Thursday, September 27, 2007

Straight line or curved?

I had quite an awakening recently. And I can't say that too often. A week and a half ago, I was in DC. For days I had been playing with a train set in the sun room of my parents' house, building perfectly oval tracks for Silas (and rebuilding them after he carried off pieces) and even ones that included the tunnel, crossing gate AND bridge (very advanced). Then Zeke came over. Zeke just turned 3 and was very intent on playing with the trains. After he'd been playing for a bit, I looked over saw that he had built a track whose sides wound like a river rather than lay straight like the sides of my firm oval tracks. I was floored. It had never OCCURRED to me that I could make a wavy track. I was shocked --not so much by the now-obvious shape that lay on the floor, but by my own straight-line thinking. How did that happen? Amazing.

So, I've been trying to watch myself since then. I'm certainly a creature of habit and I love that in lots of ways -- rituals ground me and give me things to look forward to like champagne thursdays, the petting zoo in the afternoons, walks to our park -- but what am I missing because of my routines? Ben is out of town this week and I am trying to catch myself off-guard (well, I don't think that's really possible) but at least to challenge my impulses, to take a curvy-tracked route, to slip a bit.

[Thanks Zeke]


I feel like I've been chewing a mouthful of staples, but no, I've just been to the dentist where the hygienist Debbie jabbed at my gums for an hour. The practice is convinced that everyone is on their way to periodontitis -- and maybe we are, though it's strange to think that God gave us teeth that involve a masked person squirting microbe anti-bacterial stuff through a syringe into their roots to maintain...

It turns out I really do suffer from sitcom-scenario dental anxiety. When I walk into the office, I feel the same tense defensiveness that I feel when I take my car in -- that helpless this-guy-is-trying-to-work-one-over-and-make-an-extra-buck feeling. Today I even argued with the woman at the desk and threatened to walk out after only hearing what the "cleaning" involved. (poor woman -- sorry). And to top it off, there is the reality that 9 out of 10 visits end with the words, "so you'll have to come back in to get that worked on" backed by the sound of drills spinning in every other exam room. Ugh.

The good news is that today, my mouth was sparklingly cavity-free! And to top it off, the dentist said, "keep doing whatever you're doing -- it's working!" What that really means, though, is flossing once a month and canceling dentist appointments out of apprehension for a year. Perfect!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a 3 foot tall teacher

The past few days have been quiet ones. Yesterday, Silas and I went to the pediatrician in the morning and that was it. Around noon, I lay on the couch next to him while he drank his milk. He was sluggish and crabby from shots in both arms and legs, and as I lay there beside him, I had a brief certainty that I didn't need to be doing anything else at that moment. Though there were errands waiting in the car, a computer humming with power on the counter, books stacked by my bed to be read, students in need of tutoring, all I needed to be was on the couch next to Silas catching his feet when he raised them in the air and keeping him company while he drank.

He has grown from baby-to-care-for into companion. Lately, he'll plop down somewhere, usually on his dragon chair or this morning on a hill of sand at the beach, and then say "Mama" and tap the sand next to him. He'll answer questions, "would you like to go home now?" with a pause and a thoughtful "...noh."

He also, once again, tends to be a pretty good teacher. When we were in DC last, Ben, much of his family, and I went to see a grief counselor. Among other things, she talked about being present, giving our full attention to the person we are with. Silas does this naturally, and I guess we all must have at some point. He cannot stay on task for longer than a 15 second span -- when I tell him to get his shoe by the door, I have to remind him over and over of his task as he swerves off to pick up a car, to climb stairs, to find a raisin under the table, to put on my shoe -- but each thing he does, on task or off, he engages in completely. So I am trying this too, to look into people's eyes, to keep my phone on silent when I'm with a friend, to hear people the first time, to mute my cluttered mind.