Slice #22: Why is it so difficult?

Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child (1922)

Today, I sit here wondering why it is so difficult to send our children out into the world. Is it because we can’t bear parting with their daily presence in our lives? Is it because they have so much more to learn before they believe in and understand their full potential? Is it because the world can be cruel and you won’t be right by their side to protect them? Is it because we are afraid we might lose them to others? Is it because we are simply not ready for them to grow up? The nagging questions are endless.

I remember one of the many late night conversations I had with our eldest during her senior year. Her studies for the night complete, she stepped out of her room, sat down next to me and started sharing her wish list of all she wanted to do before she went off to university.

Growing up overseas, she understood she wouldn’t be traveling back home for 4 day weekends and holidays, nor would she have the opportunity to get together with her friends more than once a year (if lucky). Panic was starting to seep in as she realized what the adult realm entailed.

As she rattled off the items on her list, I began to panic. Had I taught her everything she needed to know that would prepare her for what is to come? Mentally, I started running through all that we had discussed over the years, searching for gaps, and adding advice that still needed to be shared. The look on my face must have given me away because she stopped and asked with some annoyance, “Mom, are you listening to me?” To my surprise, emotions overwhelmed me and my answer came out in a strangled voice, “I am not ready for you to leave. I have so much more to teach you.”

The conversation ended with her reassuring me that she was ready and that my advice would be sought over our lifetime together. As she hugged me, I understood she was ready; it was me that was struggling. Over the past four years, we have watched her blossom into a confident young woman who will be entering the education arena alongside her parents. She questions the world around her. She searches for answers. She faces challenges head on. She cares. My worries for naught.

And yet, once again, I struggle, as we face sending our son off to university this fall. Again, I run through the mental list of what advice still needs to be shared before he leaves. I turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald. When his daughter was 11-years-old, he wrote her a list of what to worry about, what not to worry about, and what to think about.

As I reflected on Fitzgerald’s list, I began crafting my own list for all three of my children. Here are my thoughts…

Things to worry about:

Worry about showing compassion to all.

Worry about persevering through life’s challenges.

Worry about taking good care of yourself.

Worry about finding balance in your life – work hard, but play hard as well.

Worry about remaining loyal to good friends.

Worry about the greater good.

Worry about pursuing your passions.

Worry about standing up to what you know to be right and good.

Worry about taking care of your body.

Worry about loving yourself.

Worry about finding the courage to take risks.

Worry about  remaining true to commitments.

Worry about doing your best.

Worry about apologizing when you make a mistake; we are all human.

Worry about laughing long and often.

Things not to worry about: 

Don’t worry about your self-worth; your worth is abundant!

Don’t worry about whether or not you can do something; you can.

Don’t worry about our love for you; we love you wholeheartedly, without question.

Don’t worry about disappointing anyone other than yourself.

Don’t worry about failure; it makes you stronger.

Don’t worry about your ego; life is more than you.

Don’t worry about the little things, whatever they may be.

Don’t worry about insecurities; they can eat away at you and take you places you shouldn’t go.

Don’t worry about conforming; remain true to who you are.

Don’t worry about making mistakes; you learn valuable lessons from them.

Don’t worry about whether you are making everyone happy; if you are happy, so are they.

Don’t worry about things you can’t control; instead figure out how to cope.

Don’t worry about whether others are proud of you; find the pride within yourself.

Things to think about:

Am I happy? Am I pursuing my dreams?

Am I compassionate – willing to place someone else’s needs ahead of mine?

Am I making a difference in someone else’s life? in the world?

Do I seek to understand before I judge?

Am I a forgiving person?

Although, I wonder about Fitzgerald’s use of worry as it carries the connotations of weight and angst, I do like how he twisted its use to send a positive message. We can’t eradicate worry from our world, but we can shift our viewpoint of its place in our lives.

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Slice #20: Reflections and Ruminations

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude

Many who know me would state that I am reflective to a fault; more accurately they would call me a dreamer. Too often, my reflections morph into ruminations leaving a bittersweet taste in my mouth as I dream about change and then run in circles as to how to go about it. Turning 50 has amped up my reflective state to even higher levels, cluttering my mind with thought lists without an inkling of direction.

To quiet my mind, I turn once again to the clutter of others’ thoughts in Shaun Usher’sLists of Notes. List No. 045 is written by Sei Shonagon (Circa 996), a Japanese court lady, who wrote, The Pillow Book, which contained categorizations of her observations of life in 11th century Japan. Shonagon’s lists made me wonder what would fall under her penned categories today, and what messages these lists express about life in the 21st century.

And so my thoughts…

Rare things

A pen that is filled with free-flowing ideas.

Wondering without Googling.

A collection of photos that do not include several selfies.

Correspondence through handwritten letters.

Dining in a restaurant in which all tables are focused on the art of conversation rather than an electronic device.

An honest display of self on FaceBook.

Pleasing things

Skipping when you feel the urge.

Holding a baby in your arms, soaking in its smells and innocence.

A collective groan in the classroom when it is announced that silent reading or journaling has come to an end.

Lamenting the end of book or poem.

Sharing words with good friends and losing track of time as you converse into the wee hours of the morning.

Laughter that bubbles up from the toes.

A room that houses a worn, comfortable chair featuring shelves and shelves and shelves of books.

The light pitter-patter of rain that follows a torrential downpour.

Holding hands with your children.

The warmth of the sun on your face after a long, cold winter.

Things that should be small

Insecurities and self-doubt.

Ego; perhaps even non-existent.

Unique trinkets that fit into small, beautiful boxes.

Serving portions on a plate.

Troubles and challenges.

Things now useless that recall a glorious past

The ubiquitous cell phone that has laid the landline to rest. Remember the swoooosh as you rotated the dial and the  click-click-click-click of its return on the rotary phone?

Record players highlighted by its collection of albums; in fact, all visible collections of music.

The tick-tick-tick of an 8mm movie projector.

Button collections in jars.

The sound of a modem connecting.

Opening the door for someone or helping someone carry their groceries – basic chivalry.

Frustrating things

Having a conversation with someone who is looking at an electronic device.

Heavy traffic on a Saturday afternoon.

Vision without direction.

Constant interruptions.

Narrow-mindedness – an unwillingness to seek understanding.

I realize the lists under each heading are infinite and so my mind remains cluttered. Reading back over my thought lists, I wonder what they reveal about our current century, about me, and what I am to do with such knowledge. I continue to ruminate; I have decided this is not a bad thing.

Slice #18: “Anarchic Foam”

Joan Miro

In 1977, French sociologist, Roland Barthes, published his autobiography. In it, were lists of his thoughts accompanied by his thinking on his thoughts.

In the section named, J’aime, Je n’ aime pas, Barthes lists what he likes and does not like, and then explains how our personal preferences in life are really of no relevance to anyone.

“I like, I don’t like: this is of no importance to anyone; this, apparently, has no meaning…this anarchic foam of tastes and distastes, a kind of listless blur…obliges others to endure me liberally, to remain silent and polite confronted by pleasures or rejections which they do not share.”

Thanks once again to Shaun Usher in his Lists of Notes, for allowing us to peek into the corners of brilliant minds. Barthes’ list caused me to take pause – to wonder about my own “anarchic foam of tastes and distastes” I impose on others…

I like: dark chocolate, ice cream, salads draped in a melange of vegetables and seeds, flowers of all kinds, scented candles, Jane Austen, the classics, living in my head, Lewis Carroll, poems that make me work and wonder, some classical music, Degas, the promising smell of pages in a book, Siri Husvedt, passionate conversations, traveling to new places, sitting on the deck with my family, hotdishes, the lake, teaching, cool breezes, playing with words, laughter, losing track of time when reading, a marriage that is as comfortable as a favorite cardigan, watching my youngest skip and twirl through life – my middle child handle life’s obstacles with wit – and my eldest transition into adulthood with ease and beauty, Rothko, the satisfaction of completing a challenging task, a comforting cup of tea, getting lost in thought, the feel of earth in my hands when planting flowers, sharing a glass of wine with friends, Vermeer, the smell and feel of a baby in my arms, Chagall, the ocean, shells, walking barefoot, learning, the feel of a great pen in my hands…much, much more…

I don’t like: onions, the use of “I” in conversations, procrastinating, apathy, placing my thoughts into boxes, cleaning, dresses, large parties, large parties with people I don’t know, small talk, being made to feel small, political bureaucracies, deadlines, dancing or singing in public, exercising, rap music, feeling insecure, having to expend more energy than necessary (known as exercise), making lists of what needs to be accomplished, people finishing my sentences, traffic, storms that threaten destruction, intolerance, being in the spotlight, feeling invisible, whiskey, high heels, gossip, waking up to an alarm…

I agree with Barthes that my “anarchic foam” is of no importance. I certainly would not want others to feel subjected or obliged to my idiosyncrasies. However, as I reflect on what has appeared on my lists, it is with great appreciation that I realize my “likes” are a result of being “confronted by [the] pleasures or rejections” of those I love and admire. Their world has expanded the beauty within mine.