You’re Gonna Miss This

My baby boy graduated from High School last night.  Its strange to me, not because I feel as though the years have gone by in a moment and it can’t quite be possible that he’s old enough to be on his own, much less graduating (because it has), and not because I can’t possibly bottle up all the memories and events in his life that add up to this special day (because I can’t), but mostly because I can stand aside and appreciate this wonderful young man in blue mortarboard, robe and honor cords and think, “You’ve been striving for success since the day you were born and I don’t feel responsible for it.” I see other moms, tissue clutched in hand, or eyes red rimmed and glistening, and wonder that I don’t feel that same sense of emotion.  I just watch him from aside and feel tremendous joy and pride, knowing he came from Joe’s and my loins, knowing I’ve spent a large sacrificial part of my life with him, but still feeling all the same….he’s come to this honorable spot, emmanating a personality that’s full of charm, conscientiousness and confidence all on his own.
I remember back in fourth grade (3rd? grade) when he was memorizing his times tables.  We’d work through the table, both of us tiring of the list quickly.  He had Spongebob to watch and Joey Bricker or Drew Hogan ready for a playdate; it was like pulling teeth to get him to work with me.  So imagine my surprise as he kept advancing in class through those tables on his own.  It was the first time I remember in my life thinking, “He’s got this.  I don’t need to worry.”  Teachers always spoke well of him, so much that I stopped going to Parent/Teacher conferences; I knew what I was going to hear.  Always an attentive listener (except for a few years in middle school) and self-motivated to achieve.  Once the school system started giving out letter grades, I was impressed by his ability to achieve A after A without any pushing of my own.  I never reminded him to finish his homework, nor quizzed him facts for memorization in preparation for a test as I remember doing growing up.  By fifth grade, we’d also identified a strength in writing so that he was awarded The Dare Program award because of his essay on the effects of drugs and alcohol.  (((Middle school years, he’d still been an academic wonder, but I remember his fascination with the skater groups.  Although a gifted skateboarder himself, I remember his teachers being a tad concerned over his awe of the “F-you” attitude of that group, staring in utter amazement as they flipped off authority, walking in late to class or opening their homework page to a blank sheet.  There was no gene within Eric that would allow him that kind of disrespect or irresponsibility, but I think maybe for an instant that kind of freedom amused him. ))))
I’m tickled as I remember seeing him race out of our lakehouse as a teen to meet my parents, jumping into Pops arms in happy greeting.  Or in hearing from friends’ parents that while their children were caught drinking, that mine was the rare one that  remained sober.   Or watching him jump up to find a chair for a guest, or fill a drink for a friend, or wrap his arm around the inner-city friend.  My heart swells.  We’ve taken him to church (though at times I’m criticized, not quite enough) and been models of generous hearts….but have we taught him this?  Where did this compassionate good soul come from?!
I’m struggling with this writing because I feel separate from his accomplishments – without responsibility for the young man he is today.  I feel as though he stopped needing me in elementary school, growing into this amazing young man without my shaping or struggle.  Is it a positive thing not to have yourself so tied up in their being that you ache, kick and scream with every minor step, feeling that clench of worry if and when they fall backwards?  Because I’m not feeling that right now- I feel as though I should feel *more*.
I remember the joys and aches of mothering him over the years – even remember chasing him up the stairs in a full out yell, but mostly just remember an ease of trust, knowing that he was going to do the right thing.  If he was going to do anything (and truly, sometimes it was hard to get him to agree to try something new) he was going to excel at it.  Whether schoolwork, skiing, wakeboarding, skateboarding, relationships, communicating with adults, navigating his way through adolescence, he’s been independently (successful).  I remember thinking at one time in his life, that Eric doesn’t like to do anything he doesn’t feel he’ll succeed at.  At times it makes him fearful to test the waters, but once he decides to take it on – he’s gung ho on nailing it.
Maybe that’s why I ache so much now over his indecision of where to head to college.  I know it’s in a fear of failing – of being far from home and the security of what is known and comfortable, and fearing that he might be making a mistake.  That it won’t come as easy as it has over the years being off on his own, and he’ll need to go back on his decision.  I laugh in memory of his decision processes over the years – the angst in front of the Chucky Cheese prize counter glass window or within the ToysRUs aisle, knowing whatever desire was his, he just needed to choose.  What if he made the wrong one?  That the real joy was lying somewhere forgotten back on that shelf?  I’m wondering if he’s feeling that same angst now in that open decision of whatever your heart desires in your future.  What if he makes the wrong one, and the real joy – the real discovery of life – is on that other college campus.
Is self-motivation and achievement a matter of being first-born?  A natural outcome of living with two stable, successful parents, especially a father that knew he’d become a doctor from the time he was in elementary school?  Is that kind of self-motivation inbred?
Janet’s new friend, Tim, asked Joe and I yesterday when was the biggest moment we remember in his life to this point.  There’s just so many in an achieving life that I can’t recall a single moment.  Like a fool I recall the pride I feel in seeing him soar over a wave while wakeboarding – maybe because it’s out of the ordinary.  But I wonder in retrospect what has made me choose something so apparently insignificant.  Maybe it’s just in the fact that it’s symbolic for how he’s lived his life so far — he soars above the rest, achieving heights I’d not dreamed of for him.  Perhaps even surpassing his own expectations.
Sure, others scored higher than him on their ACT’s, class rank, and GPA. (The valedictorian scored a 4.7!)  But it’s this well-roundedness, this all around good hearted, genuine and intelligent soul that I’m amazed with. Image

Taming the Monster

I write for the sake of sorting it out. Sorting out the mess in my head, the rumble of emotion, and hopefully be left with enlightenment.  Putting the words together, hoping for some ease in the process.  I believe my voice is simple with descriptive interchanges, sometimes sarcastic and funny, but hopefully having some deeper true meaning that touches all our centers.  That’s the goal.

There’s many days though that I can’t put two words together.  When I look at the blank page while my mind becomes enemies with my typing fingers.  “Who are you kidding?” it cries out to me.  I open writing websites for inspiration and come away agreeing with those cries.

Listen to those that read your work, I plea.  You hear over and over you have a gift.  How talented you are.

My critical voice looks at the simplicity, the absence of vocabulary and poetic creativity, and I account for my friends’ bias and politeness.

Isn’t that like so many things we’re passionate about?  That despite our God given drive, our very soul sustaining desire, we’re hampered by human doubt and fear.  Fear that it’s just not good enough.  That we’re deluded by momentary thoughts of grandeur.

And really, what does it all matter?  We’re all just sharing small pieces of our soul and putting it out there.  Reaching for that universal connection within.  Even in speech, we all carry a different voice.

It’s the same with singing, another passion I crave without possessing a professional talent.  I admire the amateurs that do and ache for that same skill.  Our church gives me the opportunity to live within that dream for a moment or two.  To stand in the spotlight for just a second and believe that it’s possible.  That you got it.

And then you listen back to the recording, knowing the truth.  You carry a tune, you’re better than average, but give up all hope of professional ability.  With practice and training, you’d improve.  But you’re fooling yourself to think that anyone is telling all their friends what artistry they heard in church that morning.

Shucks, throw in painting.  Making jewelry.  Throw in every last piece of my creative soul.  All the same.  Feeling that vision from deep within yet squelching it in the ongoing commentary of your mind.  Allowing it to throw road blocks to your imagination, the free flowing spirit that churns below.

In church, I’ve been able to smile to myself, knowing this is a gift to God after-all.  That She doesn’t require professionalism.  She celebrates the passion of that fuzzy pig-tailed child singing with gusto in an ear-splitting tune, as She welcomes all our varying alms of voice.  Its the vital force churning within all of us fighting its way to the surface.  Why not let it break free no matter its artistic value?

Because it *ours*.  Uniquely ours.  And that is precious.  Because it fills us with deep joy.  Peace that allows all else to fade into black.  And because it speaks to us in a way that nothing else can.

Professional value is merely a matter of marketing and business.