I have written before about how my life is laced through with goodbyes, and about my deep-seated fears of abandonment. This truth sits uneasily with my enduring desire to be alone, but there it is. I contain multitudes. I suspect it has something to do with wanting to be able to choose to be alone.
My anxiety about departures and being left behind continues to manifest in new ways. In the last several years I have noticed an almost frantic reaction to being left alone, and a correlated respect for the power of simply staying.
Let me explain.
Last summer a close family member was in the hospital. I visited often. Others would visit and then leave, but for some reason my instinct was to stay. We would talk and catch up, and then I’d open a book or a laptop. For long stretches at a time I’d sit there – at least as much as I was able to – and we didn’t talk. I was just there. I can’t explain it, but I had a very strong sense that this was the right thing to do.
I have also noticed that when we are leaving the house and Matt walks out before me I feel a pulse of something akin to panic: wait! don’t leave me behind! I get this same feeling during meal times when Grace and Whit are eating slowly, and I’m puttering around the kitchen. We often aren’t always even talking, but I am there. When Matt or others leave the room I feel a that same pulse of feeling: don’t leave. Someone should be there while the children eat, my impulses scream, though I can’t precisely articulate why.
I see the other side of this impulse in the way Grace and Whit’s are drawn, always, to a space near the one I occupy. They choose to read in the room I’m in, for example, or to be on the floor of the house where I am. I know these days are numbered: surely before long there will be slamming doors and barked orders to stay away.
Maybe it as simple as that in my midlife I am developing a respect for the power of simply staying near. Of enduring. Of not leaving. Of abiding. I guess more and more I value presence, even when it is mild and not laser-beam-focused. Our presence is the purest manifestation of our love. And to be with someone is to say: I appreciate you enough that staying near is a priority for me. Because I love you.
15 thoughts on “Staying near”
Right. Yes. Amen.
We are pack animals, and being together is key…
Beautifully thought provoking – thank you! The idea of ‘simply staying’ is a lovely one – it feels like a kinder, gentler way of ‘being there’ that cuts out neediness and replaces it with an effortless, graceful sense of unquestioning love and support.
For me, the need to be near also acknowledges the fragility of my most important relationships – the impermanence of them. That’s also what sometimes makes them too much to even contemplate and the thought of being alone more enticing – in many ways, it’s easier when it’s just me in for the ride! But given the option to stay or go, having the choice as you say, makes all the difference, and choosing closeness makes sticking around worthwhile.
Hi Lindsey! I have missed being in the virtual world. Alas, that is the opposite of staying near, right? Ah, well.
I wrote a piece fairly recently, although I’m not sure I posted it here, about how my Dad has always had this incredible ability to just be around people. Many people must have something to do, a problem to solve, a project to do, or they are uncomfortable.
It takes a special person just to be, especially if another is in pain.
Carl and I just moved a desk into the upstairs hallway that doubles as the girls’ playroom, simply so that I can be with them in the same room when they play, writing or sewing or doing whatever I need to be getting done, and still being with them. They’ve never been terribly enthusiastic about having Mamma play WITH them, but everyone (including Mamma) is happier when we’re all doing our own thing together.
As I enter the start of separation anxiety with the babe this resonates (well, for him most likely more than me). Did you have separation anxiety as a baby? Grace and Whit?
I always need reminding of this. Sometimes I have a hard time sitting still (with my children or otherwise). In these first few days of summer vacation, I am practicing slowing down, being present, just BEING with them. When I manage to do it, it is MAGIC.
One of your loveliest posts ever, Lindsey. Perhaps because I feel the same thing so strongly, and am definitely in that place that you forsee–when togetherness is something I have to seek out and create with my kids when they’re home. It’s so easy to scatter in all directions, even in a small-ish house. I always used to love it when our whole family had to share a hotel room together!
Love, love, love. Thank you. You are so full of love and wisdom!
We ARE sharing a hotel room and I like it:) I love having my boys around abiding as you do beautifully put it. I am discovering that I define myself by other people that when I am alone for too long I feel invisible. I think this is OK to want to be with other hearts beating.
Beautiful. And SO true. xoxo
I understand how you feel. Sometimes when my children are away from me I panic. I have to really concentrate on thinking positive thoughts and remember that all will be well.
Abiding. Yes. I needed to read this. Thank you.
I always marvel at the depth of your self-awareness. My kids do this too–the staying near. I think you did a wonderful thing for your friend. How peaceful to just BE together but not feel the need to talk, which can be a lot of work for someone who is receiving lots of visitors.
Beautiful, insightful post.
Yes, so true it’s the presence of those we care for that matters most. I too learned this simple but hard to see truth from my daughter. The fact that they always want to be near you even when you’re not interacting. Even when she sits on the couch next to me there is always some part of her that ends up touching me. I love that, and treasure it now for what it is…the purest sign of love.
I know I already commentd here, but something here stuck with me and I searched and searched for it here last night – and finally found it here. The phrase, “laced through with good byes” kept sounding in my ears. I learned yesterday that I am starting a good bye that I have been fearing for years. But somehow, I took the laced with goodbyes to….. if it is laced with goodbyes, it had to start with hellos.
I just wanted to let you know how wonderful your writing is…..I often, later, think of something I have read here that keeps coming back to me.
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