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Settling Into Care, Or, Saturday Morning At 10:08am

Both my children moved recently. My daughter out to Southern California for medical school, and my son to a non-hip region of Brooklyn, for his first solo apartment.

At one point during the last couple of weeks, I had a brief thought fragment. You know what I mean by fragment, right? Not a complete sentence, more like a comment overheard at a party.

“When she is settled – murmur, murmur, sigh and rustle.” And then when I moved closer to the conversation I was having with myself, I realized how silly my thought was.

Life doesn’t come with much inherent settling.

My own story involves 3 apartments, 1 co-op, 1 house, 1 year lived in London, 3 months travel in India, flights to Prague, Munich, Paris, Toronto, Miami, and who knows where, 2 marriages, and multiple friends made and lost. The times when I was ostensibly settled, married with young children, were in some ways the most unsettled of all. The most requiring of internal shifts. Albeit for love.

So , another perspective. Life is unsettled, by nature. Unable to still the world what we need is tools to grapple and smooth.

When my daughter was first starting to date in college, I sent her a package from Sephora. “Here is mascara, and assorted unguents. There. All you need to have boys see how beautiful you are.” Superficial, perhaps, but boys are visual creatures and one must face reality before deciding to fight it. My son makes decisions; I offer analytical frameworks. I’d give him mascara too but he says it’s not his look.

Tools. Enablement. Skills.

And there, I think, I have to back off. I couldn’t choose the college boyfriends, I can’t mandate the career path, I will never breathe that, “Well that’s done now, they’re settled,” sigh of relief, because that sigh isn’t real.

On the other hand, at my wedding recently, I asked my father if he had noted that all his children were now happily married. “Ha, well, yes, I had rather thought,” he laughed – in the High WASP way of swallowing one’s important words.

I boiled water in the electric tea kettle this morning, not for me, but in case Significant Husband needed it later.  I thought, you can settle into someone’s care, no matter what is quaking or blowing elsewhere. It’s not a stationary feeling, not a “Well here I am and let me put down my backpack” thing. Instead, a constant low bubble of comfort and joy.

The thing is, I’m not sure how I got here. I do not know what tools were required except paying close attention to meaning and humanity. To say nothing of luck and forgiveness, which are no one’s tools. As a result, I’m not sure how to enable my children in this process, except perhaps to model care. And, as we all do, tell them truthfully just how loveable they are.

Maybe with an extra fillip of why, found only in close attention.

Have a wonderful weekend.


35 Responses

  1. You really said it all here, “paying close attention to meaning and humanity. To say nothing of luck and forgiveness, which are no one’s tools… perhaps to model care. And, as we all ado, tell them truthfully just how loveable they are.”

    There that’s it. See how easy it is?
    You’re a smart women with tenderness, intelligence and loving kindness. I think with luch you’re children are in good hands.

  2. Oops, “luch” is supposed to be “luck” and “you’re” is supposed to be “your.” Sorry for messing up your commnets. Didn’t see a way to edit my ediocy.

  3. Excellent theme. My almost-settled son broke up with his SO. Thanks to social media I witness the hurt feelings of one or the other on their own, and find myself feeling sad and thinking, where did I go wrong.

    Wait! He’s grown up, self-supporting, past the age of majority. I had to remind myself this was like the time when I was totally invested in his soccer team and he decided to quit. It wasn’t a loss, I came to not mind those rainy Saturdays on the muddy sidelines, but I made it one. Life is what we make of it, so I want to make my own and not every one else’s.

  4. Nice post. Everybody in the borough of Brooklyn I’ve come across in the last 5 years makes a point of saying they are/were from the unhip part as a way of self-sanctioning their precious post-hipness.

    BTW: I’ve just purchased your father’s “Confinement & Flight: Essay on 18th Century English Lit” a subject very near & dear. I think he’d have a Scottish/High WASP giggle if he knew I scooped up a hardcover edition for six bones.

  5. “a constant low bubble of comfort and joy”… that is going to stick with me Lisa, that’s beautiful, a wonderful description of something very difficult to explain.

  6. The more I read over this post the more I realize that it reminds me so much of Joan Didion’s essay “On Self Respect”. If you have a copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, now would be a good time to re-read it.

  7. I love the idea of a “constant low low bubble of comfort and joy”. I think I have had that for most of my life with only a few gaps of true despair and sadness (unexpected death of young family members, unexpected health issues of young family members, unexpected difficulties of older family members in dealing with these things).

    I have learned that whatever it is I am experiencing now–it will change. No one is spared disappointment and disillusionment. By the same token, most everyone has many blessings and so many ways to experience joy. I don’t think I’ve ever had a day without some marvel or another to cherish.

    When it comes to our children, we sometimes have to catch our breaths and soldier on with faith that things will work out well because they are in charge of their own lives and want the best for themselves and know how to move in that direction.

  8. So close to the feelings I’ve had recently. Waiting for my son and DIL to settle into their lives, mostly so I can stop worrying about them. Then, it struck me one day that I wasn’t “settled”. No one settles into anything permanently. Life is all about changing; self-imposed changes, nature-imposed changes, third-party-imposed changes etc. So, I realized to wish for them to “settle” was to deny them all the wonderful, beautiful changes that life brings. But, I still worry about them.

  9. Lovely. And true. Maybe all those years of watching kids play sports (or sing or paint or whatever they were into) from the sidelines was just cheerleading practice for the rest of our lives.

  10. WIse words Lisa… and beautifully said.

    I suppose we are constantly searching for ‘settled’… Life is more about the quest than the arrival.

    Happy weekend… xv

  11. Every last word exactly what I needed to read right now and your insights so rich and succinct, per usual.

  12. Beautiful post! The string of gestures is the thing– MLane still says ” Thank you, darling!” if I bring him coffee in the morning. This is the reservoir of good feeling.

  13. What a lovely piece, and how serendipitous that I am reading it this week, when my oldest child moved into his first post-student apartment. Is he “settled”? Hardly, but I guess we will settle here for now.

  14. It sounds as though married life is treating you well! Best of luck to your kids. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the not-so-hip sections of Brooklyn visiting my in-laws. Let me know if you need recommendations for dim sum there. :) BTW, I love that phrase, a “constant low bubble of comfort and joy.” Hope you keep that feeling for many years.

  15. I love this, what a wonderful perspective! Your children will I’m sure feel settled with each step they take on the paths they have chosen. Your daughter has a tough schooling process in front of her, but how wonderful to have made it that far!

    It is so true that we don’t have a moment in life when all is order with no need for improvement. Things happen, loss of a job, loss of a friend, loss of a marriage, so many things can happen. I think i’ve expected myself to feel “settled” irrationally at times. Thinking that once I was engaged/married I’d be a proper grown up all the time… nope not always, it takes time and we always improve and change.

    I like the term Significant husband. So sweet.

  16. An interesting and current topic for me.
    For just this moment –
    things are perfectly settled and I allow myself to rejoice it.
    Not looking back, not looking forward, just the presence – now.
    Thank you.

  17. Wow, I love it when I’m not the only one thinking about stuff like this. In my case, I’m trying to get to “settled” myself after a lot of change. Here’s something I wrote to an acquaintance this week:

    On July 2 a close friend was killed by a car (tragic story which I’ll save for another day). On July 3, I was at home in the evening and rain started coming down in buckets. I stood in a covered alcove outside my mudroom watching the rain. While I watched, the sun dipped down below the clouds, and a clear, sharp beam of sunlight came through the rain and my trees and left a very bright patch of light on the grass. I remain convinced it was my friend, sending me a sign that she was ok. (I have another friend who thinks God sent the sign, but she isn’t arguing with me.) I am now the crazy lady who says hello to sunbeams when I see them.

    I actually lost three friends this summer in a space of about two months. At the first funeral, that friend’s partner talked about how joy was a big part of their lives, which of course sent me into overthink mode. Then a couple of weeks later the friend above died. In spite of troubles in her life, she was a joyful and loving person. So while I was grieving them both, I thought more about what makes a joyful life, and I’ve been trying to see more joy and let the cranky wash off more quickly. Sunday night I sat out on my deck for maybe 10 minutes when I let the dog out before bed. Crickets and cicadas made a huge racket and I just listened. The neighbors had turned off lights so it was mostly dark and I could see some stars. My goofy dog sat in the yard surveying her kingdom. Joy. Today, peaches from the farmer’s market, and a ginko tree downtown that I’d never noticed before. More joy. As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot by watching. It’s there.

    1. Wow, “let the cranky wash off”! Yes. We all need to learn to do this. So sorry for your terrible summer. I’m sorry for your losses, and admire your optimistic spirit.

      As usual, this blog has me thinking. With two kids poised for college, it’s nice to be reminded that it will all be what it will be and to just enjoy the ride.

  18. I am a firm believer in generational patterns. I know it has been painful for me to watch my children repeat some error I made as a young person and to simply be supportive as they walk through it. I also know that happiness will hit when they least expect it–as it did me.

  19. I totally relate to your take on life and trying to control the uncontrollable! I had the best plans for my two sons, got them into the Best colleges but could not direct the outcome. I learned to respect who they are, mistakes will be made, but at least they know that, as a mother, i will always love them unconditionally .

  20. Lovely post. A few years along the parenting road, with older “children,” it’s increasingly clear that some are more likely to experience the “bubble of comfort and joy” than others. I’m trying my best to support the non-bubbler from whatever distance behooves the both of us at whatever moment while not taking away from the enjoyment of the bubblers nor from my enjoyment of their bubbling. . . . If you get what I mean. . . (and you’re pardoned if you don’t. I’m enigmatic when I’m sorting, apparently)

  21. That oblique mode of speech of your father’s: of such a time! That phrase reminded me of my own father, and of my frustration in digging to the bottom of his thoughts. You are in better tune with yours.

  22. ahh, that ” low bubble of comfort and joy”; they will find it.

    What a lovely and thoughtful post, of which just reading your words brings a small sigh of contentment. That comment of your father’s…. it brings back fond memories of my own father, gone so long now. I shall sit with the remains of my coffee and look out the window for a bit now, watching the shadows retreat from the rising sun.

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