Oprah, Gratitude and Pocahontas

03.15.12

The travel plans are coming together for Oprah’s LifeClass and it’s not the way I’d have planned it. Yesterday I was grumpy about it, I didn’t understand why anyone would travel in this manner and I was ThisClose to just walking away from the project. I am not a low maintenance traveler and it’s not one of things I’m trying to change about myself.

Well, maybe it is.

This week has sort of conspired against me and I haven’t been able to exercise as much as I ought to. I’ve had a long walk but it was a slow walk because it was a cold morning. I had tennis but it was doubles and that’s not always very satisfying, yoga was a bit of a bust too. These aren’t the biggest problems that anyone could have but moving my body is such a link to sanity for me that having three of these days back to back was crushing. I’ve been cranky and ill tempered.

I complained to Chelsea about the flights and thought maybe they’d allow me to travel on my own. To her credit Chelsea did not say, “Listen lady we’ve got 200 people to fly around you’re not that important.” She did patiently explain that hundreds of people would be flying in, which was something I didn’t understand. Then she explained that there were no airline choices, Ms. Winfrey has a longstanding relationship with United. It started making sense to me but I was still irritated and wondering if taking connecting flights was simply a sign that this isn’t the right trip for me. I told her I’d sleep on it.

Shortly after the LifeClass call one of the Pocahontas’ called and asked how things were and she immediately got an earful from me. I was bitching and complaining and what’s in it for me’ing when she interrupted me with he sage mommyness. She began with, “Oprah changed my life.” And then interrupted my eye roll with a story about how she tried writing down 5 things she was grateful for each day and how it reframed how she looked at her life. I was tired, I was cranky (yes I sound like a toddler) and I listened but wasn’t ready to absorb it all.

This morning I went to the kids’ chapel because Jane thought she’d made honor roll. She worked hard for those grades but part of me was a little disappointed that she didn’t make Dean’s List. Negative much? During Chapel (I know… we’re not supposed to) I was whispering with another mom and she asked about the LifeClass. I complained about the travel.

I complained about being called by the Oprah Winfrey Network. I complained about being taken to three cities and two countries and I complained about the timeline. I heard myself talking like an angry and selfish woman but somehow didn’t have the presence of mind to stop.

I went to tennis, singles this time. As I ran across the court I smelled orange blossoms from the tree that stands near the baseline and a wave of goodness crashed over me. I’ll never know if the endorphins or the scent memory triggered it and I’m not sure it matters.

I am grateful. I stood on the court in that very moment and was grateful for the kind of life that has me playing tennis in a friend’s back yard on a Thursday morning while the smell of orange blossoms tickles my nose. I am grateful for a daughter who is both smart and hardworking. I am grateful that I’m able to move.

In that moment I was able to reframe my position and look forward to trips that are going to feed me with wisdom and knowledge. Just like Pocahontas said, the gratitude didn’t change my life, it changed me.

Holiday Programs: Children Make Adults Out of Children

12.19.08

Today there was a pretty impressive Holiday Program at my kids’ school. There was singing and dancing, snazzy outfits with shiny shoes, flautists, pianists and even a visit from Despereaux. Two kids caught my eye, there were two children who simply mesmerized me and neither was my own.

The kindergarten and first grade kids took the stage looking like children and not the toddlers who had entered school in the fall. When they left, the second and third grades took the stage, and I burst into tears. You see, we’re missing a mother. Just a few days before school began this fall we lost Melissa in a terrible accident. I’m sure that I’m not the only mother who was immediately drawn to the child with the saddle shoes and Melissa’s almond eyes. I’m certain that I’m not the only one who was relieved that Dad is managing so well, but deeply saddened that he needs to. She’s our girl; we all love her so very much. It’s a desperate love, the love we hope someone would have for our child.

I looked around at our little school community and I felt proud and alive and grateful. I cried a little because I know that Melissa would
have loved all the planning and choreography that leaves me happy for
my kids, but a little flat. I’m not a stage mom. Show me a grade or a
score, I’m too linear and literal, I need women around who color outside the lines. I miss Melissa and what she brought to our community. I felt so honored to be trusted with her child that I cried and it wasn’t all grief, but it certainly doesn’t have a name.

As the second and third grades left the stage the fourth and fifth emerged. The girls are taller, the boys are sillier and rowdier, the choreography is complex and the ante is upped. This is serious business, at least a few of the kids have imdb pages and more than you might expect have agents. Ten year old girls spend six hours on a Sunday rehearsing with Broadway Bound because they like it.

There’s one boy who stands out, Bob. Bob is on the spectrum, I believe he has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and he’s the best teaching tool that their sweet school has. Bob is different, but not dramatically, he’s smart and he’s quiet, he’s affable and he can be very funny, but he’s not interested in dancing or music or pleasing a crowd. Bob is more like me than anyone I know. I find myself drawn to him. I like that he’s a beat behind the dancers and yawning in the middle of a song. I notice that he’s trying though, because last year he didn’t even feign interest. Bob is changing, and I’m a little sad about that because he was my go to kid. He was the one who told you everything on his mind with neither censor nor malice.

Today I noticed girls on either side of Bob tapping him, helping him keep the beat. I saw their tiny hands guide him and help him. Surrounded by material wealth, drowning in doting parents and the best education that money could buy, the real learning today came with Bob. His gentle presence and open face has touched the children of my community. Bob is changing and he’s walking with his peers, at times Bob is leading them more than they will ever know.

Today I watched two kids perform. My kids were on the stage too.