I vow to stay with myself without caving to the well-known disappointment of that moment: The corner store, buying a pack of Djarum Blacks, packing it in my left palm, lighting up and undoing the benefits of weeks, even months of healing lungs, reclaiming life without this addiction.
Yes, I vow not to put myself through this again. And indirectly, not to put Aviva & Pearl through it, through the bummer of Mama smoking again. And not to put Mani in harm’s way, which it really is, because if I smoke, she smokes. And when we smoke one, we smoke the whole house down, baby and all, and we both know it.
I vow to stay present.
I mean this very specifically. It’s the best and perhaps only effective shield against anxiety and fear and rabbit-holing. By “stay present,” what I mean is not that I won’t plan or prepare or think about the future–these are good, necessary, important, vital aspects of being a parent and of working for oneself. No, what I mean is that when worry creeps in, when self-doubt and questioning threaten to topple me over, rendering all other efforts futile, I will return to now. I will take a moment or many to feel the floor beneath my feet, to do a mental inventory of my physical surroundings–a plant, a table, a cup of coffee, a woman who adores me, a child chattering, a notebook, a mirror, a pantry with dry goods. To take in the solidity of what is here as a way of recovering my balance.
I vow to keep my priorities straight.
Which is to say: My children, my wife, health (all of ours), integrity, creativity, kindness, generosity, faith, courage, connection, reaching out rather than erecting false barriers — these are my pillars, touchstones, points of return, and reasons for rising each day. Not to mention the simple act of breathing, the prospect of a morning run, a chance to see my parents, sisters, a friend, to know that everyone I encounter can be a teacher. To leave the house, walk to the library, and chat with the person on the other side of the counter.
I vow to stay awake to ignorance and injustice.
To teach my kids that we are all equal but the world doesn’t act that way and they can use their privilege to do so much more than skate. They can listen, learn, and lead. They can reach beyond the bubble, befriend the kid alone at the table, and risk unpopularity in the name of what’s good and right when the moments come–and come they will. They can live with awareness that it’s not all fair, and that bad things happen to good people for reasons deep and insidious and systemic, and that there are a lot, a lot of American realities beyond their experience. They can speak up, and they can also be quiet and listen to those other realities.
I vow to see the good.
To plant seeds and water what’s growing and focus on the good stuff and catch myself, whether it’s with my work or my kids or how clean the apartment is, when I’m starting to complain or nag or sink. If it’s dusty, then wipe it clean. Do something. But don’t just fuss. This does not mean being falsely positive. Just aware of perspective, and choice.
I vow to answer the phone when it rings.
To go to the door when someone knocks. To roll down my car window and make eye contact with the human being standing in the median with a cardboard sign. To respond to questions and queries with an open heart. To say: I’m open for business. And also to say: Closed for the night, come back tomorrow. To unplug, to sleep (perchance to dream?!).
I vow to be wholeheartedly here.
For as long as I’m here, to keep unfolding, learning, emptying and filling.
This post came as a freewrite from the Day Ten prompt of a two-week writing group that wraps up today.
Want to free up your writing voice without having to worry about being good?
Join me and a small group of others who will celebrate you for showing up–no matter what words come. My next two-week online writing group is August 17-28. Click here to learn more and register. (I don’t make guarantees, but I do vow to support and encourage your practice as best I can.)