious he was to her. And it was the obvious part I loved the most.
I thought about her the rest of the afternoon. I thought about being obvious.
Unlike that mom, I don’t really feel the same need to take any chance I get. My kids are young and underfoot and passionately needy. I get a lot of chances to spend time with them.
I don’t need to run to my kids because, frankly, they are always running to me. It’s a little hard to imagine a time when I’d take any chance I get. It’s a little hard to imagine a time when I’d want to drop everything, including my own plans, and run.
But I know that day will come. I know that’s certain. I know there will be a time when I am on the other side of this time, a time when I’ll take any opportunity with them because they’ve chosen me over all of the other more interesting and less familiar options they have. There will be a day when I’ll get the chance to take the chance.
But until that time comes, and while I’m still standing on this side of that time, I can remember the obvious part. Until that time comes, I can still do the obvious part. I can do better at the obvious part.
Because those kids are so precious to me, no matter what time it is. I know this to be true. But it should always be obvious.
Today is my first Mother’s Day without my mom.
I thought it would be hard. I was dreading this first in this year of the firsts. Today is the first Mother’s Day. In August it will be my sons’ first birthdays. In October it will be my first birthday. Later this year, we will have the first Thanksgiving and the first Christmas. All of these days I have celebrated with my mom, every year until this year. And now, moving forward, I will celebrate them without her.
Today is bittersweet in the way I think all of these big days will be bittersweet in this year of the firsts.
But even though it is the first Mother’s Day, today isn’t strikingly different than yesterday. And I don’t think it will be that different from tomorrow.
Because I miss her every day. I think of her every day. I love her every day. Just because it’s Mother’s Day it doesn’t mean I miss her more, or think of her more, or appreciate her more. Because I don’t think I could miss her or think of her or appreciate her any more today than any other day.
Today is a first, and it is a day I will miss celebrating with my mom. But today is still a day I can celebrate.
Because today, on this first Mother’s Day, I choose the sweet of the bittersweet.
I choose to celebrate her life. Even if it means I have to celebrate without her.
Today I celebrate my mom. I thank her for the road and the shelter she gave me. I thank her for her creativity and genius. I thank her for all of the ways she helped build my character and soften my heart. I thank her for her unconditional love.
I celebrate her inspiration in my own life, in my own choices, in my own perspective. I remember her fight, her long and hard and well-fought fight. I remember her courage under fire. I remember how graceful she was. I remember all of the awareness she made possible and all of the lives she touched with her story. I remember all of the good that came out of all of the bad, all because of her.
Today I celebrate her life and her love. I celebrate all of the ways she is an inspiration for me and all of the ways she will continue to be an inspiration for many.
I celebrate with my little boys, the little boys who shine with her sweet spirit. The little boys she loved so very much and who loved her back in the same pure and honest ways she loved them. I celebrate the love that will always be between them. They may not have the memories. But they will always have the love.
Today is the first Mother’s Day without my mom.
I miss her. I will miss her every day. But I will never stop celebrating her.
I will always take the sweet. Even if it means I also have to take the bitter. I will always take her love. Even if it means I also have to take her loss.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.
When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.