I haven’t lauded Catherine Newman in far too long. Her latest column does it again, reaching into my experience and describing things that I feel in ways more elegant than I ever could. What value there is in someone else who can put into words the things I think and feel. It makes me both less alone and more aware of what I’m feeling.
This is just poetry:
In the deep of night, I am inclined towards heartbreak. I lie awake with the muscle in my chest beating like a metronome, ticking away the rhythm of life’s passing, while outside the cicadas answer with their own clicking, also like a metronome, like a bike shifting gears, like a person in Greek mythology doomed to clip their toenails forever. I regret every time I’ve spoken sharply to the children, every time I’ve answered curiosity with distractedness, met need with impatience, countered gentle trust with self-importance. In the night, these occasions spook around me like the ghosts of Bad Behavior Past, hauntingly distorted.
I’m not being hard on myself, not exactly. I don’t expect perfection. I know that I have appreciated this journey: inhaled the children’s hair and smiles, crouched down to listen, lay down to comfort. Every day I have gathered handfuls of my own gratitude and flung them skyward, exalted; I have knelt down in gratitude to press my humble face to its grit.
But, oh, I have taken so much for granted.
The constant thrum of the children’s need, the endless whining, the jockeying for my attention: it’s all still here, still a part of my life. But, somehow, I can see that these days are numbered. This is both delightful and devastating. Like the fact that I put my first baby on a plane by herself on Sunday, and as I stood there with tears running down my cheeks she waved gaily and said, with an entirely new, mature expression on her face: “Mummy, I am so ready for this!” I have been puzzling over why that moment stuck with me so firmly and I realize it is because she was trying to reassure me. She sensed my anxiety and she presented me with her confidence to make me feel better. She – my five year old – reassuring me! She was OK and she knew it. Her confidence and bravery walking down the jetway made me proud and also unnerved. Oh, my little girl! This is just another version of her biking away from me without training wheels. It is just how I’m wired, I guess, that these passages are as surely celebrations as they are losses.