Agency, Metaphor And A Cat

At The Beginning of the Day

At The Beginning of the Day

Sherod left this morning. I had a harder time saying goodbye this time around. A few minutes before he left, I was able to recognize the slightly panicky, rather desperate sense of loss that was coming over me. I think somewhere else on this blog I’ve described how my mom had to leave me every night at Boston Children’s Hospital when I was a toddler/preschooler and how hard that was. I can remember doing everything in my power, lying alone in the dark, in a full length cast, to try to get my mom back. All I could do was scream for her and it never, ever worked. Agency—derived from the Latin word agens that means effective, powerful—is a really important word in my life because those early experiences of an incredible absence of agency shaped who I am.

My daughter, not unlike me, for all that we are only distantly united by biology, knows something of the opposite of power and effectiveness. The past couple of weeks have been horrible for her behavior-wise. Yesterday afternoon, her support team and we had to make some very hard decisions because of her current levels of aggression and her risk of elopement. She has lost the privilege of participating in a simply spectacular fine and performing-arts program in Tallahassee for people with developmental barriers like hers. Instead, she will go into the more restrictive and less enriching environment of a local school for the cognitively disabled.

It is such a painful contradiction with our girl. She had no real voice or vote when it came to this move, including her transfer from BARC. I imagine at least some of the acting out is a reaction to the pain of this transition. But it’s a vicious cycle with her: the absence of impulse control, the behaviors that put her and others at risk undermine the very thing I believe she is most desirous of–true agency. It breaks our heart.

So yeah, by the time Sherod headed out this morning, I was wobbly. The fact that Direct TV was coming to install a satellite dish was no consolation either. One of the things that is really different this time around is my experience of a new kind of agency. I went out to start working on the overgrown, long neglected raised plant bed that will be the starting point of my new rose bed. It’s been hot today, and humid. I have alternated between working outside and working on my ECF project. I remembered that when I got my first antique roses in Memphis, I got Sherod to help dig the holes where I planted them. Pruning, fertilizing and caring for them was easy. This was nothing like that. My arms are aching and I am so scratched up that I look like I’ve been through a bougainvillea war.

I learned some things along the way today. That it really is good to use gardening gloves. I made myself do that in case of snakes but they help for lots of other reasons including stumbling on poison ivy unexpectedly. That you have to be careful or you might pull up, not a weed, but a treasure. I inadvertently pulled out a rosemary bush, much to my dismay. The metaphor of weeding is anything but subtle, and today it came with an extension. As easy as it was to inadvertently pull out the rosemary, I tried every which way I knew how to get rid of one particular weed that obviously has a root structure that must stretch into the confines of hell. I dug. I pulled. I brought out all kinds of garden tools of Sherod’s and the sucker is still out there tonight standing tall.   Even so, I was thrilled by the agency that is ours through the gift of our incarnation. I was mindful of birds, and butterflies, bees, dragonflies,d grasshoppers, squirrels: all went about their business while I went about mine. Even the new cat that has adopted us showed up to watch.


Finally, a little after 5, I stood back, swore I’d best that danged weed tomorrow, and admired what I had accomplished. I welcomed the aches. I was surprised by all the scratches, nicks and cuts because I was so busy I never noticed when they happened. Especially, it was wonderful to see brown earth and the first contours of what the bed might look like. I began to make plans for my weekly trip into town tomorrow; it will include a Home Depot stop.


I was looking, considering, planning all those things when the new cat walked up on the most cleared off part of the bed.  I snapped this picture with my iPhone because I thought it was so cute to have an inspector.  Then she squatted down and took care of business. Right there.  In front of me! I wanted to be offended but I really couldn’t, This too is a part of the metaphor. We exercise agency, we accomplish some things, usually not as much as we planned, but at least for me today, enough. I am always doing my work along with the work of all creation and our intersection points are not necessarily as neat and tidy as we would hope. Sometimes, they can get downright cr&%$y—and that’s OK too.

Shabbat shalom.

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