I haven’t truly grown up. I’m a baby. I haven’t lost either of my parents, and this makes me feel like I don’t know anything about being on my own. The path ahead is foreign and foreboding, requiring a compass I don’t have and don’t want.
Challenges remain as a parent, and one of the biggest I guess, is stepping aside.
I’ve learned in recent years that I can try to do everything right, that I can think my way to what I believe is the “right” solution, and yet it doesn’t always get the intended results. So my goal for now is not to think my to the next stage, but to feel my way. Explore the way a baby, or a toddler, or a child does. See what I can do only by embracing the possibility that I will fall, and that falling won’t kill me.
We need to tell our stories, whether in our private scribbles or public memoirs. If reading can connect us to each other, writing can connect us to ourselves.
And what I learned is that no one else can make me safe, or give me security. I am my own safe harbor. In the middle of this past winter, when the foundation of my life was falling away, I had myself to depend on—strong, determined, clear-headed, stable and available for my kids. If that’s who I am when an emotional earthquake hits, then what—or who?—could I possibly have to fear?
Whatever pain I’d experienced, and still would in the days to come, I knew I would have laid down my life for him. I felt the same when my daughters were born. It is a wild feeling that reduces us, or better reveals to us, that we are animals, ready to bear our teeth and claw someone to death to save our own. I’d never felt as vulnerable.
I feel for kids today, encouraged to stand out and be unique, yet not cross over into self-importance and narcissism. And they do this against a digital backdrop of unrelenting, largely souped-up photos of friends posted online.
With conscious effort, I strive to harness both sadness and happiness. The sadness is on the fringe always, but the joy, an abundance of it is hovering, like a guide leading me through the darkness. When I do experience this joy, I acknowledge it. In some ways I try to bottle it up, like a genie, calling on it in times of restlessness and anxiety.
For all of the eleven months of the Jewish period of mourning and beyond, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to move beyond the unbearable pain I felt all the time. Of course, I was completely distraught—and the intensity of my agony corresponded to the magnitude of my love.
I teared up, unable to swallow or understand why such an ordinary moment threw me off balance. I drove on, feeling undone by the power of kindness, the sort we are sometimes granted by strangers and the sort we sometimes offer them.
As a writer I value the time and space between writing my words and readers reading them. The distance provides a buffer in which to reveal my vulnerabilities. As exposed as I was on stage, immediacy created intimacy. My spoken words conjoined me with the audience. I, too, listened closely to my words. My amplified voice revealed deep longings and powered spiritual angst in a way words confined to a page never could.