Pick yourself up
Grab yourself by the collar
With all you can
With all you are
With all you can be
You are here by the love
Of those who came before you
And for the future
Of those who come after you
No time for tears
But shed a few if you must
No time for regrets
But take one last look behind you
No time for fears
But know your weaknesses
For the harvest is here
You just need to ask for it
Reach for it
Cry out for it
Embrace the light
That rains down around you
But you’re too blind to see
Blinded by your own arrogance
Your dependence on yourself
So stand up
And you will not fall again
Never like this
Because He said so
Into our hands each one was entrusted,
A precious treasure from Heaven above.
With sweet little faces cast in our image,
They teach us all how simply to love.
We hold on well to our precious treasures,
Watching them grow by day and by night.
The world in their eyes is so full of wonder,
Yet to us they are its most blissful sight.
We stand in awe as they start to imagine,
Color the world and brighten our homes.
Unburdening us with their childish laughter –
They make us smile with their smiles alone.
We hurt inside and tears fill our eyes
When from us a precious treasure departs.
It matters not if they were our own,
Seeing them go breaks our spirits and hearts.
So when we cry as these little gifts leave,
And reel from a pain that cuts deep as bone,
A great truth of the world is revealed –
These precious treasures were never ours alone.
For each lovely child parents have in their lives
Is a treasure that comes to them through birth.
But the power children have to enlighten their lives
Can also shine light across the Earth.
No matter the cost, these gifts we must guard
That they might help cast this world anew.
Remembering all the while, we’re here only because
We were all once precious treasures too.
[Inspired by the tragic events of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting. No words of mine can offer solace to the family members and loved ones of the children who perished. I just want them to know that I grieve with them, as I know many of you do. -M]
[Originally posted on August 18, 2009.]
There are many happenings in life that change the way we see ourselves. It’s not always ‘change’ in the conventional sense–sometimes, the change we feel is really just an acknowledgment of something about ourselves we never acknowledged before. For me, one such happening occurred in 2005. I was sitting at home, watching some TV and flipping through channels when it happened. I saw this music video on CMT:
In about 4 minutes and 44 seconds, Toby Keith had summarized exactly how I was feeling inside, and changed the way I saw myself.
I was 28 at the time; well on my way to 30. Much of the lush dark hair that adorned my head had already faded away to time. I certainly didn’t think I was old, nor did I feel old. However, I did feel like I was somehow ‘not as good’ as I used to be.
As time marched forward, I realized I was less in touch with what ‘young people’ were in touch with. I started to despise the nightclub scene that I had once enjoyed. I grew up with videogames, yet I didn’t ‘get’ why kids today thought it was cool to play videogames where the main character was a recently-released ex-con who ran around town beating the crap out of innocent bystanders and stealing their cars. [What ever happened to being the good guy?] I also discovered that I had suddenly become what most ‘young’ women are not looking for in a man: well-mannered, intelligent and chivalrous. In many ways, I felt like a ‘diminished’ version of myself.
When I turned 30 two years ago, I realized I had more in common with my father who was 31 years older than me, than my brother who was 8 years younger than me. While this realization was a bit of a downer, I also realized that I had gained two things the years could never take from me (unlike my hairline): memories and experience.
I recalled a few favorite lines from the aforementioned country song:
I ain’t as good as I once was
My how the years have flown
But there was a time, back in my prime
When I could really hold my own
“Back in my prime.” Those words felt so liberating, for some reason. No matter how out of touch I get, I will always have the memories of how I was ‘back in my prime’ and the experience I gained from that magical time in my life. I no longer dread getting older. In fact, I’m reveling in my new 30-something role.
Four years after the first time I heard the song, I still find profound meaning and humor in it. I think of it often when I’m sitting around a table or at a bar with ‘younger’ people around me. There inevitably comes a moment during those outings when I’m faced with some young gun who thinks he knows it all and that I don’t have a clue. While there once was a time where I’d hang my head, these days, I take a deep breath, look him in the eye and fearlessly say, “I ain’t as good as I once was. But I’m as good once, as I ever was!”
We are raised from childhood to place significant emphasis on our future. Socially, academically, professionally, physically, romantically – we are brought up with the need to predict the outcomes of our future lives in these aspects and take the necessary steps to ensure that those predictions become reality. In a sense, our parents, elders and teachers hand us the mandate to determine how the story of our life should go so that it has a happy ending. We are engaged in this endeavor from the time we are first able to speak and have substantive dialogue with our parents. By the time we become mature adults, we are well-versed in this way of thinking – each day we live is treated as another opportunity to author our story. As we continue to mature, it seems all of our thoughts are influenced by or dedicated to crafting the perfect ending to our story – we become consumed by it, though we seldom acknowledge we’re doing it.
Or so it was for me, until I became a father.
Not a day has gone by since my son was first placed in my hands where I haven’t looked into his eyes and asked myself, “How will his story end?”
Sad in a way, isn’t it? We parents are entrusted with these precious lives with their own stories to tell – the endings to which we will not (hopefully) know. We will spend the better part of our lives laboring for our children, trying to instill good values in them, and teaching them how to live…yet we are not supposed to see how the stories of their lives completely unfold.
I struggled with this realization for a long time. It is an extremely difficult thought to ponder – one that conflates our aspirations with our own mortality. You cannot think of it without confronting the inevitability of your own life’s end, nor can you think of it without feeling the limitless optimism a parent must have when contemplating the future of his or her children. It is a juxtaposition of your story’s ending and the beginning of your children’s stories.
Somewhere in that struggle, however, something wonderful happened. I discovered an immense source of happiness in my new role as co-author (at least for now) of my son’s story. In helping him write his story, I find that the lines of my own story are being rewritten. How amazing it is that in just a few months, the tiny little life entrusted to me – incapable of uttering a word – has started to alter lines of my life’s story which took me years to compose.
No, I do not know how my son’s story will end. Though I will always be curious about it, I hope I never know how it ends. Instead, my hope is that my son sees the ending to my story and how he helped shape it. And while I do not know how my own story will end, I do know for certain that it requires one sentence to make it a happy ending…
He taught his son how to write a good story.
dark and light,
black and white,
I see me
in the dark,
I see me
bathed in light,
All in one
I am all.
On the edge
of Yin and Yang
my heart needs
For greater purpose
I was born,
than to lie here
to flush out
all the darkness.
Still I cling
to the black within
for it will be
Yet the light
white and black,
light and dark,