fanning embers: a woman’s loss of control


When I write, I often have a great sense of losing control, and that, right now, isn’t as appealing as it used to be. Head down, waiting for words, my chest rests against a table, and I can feel my heart beating, the heaving there against my bones, against my will. Separate from my mind, this great muscle syphons and directs, the life blood.

I like to see my life measured, controlled, yes, in Prufrock’s coffee spoons, and also in pumps of lotions, in heaps of laundry detergent, in dirtied bowls, in keyboard clicks, expected smile lines next to my mouth, how many steps from the couch to the door, nights to bed with just-right pillows packed around, the feeling of safety with my gorgeous husband on the other side.

When I picture the photo strip of the mother with 4 small boys, it’s a comic. The colors flare out. Plumes of smoke backdrop the mother with many tiny blue birds circling her head. She’s beating something with a broom, and the boys dangle from light fixtures and wear sideways caps.

Fact is: yesterday I ran out barefoot onto the hard cold ground to save a boy from the high magnolia branch. He held on by fingernails, full 7 year-old body there like a flapping towel out to dry.

Last week, my Jude blew out the flame on the stove, and gas poured in. Only away for a minute, I walked into a cloud of gas, yelled for the boys to get out. Once out, Jude confessed that he put FIRE in the garbage can.

I threw the baby at the neighbor and ran in to retrieve the garbage can full of fire and molten trash – in a kitchen full of gas. The neighbor laughs and confesses he and his brothers used to see how close they could get to the stove with their fireworks. Laughing, he said his brother’s caught fire. It boomed and screamed in his Mama’s kitchen garbage can.

I stood there, blank and blinking.

HaHaHa. It’s so funny, my heart banging in my chest, this cold-splashed, gypsy-embered heart.

This gypsy heart can’t stop thinking of her next tattoo, how she can scheme to make it out some night to dance in blinking lights, and then it wakes fully embracing the desire to get on Land’s End and order a sweater set in every shade of cream.

Living in this skin, fearing God alone, means broken things, means release, letting some things burn, moving the pillows. It means trusting right measures in invisible realms, the heart held in pulsing palm, the peace of riding on eagle’s wing.

photo credit
amberhaines
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41 Comments

Melissa @ the pleated polka dot
Reply January 5, 2012

Amber your writing is so moving. So beautiful and today...a tad bit scary for this mama to a boy!

Love your heart!

    Amber@theRunaMuck
    Reply January 5, 2012

    Oh Melissa. Don't even give in one speck to your imagination about the boys. DOn't be like me! One second I'm fine, but then I give in, and I have them on top of the bell tower with umbrellas in a lightening storm. My power to take a story and play it out to the end is incredible in light of these boys.

    It takes trusting GOd to a whole new level.

Carissa
Reply January 5, 2012

OH my goodness, those boys! Scary!

I've always found comfort in measure and control... oh, how having a baby (err um, toddler - ah!) tests that. God uses Eli to force me to let go of that control... and the thing that baffles me, is that what seems so foreign and scary to me {that letting go}, is actually what will bring me peace... and it does... and yet I fight it still... but less and less lately.

    Amber@theRunaMuck
    Reply January 5, 2012

    Carissa, yes. That's how it is for me, too. I accomplish more when I let go. Its hard to say how much, but I believe I waste way too much energy and time on fussing and worrying. Way too much.

Janae
Reply January 5, 2012

These words are beautiful - "Living in this skin, fearing God alone, means broken things, means release, letting some things burn, moving the pillows. It means trusting right measures in invisible realms, the heart held in pulsing palm, the peace of riding on eagle’s wing." - Just what I needed to read this morning.
Letting things burn, even if it is a part of our person, a part that was but needs to be no more. That is hard to let go of, to release, to trust. Oh, but it is hard to trust sometimes.

    Amber@theRunaMuck
    Reply January 5, 2012

    I'm really bad to withhold just a little bit, and that little bit keeps me from freedom. It's so silly.

      Janae
      Reply January 5, 2012

      I find myself doing the same - I've told my husband so many times that I'm doing all the hard part and not getting to enjoy it!! I think it is because of the little bits that I hold onto, and those fragments keep me from complete abandon and the release and joy that is mine for the welcoming.
      May this year be about the little things, the final release, the full return.
      I've really enjoyed your words Amber. I haven't commented much, but your series "My Love Songs" was particularly touching. Also, I've been haunted by the piece you wrote for "LoveSaraSophia" for the baby shower. I read it when I was going through a particularly difficult time as a new mother. I love the ending where you write :
      "She lifts it up [all the things that could happen],
      folds it into a paper crane,
      and pins it in her hair.

      When the mockingbird doesn’t follow through,
      Mama keeps on singing."

      I've thought of that paper crane pined in my hair so. many. times. as I've worked out the kinks in my mama self. I'm very thankful for your words and your insight

Amber
Reply January 5, 2012

Amen and amen. I have a few cranes to fold up tonight.

rain
Reply January 5, 2012

that pouring out you do, mama, is sacrifice of the holiest kind.
{{keeping you in my prayers.}}

Fiona
Reply January 5, 2012

ohhh man. Again and again. Beautiful words. Beautiful you, and beautiful boys.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Thank you, Fiona. You always encourage.

kendal
Reply January 5, 2012

i left mine alone on a teacher workday this week (ages 16 and 12). the NO list:

blades - including box cutters, bowie knives, hatchets, pocket knives
flames
brawling

now i read this and wonder what i was doing???? even though i am a few short breaths away from 42, i feel like a new mom still having my sister read me the directions for how to bathe a baby from what to expect the first year.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    first, I cannot believe you have a 16 year old! I think I have the exact same list for mine! It doesn't change? Oh mercy.

Jess
Reply January 5, 2012

I don't comment often but your words always fall fresh and give this worn-out mom a secret smile to remember that there is beauty and wonder in the wild ordinary of it all. I love this.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Oh Jess, this encourages me. From one worn-out mom to another: thank you.

diana trautwein
Reply January 6, 2012

Holy smokes, Amber - even your commenters are all poets! Wow. AMAZING how badly kids can scare us sometimes... Finding that grace-filled line between being the MOMMY, who is an adult and does indeed know better than her small children what is hard and dangerous about this world, and being the Wise Mom who releases her kids to their imaginations, to spreading their wings and learning to FLY into the world - well, that's hard to do sometimes. Keep letting things burn - a little! - and allowing for brokenness in things and in people - and moving those pillows around until you're settled in comfortably and safely. Praying for you this month as you keep the plates twirling while Seth's away. You can do it - yes, you can. You will amaze yourself. God will amaze you. And write about it, too. When you find some breathing room....

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Diana! You're so good to us Haines. Thank you for praying.

Shelly Miller
Reply January 6, 2012

Love how you describe the tension between thinking about your next tattoo and dancing with ordering cream sweaters from Lands End. It made me laugh. I can so relate to that life too. Every step of this life - adventure, risk, joy, fear - grows us into the people He wants us to be. But then, you already know that! As usual, love your words.

    Laura@aLifeOverseas
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Amber-- I was going to comment on that piece about tattoo vs Land's End sweater sets, too, but Shelly beat me to it! I think that became this perfect image for the tension between the letting go and the control, the releasing . . . as you said, the "peace on eagle's wings." So perfectly true . . . beautiful words, as always.

    I think for me, as I am entering some territory that feels like a field of land mines, I can become paralyzed by fear to put one step in front of the other, understanding that the odds of getting a limb blown off are maybe pretty high. And, honestly, I don't know how to trust and risk versus how to be wise and not be an idiot. Feels like a tension I can't figure out how to walk quite yet. . .

    Anyway, this hit home. Thanks for writing it.

      Amber
      Reply January 6, 2012

      Laura, thank you! I guess the trick is in the day to day, moment to moment. ha! And that's what I have a hard time with!

      My daddy always says, "You want know how to eat an elephant? One. Bite. At a Time."

    Addie Zierman
    Reply January 6, 2012

    I loved that too. Being a mother is such a dichotomy of identity. You find you want things from both end of the spectrum all the time. Freedom and safety. Adventure and quiet. Tattoos and Land's End.

      Amber
      Reply January 6, 2012

      Dichotomy of identity! Totally YES!

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    I may have giggled at that one myself!

    Thank you, Shelly!

Ashley
Reply January 6, 2012

Oh, how I love these words, and how I love the resonance in these comments! I feel that conflict continually -- the grip and release, the lined up and the scattered free. Thank you for giving beautiful poetry to the tensions I feel as a mama, a writer, a woman. I am breathing better now.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Thank you, Ashley. It's a new day now, though. I have to surrender it all AGAIN!

adventuresinbabywearing
Reply January 6, 2012

We are living parallel lives, my friend.

Steph

Rae
Reply January 6, 2012

Oh that tension of the tattoos and the sweater sets...sometimes I feel like I need to try so hard to make myself into a consolidated being...and others, just embrace all these wacky, multifaced bits that make me. Your words make it beautiful - perhaps I can be both?

dearabbyleigh
Reply January 6, 2012

i think you should get a tattoo of a land's end sweater. that should do the trick.

i also think i should store up all these thoughts in a big "mama" folder for someday. thank you.

    eloranicole
    Reply January 6, 2012

    ha! i think we're on the same wavelength, abby!

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Abby! Somehow you inspire all my fun! I need a big "mama"folder AND that tattoo!

eloranicole
Reply January 6, 2012

you always make my heart beat excited to be a mama. love you, friend.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    Elora, you're going to be the best Mama. No doubt in my mind.

Jessica
Reply January 6, 2012

I've typed and retyped a comment a few times now trying to say what I feel.

I love this and it reminds me of the tension of motherhood...embracing the crazy, unplanned and being yourself in the midst of it. Something I still struggle to embrace.

    Amber
    Reply January 6, 2012

    me too, Jess. Maybe the beauty is the struggle

Darcy Wiley
Reply January 6, 2012

Oh, dear. This makes me think of the stories of my father-in-law slathering his brother in brown LEADED paint or him sharpening a stick, hiding behind a bush and launching it at the neighborhood bully (and how could there have been anyone worse in the neighborhood than my father-in-law?!!) and how still to this day he blows things up and makes us watch. My little boy is 4 and I find myself on the edge of my seat wondering if he got the crazy gene. Don't you love writing your adventures down, to see them in the light of the comic strip you mentioned? I know I love reading your telling of these shenanigans even if my stomach is full of butterflies for you. ;)

imperfect prose
Reply January 6, 2012

wow.

so much here, to absorb... some of your finest writing yet amber. i mean that.

Kristen@Chasing Blue Skies
Reply January 7, 2012

Your words light up {hee hee} the everyday extraordinary like no one else, and you make me see God in the crazy with eyes afresh. Oh, how I adore this. And *you*.

xoxo

McKt
Reply January 10, 2012

I want to quote the whole thing. Thank you for weaving your words to remind me of the beauty and the exceptional in the monotonous daily mommy life.

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