Thursday, September 16, 2010

Barbi Beckett: Right Now

Sitting on little Jen’s wee wicker loveseat in her tiny Belltown apartment I had a most conscious moment of Rightness. The summer evening air on my bare arms felt just so. Cool-warm. It carried a scent, delightful and delicious. Baking flowers? My mind was calm, my body was completely at ease and the company was . . . little Jen.

I closed my eyes as I stayed with the moment in the way you might with something rare and fleeting like a hummingbird or a fawn - where you just happen to notice, without a gasp to frighten it away, and can remain still and observant until the deer startles or the bird darts out of sight. Or your knee starts to itch.

Here’s my beef with those moments: too rare, too fleet. Why you gotta fleet so fast, Peaceful Perfection? I’ll admit, I’m high maintenance, even to myself. I always bring layers for temperature regulation. There are only two chairs I like at my favorite coffee shop, and one table. Those chairs are never at that table. Popcorn is a waste of time without the right kind of dark chocolate and both are useless without a not-too-sweetened carbonated beverage.

These are creature comforts though and somewhat controllable. What really keeps me from experiencing my entire life as perfect is my brain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my life. Everything is right. I have love, friends, family, health, time and money. So how is it there’s no shortage of things to bitch, moan, gripe and complain about?

All I can figure is programming. For longer than things have been great, things were hard. Time-wise, they’ll soon be leveling out. So, during formative times, things were hard. Jesus, this is exactly what scares the pellets out of me about parenting. No matter what else, I can do things to these people in these years that will subconsciously influence their feelings and reactions for . . . ever?

I honestly thought that by the time I was forty I would be over all that developmental damage and the livin’ would be easy. I’m forty-one and, in the past year, I’ve been re-nailed with such a rash of ancient dung. It actually made me mad. You mean I get to have arthritis AND get debilitatingly sad that my mommy left me? It came out of the blue around Christmas time and when I realized what was going on - why I had such an acute case of dead inside, I was at first relieved, then annoyed and then angry. Get over it. Just think what it would’ve been like if she’d stuck around. Then you’d really have something to cry about.

I realize it’s not that simple. This is a new round, new layers of old crap awakened by having a daughter the age I was when my mother left and the tough really got going. I am more patient and understanding of my brain now. I am navigating and studying, striving, failing and succeeding. My work each day, each moment, is to prevent permanent marring in the hearts, psyches and spirits of two little humans. My work, at times, is to teach and inspire confidence (I’ll be pulling that one straight out of my hiner), to nurture curiosity, quell fears and cultivate peace. That last one has already been so well botched that I’ve created another job where I have to repair the business that I, myself, have mussed up. Son-of-a-mother-suck-wad.

Thank you, Guiding Stars, for landing me in a place where I have room to feel and grow. I want to do right by these guys and, I confess, it’s a disheartening surprise that I have to raise my tiny self up at the same time. I can swing it though. I discovered a massive power within when I pushed those people out, so I know it’s there. Along with being the mother of internal and external children, I accept the challenge to retrain my brain. With proper exercise the muscles that perceive and take long joy rides on moments of simple sweetness can get frighteningly buff. Those moments are flitting around willy-nilly all the time.

Uh. Hold up.

I’m in that coffee shop, on that chair, at that table. I just ate my favorite pastry with the most delightful cup of tea. I’m warm. I’m learning to write things down and making my fears insecure by pretending I can’t hear them.

I can’t find a single thing wrong with right now.


  1. Barbini. Word, woman. Oof. There's a concept in Buddhism called "dukkha". It means "dissatisfactoriness", essentially, and the idea is that this is a huge filter through which humans are constantly seeing things. Like it's a built-in curse of being human. This piece takes me right there. I'm having a bout as we speak, you know? It attacks out of nowhere. Things just feel wrong, somehow. So those moments when you can't find anything wrong are so golden. You know it.

    I love this. And I think you live like a goddamn genius.

  2. so eloquently put. you are so strong! and I bet you've already done three shades of right by those little people. xo

  3. On my birthday my mother called and left a message. It was the song, Happy Birthday To You, sung in a very slow, heart felt manner. No intro, and when she completed her last note, she hung up. This type of thing, any other year would have been yet another cringe-worthy moment for me in a seemingly endless stream of cringe-worthy moments from my mother through the years. This time, the sound of her voice brought me back to childhood when, not knowing what else to do to assuage my hurt, she would begin to sing in a low voice and stroke my back or my leg. The sound of my mother doing the best she knew how to be a good mother made tears begin to steam down my face. I felt profound gratitude that I had a mother to love me. She herself did not have that luxury - her won mother died when she was two, and her distraught father joined the army to fight and hopefully (so the story goes) to die in world war II. This left her to be raised by two very busy grandmothers, who in turn palmed the responsibility off on a string of nannies and maids. Although she had no role model for how to be a mother, she gave it her very best shot. For years I was somewhat appalled at her attempt - many times I felt she fell quite short - but hearing the sound of her voice in the phone Sunday suddenly made clear that, in fact, she had been enormously successful in the area that mattered most: she loved me. I have the privilege of knowing you, Barbi, and watching you parent like a champ. You inspire me, although my kids are older than yours! You should know that you are already a winner as a parent. You love your children, and they know it.

  4. Once again I'm all wah-wah weepy Jane after reading this. I should add Violetfilms response took me over the edge, also briliant.

    Your commitment to parenting you and the other two - all three of those gorgeous children is really inspiring. It's not easy to be so brave in the face of such ick. (age based memory relapse of fawking pain) A perfectly sweetened carbonated beverage is sure to help but I think you're really on to something with that noticing and remembering the breeze and the couch and the delightful Jen scurrying around making tea no doubt and probably mothering you like she did all of us. Oh man, now the waterfall is really coming! Thank you for this.

  5. Oh, Barbi, your words are dancing across the page with bursts of intensity followed by calm repose (I'm thinking of the previous posts, too). The freedom of releasing these memories is powerful. I'm with you on the abandonment thing (and the lost/gone boy), yet it was my father, which I believe is much easier to bear. Funny thing is, I never thought of it as abandonment until I had kids of my own. Like you, as they reached the age I was when it happened, I was overwhelmed by buried thoughts. You are a wonderful mama who's got it so together- you're kids are lucky to have the joy & beauty that is you-- exponentially given back to them with love.

  6. Barbi - Your words brought me back... as I've been in my 'dialed in funk' for so long it seems normal, and I haven't spent any time or energy to reflect and reassess. Thank you, at least I know I can see you at SS without the shame of my own self-imposed isolation.