Early November gratitude

What I started to write a few days ago but have not returned to because of Halloween and because of a large bodied young man loping around the house, is that Benjamin is feeling much better. (He is that loping guy.) Thank you for your prayers.

Swiss heart

 

What I wanted to say a few days ago, but have been too timid to write it, is that I get so very worried about my kids I pray the paint off the walls, and though it makes me feel better, makes me feel that I am not the only one keeping the wheels on the car, all those random elements like drivers in correct lanes, flu viruses and recreational activities, blood composition and cranial vaults, hormones and integrity, will behave as they behave. Whether my prayers influence any of these things, I hardly really care frankly. My prayers help me, and so I pray.

 

But what do we do when, again, our community suffers the loss of another kid? This one a college freshman, walking home with two buddies back to campus, struck by a drunk driver. The kids were walking. The driver was drunk. And of the three young men, one is dead and two are seriously injured.

*Pause here to do what you do, light candles, kneel, look at a tree, fold your hands over your heart…for his sweet life ended, for his family. I don’t know them at all, but believe me, loss does not need proximity to be shared.*

Every single community in this nation wrangles with loss; tragic, mundane, daily loss. The varying levels of loss, the extreme violence that is generated by all the -isms at play in our society, and the school incidents we weep over, yet cannot find a way to curtail-all of these realities get run through the washing machines of our hearts. We take them in, all the details we can fit. We wash them with tears and ministrations, and we set them out again to dry. How how how do we carry on?Fall evening

This was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. My daughter, a high school senior, has philosophic leanings, just like her brother, and by virtue of proximity, my husband and me, too. We were considering something of the question of “what gets you out of bed in the morning, knowing, as you do because you are human, that you will die, if not today, some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. Why get up?” While this may sound morose, it digs pretty efficiently to the heart of the matter of what we makes each of us tick. And since my kids are old enough now to get them selves out of bed and in to their respective days, the answers become more and more interesting.

For me, it is a question of faith in goodness.

I grew up thinking it was God with a capital G, with a white beard and pearly gates and the Bible is a record of fact. I have come to believe a wider truth today. And because I am human and because I believe we are here for a reason and because I know the healing that comes to broken hearts because of the power of love, I get out of bed intent on loving bigger than I did yesterday. And praying to a power greater than myself helps me know how to do that.

I came upon this in Mirabai Starr’s book about Teresa of Avila:

 

“Remember:

if you want to make progress

on the path

and ascend to the places

you have longed for,

the important thing

is not to think much

but to love much,

and so to do

whatever

best awakens you to love.”

 

 

What best awakens you to love?

I trust that readers of Laundry Line Divine might answer this question in a myriad of ways. Yesterday, my she-ro Anne Lamott batted the question of faith and fear around in an excellent post, in which she concluded that in the face of all these odds, she would, “…flirt with every old lonely person I see,” along with a few other things to which I would add, “…go hang my wash out on the line in the sun and plant a few rows of garlic.”

along the river

I return to this question of faith over and over again. My Lutheran minister Grandfather seems to have a hand in this inner debate because he modeled for me a man of faith and consequence, an imperfect man doing what he believed to be God’s work, who left a lot of unfinished business in his wake, who, among other things, raised pigeons for lab research and grew lots of gladioli to sell (I guess), but who, towards the end of his ministry started to participate in Baptist services. The man was a seeker, a blustering red-faced pulpit speaker who just did not settle on one way of seeing things. I was too young to know more about him before he died. Much of what I know I learned by asking my mother and her siblings, but even they are not forthcoming with stories. I don’t think life with my Grandfather was easy.

But, this yearning to “love much” leads me to a theme I learned long ago in Al-Anon, the 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics. In those rooms filled with people of so many different faiths and religions, atheists and anarchists, the one common cup we could all drink from is gratitude. And it is through gratitude that I have found my way in to a prayer practice that connects me to spirit, that presence which comforts and preserves me outside of radiology rooms where my kid is being scanned or at my mother’s bedside where her breath slows to her very last. I can say thank you to every single human being, no matter what our language, religion or belief.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”

-Meister Eckhart

I want to get to this because “thank you” is what leads me to loving much. Like Anne Lamott smiling at all the old people she sees while out walking her dogs in Marin County, I find that offering thanks in real time, in letters and cards, in phone calls, in person at the drug store, at the Doctor’s office, in the ER, saying thank you seems to be the connection point between humans. It is where smiles spring up.

So today, on this Monday, a cool but warm-in-the-sunshine fall day, I am so very grateful for Benjamin feeling better and an acupuncturist who could see him on a Sunday. I am grateful for each and every kid who showed up on our porch for tricks and treats on Saturday evening, especially the tiny ones who my son would kneel down to meet and treat instead of them encountering our scary-as-shit table prank that my Halloween collaborators and I cooked up.  (see below) I am grateful for my husband being patient with me when I am not the most loving I could ever be. And I am grateful for him in the moments when he is doing his best, though not what I would have planned had it all been up to me.

A video posted by Suzi Banks Baum (@suzibb) on

 

I guess the point of this writing is this: The goodness and grace of daily life exists in all cases. When I tune my attention towards it, my ability to keep going is fueled, motivated-this force is generative and a certain salvation.

People get hurt. As William Stafford says in his luminous poem, The Way It Is:

 

“Things happen. People get hurt

or die, you suffer and get old,

Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”

 

But, we get to wake up again on the next day and decide how to use our time, no matter what the prevailing conditions or our marital status or the laundry outlook,

we carry on.

 

How we carry on, in what state our hearts are, how connected we are to what is true and real and beautiful and whether or not we get to have our say about that, let alone perhaps make art in response to that, is exactly why I get out of bed in the morning.

I wake up curious.

Usually have to pee.

But once done, I am deeply attentive to the first signs of light.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here is much love to you each.

From my laundry line to yours,
S

 

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Showing 16 comments
  • janet

    lovely. love-y. I love.

  • Peggy Acott

    Suzi, this is so eloquent, so heart and soul lovely – I am going to share it in a couple different places.

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      Thank you Peggy, I appreciate you sharing it. And firstly, reading it with your big open heart. xoS

  • sandra mattucci

    Joining you in prayer—beautifully written dear friend! Deep Gratitude xo

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      To you my sister pilgrim, walking beside you is so much fun. xoxoxS

  • Joleen

    Taking a walk of remembrance on All Soul’s Day, I was struck by the resilience I found in this little lone dandelion still intact. Somehow it reminded me of all of us who have lost a beloved child…Mothers Healing Together. Sending prayers to the family of the young man who lost his life in Saratoga…

    Wishing you and your family well…

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      Thank you Joleen. Yes, with the resilience of a dandelion. I saw one yesterday too, bright yellow in the clutter of leaves. I am so glad you are here on the planet, doing the work you do. xoxoS

  • Xanthippia

    Suzi, Marsha B. here — last night, there was a report in the Boston Globe about a fatal accident involving a drunk driver and college kids, one of whom was fatally injured. At the Skidmore campus. Is that the accident you wrote about? I was horrified on several levels — the snuffing out of a bright young person’s future (had to be bright, going to that school), that the drunk driver was my age (and for sure should have known better than to drive while intoxicated), and that the fatality occurred at that place (a place I always associate with unfurling and exuberance, rather than withering and death).

    I am very glad to know your son is feeling better — prayers for others always do help us, don’t they?

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      Dearest MB, Yes it was this very accident. Yes. He is the son of an actress in our community, mother, artist, teacher. Yes, at our very own Skidmore. A similar accident happened near the campus of Bard College a few years ago and they amped up the school bus line. It is terribly sad. I hope you are well. I’d love to see you this year! xoS

  • Jenny Bender

    Beautiful– and as I just posted on Twitter, timely, since I am just getting back to my own gratitude practice in an effort to heal and move beyond the grieving I’ve been doing since the beginning of October. Thank you.

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      Thank you Jenny. There are so many inroads to be made by taking the road named Gratitude. I send you all my best wishes for grace around your grief. And much love, S

  • Julie Bond Genovese

    BEAUTIFUL sistah Smoozie! love to you~~~~ xo julie

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      I was just thinking of you, Sparkles. How are you? Popping over to your blog to see what you are up to. Thank you for reading. And for seeing. xoxox Hugs, S

  • Vanessa Herald

    Thank you Suzi. I had started reading this right before getting the call about Fierce yesterday, and was grateful to finish reading it today. Quite the salve. Thank you. Lots of hugs to you for offering the world exactly what it needs to hear right now.

    • Suzi Banks Baum

      Oh my dear Vanessa, right back to you my dear. I am so very sorry about Fierce. But, from your writing, I gather you are knitting with all those loosened stitches. Maybe so? Hug your heartache for me, okay? Many loves, S