The other day I was standing in my friend Maureen’s kitchen. I can’t remember exactly how it came up but I remember distinctly saying this, “You know, these days I find myself mostly doing things that I am not very good at.”

Gone are the days when I filled my spare time with things I had done for years, things I felt naturally talented at, things that made me feel accomplished. Dance, knitting, baking, my work. All these activities left me feeling like an expert, good about myself. Smart. Strong.

Instead I find that I am spending my time exploring things that are new. Things that make me feel wobbly. Things that make me feel a little scared. Things that are hard and that I can’t seem to master no matter how long I work at it, but things I need to do, or things I love to do, or things I simply just want to do.

I may be attempting to make some headway on the disaster that is my house, trying to demystify being organized with a tornado for a son who inherits his habits from me. I could be slogging away at guitar, working my way through muffled notes and sloppy rhythm, trying to loosen up my stiff right hand, while strengthening my weak left one. I find myself wobbling around a skating rink, going round and round, trying to avoid an embarrassing spill. Or singing really rough harmonies that sound slightly flat. I may be trying to bake without wheat flour, or garden in the shade. Or I may be sitting on my cushion desperately trying to quiet my mind or on my mat working my way into a pose.

These days I feel so unpracticed at everything I do, I am such a beginner. And make no mistake, its a role I embrace. For so long I was so scared to try anything that I didn’t think I would be good at. I let a lot of opportunities to try new things pass me by for fear of looking dumb. I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy something if I didn’t master it and if I thought there was little chance of mastery…well…I just let it go. But now, I am beginning to love doing things just to try them out without any pressure to succeed. Just to experience them. Its hard and it requires a whole new story of myself to protect my little eager heart, but I am bit by bit embracing it and feeling my life deepen.

I never would have embraced this “beginner’s lifestyle” if motherhood hadn’t forced me.

I plunged into the sea of beginning, when I became a parent. I went from being an accomplished, confident and completely masterful woman to a beginner in every way shape and form. It was all so new. I was so unpracticed, even the simplest things seemed impossible: breastfeeding, changing diapers, getting those little shirts over those big heads, getting out the door on time, taking a shower. In the 36 hours of my labor I transitioned from being an expert to being an outright, brand spankin’ new beginner.

What I came to believe was that even if I didn’t know how do to something, I would and could learn if it really was important enough. After weeks of showing my breasts to complete strangers I finally figured out how to feed my child discreetly even while waiting in line at the grocery. I could dress Max with one hand and sip an iced latte held in the other and could change a diaper in under 10 seconds flat.

But truth be told, the minute I mastered anything in this parenting gig, the minute I thought I had motherhood down and had begun to feel “good” at this new job, I was sunk again, thrown once more into the land of change, and mystery, and exploration without a map. If the last 7 and a half years have taught me anything, it is the inevitability of trading in mastery for mystery.

This has been accentuated by the fact that I am a girly girl mom raising a boy’s boy son. In addition to all the mysteries of child development, I have had to immerse myself into the secret life of boys. Without a partner to turn to to say, “You handle this,” I find I need to delve into topics I never would have imagined that I would need to explore, let alone master

Which leads me to “safety yellow” colored jock straps. Or rather, the choices between yellow mesh gym shorts with built in cups or yellow cycling pants with built in cups.

Max is starting a hockey program on Saturday. He has been counting down the minutes until I finally let him play. While I made him really work to earn the chance to play, truth be told, I was so excited that he was embracing a sport I knew. I thought that maybe, my own wobbly skating aside, I would get a pass on the beginner thing this time. That finally, he would enter a phase where I could skate along on information I had mastered long ago. That I was getting a long deserved mom’s rest in the stands where I could comfortably discuss the icing calls with the veteran hockey moms from game 1 on. Better yet, I could feel an expert again-if not at playing hockey, then well…at watching hockey…and being a proper hockey mom. In fact, I might be able to tell a few of those other moms a thing or two about off-sides and slashing and holding and all that.

I was beginning to get used to the idea that I could finally rest my weary little ego in the land of mastery. That is, I was resting until I got the email. From my darling and helpful good guy friend. The one who keeps me informed about guys stuff I need to know. The email from the friend that knocked me off my high horse and informed just how little I really knew. It was the email where he started to fill me in on jock straps.

Apparently there are all different kinds and I as a parent will have to help Max choose. He needs a special hockey jock strap which is different from the one his karate teacher had ordered him for that sport. Apparently the standard issue hockey jock shorts are safety yellow. Talk about a mystery… Yellow? Safety yellow? Its been hours since I learned this and I am still baffled. Why on earth, do they make them yellow? I mean, they are hidden, beneath black or blue or red hockey pants. Yellow bike helmets, I get it…but yellow underwear? Is it to make sure they don’t get thrown in the wrong pile of the wash? I have no idea and am not sure that I will ever know. But it simply a sign, a little laughable sign from the universe that even in the area I thought I would have down, I just don’t know how much I don’t know. And that there is no way to escape swimming in the land of beginning. There will always be a mystery.

So I am setting off, yet again, on another uncharted adventure. Me, my son, his yellow penis protecting underwear and I. I get to practice all over again, the art of being a beginner, of starting from ground zero, of knowing nothing and plunging in anyway, of just giving it a go and seeing where it leads. We always start right where we are completely new.

As for the whole mastery thing, well, I still would like to believe that one day I will get it all down. But truth be told, the richness of my life these days is coming from embracing the mystery. Parenting has taught me that in ways that are humbling and funny, sweet and torturous. And it will teach me over and over again.

One Response to “The Sea of Beginning…or…The Zen of Being a Hockey Mom…or the Mystery of Safety Yellow Jock Straps Short Things”

  1. Trish Says:

    My Darlin’ Meg,

    I’m so proud of you for being ‘in the game’. It takes guts to try new things no matter where you are in your life. You may feel like your in the infancy of knowledge trying these new adventures but you’re in the graduate school of guts, determination and goals. I saw on a television show the other night the character was speaking from the other side and she said ‘I wasn’t afraid of dying because oh how I lived, oh how I LIVED’. Isn’t that what we are here for? To try, try, experience, enjoy and release?

    I’m delighted for you.
    My love to you and Max,
    Trish
    patriciadolan@comcast.net