Sunday, January 24, 2016

All I can learn

Brooklyn used to be an Irish dancer. She actually still remembers quite a bit--body memory takes a long time to fade away, as I realized today in the pool swimming laps with her. Oh yeah, I remember how this works, even before I consciously remembered how my feet were supposed to go for the breast stroke. We raced; she beat me each time, as it should be. But I'm going to study up.

Anyway, Brooklyn used to be an Irish dancer. She was middle of the road. She was the ensemble version of Irish dancer. But her ceili (kaylee) team was going to go to Oireachtas (Uhracktus) and things were starting to ramp up. We were reaching the "buy the shiny solo dress and spend every holiday weekend traveling to competitions" stage, just the edge of it, and I was wondering how it happened. How did I get caught up in this? I just wanted her to do something that would be more awesome than the standard little girl tap and ballet class--AND IT WAS--but here I was with Brooklyn on the edge of something a little bigger than we'd planned.

Brooklyn said to me at that point, in her infinite wisdom, "Mom, I think Irish dance has taught me everything I can learn from it."

So we quit. Not in a mean-spirited way or anything like that. We just walked away. It was over. We both had learned everything it could teach us.

Admitting that you're done is sometimes easy, I suppose, like Irish dance was at that moment, but usually it's harder for me than that. That time it was a relief, a happy relief and memories and medals Brooklyn could hang on a hook in her room. Usually, endings are filled with anxiety and strife and wonder if maybe we could have done it a different way if only.

More than that, getting up the courage to say it? To someone it will potentially hurt or disappoint?

That level of bravery takes quite a bit of risk-taking.

It was a girl scout camping trip. We were staying at a lodge called Petite Chalet. We had a large group of two troops with lots of moms. After divvying up the flat, terrible, plastic-coated mattresses, with most adults getting two, we were down to just one left. Raquel, one of the moms in my troop, and I were the two adults left with only one mattress apiece--the extra mattress leaning against a wall.

"Rock paper scissors for it?" I challenged Raquel.

"Ooh, a risk taker, I like it," she replied.

I won the mattress.

Risk taker. Huh.

In the end, Brooklyn went on to do other things and never expressed any misgivings or doubt about her choice. Seriously--she never once said that she wished she'd kept going with Irish dance. Again, that isn't her mother's influence or genetics. I will constantly wonder what could have happened. If only I'd tried something else. Tried harder. Been more humble. Been more skilled. Been more...something else. Someone else.

Many long years ago, the pastor of my church moved on to other things. And I wrote this:

I will miss him, I suppose, but I realize that I have probably done all the growing and changing I can do with him as pastor. It will stretch my brain and heart to eat at Fr. Miguel’s table for a while. You know, when it says in the bible that “Mary held these things in her heart,” it doesn’t say she cherished them because they were happy memories. She cherished them because they were important. Not everything—not even the majority—of my interactions with him has been hearts and flowers. But that’s not all there is to a full life. 

God, how right that turned out to be. I was standing in an unhappy place and I made a decision to try something new and it could not have been more right. More perfectly right for my faith life and religious identity and happiness. 

It could be that I'm braver than I think I am. It could be that I am ready, that I have eaten long enough at this table. At several of these tables.

Perhaps it's time to try some new things.

Time to know when I'm full and it's time to go.

 Time to take risks.


  1. "Not everything ... has been hearts and flowers. But that’s not all there is to a full life."

    I love, love, love those words. And now I will wait - "patiently," I chide myself - to find out what new risks you might be taking.

  2. Another beautifully written post that makes me think. Thank you.