I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Keeping me honest

One thing this blog does for me is keep me honest. I think about it during the week, what I'll write about, and why. It is so different from my other blog, because now that I've told how I got here in previous posts, I am now trying to find a part of my psyche that I haven't actually examined closely. It's also curious to me how much I'm learning about my own journey through the comments I receive, the sharing of the pain of existence, maybe. Everybody suffers, sometimes in silence and sometimes with valiant voice. I really don't think it's possible to live and not spend some time suffering.

I have some regrets that cause me suffering. In some ways they might seem small or even trivial to someone else, but they do still hurt when I think about them. Long, long ago, when I was a very young mother, I spanked my son Stephen. I didn't know why he was so cranky after he woke from his nap and I lost my temper and gave him a sharp whack, I'm sure it stung. I will never ever forget the look on his face, one of shock and betrayal. That was the last day he was alive, since I ended up taking his temperature and realized he was really sick. I didn't know how sick with deadly meningitis. Of course I didn't know, but every time I think of that moment I feel huge pain and regret still sitting there in my heart, unhealed. I wish I knew how to let it go.

I also regret the way I treated my first husband Derald. I was self centered and cruel to him in so many ways. He was a good man, I know that now, and I was just too young and ignorant to realize how much a marriage is based on mutual respect and trust. Today I see the same thing going on around me in relationships of all kinds, mostly young people trying to find their way through the reality they are facing, and thinking (like I did) that if only I had married someone else everything would have turned out perfectly.

The yearning I experience now in my later years is to find a way to continue to grow as a human being, to give a voice to some inchoate longing. It's hard to express what I'm saying here, but I am pretty sure everybody who has been around for awhile can relate on some level. I don't want to look up from some book one day and wonder where the time went, wonder why I frittered away the last years without a true purpose.

I have no doubt that I will find a volunteer activity one day that will enrich me. I'm hesitant to simply go through a list and unintentionally find myself tied up in activities that take up my time but don't satisfy that deep need to grow. I'm convinced that if I can just get centered enough, the next phase will find me, I won't have to try to figure it out intellectually.

The last thing I want to happen is to have regrets that I wasted these fertile years. So this little blog post is a step in the right direction, a step towards changing the possibility of another future regret. Every day is a gift, a small microcosm of a larger life, and I'd like to spend it wisely.


Star said...

I think it is a really good idea for you to keep opening up on your feelings on your journey through life. I admire your writing a lot and enjoy reading it. I need to open up a lot more too and I have tried to do so on my Blog 'From the heart'. It is not an easy thing to do to admit one's failings.
With regard to your slapping Stephen, perhaps if you think about it as slapping the illness, you will be able to come to terms with it. No-one likes to slap their child but there is a difference between slapping and losing control.
You're a very special person. Do what you want to in life now that you have experienced the largest part of it. You deserve it.
Blessings, Star

reanaclaire said...

Hi.. my first time here via Ginny's blog..
Just want to say.. we are humans and we are learning as we go thru phases of our lives.. we learn from our wrongs and we try out best to do it right.. that is why the saying, learn from our mistakes..
till today, im still learning to be a mum to 3 teenagers.. God bless!


gigihawaii said...

Being a parent is so difficult. I wish I had been more patient and loving and understanding with my 2 daughters. Fortunately, they did not die in childhood. If they had, I would have been overcome with remorse.

I am there with you, DJan. Take care!

Linda Reeder said...

We used to toss around a phrase in education "life long learner" It was our goal to inspire that in our students, but I sometimes wondered if the teachers knew what it meant.
You do. You understand that life continues to be a learning experience and you want to enrich that learning. I'm kind of in that same place. I wonder if I should be offering some kind of service to others. But I did that for many years as a mother and a teacher. I'm not ready to be tied down yet to a commitment of my time.
Today I wrote about finding my lazy bone. I need my time for myself right now. I give myself permission to do that. And I'll still be learning every day.

Linda Myers said...

Glad I found your blog today.

I had one profound regret in my life. When my father was dying in the ICU in 1979, I left him to go to my mother's house - where she already had plenty of company - and he died alone. For years that haunted me, and though people told me to let it go, I couldn't.

Then, two years ago, my mother laying dying in a nursing home, and I was there with her, trying to figure out what amends I owed her, and how to make them. She and I had had a difficult relationship and mostly, I thought, she owed an amends to me. That didn't happen. But as I lay in the bed next to her, breathing in and out with her, I realized it was the first time in my life I'd ever accepted her just as she was, without expecting something else. And, on that realization, I could feel my father's presence in the room, and he was smiling. Now I'm no longer haunted.

I wish it had happened sooner, rather than 29 years later. But it happened at exactly the right time.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

DJan, that is a terribly sad memory. I'm not an expert; I don't know what it will take to forgive yourself, or to accept that he forgave you. But perhaps someone can speak to that. And yes, you could bring a lot to the world (and to your own well-being) with the right volunteer role. I picture you working directly with people who have been damaged in some way... but maybe you have a very different path in mind.

The Retired One said...

One thing about aging,DJan, is that it does provide us some hindsight and wisdom. We all have regrets that haunt us...and you are doing the right thing..turning those regrets into motivation to do better now. Like Oprah says: When we know better, we do better.
I like that..forgive yourself because you did not know better then....now that you do, you are acting in a different manner and doing better for you and the world.....that's all anyone can ask, right?

Jo said...

Oh, Djan, I had no idea about your little boy's last day of life. The hardest thing we can do is to forgive ourselves.

I'm afraid I was not very nice to my husband as well. I was too young and ignorant too, and I regret it because he died after we had been married for only five years. He deserved better.

All we can do is put one foot in front of the other, and do the best we can each day -- just like everyone else. If we can do just one thing every day to make one other person's life better, we have made it a good day.

I too like the transparency of blogging, and I like folks who have the courage to write about themselves. Don't stop.

Whitney Lee said...

This desire is what I've been feeling, too. I want to do something that fulfills me on the levels that being a wife and mother don't. I am just not sure what that looks like. I also understand the thought that if I sit still and wait the perfect thing will appear, the perfect opportunity will present itself. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I believe that simply stating your intention and desire will help bring your opportunity closer.

You always inspire me.

As for your regrets, there is simply no way to get around them. They are now a part of you. One can see you've grown from your past experiences and that has to be enough. I have my own regrets. I try now to live in such a way that I do not do or say (or not do or say) something that will leave me with more regrets. Of course, being human, I don't always succeed. That too is part of life.

Gigi said...

What an insightful (and heart-wrenching) post! There are many moments/days I wish I could take back regarding my son. I'm so sorry that your last day with yours wasn't a pleasant memory, for that my heart breaks for you. I have learned that children know when they are loved - and forgive far easier than adults do. Know that he loved and forgave you and so should you - forgive yourself.

Your comments about your first husband really hit home as well. Although, I'm still with my first (only, please!) husband, you made me realize that yes, at times I am selfish and self-centered and he does deserve much more from me. Maybe the volunteer work that you are searching for is right here - helping those of us who need it find our way.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh DJan I think you have to forgive that young grieving mother inside of you..talk to her, tell her exactly how you feel, the old and wise part of you can talk to the young not so wise part. I think she has put in her time..it is time for the older you to allow the younger you to lay the guilt aside and go on. Does that make sense to you my friend? I hope so.
Guilt is a funny thing, we can carry it around like a sack of garbage, ready to dump it out at a moments notice and go through it bit by bit, part by part. We know it is better off in the can or at the dump..but sometimes it is very hard to let go.
Sending you a hug:)

TechnoBabe said...

Hi DJan, If the pain of your experience with your son is so strong for you it would be a good thing as you say to work through that some way and let go of the guilt. You use the term unhealed. I hope you work toward healing, not be staying busy which is a good thing in itself, but it may be a way to avoid the work. Just my opinion. It took me fifteen months of hard work with a therapist the end of 2008 and most of 2009 for me to work the guilt and regret in my life. That is just my experience and maybe you have your own way of working through things. I hug you and thank you for all the kindness you have shown me since I met you in blogland.

Dianne said...

I think you're one of the smartest, most thoughtful people I have met here in BlogLand

you can't go wrong by moving in the direction that feels right

Hilary said...

Hugs to you, DJan. Had that spanking occurred on any other day.. had that day ended differently, the spank would have surely been erased from your memory. I'm so very sorry for your loss. That act was one tiny blip in the course of your parenting this child. Don't allow it to carry more weight than the love, nurturing and devotion you gave him through his life. You had a momentary lapse of patience. That can't compare with a his lifetime of love. If I were that child, I would hate to think that the memory of one act caused my mother such pain and regret. I'd much rather she know that she felt right about the love she gave me throughout. I hope you can work this out.

Nancy said...

Wow. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to carry that around, DJan. The only time I spanked my oldest is one I will never forget. She was put on the potty and told to stay right there while I ran to answer the phone. Well she not only got off the potty, but stepped in it and ran it across the carpet. I was only gone a second. I lost my temper and smacked her bare little bottom. I took her upstairs to bathe her when I noticed the red hand print. I cried right there on the spot. I never spanked either girl again, but I lost my temper plenty of times. If that had been her last day, I would have felt exactly like you do. But we're only human. Mommies are tired. Just- so - tired, most of the time.

The same daughter swatted her little son just the other day. First, and probably last time...

Ed Pilolla said...

i liked your comment on quoteflections about the canadian poem not having a war theme as so much u.s.-inspired songs and poems do. and what a gift to pop over here and read your stuff. first, if i may say so, your transparency about your regrets over your son and husband is so powerful. as humans, we fail, and fail. we let our loved ones down. and yes, you have to find a way to forgive yourself and move on. that moment and your regret will always be there, but i'm hoping your writing about it will allow you to release that moment better.

if you're intending a volunteer opportunity that's meaningful to you, you'll get it. i'm betting the universe is going to drop something in your lap and you're going to do and write about it and i'm going to read about it. i have a feeling, just from being here for the first time, that this blog of yours is an important part of this stage of your life. you have something important to say, and there are plenty of us out here that want to hear it, i believe. i feel it.

after i quit my job as a newspaper reporter several years ago i moved from new england to california and hoped i might do some volunteering or something cool and alternative, something authentic and real. i ended up living with hippie-types in la that ran a soup kitchen in skid row. it was a life-altering experience.

great to meecha. please forgive the long comment.

Donna B said...

I am just a mess today. So much of what I read on both your blogs has really touched me to the point of tears. What an incredible way of communicating you have with your writing. You have so much to say, on a level so many can relate and understand.

You have received some very honest and touching comments with excellent advice.

I can't properly respond to your unhealed grief with your son, because I ache for you. I can only agree with the well intentions of the comments given. That unfortunate moment was frozen in time, but you must compare it with the span of his life and all the love you no doubt gave him. I am so sorry for your loss, but know he is an Angel in your life and he would not want you to carry this burden.

I really am so very glad I found your blog. You speak so honestly and break open your soul to learn and grow. I commend you and respect you.

CrazyCris said...

Seems like you're on the right path...