Monday, October 13, 2008

A Light Subject Before Bed

Last night while we played a game called "guess how much I love you," my 4-year-old said,

"I love you so much that when you die, I want to die, too."

I said, "I want you to live a long and happy life, even if I die."

She said, "But wouldn't it be better if we can be together and talk in Heaven?"

This girl is heavy. I could only smile at that sentiment, and say gently, "We don't know when that will happen."

Suddenly her face changed, crumpled, and she grabbed my hand. "I don't want to die!"

I wanted to hold her against my body and promise that I would never, ever let that happen. Instead, I walked her calmly to the bathroom and assembled her tooth brushing accouterments: red toothbrush, non-minty toothpaste, cup.

"Most people don't die until they are very old," I said. Then her brother refused to move off the step stool in front of the sink, and that caused a brief row, and the death talk was left behind.

You've got to have nerves of steel to do this job.

Long Thoughts

I entered Day One of my sixth yoga teacher training weekend feeling full of vitality and excitement. I was so excited to see all my people that I couldn't settle down to meditate.

By the end, though, I felt disappointed. I hadn't finished my homework. I hadn't given the kind of thought to our reading that some people had. The level of studentship among some of my peers was putting me to shame. Of course, many of my peers are not raising small children. Maybe they can spend as long as they want following their yoga thoughts.

Or their long thoughts in general. I read this idea somewhere, I think in an A.S. Byatt novel, about the near impossibility of pursuing long thoughts when one has little children. Long thoughts are cultivated over time. You piece something together, and build upon it, until it stretches out behind you and in front of you too far to see either end. Long thoughts are what I need in order to understand the Indian texts I'm reading, for sure, but long thoughts are also what keep me interested in life. They are what keep me feeling like myself. They are proof that my brain didn't slip out along with my placenta.

In class, someone announced that a visiting scholar of Ayurvedic medicine would be speaking tonight about one of my as-yet untapped fascinations, kundalini. I was all wound up - I wanted to go. Towards the end of the 6 hour day, though, I realized that it would be difficult for everyone in my family if I went. And that I would end up feeling guilty and greedy. This was disappointing. I wanted to be unfettered to follow where my mind wanted to go, to learn more. But my life just isn't like that.

In a last ditch effort to find a good reason to go beyond my own desire - some serendipity or synchronicity or kismet - I asked one of my yoga friends (one of those who put me to shame)if by chance he was going. He said no. So now it was up to me to be selfish and greedy or act with my family in mind.

As I rolled up my mat I felt the pressures of what my family needed from me pressing behind my eyes, pressing against my forehead. It was all so complicated. I only wanted to learn. I only wanted to weave long thoughts. But - shit! The class had run long. I was already 15 minutes late relieving the babysitter. I wanted to stay and chit chat with my people. I wanted to be paid attention to by them.

I left feeling unfulfilled.

But then I came home to happy children. We snuggled on the mohair couch and read a long chapter book. When Matt came home, we took ourselves out to a neighborhood family Mexican restaurant. By the end of the night, I felt more fulfilled, but still saddened by my inability to work deeply on my yoga assignments.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mothers' Political Hazards

"She...spent Sundays in the kitchen cooking five meals to store in the freezer so the family could eat together during the week," says the Seattle Times this morning about Washington State governor Christine Gregoire.

Gregoire has been governor for four years and before that held a little post known as State Attorney General. Oh, and before that, she had an amusing little job as Director of the Department of Ecology.

Yet, the Seattle Times would like us to know, she never missed one of her daughter's high school soccer games. Says daughter Courtney, "We're close because Mom always made us priority."

Excuse me, I know it is Ms. Gregoire who is up for re-election and not her husband, but I must ask: What was the husband's job that was so important that he was not the one cooking five meals on Sunday? King of the World? Was he also at the soccer games? Did he make the family a priority?

I just have to ask, because if we don't ask that question, then we will never have a real, publicly-acknowledged answer to why more women do not rise to the highest positions of public office.

Reading this article this morning, the answer is so black-and-white to me that I can't believe it's not addressed by the article's author, Andrew Garber. (Any guesses, readers?)I mean, ok, there are issues of self-esteem and gender-conditioning that begin in infancy. But, damn, we don't have a female president yet because most women bear children. And of those, most mothers are attached to male partners, who, all the research you care to quote will show, do not raise the children.

The mothers raise the children. The mothers make their children a priority.

Even when they are governor of Washington State.