Welcome: Into the River

For a long time now, I’ve been a bit curved. Bent toward my son, to better understand what he needs. Bent over the blank page. Turned inward, as I listen for what is next.

It is good to straighten up, to lengthen the gaze.  Breathe.

IMG_9218Some of you know about my fascination with the river. It’s an image that won’t let me go. The river represents so many things. It’s the creative force that runs inside us, if we can only slow down and listen.  It’s the flow of words that wants to come out, if we will just let it. It’s that inner current of grief or joy, confusion or wisdom, rage or humor or tenderness. Some days it’s all of these at once.

The river reminds me that I’m not in charge. That my writing and my life are governed, in the end, by forces greater than my own. That even when things seem to make no sense, I am being taken somewhere, led by the current. That my most important work is to say “Yes.” 

It’s not easy saying yes. Especially when we had something different in mind. Which is pretty much most of the time.

In the past few years, the river has led me to some pretty surprising places. From my beloved San Francisco to the strangeness of Silicon Valley. To five addresses in eighteen months, for all kinds of crazy reasons. Home is elusive, yet a quiet voice whispers, You are where you need to be.

Parenting, too, has pulled me in wildly unexpected directions. Never in a million years did I imagine I’d homeschool my child.  I once called the idea my own personal nightmare. Then again, I never imagined having a boy quite like ours. (For his privacy, I’ll call him Jack.)  I’ll share stories from that journey here.

And then there is writing. My touchstone, my inner heart. It is here, for me, that the lessons of the river are most clear. Be still, the water says. Listen and let go. That’s how I find myself beginning to write a memoir about life with my son, and also, this blog. I hope the blog will be a place for warm community, creative conversation, and the sharing of ideas about writing, parenting, quirky kids, and more.

To kick it off, a question. Has writing, or life, pulled you in unexpected directions?  What has helped you, in the words of Thich Nat Hahn, go like a river?


Comments: 11 thoughts on “Welcome: Into the River

  1. Chivon says:

    “Curved, bent, turned inward…” An amazing way to describe the process of beginning to homeschool. Lovely article and blog post. Thank you!

  2. Laurie Mains says:

    I know this is not relevant but when I read the above I immediately thought of Joni Mitchell’s song, river.

  3. K-Oz says:

    What has helped me ‘go like a river’ when life pulls me in unexpected directions? I think for me it has been a process of identifying my fears and challenging them. Whiteknuckled. Crying. Scared out of my mind, but facing them. And with each challenge, I’ve seen how I’m held. How help has arrived when I didn’t even know I needed it. That when I fall, it isn’t an eternal drop. I eventually land. And I can get back up. Through all of this, I’ve built trust that all will work out in the end. I likely won’t ever see the full picture, because I know its much bigger than me and my life. But I trust in the flow now. And it gives me great comfort to know that I don’t have to have all the answers or always know what the next right step is. I figure as long as I try to live a connected and present life, as long as I keep myself in the river, I will end up where I was meant to go…

  4. Michael Tillapaugh says:

    I always find it refreshing to find something new that starts an unexpected cascading of thought and in keeping with the river analogy, I have rounded the bend only to find that I have entered an unexpected set of rapids. I hope that around the next bend there is a sandbar suitable for reflection.

  5. Heather says:

    Illness has forced me to completely change course in life. Writing – and a big black dog – has allowed me to navigate and reframe the transition with humor and grace. The fundamental belief that people are good, even if they do bad things from time to time, keeps me going. What a remarkable journey for you.

  6. Bethany says:

    Hi Thea,

    I read your essay on Salon and came here to read more of your writing. Now I’ve read just about everything on your site and I’m moved and so happy I discovered your writing. So this is just a little love note to your writing. Thanks for it. 🙂

    Life has pulled me in all sorts of unexpected directions. What helps is knowing I always emerge stronger. Trust. Letting go. Community. Humor.

  7. Amy says:

    My son, now 19, is also profoundly gifted (as is his sister, but hers presents differently). Reading your essay in Salon brought tears to my eyes. It made me feel all over again that sense of shock and ambivalence that I felt so frequently in his early years.
    We unexpectedly homeschooled for 7 years; in high school, we finally found a decent fit; he graduated at 16 and now, as a junior in college, (St. John’s College–keep it in the back of your mind!) my son is really thriving at last.
    Congratulations on following your son’s lead. Not many will understand, but it doesn’t matter.

  8. ML Chan says:

    Pam Rollin shared your Salon article and I was just moved to tears.

    My 5yo daughter was recently diagnosed with a hearing impairment and for the longest time teachers would emphasize that she just needed time to mature. Turns out she was just emotional at school because she couldn’t hear most of what teachers/classmates said. This life change has definitely pushed me in an area of learning about disabilities and how to navigate schools and information. I want to protect her but at the same time I want her to thrive and become the person she’s meant to become. It’s been a challenge but something that we’re all learning to live with and grow from.

  9. Suji says:

    Hi Thea,
    Came over here to comment after reading your lovely Salon article. It was absolutely delightful. I could picture it all in my mind. Thank you for giving us all such a beautiful voice. I hope you, Jack and your husband enjoy your homeschooling journey. Like you, homeschooling is our unexpected direction too and we are so grateful for thinking to choose it when the time was right. Wishing you well!

  10. Came here from your lovely Salon article and thought I would let you know about my blog, The Deep End. Rivers wind and bend and take us surprising places and one of the surprises may be the depth of the water!

  11. Jodi says:

    i look forward to reading more, especially about parenting your boy. i read your Salon article and thought to myself that Jack and Oliver would be boys that my little guy would love to play with. i love the idea of taking them to a lecture. i’m struggling with what to do with him, education-wise. thank you for sharing. it’s wonderful to read and find out that you’re not alone

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