Four Eyes are Better than Two

I've got my four eyes for every occasion.

I’ve got  four eyes ready  for every occasion.

Since it’s been six weeks since I last posted a blog, this confession might come as no surprise to you.

Sometimes, I forget I’m a writer.

Summer is not an ideal time for writing. It’s a time for being and doing. Whether I like it or not, it’s time to be with my children. Without school, they are simply around more. It’s also a time for doing, since they need more rides, more meals, more entertainment, more money, more looking after. So between all my doing and being, there has not been a lot of time for writing.

But summer’s end is quickly approaching and my thoughts have turned to writing again.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece called, “Standing on the Threshold,” about how a far off dream of going to seminary was going to become a reality this fall.

I blinked; summer passed. It’s fall.

I leave for school on Sunday and I can hardly believe it’s here. Though I will only be gone for a week, it’s the start of something new. It felt like an important time to write again, to mark where I am, where I plan to go and what I hope to do along the way.

I heard a sermon yesterday at Keara’s back-to-school mass at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. The gospel was the story of how Jesus cured the blind man. The priest himself looked like he could relate. He wore thick glasses and without them, I’m not sure he could see at all. He shared that growing up, he was called “Four Eyes” by many of his classmates. They meant it as an insult, but today he takes it as a compliment.

The priest told the story of watching a young, blind boy go to communion. He used a cane to check what was in front of him, but his mother walked behind him with her hands on his shoulders to guide and protect him. The priest admitted that if someone asked him to describe his mother, he would say that she is 5’7,” with blue eyes and brown hair. If someone asked that little boy, he would talk about his mother’s demeanor, her voice, the feel of her hands, her care. The boy, out of necessity, moved beyond his first vision.

Too often, the priest mused, we see only with the two eyes in our head. We take in what we see; we judge it, process it and put everything in its proper place. But how much are we really seeing if we only use our two eyes? We stay on the surface of things, like physical appearance and condition, but miss the essence. We stop short, not plumbing the depths and complexities of people and situations. We see quickly and partially, but unfortunately, we assume we are seeing all.

If left to our own devices, we think the first set of eyes are all we have, when in fact “Four Eyes” applies to us all.

I am a pro at using my first set of eyes. I’ve always been adept at learning anything and everything (except complex math) and spitting it back at the appropriate time – when needed, or when needed to impress someone. And though going to seminary has always been a dream of mine, one of the reasons I’ve held back for so long is because the ones I’ve encountered seemed to focus on the first set of eyes.

What do you know? What can you learn? What can you prove? What can you write, explain, or deduce from what you’ve seen?

I jumped through all those hoops in graduate school. I cared passionately about the subject matter, but it was all words, and head knowledge. It was learning for it’s own sake, instead of the greater good. I couldn’t imagine learning about God, Love, forgiveness, compassion and mercy in that way, with my first set of eyes. They simply don’t see enough.

I want to develop my second set of eyes, the eyes of the heart, and that is what The Living School offers.

At one point in his sermon, the priest held up a mirror to one of the girls in the assembly and asked her what she saw. “Myself,” she said simply. He turned the mirror to his own face and said, “That’s funny. When I look in the mirror, I see beauty.” The girls giggled, but he was serious. He countered that when they look in the mirror with their first set of eyes, they judge the surface that is reflected back at them, and usually they will find a flaw (or many), but if they can look at themselves with their second set of eyes, they will see beauty and goodness and infinite possibility.

The eyes of the heart are the eyes of God.

The eyes of the heart see past the surface, beyond the masks, the posturing, the pain and scars of this world. They know that everything belongs. They may not understand how, or why, or when all things will be reconciled, but they know it is true.

There are many ways to nurture our second set of eyes, but first we must acknowledge they exist. Many of us deny it, clinging to Rousseau’s folly that “I think, therefore I am,” or else living a kind of practical (and pragmatic) atheism, even if we claim a religious tradition. We follow the letter of the law we see, rather than the spirit of the law, which takes longer to discern and requires a comfort with ambiguity.

But when we acknowledge our second set of eyes, we also need to start using them, all the time. We can’t leave them at home on the shelf, or tucked away in our coat pocket for when we are feeling particularly brave. We can’t just pull them out for an hour on Sundays. We have to wear them whenever the need arises, whenever our ego hastens to judge, categorize, or dismiss something, or someone that makes us uncomfortable.

When I was a little girl and got my first pair of glasses, I remember the doctor telling my mom that I should only wear them for about an hour. I could wear them a little longer each day, but if I tried to wear them for too long, too soon, I might get a headache, feel nauseous, and even disoriented.

I have to admit that seeing through the eyes of the heart can make me feel that way too. It’s like the things I knew to be true – about what was good and bad, helpful and hurtful, successful, or a failure – aren’t just that anymore. Most events bring both good and bad; they hurt me and help me; they break my heart, but when it heals, it leaves all sorts of little cracks that let the light in. When I keep the eyes of my heart open, I am more able to see the beauty in everything.

Over the next two years, I am going to try to see all that I can with my double vision.

Thanks for reading and joining me on my journey.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant, and has almost totally forgotten the gift.” –Albert Einstein, who I’m pretty sure had four eyes

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

New Mother's Day tradition? Running the R.O.C. race in Del Mar.

New Mother’s Day tradition? Running the R.O.C. race in Del Mar.

Though publishing anything here has been difficult for me of late, I felt a Mother’s Day blog was a non-negotiable.

It must happen.

This will be my third one, which means that I’ve been publishing for almost three years. Blogging feels like dog years. It’s been a really long time and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m slowing down.

It’s not that I’m not writing. It’s just that I’m writing about things I can’t share with all of you.

When I started the blog, Keara was 14. She was just starting at an all-girls, Catholic high school, with all the innocence of an oldest child raised in PG household. For the most part, she wasn’t even watching prime time TV yet. Finn was 12 and puberty seemed a long way off. Molly was still a baby in my eyes and she was happy in that role. Their stories were mine to use and though I was respectful, they didn’t have much of a choice. They could say “yes” or “no”, but with mom looking over their shoulder, eager to hit “publish,” I never once had a kid stop me.

Over time, especially in the last year, that well has dried up. There are plenty of stories, juicy ones too: love, loss, betrayal, effort and reward, victory and defeat, but for the most part, they are no longer mine to tell. I am a witness to them; I may be a part of them. I am learning, growing and changing from them, but the major players no longer want to be on stage and without them, the theater seems empty.

How many one-woman plays can an audience stand?

I guess we won’t know the answer unless I keep publishing, which I plan to do, just perhaps less frequently.

The other day, I watched an interview with Sue Monk Kidd, best known for her novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair among others. She was married at 20, a mother of 2 kids and a working nurse by 25. On her 30th birthday, she announced to her family that she was going to become a writer. She was over 50 when her first novel was published. For obvious reasons, I was encouraged by her timeline, but what I appreciated even more was her wisdom.

When asked, “What do you know for sure?” Kidd replied, “What you pay attention to matters; the love I gave, the love I received are the most important things. Just to be is holy. Just to live is a gift. I know that for sure.” She also quoted Stephen Hawking, who said, “Real genius is radical humility, for when you humble yourself before what you don’t know, you open yourself to possibility.”

Listening to Kidd shifted my focus. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and though I hope for some authentic gestures of love and gratitude from my family, I’m going to pay attention to the things that matter. I can give love; I can be present. I will never be a genius, but life seems eager to work on my humility each and every day, which is great, because I want to be open to possibility.

Before she turned her hand to fiction, Sue Monk Kidd wrote three spiritual memoirs, which I discovered several years ago. Though I like her stories, I love her own. While reading When the Heart Waits, I took a passage and put it on a sticky note on my laptop. Though it isn’t always open, I see the title every day. It is called, “Sue Monk Kidd’s Prayer and Mine too” and it goes like this:

God,

I don’t want to live falsely, in self-imposed prisons and fixed comfortable patterns that confine my soul and diminish the truth in me. So much of me has gone underground. I want to let my soul out. I want to be free to risk what’s true, to be myself. Set free the daring in me – the willingness to go within, to see the self-lies. I’ll try to run away, but don’t let me. Don’t let me stifle myself with prudence that binds the creative re-visioning of life and the journey toward wholeness.

I’m scared. God make me brave. Lead me in the enormous spaces of becoming. Help me cease the small, tedious work of maintaining and protecting, so that I can break the masks that obscure your shining in the night of my own soul. Help me to green my soul and risk becoming the person you created me to be. 

Tomorrow I may regret these words, but tonight I speak them, for I know that you are somewhere inside them, that you love me and won’t leave me alone in their echo.

Amen

She wrote that prayer some time around 40 and when asked on the show, “Have you become the woman you wanted to be?” Kidd said, “I am becoming that woman, yes.”

At 65 years old, she is becoming. I love that. Twenty-five years later, her prayer is still being answered.

Too often, I think the answers should already be known (by me) and the outcome assured. I falsely believe that I should have already arrived, but Kidd’s response humbled me. If I can accept that I am becoming and always will be, the possibilities are endless, not just for me, but for all of us.

So Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who have given birth, or raised children and loved your little ones so much you thought your heart would break, but a special note of gratitude to everyone who has nurtured something new within themselves and had the courage to share it with the world. Neither are small tasks and both are necessary for the good of the world.

Postscript:

Just in case you think I’m exaggerating how much my family life has changed over the last few years, here is a visual perspective.

Mother's Day breakfast at Pipes Cafe, 2012

Mother’s Day breakfast at Pipes Cafe, 2012

Here are some pictures of the kids taken within the last couple weeks, just two years later. I couldn’t even put the same filter on the images to make them look more cohesive. It felt dishonest, since they are so different and yet each image perfectly captures the attitude they put out the world: Keara crosses her arms, suspicious of it all. Finn is literally one of the most “laid-back”people I know and Molly is going to give you a smile and play the game, any time, any day.

PicMonkey Collage

Keara at 17, Finn at 15 and Molly at almost 12.