hope in the middle

I don’t know him, but he gives me hope. Everyday.

Middle school is not an easy time, to put things lightly. Even now as an adult when I drop my son off or pick him up, I see it. The invisible yet obvious undercurrent of the caste system there.

The power of some. The shame of others. The pain and insecurity of all. Kids. Going through an excruciating stage of life.

But when I see him, I am always inspired. He is tall with a strong build and an awkward looking run. His blonde hair with gentle waves seems to suit the sweet spirit I see in him. My sense is that he comes from a family where he is loved and valued. He holds his head high and smiles from the inside out, even though I never see him with friends.

He is my reminder that right now is not all there is.

Because let’s face it, when we’re in it, middle school might as well be an eternity. The pressure to be perceived well is crushing and ever-present, making us all acutely aware of everything we say or do and how it might look to the eyes of others.

But as I have told my son, this is the worst of it. After middle school, people get better and better and better at accepting others – and themselves – and not being as mean and cruel as they are in middle school.

Except for those who don’t, because there are a few who remain forever in middle school. And there is a tiny bit of middle school that remains forever in everyone. But for the most part, we grow out of it.

And this boy reminds me of that because every time I see him, I see who he is now. Probably not the highest one on the social totem pole. But of all the kids who walk by while I wait in my car for the bell to ring, in him I can also see who he is going to be.

His future self seems to leap out of him right before my eyes. Handsome, yes, but also compassionate. The guy all the girls will swoon over because he will not only have looks but also heart and soul.

He is and will be smart, hard working, and going somewhere. Where I don’t know, but somewhere far away from middle school. And not only going somewhere but also being someone, as he already is. Someone wonderful. Someone people want to be around.

Those middle school kids can’t see this now. But I can. And it makes me smile.

space, care & coming

I am not a big goal setter. Growth is very important to me and I vigilantly watch for it, but not so much with the goals. My friend Leeana has done a workshop called “A Year In Review”. Totally my speed. I recently looked longingly at my art from last year’s workshop and missed my friend. Now she lives in Baharain. No workshop this year. And then she put a post on her blog that went step by step through the workshop. Score.

So on a day I took my kids to the park, I printed out the post and made sure to have my 2011 calendar with me. In between pushing kids on swings and working out sibling skirmishes, I opened my calendar and explored my soul for last year’s growth.

I discovered 2011 was a year of creating space. Precious space for others, for connecting with friends both near and far. Connecting with others always helps me feel more connected with myself and more stable and loved as I move through the craziness of life.

There was also a lot of space made for taking care. Taking care of myself and my family. That may sound obvious and elemental, but it took me quite some time to learn to take care of myself. I had a little girl in me that had been covered up instead of getting the care she needed. And we all know that taking care of ourselves is a necessary step in taking care of others. Even if we try and skip it sometimes.

So there were copious visits to therapists, dentists and doctors. Time was spent taking care of those things we often like to ignore. Bodies and souls. Our culture tells us just to keep going and pay no attention to the things that seem to be breaking down. Such things will work themselves out. But this year we ignored culture instead. And it feels very good to have taken care of those things.

I also realized for our family it was a year of coming: becoming, overcoming, and coming of age. As a wife and mom, I realized that I carry the lives of my husband and children around with me as a part of my own, so their struggles and growth and changes are a part of my own story as well.

Leeana quotes the passage from Ecclesiaties (made famous by John Lennon) that there is a time for all things under Heaven. As I read the list of a time for this and a time for that, my breath caught on a time to break down and a time to build up.

I entered 2011 quite broken down, and so for me it was a year about building up and seeing how beautiful that process can be. Finding a self that had been waiting quietly, timidly, and ever so patiently for me to discover her. Becoming.

Then there is my middle son. This year was about breaking down – or breaking through – fears. Facing big scary things like swimming in the deep end and having surgery and staying overnight in the hospital. Those are things that break down an eight year old. And yet through facing those things he was built up as well. Overcoming.

And my oldest – this year was about the child he was breaking down to make room for the man he is becoming. Goodbye elementary school. Welcome middle school and blackbelt and emerging man. Coming of age.

Then the youngest. His baby-ness is gone, broken down. The preschooler is building up, the language is building up, and the legos are building up. Coming of age too, just a different one.

And lastly my biggest man had a big birthday this year, and it wasn’t an easy one for him. He seems to be coming of age, too.

And all of it was cathartic, to see it all on paper and have a chance to acknowledge what this year held for our funny little family of five. Maybe no goals were achieved, but much growth took place. It felt kind of like taking a lot of loose strings and tying them together in a way that actually made some sense to look at.

What do you find when you look at your year in review? What do you want to find at the end of this year?