Jesus Coming Soon
It was difficult to get into the holiday spirit when one day here, in any season is much like the next. The temps on Maui are always 83, 84, 85 Fahrenheit. I am not complaining. Its OK with me, because Christmas has become no more than a commercial capitalist venture. I have no young children to surprise, no house to decorate, no belief in Santa, or the birthday of a savior.
It doesn’t matter what I no longer believe in; what I do believe is that there is something pathetic about being completely alone during the holidays. I have done it several times and all I can say is, “it’s painful.”
The Norman Rockwell version of a family is lodged in my head. I know it’s a crock, but it was a standard I once worked hard to achieve.
This year my youngest daughter decided to spend her winter break with me on Maui. I was thrilled. My plan for her was to spend time on the beach, to rest, and rejuvenate. She is completing a doctorate program in a grey, cold, wet, winter weary state. So, sun, sand, and support from her self-reliant mother would be good for her, and an unexpected treat for me.
My daughter and I have had our ups and downs over the years. I was pregnant with her at age 29, during my first Saturn return. Lots of lessons I didn’t learn. An entirely different blog for another time.
However, some of my best memories are of our adventures together in South America, The Grand Canyon, and Kauai.
Several years ago, she and I hiked the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coastline of Kauai. The trip was my college graduation gift to her. I felt that if it went well, she would always remember it. If it didn’t go well, she would always remember it. I read in a guidebook that the Kalalau was a strenuous hike, I didn’t realize it was death-defying. Twelve miles of rugged coastal trail, some of it 500 feet above the ocean and a piece of it was… missing.
“Do not look at me. Stay 20 feet behind me, and for God’s sake don’t trip.” I shouted at her as I inched my way along the ledge. I was afraid of heights, carrying a large pack and didn’t want her to reach for me in case I tumbled to the rocks below. What the hell have I gotten us into?
Along the trail, my daughter became unreasonably angry and hostile. After we got home I read this trail was used as a rite of passage for young Hawaiian warriors, and while they hiked it emotional wounds often surfaced that had to be dealt with. We weren’t ready to deal with our wounds. All she knew was that I had left her father and messed up her safe, secure, family life. I’d decimated the Rockwell illusion for my entire family (even though there was good reason for doing so).
After a few days into this visit, my daughter informed me that she needed to tell me something. I know when an adult child announces that they have something to share, it’s big.
“Dad has remarried.” She said. “I am telling you because I don’t want you to ask me why I didn’t tell you.”
I wanted to say, “I am happy for him, and wish him the best.” I couldn’t say anything. I choked on something rancid and bitter.
The floodgate burst open for one hell of a pity party.
Not part of my plan. So much for being the supportive self-reliant mother. Another illusion shot to hell.
My daughter found an awesome volunteer opportunity. We showed up at the Hawaiian Land Trust in Waihee and planted 80 Hala trees. They are indigenous to the islands and used by the original Polynesians for shelter, clothing, and weaving sails for their outrigger canoes.
It was hot, hard work, but I felt good digging in the rich black soil. I have never seen so many earthworms. At the end of the day our hands were stained and nails were packed with dirt. I was delighted giving back to the aina, our Mother Earth. That’s something I do believe in.
At noon, we hiked to a lookout point on the protected land and ate our sandwiches in silence while watching the rough surf of the North Shore. Whales were spouting and breaching in the distance.
My daughter was a good sport helping me gather pieces of driftwood for an art project I wanted to put together. The project manager gave me permission to take it.
The week went fast. She experienced plenty of beach time. We ate poke and shave ice. One afternoon, we bought passion fruit and she made a delicious jam. From scratch! We visited the vodka farm where we learned about raising organic sugar cane, and the process of harvesting cute, little, expensive bottles of vodka. We shopped at the swap meet, which is not really a swap meet because there is no swapping. Everything is priced high and not negotiable. More like a strip mall.
We attended a spectacular sunset every night on a different beach.
The evening before she left she said, “Mom, I am worried about you. You have an edge, a chip on your shoulder. Do you have a long range plan to get rid of it?”
Being called out by my daughter didn’t feel good, but she was right. I definitely needed a plan to learn why bitterness came for an uninvited visit. And how to ask it to leave.
As a special education teacher, I write Individual Education Plans for students with disabilities. In the biz, they are called IEP’s. These twenty page reports are legal documents that ensure students receive services and accommodations to be academically successful.
I guess I need to write myself an IEP. An Integrity Education Plan. What accommodations do I need to be emotionally successful? I’m 61 years old and all over the map with my emotional challenges.
I often use the word integrity to describe what I expect in politicians, bosses, and friends. It’s where I want to live regardless of where I’m geographically located. Why is it so damn difficult to maintain a residence in a place of integrity?
1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
2. The state of being whole and undivided.
I am living in one of the most coveted vacation spots in the world according to Conde Nast Travel magazine, and I am restless to move to a better location? I constantly find fault with what is, judging the residents (as flakes), the tourists (as pests), the traffic (as unmanageable), the cost of living (as shocking), and my job, well… it sucks. That’s the truth.
After thinking about this, I realized that I am in constant resistance to what is. I want what I want, when I want it. Now! Which creates a climate of dissatisfaction to what is actually happening.
Being honest and having strong moral principles is different than being judgmental and whine-y.
One afternoon my daughter and I went to the Kihei post office and while in the parking lot a man I dated briefly about five years ago pulled up behind me and said, “Hey, hows it goin’?”
I was surprised to see him, and said “Hi, happy holidays.”
I introduced my daughter and he asked, “Hows the job goin’?”
“It has been a real challenge.” Not that he really wanted an answer.
“Well ya dumb ass whadid ya expect? You’re in the same stupid system!”
He called me a “dumb ass” in front of my daughter! There would have been a time in my life where I would have called him out in the parking lot and made a scene requiring police backup. Thankfully that time is long gone.
“See ya.” I waived and motioned for my daughter to get in the car.
“Wow, Mom, you know how to pick them.” my daughter said while she was buckling up.
“No, I don’t.” I replied while struggling to find the keys to get the hell away before I completely lost it.
“That was sarcasm.”
“Oh.” I took a breath.
Being called a dumb ass may not seem like a big deal. Being called a dumb ass in front of my daughter is a HUGE deal to me. There is a long history of personal disrespect between my former spouse and I behind my reaction.
Here is where the word integrity comes back in. But this time, I misplaced my dictionary.
Instead, I found his number. And, I texted him: Thank you for calling me a dumb ass in front of my daughter. You are not my friend, I do not know you, you are dead to me. Never acknowledge me again!
He texted back: It will be easy to never acknowledge you again because you are a #+%@!!!!!
I texted back: You are always looking for an excuse to be the victim and rude. I know you have said despicable things about me in the past. Done.
He texted back: Unbelievable!
My point is, if I had taken a deep breath, and driven away with my integrity intact, this hurtful scene would have disappeared. Instead I have spent an enormous amount of energy on it, even now, to write about it for this blog post.
My daughter had no idea that this texting exchange was happening, however, she saw that I had an edge and felt I was not fully present to her.
I needed to repeat some lessons:
- There are many things worse than being alone.
- Holding on to the past does nothing but create a cycle of victim hood.
- Bitterness and other uninvited guests will eventually catch up and want attention.
- Children are the best teachers in life school.
My current progress report on my Integrity Education Plan is a D+. And that’s because I gave myself extra credit for avoiding police involvement in a parking lot. I’m shooting for a “C” next semester.