From 2002 to 2007, Ben and I spent five years driving downtown together every morning. He was attending a private school (under duress) which was close to my office. I was working 70 hours weeks routinely, and struggling to pay private school tuition the size of a small mortgage, Our life was a rat race, always late out the door each morning, rushing down the freeway, with me jamming my blue tooth in my ear to catch the first conference calls of the day
When I wasn’t on a call, Ben and I would listen to NPR segments and talk about politics, science and culture. My younger son has always been my alter ego – quick minded, sharp-tongued, and intuitive, but with a lot more testosterone, audacity, and visits to the headmaster’s office thrown in.
On this particular day, Ben was telling me how he and his friends had created Indian names for each other. They had dubbed his brother Jake as ‘Lump of Joy’. It was a perfect fit for my big teddy bear older son, the one with the sweet dimples, infectious laugh and peaceful spirit. With a chuckle, I told Ben his Indian name should be ‘Biting Pup’, since he was constantly biting the hand that fed him. There was a pause, and then Ben said, “Well your name should be ‘Dammed River’- because you’re so stressed out you’ve stopped flowing.”
And the world stood still for a moment. A door slammed and opened inside my head and my heart. It was hard to be mad at his sarcasm, since he had certainly learned that from me. I spent a few moments just admiring his creativity and poetry. But mostly I just sat in shock at his ability to name me and my reality so well.
In the six years since that day, I’ve been on a slow journey to “un-dam” my river. It’s a journey to learn how to BE in the moment, how to SEE in the moment, and how to open up and FLOW with life. I make progress for a while, but then the beavers of stress, anxiety, judgment and fear coming swimming back to put up more logs. And I start to un-dam again.
I want to learn to be a Running River, sometimes moving swiftly, sometimes slowing to swirl and rock in peaceful eddies, but always flowing, never blocked and stagnant.
“Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts