THE LITTLE THINGS

Today I was telling my water aerobics friend about another of my students who had just sold the movie option rights to her book.  My friend said, “You must be very proud of her.”
I said, “I am.  I’m proud of so many of my students, the choices they’ve made and the lives they lead.”  I feel like a big sister, a good friend, an auntie, a mother or a grandmother to so many of them.  If you teach, you can’t help loving.
My friend sighed, and said, “You did BIG things with your life.  All I did was little things.”
I’d never looked at it that way because I’d always thought I’d done little things, gauged by the BIG things other people had accomplished.
Then I thought back to when I had to turn my gut feeling and an ugly truth into action.  That is the most difficult thing for me to do in my life because I want my actions to be the right thing to do according to the situation. It’s always been hard for me to make a decision and act on it. To act, you have to believe in yourself. You can talk to friends until they are sick of seeing you coming, but nothing changes unless you take the action. 
I needed to divorce my husband and I needed custody of my son because too much damage had been done already.
My father-in-law’s attorney, the only one I knew, said he couldn’t help me but he knew an attorney who could, and he took me to the other’s office.  The attorney listened to my story, so difficult for me to tell, and he believed me.  What’s more, he believed IN me.  That “little” thing was the one thing I needed.
As life unfolded before I left that town, friends and other professionals came to me and told me how glad they were I had taken the action I had.  My friends said they hadn’t felt they could say what they knew because what I did had to be my choice, although one of my friends did spur an investigation I learned later.  The professionals kept quiet because my father-in-law was an important, powerful man in that little town, but they all knew of the depravity in which my step-children, child, and I lived.  Once I acted, these townspeople felt free then to comment how glad they were I had escaped.  I felt free and my son and I fled to another life.
When we are in a world of hurt, sometimes all we need is one “little” thing to escape, just one person to affirm and validate us.  I tried to be that person for my students.  I try to be that person for the people in my life today. 
I told my friend that she may see the things she does as little things, like daily checking on a 90-year old neighbor, or taking care of a friend’s dog, or mediating in a dispute.  But to the people she helps, that little action is a BIG thing.
Little things add up to something huge. Usually they cost nothing but time and love.  They cause a tide of goodness and kindness. It’s the little things that facilitate the big things. If you do the little things right, you change the world into a better place to be.

The Tie That Binds, A Mother’s Day Offering

        Thirty years ago, I wrote an essay about how just because a child is a step-child, your attachment to each other is not less than if she was a birth child.  I learned that much in my first ten years with my step-daughter.  Something not having to do with blood ties bound us together from the start.
        Six months after my first marriage, lying in my back yard against the vinyl siding of our tiny house, I was pondering the deplorable state of our union and sobbing, when my six year-old step-daughter found me.  No words were exchanged but somehow she knew what was taking place in my mind and heart. 
“You can’t leave us,” she told me.  “You made a vow for better or for worse.”  Who knew those six year-old ears were listening and understanding the wedding ceremony?  Even though it was “for worse” the next ten years, and life was not kind to either of us, it would have been worse for her had I gone, and so I stayed.  That decision was the knot at the beginning of our umbilical cord.
Twenty years after that, an odd incident stunned me.  I was in L.A., visiting my friend Jerry, who set up a reading for me with a fortune teller, a friend of his.  She read her Tarot cards and did her magic, all of which I can either accept or not, usually.  She intoned her spiel and I sat there, dumbfounded.
Nothing she said pertained to me one whit.  Instead, every single thing she saw related to the events taking place in my step-daughter’s life, down to the most minute detail.  How could that be?  I felt like a character in The Revenge of the Bodysnatchers.  It was as if her energies had taken up residence in the spiritual home of me.  In my mind, I saw a painting of a hollowed-out body—a pod—with my step-daughter ensconced inside, a symbiosis of the highest order.
When I explained what had happened to the fortune teller, she was as amazed as I.  She said she had heard of these things happening before but never witnessed it in her own work.  “Your step-daughter is really attached to you,” she said.  “You two have a strong connection.”
What seems odd is that while my birth son has not usurped the “me” in me—yet—a child not of me had at that moment, at least, overcome me.  That kind of transformation I can only explain, if I must, as Divine interference.
This year my step-daughter took charge of her own life and made changes the fortune teller said needed making and predicted would happen.  My step-daughter’s life is now on a different and self-determined course.  I applaud her courage in altering her path which will include service to others, which has always been her main strength.  I can’t help thinking that if I saw the fortune teller again, my reading would show a totally different result, devoid of my step-daughter’s spirit.
Or maybe not.  Maybe a mother fills up with the energies of her children and they are there to stay, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, depending on their need.   Experiences in my life have taught me there is a tie that binds with knots that cannot be undone, linking us to those whom we love, those who go for a time with us and then after us.