Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hitting the Fan

I shouldn't have been allowed to operate heavy machinery yesterday. For the first time since I learned to drive, I felt how big the car was and how small I was, and that it was driving me. Surreal blinking in and out of my body. Uncontrollable crying. Yesterday was the day I had to write the letter I've been dreading...all my life, the letter that turns away the bird in the hand...for two in the bush. Our Waldorf school, it should be stated, because it is a movement as well as a school - a philosophy, almost a religion - is a more heart-rending place to say good-bye to than your average school. I knew I had to be the one to go and deliver the letter that I wrote. I wrote it with care, but there was no getting around the fact that it was the eleventh hour, the day before school was to start. Wayne was being interviewed for a magazine in the morning, so I couldn't get there until 4pm. I called Becky Gafvert, the financial aid person who has been my biggest comfort and support, at lunchtime, just to give her some lead time, and she said right away, "I heard you have some exciting news!" She had just put her daughter on a plane for Boston. She said, "I know how hard you guys have been working; I hope this is the big break you've been waiting for." And then she said the most comforting thing of all: "Who knows? Maybe the path to New York will lead right back here."

I got there and I was almost screaming, "Oh no! Oh no!" The folding chairs were still in their stack on the lawn, waiting to be set up for the Rose Ceremony today, the first day of school, when the eighth graders walk in hand in hand with the first graders, and the incoming first grade teacher (Mr. Demanett) tells a parable, and the faculty sings a hymn. If only I had kept my mouth shut, my kids would be there right now, and everythng would be ok! All the little tiny hairs of the fledgling roots that were laid down with love - maybe some of the first I've consciously experienced growing in my life - were being unceremoniously ripped out! I got to the office to put my poison letters in the boxes of our beloved teachers and administrators, and - in a way, it was perfect - Blair (Wyatt's angel teacher) was there. She took one look at me and held me tight. "You know it's the right thing to do. That doesn't stop the pain, I know." Becky came in and gave me a big hug, and said the thing to do is to stand in the shower and have a good cry; the hard part is trying to reign back the tears. One or both of them told me to pray every night before bed for strength. Carolina Smith, who runs the little store, was there just eating her lunch, couldn't help noticing my forlorn encounters, and reminded me that she used to live in Ft. Green, where lots of her artist friends still live. Dennis Demanett (Waldorf guru who was magically selected to be Laura's teacher for 8 years) came in grinning, saw my face and agreed, "When you've got to go, you've got to go." And then he cut off his empathy. Must think I'm hysterical and unbalanced. It doesn't help that I lost my second pack of birth control pills in the jet lag haze back from Europe, couldn't replace them over the labor day weekend, so quit in the middle of the cycle. Je m'en fiche. The final stab was when I picked up the flyer for the Rose Ceremony and found Laura Coe's name printed on the list of incoming first graders. Oh, the agony.

I keep reminding myself, for some sort of perspective, that no one has died here. I haven't lost my lover and best friend, as my sister just has. Although it is interesting that we're both going through this tunnel of grieving and transformation simultaneously.

Today was the first day of school, and the first day that Wayne went back to work. Oh, the agony. Why didn't I insist that we start school, no matter what the cost of paying them off if we left mid-year? This is all way too fast for Laura, who has never home-schooled or been to New York, and who loves school. "Why didn't you let us leave last year?" she said. "I didn't like my preschool that much, and then I homeschooled, and now I don't want to leave my friends. I wanted to live in this house when I grow up." It doesn't help that I'm not ready. I don't have the curriculum, I don't have a schedule. Laura was up at 5 am, ready for school. I feel that I am fucking up on all sides. Now there is a huge rumor mill, and people are hearing the rumor, instead of the message straight from us. And let me tell you, they feel shocked and distrusted. Several of my friends have called and raked me over the coals. They are angry. Was I supposed to call each one and tell them individually of our decision? We just told the school yesterday, and I cried myself to sleep last night early, still jet-lagged. It's all happening too fast. Wayne saved me for a moment, when he called this afternoon and just said, "Aslan is on the move."

The kids were on their best behavior today. Wyatt ignored that it was a school day, and Laura tried to begin construction on her own school, but every once in a while she'd fall into arguments and crying fits. We had friends over to play (thank God), a friend from Wyatt's class and her little brother, who was to be in Mildy's kindergarten. They, too, are in limbo and transiton, waiting for marching orders from a studio as to whether they're going to New York, London or not at all. They had to pack their whole house and now they're waiting. What I feel at the end of the day is that I must be insane. Why didn't I lay all this out before Mr. Demanett, the education guru, and ask for his advice about the best way to handle a transition we know we need to make? My hardcore Waldorf friend makes me feel completely unfit for parenting, a bull in a china closet with regard to my daughter's feelings. Some people know how to handle the events of life in a politic way. What is wrong with me? Cheyenne, my realtor, reminds me that the air will clear, to be replaced by the joy of following our hearts.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Course Correction

The hardest part of parenting is parenting yourself. Catherine Poisson told me a long, long time ago that the parents' needs must be accomodated first, before those of the child: when the oxygen masks drop in case of low cabin pressure, you put on your mask, then your kid's, in order to save both of you. Dr. Sears, the attachment parenting pediatrician, said it another way: your marriage has to take top priority, since that foundation must be strong to allow you to raise kids to maturity. In her Spring 2006 talk at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA, Susan Thistlethwaite, president of the Chicago Theological Institute, said that the problem in the U.S. is that people consistently put their families above what God wants. Wayne told me when he heard that, he suddenly woke up. This is exactly the mistake in proportion we've been making for many years (approximately since the birth of our first child), and the one we are working to correct right now.

There is a big disconnect between knowing all this intellectually, and putting it into practice. The main disjunction (disfunction) is caused by fear. I have to say that I've been getting strong messages (maybe "commands" is the right word) to go to New York for about three years, and consistently put them aside in favor of the "rational" scenario of keeping my kids in the safe haven of the Pasadena Waldorf School, where they have been loved, supported, inspired and educated to appreciate the beauty and joy of life. Prior to being there, I home-schooled my three kids for a year; I know what great education is worth. We have a beautiful family life because my kids are attached and engaged. BUT, on a personal level, I have been sick, exhausted, discouraged, broke, heartbroken. DH Lawrence would instantly diagnose me as a writer who has not been doing my work. William Blake keeps repeating in my head, "Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." And Rick Warren, author of A Purpose-Driven Life, points to all these symptoms as the result of trying to run your life yourself, instead of giving the wheel to the creator of the universe. Everybody knows what happened to Jonah, when God asked him to preach in Ninevah and he ran the other way: he ended up inside the belly of a whale. That's where I've been, especially for the last year, and I'm not going back. God wants action, not stasis. Moving forward.

I was stung by the reading in church yesterday, from the book of James:

"Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who...persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act - they will be blessed in their doing."

What God calls for is ACTION. We got back from a month in Germany and France two days ago. Yesterday was my eldest son's 10th birthday. Two days from now, my kids are supposed to start school, the middle one expecting the first day of first grade. Today is the day we're going to tell them we've sold our house and are moving to Brooklyn instead. Things have happened that fast. It is easy to see where the doors are opening before us, and only denial could close those doors again.