Mostly I Just Listen
Mostly I Just Listen: March 3, 2015
This morning I woke up thinking about another February morning. This is the story of that morning two years ago. We woke up at Amy and Nick’s house. It was like waking up at a spa except that Jack had interrupted our sleep in the night. I was sympathetic; but, sympathy didn’t help me get back to sleep once I’d settled him. Plus I was still vaguely worried about the orange cat (Bailey? Lily?) that hadn’t come inside. I really didn’t want to have to explain to Amy how—after she entrusted their house and pets to us—I’d managed to allow her cat to be eaten by the neighborhood raccoon menace within hours of their departure.
The cat did come in this morning when, to stop the meowing from waking Jack at 6:30. I let the other cat (Lily? Bailey?) out. Too late. Jack came in and announced, “It’s morning, guys!” I wasn’t ready for it to be morning after two nights of interrupted sleep and a day of packing and yard work at our old house. Fingers crossed for selling that house!
This was the first conversation of the day: “Mama, did you remember the potty seat?” “No sweetie. I’m sorry. I forgot.” “But Mama! I don’t like having to hold myself up while I’m pooping!” “I’m sorry, sweetie.”
I really need some coffee.
So I figured out oatmeal and coffee, cat food and craisins. It’s a very difficult thing to explain to a 3 year old, but I love being with him—except when he’s pestering me to be with him. When he’s trying to crawl on top of me and make me play hide-and-seek and constantly asking for attention—that’s when I’m trying to devise ingenious methods of escape. (You want hide and seek? You’re it.)
One friend likened this phenomenon to plant care. We were just out of college and I’d gone to visit her new apartment. She told me she’d almost killed a plant by watering it too much. When it got droopy she watered it. When it stayed droopy she watered it some more. When the leaves started turning yellow she watered it. Admitting defeat, she put it on the back step to deal with later. When she finally remembered it, it was thriving. She gave it a little water and left it a week. Perfect. The lesson we took from this regarding boyfriends was: Don’t Overwater. Allow some thirst to build up.
It’s the perverse way of all humans, I think, to want to be left wanting. Don’t smother. Don’t overwater. Back off and let me want you. Quit with the desperation.
So when Jack and I were just sitting together at the high stools eating oatmeal—that was bliss. I leaned over and kissed his head, rubbed his back, smiled at him.
After washing breakfast dishes, wiping Jack (alas for the potty seat), and getting him dressed I dropped into Amy’s nice, comfortable chair, picked up the book Celtic Prayers from Iona by J. Philip Newell and tried to settle in for meditation.
Jack, meanwhile, was jumping/diving onto the bed, sliding off and hurting his feet, shrieking a bit and driving his trucks up and around the scratching post, chewing on the cat toys and flinging his blanket around. Mark came in to use the bathroom. Where had he been all morning, by the way?
I understood in one of those moments of instant enlightenment why many religious traditions insist that the spiritual path cannot be undertaken, should not even be attempted, until the middle or late years of life.
Mark finished, Jack was distracted back to the kitchen and I tried again.
Saturday’s theme in the book of prayers was Welcome and Hospitality. “These prayers, usually chanted or sung…..were the daily songs of life.”
They are to be used in a way that recognizes that the holy is always present. Always available. The ordinary life is, I remember, the thin place where we encounter the Divine. Deep breath. Two breaths. Long inhale……
“Mama!! Come find me! Come play hide and seek. Mama? Mama!!”
Sacred? Yes. Thin place? Thin patience anyway. Another deep breath. Focus on the wind chimes.
I resumed the prayer cycle and came to the place for “free prayers of thanksgiving”. I checked the index but didn’t find a Thanksgiving for Relentless and Annoying Offspring. Neither aSong for a Harried Morning nor aChant to Recover One’s Equilibrium Before Leaving the House. I think I’ll write my own.
I wanted to start the day with meditation and a clear, calm mind. Instead I was fuming. I’d been awake for two hours and was already exhausted and frazzled by the demands and requests and attention-seeking of one three year old. What must God feel with all our human neediness? Multiply Jack by the large percentage of the Earth’s seven billion people who are praying/beseeching/petitioning at any given moment of every freaking day! If I were God, I think I’d really love just one petitioner who wanted to sit quietly with me, just to be in the same space.
When asked about her prayer life, Mother Teresa once said, “Mostly I just listen.” The interviewer asked what God did and she said, “Mostly He just listens.”
As I was musing this morning, I could imagine God's invitation: "Enough with the requests…couldn’t we just sit quietly and enjoy our oatmeal?"
Yes, Lord. First just let me find those damn cats.