cultivating discernment

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I work through various scenarios in my mind; anticipating reactions and responses.  Our schedule is ramping up, chock-full of activity, and so my growing to-do lists run in the vast cortices of my head.  I have mentally worked myself into a frenzy and it is only when I vocalize that I acknowledge an issue.  This morning, along my early morning walk, as the sun rose above the trees, I had to own my statement.  To make it my reality.

I cannot control what others do; nor should I try to understand the whys.  The only thing I can control is my response.  It is how I handle any given situation that affects the outcome.  I can be angry.   I can ask forgiveness.   But in all scenarios, once presented, the running list of faults; of blame, must be given up and accounted for.   And let go.

In my newfound transparency I had hoped that others would be, as well.   I am mistaken.   I must accept that I will be lied to.  That I cannot project my own values on another or to understand another’s reasons.    In choosing to walk away from the beaten road I am creating the opportunity to walk a new path; one that is surrounded with beauty.  There will always be weeds amongst the flowers.  I can choose to pull them out and cultivate new growth or walk around them.  Weeds have a tendency to take over; to block the sun from other plants yearning for the diminishing autumn rays.  And so I must garden and create new spaces; places where I can plant my roots and continue to grow.

But sometimes the weeds spread; metastasize like a cancerous growth, refusing to let go.  They constantly spring up with gusto; fighting for their space in the sun.  And so I continue to fight; to wage this battle of the soil with weed killer, a hoe; hacking and whacking.  But this is wasted energy.   I vigilantly tend my garden with a spade, each day, before the task gets overwhelming.  Instead of procrastinating, denial; avoidance, I deal with the smaller issue at hand before it gets out of control.

But it is the fight that I struggle with; the letting go.  Having to be right; for my way to be understood.  But I have considered the wisdom of living with the landscape; observing the lay of the land.  Instead of fighting its hills and valleys I must work with what I have; to seek ways to improve and enhance the soil I am to work with.  If it’s clumpy and hard I can add the industrial NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) or the natural, organic compost.  I have the ability to make the soil fertile; to encourage germination.  But I must first accept the things I cannot change.  It is in the discernment; the ability to know the difference, that is key.

discernment: n.

1. The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.
2. Keenness of insight and judgment.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

It is not easy, exhibiting good judgment.  The harder path is to work through the overgrown obstacles; tripping my steps.  It’s easier to “talk the talk but not walk the walk. ” The end of the trail may not lead to greener pastures; in fact, most times they are mediocre and drab.  It is in the journey; the experience, that creates the person that I am.  I am hoping to plant the bag of bulbs, to wait through hibernation as they bloom into tulips in spring.  It is fleeting; the flowering of this bulbous root; but in the short time it makes its presence known it is breathtaking; the long and patient wait through fall and winter worth it.

IMG_20130924_205737_resizedI laughed amongst family last night as I watched my younger cousin flip through pages of her wedding organizer; a gift  She thought of the endless details wedding planning involves; the contracts, the views, the wardrobe.  I remembered the time in my life when these things consumed me: the music to be played; the readings during mass, the order of my bridal party.  When asked if the hubs had worn a bow tie during our ceremony; we blankly stared at one another.  It took the digging out of my wedding album to decipher the wardrobe he wore, the cost per person; the details that weren’t remembered.  The things that stand out in my mind, today, was the walk down the aisle; the tears that fell down my cousin and mother’s cheeks as they handed me over to my husband-to-be.  I cannot recall the place settings, only the flowers; their vibrant colors.  Nor do I remember the words that were shared, the music played.  I only remember the journey of entering the institution of marriage; the transition from self to couple.  Sharing bathrooms, fighting for closet space, careers, searching for my identity as wife. 

There have been many times in our marriage that I had to let things go; things I had no control of.  It is easy to blame others; the powers that be, but in the times I was left behind, as a military spouse, I grew.  I wielded my spade and discovered my identity, my borders; drawing lines in the earth for the rows of vegetables in my backyard.  When weeds cropped up I took care of them, not giving them chance to take root.  Many other spouses lacked discernment to wield their spades; to know when to trust and when to let go.  It always became a battle of control: of finances, time, self.  Ego is the serpent in the apple tree; claiming to be all-knowing and wise.  It is prideful.   It cannot admit mistakes because in doing so; it acknowledges weakness.  Blaming others, self-denial, lies are ways to protect itself.

And so the gardener is being rediscovered as I grow children; cultivating them into beings that yearn for the sun, reaching to the stars.  I am using discernment; when to speak, my tone, my message.  When my son shared he was last chair in his trumpet section my immediate reaction was to remind him of his lack of practice; the video gaming.  My mind warned me to pause as I continued to question.  He knew where this was leading.

All people have a bad day, Mom.  My try-out day was my bad day.

I had to claim my baggage; the saxophonist who always was first chair; the sole female in a section of twenty males in our collegiate marching band.  I remained quiet; attempting to mask my concern.  This son knows it is out-of-character for me to stay silent and I waged the battle within; daring my tongue to not lash out to project what I want for my son; the best.  First chair.   When vocalizing out loud my girlfriend reminded me to let it be; that he will fight for the chair fitted to his level; his desire.  It should be enough that he wants to improve; to challenge the chairs before him.  As a parent, it is difficult to not fight my children’s battles; to let go.  To make excuses for the child; to blame the bad day.  I held the spade in my hand looking for the weed; finally realizing, it was me.  

For I must allow the plant’s roots to take hold in its own space; to reach for the sky.  When the parent hovers, makes excuses for their child, stalks teachers, principals, and serving for payment-in-return; it diverts attention from the true issue.    My boundaries, in parenthood, constantly change and I must flex with them.  As a caretaker I need to observe the ever-changing landscape and to work with what I have; to know when to help and when to let go.

And so a few hours later, I touched the shoulder of this son.  I’m better now.   He looked at me questioningly; wondering what I meant.   I admitted my disappointment; my concern.  I told him I was letting go.  I am not allowed to dwell on it; to harp or nag.   I am learning how to be more supportive, to water my plant and allow it the chance to grow on its own.   His eyes cleared; understanding.  In being transparent with my disappointment, without nagging, he understood that I cared.  But I did not belittle him and he was able to own his place; his chair.  Mommy doesn’t need to rush in.  He is trusted to do it; all on his own.

This season of autumn is the transition from full sun; to darkness.  I think it is why it is my favorite.  I am raking the leaves, plucking the weeds.  Trimming branches, enforcing boundaries.  I am clearing the path as I continue to journey into the unknown.

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