x's and o's

Walking in line with a few hundred other graduates at the Convention Center-- the first thing I looked for was H and the boys.  A sea of faces, where were they, I squinted up and finally saw them, my heart skipped a beat—they’ve never looked so handsome and so big, and so well, I got lost in a moment of love for my family and gratitude for this strange journey. 
Relief swooshed over me walking onto that platform in graduate attire, relief when I shook that outstretched hand, passing a document rolled cleanly like a baton, wrapped with a little silk ribbon.  The relief—walking back to my seat. It’s finished. This part is finished.  Scroll in hand, I found the boys again in the distant stands and saw their thumbs up, outstretched arms and excited waves, I saw H beside them, his still-tantalizing-after-11-years-grin saying everything, “I’m so proud of you. Here we are, we made it again.” 
I found my seat and listened one by one to all the other names called and thought of the stories behind the names, the journey each one of them took—the struggle of a few hundred motley crew students through school via second chances, single parenting, day jobs and night jobs, babies born during capstone courses and still not quitting.  Everyone has a story.  We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Perhaps the biggest collective sigh Cox Convention Center has ever seen. “It’s finished.  This part is finished.”
In reality, this is just the beginning. The next chapter has started and we are on our way. For me, what that means, I can’t really say. 
School wasn’t simply a stepping-stone towards something ahead like i originally thought.
When I started back to college three years ago I had the best of intentions. But you know how intentions go. I want to be a therapist I’d say.  Oh and then I’ll get my master’s, and then... and then… just you wait.  I was sort of embarrassed about being right where I was.  I apologized for my lack of ambition in the past, those infamous, postpartum, roaring twenties, and I handed out my common soliloquy to make certain you knew I had a plan.  “Oh yes, I have a plan.  This school thing, oh don’t mind that, pretend that’s not there.  Here, look at what I’ll become.”
Then, halfway into getting back into the swing of college demands—brain chalked full of vexing cognitive quarrels—H was struck with a near fatal illness, and more than a few times I near fell apart trying to keep everything together.  Come to find out, trying to keep everything together is an illusion along with thinking you have a plan, and one must learn the formidable act of uttering two simple words when necessary, “Please help.” A major lesson while learning lessons in class—learned.
Back to glancing up while in graduation garb and seeing the boys in the stands:  I had a wave of realization hit me as I took in the moment.  I learned more while on this strange journey than I could have imagined, and I don’t just mean about neuroses and psychological theories.  And what I learned won't impact a might-be-career, near as much as the way I parent. 
Somewhere along the way I stopped caring so much about what other people think.  Somewhere along the way I stopped apologizing for the kind of parent I wasn’t yet, or for the kind of parent I’d been when I ‘secretly’ sought solace in the banal bottle of booze.  Somewhere along the way I learned how to love learning, remembered how to ask questions, and feel the natural high of being curious and sleuth-like about things I know not of yet. So many riddles in this life! So many curiosities and quandaries beckoning us to come see and find out, look into or read!
Somewhere along the way I decided not to compare myself anymore to the slew of  “shoulds” that took up residence for so long in my psyche.
Somewhere along the way, I learned it’s ok to be this random Alison person with all these upside down and backwards ways of doing things and that maybe just maybe this is the mom I’m supposed to be to these little human beings entrusted to me for a wee bit of time (shall I say big, growing bigger in their sleep each night). 
College at 34 was exactly where I was supposed to be to find out how to be in the now, to grab hold of it, to share the upside down and backwards process with the boys—all the pains and joys of learning some ‘elementary’ lessons as an adult.  To learn to not pretend I have it all together, but include them in the family story by really living in it, engaging in it, not wishing for a different one or someone else’s story.  Re-engaging in life before it all makes sense, to fully ‘live the questions now’ as Rilke implored.  Before I learn how to organize, or the house gets fixed, or we have a grown up family sized car, or before we find Dave Ramsey’s financial peace, in other words stop putting off living and love life in the here and now.  Live the questions now.  
I looked up in the stands waved up at the boys and saw them waving with the hugest smiles on their faces.  As younger brother, L described how he felt about his birthday party bliss one year, “I can’t explain it with words Mom; I can only feel it.”
That’s my family up there, my team. They are my home. My residence could be anywhere, and in the last 10 years has been many-wheres. But this crew waving at me, we fought to stay a ‘we’, we ran the heck out of some plays out there on the 'field'. 
Pretense doesn’t have a place anymore, fear isn’t fought alone anymore, pain cannot penetrate the walls anymore, chaos or catastrophe cannot control anymore. We have learned love really can conquer and cover and connect pieces back together.
{I’m not talking a Hollywood-ending kind of love here.  This is a new beginning sort of love.  A forgiveness sort of love.  A willingness to come out of hiding, out of acting parts but really walking around with a broken heart sort of love.  A love that usurps physical pain/limitations, mental/chemical imbalances, ugly phases, pretty faces, hard truths, and bad news.  A love that we found by finding out how little the externals matter, and how strong “starting from scratch”(sometimes a second or third time) can re-build this fortress called family.}
Miracles come out of mistakes if we let them, if we keep playing, keeping fighting towards the other side- upside down as it may seem. There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen sings.
School wasn’t a stepping-stone to something bigger.  School is a part of the story.  And as upside down and backwards as it may be some days, I’ve learned to live life on life-now’s terms rather than yearn or strain towards a life I think will look better, feel better in the future; meanwhile missing miracles that come out of mistakes or mayhem or come what may. 
I’m grateful to be a college graduate finally.  I’m grateful for the lessons I learned along the way that taught me how to engage in the game of life and parenting more than i did before.  We can take those kinds of lessons out of any challenge confronting us. 
To echo Coach Taylor’s unfettered phrase: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” As H says—sometimes joking sometimes not—thank football.  This time I may have to thank football.  Vince Lombardi sums it up well, “Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.”  On to the next play…

1 comment:

Amy said...

Love your blog and congratulations. P.S. we love Coach Taylor, too!