Gratitude in the Crevices
Yesterday. Yesterday stunk. Everyone cried, including me.
I felt raw. Henry’s been so moody, so cranky. Yesterday, Henry threw a tantrum that rivaled any three-year-old’s best efforts. This out-of-character meltdown included him crying and screaming through the entire YMCA parking lot, with many onlookers, because he did not want to go to the gym with me. After I (sort of) got him settled and into the child babysittting area, I cried. Hot, huge crocodile tears fell, dripping with abandon to the ground below.
I descended down the mother spiral:
What’s going on with him?
Why is he having such a hard time?
Is he sick?
Is there something bigger at play here?
Those tears, they felt good. I cried them and they dripped and I talked to some friends who just happened to be there, at the gym. They probably thought they were they to workout. But (lucky me) it turned out they were there to ease me off that craggy edge of uncertain motherhood. I thought of a passage from Priscilla Warner’s engaging, helpful and wonderful book, Learning to Breathe. In one chapter, Priscilla details a visit with a mystical rabbi name Rabbi Jacobson. While talking with him, she started to cry. She cried from exhaustion and worry about her son who’d developed food poisoning the night before.
“I was exhausted and aplogized again to the rabbi for crying.
“You don’t have apologize”, Rabbi Jacobson said. “To me, tears are a good thing. The Torah says that, when energy enters into us that our containers cannot hold, we erupt.”
How many times have I apologized for my own tears? Judging them instead of welcoming them. Thinking they were somehow inappropriate or cumbersome or just wrong? When my tears came on this morning, I remembered that the tears were good. A thought simmered and bubbled in my brain,
Can I give thanks for these eruptions of tears, too?
As much as I practice accepting all aspects of my life, I still struggle. I need a lot of practice. In Learning to Breathe, Priscilla writes about a retreat she attended, led by Sylvia Boorstein and Sharon Salzberg. During her talk, Sylvia Boorstein said, “Lots of things happen because they happen. We can’t change them. And suffering, according to the Buddha, is that tension in the mind created by the thought that things should be different from the way they are.”
Holy Hell. Yes. As I read, my brain and veins felt as if they were filled with a viscose truth liquid, slowing my pulse and breathing. How often have I begrudged a sickness or a situation, thinking that it should be different? How much friction and stress have I caused believing that things should be different than they are?
This morning, during the chaos of sleeping late, lunches, toys, breakfasts, dishwasher and attempting to eliminate any possible tantrums that Henry might have lurking under the surface, Henry walked up to me. He said,
“Mommy, my mouwth is broken.”
There were no tears, no screams, no blood. So I almost blew off his random complaint. Henry calmly waited for me to finish what I was doing and he repeated, “Mommy, my mouwth is broken.”
So, instead of continuing in my Tazmanian-devil like swirl of activity, I squatted down in my exhaust fumes and idled.
“Open up”, I said to him.
He pointed to the far back corner of his mouth, to where it was broken.
Sure enough, in that very corner, in the crevice of his red gums, sat the culprit. A big, pushy molar had worked its way down, breaking open his gums. I grabbed Henry’s shoulders, beamed at him and said through a huge smile,
“Henry, you’re getting a molar!!”
“What’s a molar? Do they break mouwths?”
Yes. They break mouths and break days and lend explanation to exceptionally crabby little boys. I felt jubilant and so relieved. Nothing major, no big interventions required. Just some hugs, some tears and some Motrin. And an acceptance of what is.
At Thanksgiving, we have a family tradition of a Gratitude Bucket. Before the holiday, I put out a bucket with some paper and pens. Whenever someone feels moved by something they’re thankful for, they write it down and drop it in the bucket. The Gratitude Bucket takes all donations, big or small. After our Thanksgiving meal, I read the notes. They’re always a wonderful mix of humor, honesty and raw emotion. I love this tradition and the warm glow it casts on our day and our hearts.
I’ll be adding some Gratitudes over the next two days. Gratitude for the things that lay in the crevices–the crumbs, the tears, the pain, and yes, even the mouth-breaking molars–that build my days and intertwine all of my realities.