Umbrella

I think there is something to say for getting a little space away from your living. I am all for embodying and being present and living in the moment. But sometimes when the rain has been coming down hard and wet and cold for hours (or years), the chance to open an umbrella and create a little cocoon of observation is a welcome respite.
— Mandy Steward
Art by Mandy Steward

Art by Mandy Steward

Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
— Rihanna

by Mandy Steward

The last two days I have had the rare chance to observe two sets of parents chase after their toddler kids. It is as if when the mom and dad are together, the children have even more energy and require even more attention.

Worth Living

I watched a mom calmly take her daughter to the bathroom. I watched the boy sit quietly on his daddy’s lap. When the mom returned, I watched the boy wiggle free. I watched the girl pull on her dad’s shirt. I watched the mom and dad try to talk to each other. Just to exchange one sentence. I watched the strain in their faces. The tugging on their bodies. The desire to move towards each other and the very present polar energy, spinning around their ankles, weaving through their legs, winding up their arms, working like mad to pull them apart.

“How did we do it?” I laughed, asking my Love Interest. Maybe the better question is how are we still doing it, but it is easier now, now that our four kids are old enough to care for some of their own needs.

“It seems like the closer the man and woman get the more chaos ensues. Everything is working against them. It is comical to me how impossible it seems for them to look into each other’s eyes and say anything. Why, they don’t stand a chance.”

My Love Interest answered, “Oh, I am well aware.”

I laughed again. Laughed tears right into my eyes. It was hysterical to watch, even if it was not so hysterical to live.

I think there is something to say for getting a little space away from your living. I am all for embodying and being present and living in the moment. But sometimes when the rain has been coming down hard and wet and cold for hours (or years), the chance to open an umbrella and create a little cocoon of observation is a welcome respite.

This week I threw away a blue umbrella that I found abandoned in the corner of our garage. It was missing its handle. It was bent inside out. When you opened it, it broke into two pieces. That’s what being a parent to toddlers felt like at times.

“Is that what we looked like? That has to be what we looked like! No wonder if felt hard. No wonder we felt crazy,” I said to my Love Interest.

It is hard. It is crazy. It is also hysterical. And beautiful. And breathtaking. If you get some space from it.

Aura

I’ve been learning about “The Aura” through Kundalini yoga. I’ve been thinking about how this nine foot expanse around myself is a lot like opening an umbrella. I’m fond of Mary Poppins’ umbrella with the bird handle and the capacity for flight. My umbrella is like that. It’s also like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. It is like Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence. It is like Dr. Who’s TARDIS. It is like Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole. And when it’s in decent shape, it is big enough for others to climb inside and hide from the rain.

Under my umbrella

My perspective is uniquely mine. You won’t see the same things underneath my umbrella that you see underneath another’s. My umbrella is a sanctuary from the storms I have personally weathered. My umbrella attracts a very specific sort of person.

Throughout my life I have been known to huddle under the umbrella of another when mine got stuck closed. These are people who felt safe and inviting to me at the time. They extended their canopy to me.

I’ve also had moments of timidly but surely stepping out from under the umbrella of another, testing my own aura. Seeing if my colorful waterproof expanse was broad enough to give me safe passage into the big wide world.

Handle

Sometimes we walk alone. Sometimes we walk with others. Sometimes we hold our umbrella sideways, like a shield, bracing ourselves against the chaos of wind and weather. Sometimes we dance and twirl in celebration like spinning tops of possibility and delight.

As I watched the couples chasing their kids I imagined myself approaching them in mud-splattered galoshes and a trench coat of many colors, peering around my wide rim of an umbrella saying with mad laughter in my eyes, “Your life looks damn near impossible and it would appear that everything is working against you, but you have to know, from where I stand, peering at your light through this torrent of raindrops, all I see is a rainbow.”

Space

It’s the umbrella that allows for the perspective. It’s like the vantage point of standing behind a waterfall where you can feel all of the spray but none of the force. I grow softer when I realize people live life in direct correlation to the state of their umbrella. And we all know umbrellas can take a real beating.


About Mandy Steward

Mandy Steward is an artist and author of Thrashing About With God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything.

Connect with Mandy on her website, www.mandysteward.com.