Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Journey of Surrender

Several brave souls joined me this week for a 30 Day Writing Challenge. As I've wrestle through my own journey of questioning and becoming, I have found writing to be an invaluable tool in gaining perspective and hope, and I have longed to invite others into their own journey of storytelling. This is our chance!

We’re writing about early childhood memories this week. It’s work to look back, as far back as my mind will wander, searching for the first moment when a living memory appears. I get glimpses of my past, still images flashing through my mind, but soon cannot determine whether these "memories" are a result of old photos I have seen or complete figments of my imagination. To come upon my first truly living memory, one that allows for some digging and unearthing of details, can be tedious and unnerving. 

As a parent, I find the hardest part of this whole process is the lack of memories available to my adult mind. It baffles me that I cannot recall a single birthday before age nine, or remember a family vacation before age eight. What about all those early years? What about the second and third and fourth birthday parties? What about the family vacation to Disney World when I was two? Or the trip to Florida to visit cousins when I was six? Not to mention the day-to-day moments - playing with siblings, bedtime routines, cuddles with mommy - I cannot bring any of this back to life. Other than snapshots, literal photographs, that remind me I existed at one and three and five, I am left to wonder.

If I linger with this reality, letting it translate into my own kiddo’s lives, I am soon discouraged, if not despondent. How can it be that all these hours of cuddling on the couch and singing before bed will be completely lost? How can it be that days at COSI and trips to the zoo and vacations to visit family will fade into still images, held inside an old, dusty scrapbook? How can it be that all the moments of spontaneous laughter and dance parties, all the fun and all the effort, will be buried in the past of my children's lives?

I have stopped at these thoughts many times before and, disconcerted by them, rallied all my energies toward helping my children capture and keep their memories. I have created photobooks for them every year, regularly looking back through old photos together and sharing stories about each moment. I started keepsake chests for both kids, already full of outgrown clothes and first pieces of art and favorite baby blankets, each item neatly tied with notes about what made that piece so precious. I’ve written letters to the kids on their birthdays and kept journals of anecdotal stories from our days - all beautiful practices, all unable to keep my children from growing up. 

And maybe that’s just it: That each day is a million moments gone forever. 

If I check in with the realities of my own life, my own memories, I am forced to face the hard truth that I cannot keep each moment of my children's lives alive forever. I cannot control their forgetting or ensure their remembering. I cannot get this moment back ever again. I find myself standing face-to-face with their mortality, with how absolutely out of control I am in the grand plan of their lives. And I hate it. I am reminded of these words by author Charles Whitfield, "It is hard to learn that life cannot be controlled. Life's powerful and mysterious process goes on, no matter what we do. Life cannot be controlled because it is far too rich, spontaneous and rambunctious to be fully understood, much less controlled by our thinking, controlling false self." 

But who wants to be out of control in their own child's life? Who willingly surrenders them to the whims of a Universe that feels far too dangerous and flippant and downright evil to handle their precious souls? Who can birth such beauty and not be captivated by the urge to protect and spare? 

I am not sure I am capable of this. And this - this resistance, this fear, this urge to control and to protect - this I now see is the place where I must stop, where I must sit and breathe a while. "In the act of creating story, there is always an event of coming to know,” says author Sue Monk Kidd. And tonight, I am coming to know again. 

From my own hands, I hear a whispering, “You are not in control." Not grave and grim and ominous as I have always received this thought before, but rather gentle, tender, kind. More of a, “You are not in control. And it is okay.


Okay, okay, I repeat, willing myself to believe. Okay, okay, I question, wondering how I could ever surrender my own children. Okay, okay, I argue, my fear fighting for stable ground. Okay, okay, I sigh, releasing myself into the unknowing. 

Because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and maybe it will be really bad news. But maybe it won’t. In the end, I cannot control it either way. All I have is this moment. And maybe rather than scurrying about with fear of each second that is gone and lost forever, I could press into something equally true: That every second is a gift.

please feel free to print & use this printable & share with friends! Personal use only.


I copied this quote from Kidd into my journal a few months ago: “So much of parenthood is negotiating endings, the unceasing process of disconnecting the strings that tie our children to us, preparing them for life on their own. That has always been the ache and the beauty of it for me - taking the deep breath and trusting somehow in the goodness of life, in God, in something beyond myself.”

Right below this quote, I wrote: I am terrified to let my kids go. The weekend I wrote it, I wrestled with my fear, felt the Divine speaking to me and encouraging me to let go. I memorialized my letting go with a self-made ceremony on the beach, writing fear in the sand and letting the waves sweep it away. But I learned then, and coming to know again, that letting go happens over and over and over again. That standing with our fear and pressing into the discomfort of hard things is a choice we make repeatedly - that it takes time and courage. 

Today I sat down intending to write about an early childhood memory, but my writing had something else to say. As I tried to add details to those early images of my childhood self, I found myself walking instead down a road of fear for the future and control of my children’s lives. I found myself confronted, again, with the bittersweet beauty of getting to be a part of these little lives. I found myself forced to face each fleeting moment, forced to press into the discomfort of trusting Goodness and letting go. 

I will surrender today, and let go again tomorrow. But I will forget and fail and forever be in need of the Divine’s proddings. Somedays I will see and know and breathe into all that knowing with great courage. Other days I will scurry about, running from the truth that each new second is a gift as I make vain attempts to immortalize our lives. Somedays I will resist, and others I will release. This is my journey of surrender. 


Sometimes when I write I wonder whether all the nuances of emotion that I am trying to express come through. So, I decided to try something new: readings of my posts. I promise to keep working on the quality on these, but the vocalization will give you a further peer into my heart as I wrote this.

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