Sunday, May 14, 2017

Nests, Eggs, and Winters

My friends and I visit a Buddhist temple each August to pay respects to Atom, our dearly departed brother, brother-in-law, and friend. One year, as we sat on the back porch with the Abbess Dai-En-Sensei I pointed out a bird's nest, and got a good lesson about dreams deferred, about the choices a parent has to make. The story was not intended as a lesson, it was just table talk. Such is the care with which Dai-En-San chooses her words--a listener can't help but grow.

Last fall a mother bird lay her eggs in that nest. It was too cold for them to survive on their own, so she had to stay and keep them warm. If she stayed to keep them warm, she would starve to death. If she starved to death, there would be no one to feed the eggs when they hatched. and they would die. So, she had to let them go and take care of herself, but she could lay new eggs.

Parents have to decide what to provide for their children. Throughout the world families come up short and parents watch their children go without the bare necessities. In other situations a family might be well able to provide for their child, but they have to decide whether to proceed with the child's birth, given that the child will suffer tremendous pain and ultimately an untimely death. Lately, some families have nobly chosen to have those babies anyway, in order to donate the organs to other babies in need. There are so many different types of families and struggles, but the story gives me some hope.

I can't safely carry children of my own, and though it is possible, my children would have a 50% chance of inheriting Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The plan between my ex-wife and me had been that she would carry the children. She left to pursue those dreams with someone else and I was a wreck. Without wanting to I go over in my heart how old the baby would have been, what they would be doing at this age, and so on. It haunts my dreams and my days. But as the marriage had become saturated with untruths, it's better that those eggs never hatched. But I have no idea what lies ahead.

Reproduction is one of the fundamental biological properties of life, so I try to go easy on myself for having a visceral desire to raise children, even though I know it would be very hard for me to do. I would not be alone in doing the work, though.

My own struggles with having a family are a part of what brings me to karate. I love working with the children on weekends. I haven't been able to do it for several months and I miss them. When I work with our children in the dojo I watch them walk out the door with their mommies and daddies. After my wife left I had to step out to my car to scream as the tears and snot flooded my face. I retched from the stress and heaving, it was a lonely time. I still hold back my tears when I work with the kids, but it's gotten a little easier after four years.

All the same, I love watching them grow and learn. I feel myself connecting with them as they tell me their thoughts and stories. I feel their trust in me and in our school, a safe space for them to learn and grow. A lot of families make big sacrifices of time and resources to be able to bring their children to karate, so I want to give everything I can offer to benefit them.

Today is Mother's Day. It's a hard day for me. But I'll see my own mother in a few weeks and I look forward to that time together, I'm still her baby bird.

Happy Mother's Day to those celebrating. Gentle thoughts of caring and comfort to those not.