Isn’t it amazing how fast things can change?


This picture, while it is of bedtime, is not specifically related to this post.  I love it, though, because it demonstrates the kids sleeping on the floor when we visited our closest friends’ house this winter.  This is a classic move from my family, to unroll a sleeping bag and crash, and I’m quite proud that my children are adept at it.

It had been a normal day.  Busy, yes.  For instance, we had no time to read Harry Potter.  But I had given Grace and Whit dinner and talked to them about their days before they took showers.  We had sat together on the couch and read a wonderful picture book from the library (I absolutely adore picture books and still read them to my children; they love them too), and then they got into their beds to read their own books before bed.

After fifteen minutes I went into Whit’s room to tuck him in.  We spoke briefly, I did the sweet dreams head rub and the Ghostie Dance, turned on his music, and left.  Then I went downstairs to Grace’s room.

I sensed as soon as I walked into her room that something was wrong.  I asked her if she was okay, and she insisted she was.  I gave her a hug, listened to her prayers (as always, a litany of “thank you for…” which inevitably brings tears to my eyes), and shut off the light.  As I was closing the door I watched her roll away towards the wall, and something tugged in my chest.  I knew she was upset, but I didn’t know why.  Sometimes I’m overcome by all the wordless input I receive from others, by the ways that I can sense the mood of another person.  This is simply what it’s like being porous.  There is nobody with whom this connection is stronger than Grace.

I went up to my desk and sat down, trying to shake it off.  I worry sometimes that I create incentive for her to have something wrong, when I do this, because it gives her attention when something is.

But I knew she was upset, and after a couple of minutes I crept back into her room.  She rolled towards the opening door in the dusky light, a smile on her face and a question in her eyes.  I lay down next to her and whispered, “please, please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’t stop thinking about when I die,” she began, defenses crumbling, all pretense of being ‘fine’ gone.  “I mean, will I spend a million years by myself staring into space?”

“Oh, Grace.”  I looked over at her.  “I don’t think you’ll be staring into space.  Remember, I’ll be there!  Think of all the people in Heaven that you can be with.”

“But what if I can’t find you?” Her voice rose and she hiccuped once.  We talked about reincarnation, and she said she thought that was a pretty cool idea.  “Is that what people mean when they call me an old soul?” she asked suddenly.  Yes, it is, I answered.

The conversation began to drift.  I am trying to remember that I don’t need to fix what she feels.  I can’t, anyway.  I listen to her, nodding, recalling the power of simply abiding with someone.  What can I do, after all?  Not die?  Of course, I will try.  But that’s not really in my control, after all; that much I know.

We talked about Grace’s best friend from camp, who is coming soon to visit.  The mood in the room lifted.  I gave her a hug, asked if she was ready for me to go.

Grace nodded.  “It’s amazing how fast things can shift, isn’t it?”  She murmured.

“It is.”  I smoothed her hair back from her forehead.  “It is.”  I kissed her on the cheek, pulled her covers up, and left the room.

As I pulled the door shut, she rolled towards the wall again.  It was precisely the same movement as the first time I left, but it felt entirely different.  I walked back to my desk and sat down again, just like before.  As I looked out the window at the night I thought about how sometimes all we need is a few minutes of someone really listening to us, sitting with us, witnessing us.

That is enough for everything to shift, for the world to tilt, for all to be well again.

35 thoughts on “Isn’t it amazing how fast things can change?”

  1. Beautiful writing as always. Reading this I couldn’t help but think of a line from Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto: ” Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.”

  2. I totally agree that sometimes what we need most is for someone to simply “be” with us. Far too often, we are quick to want to rush in and “fix” a problem — generally a problem that is far too complex to be fixed in the first place. Listening, especially in a culture that tends to prize talking more, is a gift.

  3. Oh my goodness — this was just wonderful. You painted the picture of the emotional landscape so well.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. It is so moving…maybe because of the heaviness mixed with the lightness.

    Some of the fondest memories I have of childhood are me curled up in bed, talking with my mom.

  5. Oh, how moving. Bless you both. I was ten and very upset about the idea of death and a family friend told me From your story, Lindsey, you gave the most comforting words, and this is the best “the power of simply abiding with someone.” One day how powerfully you are with your children and the way you capture their specialness and uniqueness will move you with gratitude again and again (exemplifies “kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise,” from the poem by Blake.) Thank you.

  6. Wonderful that you captured this moment, these complex feelings, the way things DO shift, so subtly. And Lindsey. your writing here: masterful! I love your voice, your way with dialogue and inner experience both. Truly lovely.

  7. I love how you handled this, that you trusted your instinct, that you have the kind of relationship where you don’t need to have all the answers in order to offer true comfort.

  8. This is so beautiful, Lindsey — and the fact is, I know how Grace feels. I have these moments myself, even though I’m supposed to be the adult, the grown-up, the mom. I hope I’ll be able to field questions from my own child as well as you did — I hope I can abide with him in the way he needs, even though I harbor my own fears. xox

  9. Yes, it feels so wonderful to know that we are not alone. I, too, get caught up in trying to “fix” my children’s feelings. A beautiful piece.

  10. Learning to accept that I can’t fix things for my children. That I can’t “fix” them. It’s hard! When they were small, I was much more powerful. The older they get, the more my powers diminish. Appreciate the reminder that there is power in just being with them. And in listening to my gut. A lovely piece for Monday morning.

  11. “The older they get, the more my powers diminish” – oh, how true this is. At the crux of some of my tears, I think. xox

  12. This brought tears to my eyes. I can’t even read all the comments because the screen is blurry. Beautiful and intimate and so true. Thank you.

    I too love picture books. They’re like works of art, and I get annoyed when parents assume their kids are too old for them once they learn how to read.

  13. As always, you move me to tears with your absolute brilliance – beautiful, poetic, insightful… My 10-year old Carly also rolls towards the wall upon going to sleep (I’m usually there lying next to her, actually, which I don’t mind, as she typically falls asleep in 10 seconds flat). I understand this nighttime ritual, and how when she’s “off”, the shift in energy can be so palpable…I love how quickly and effectively you moved Grace’s energy back to the center, and restored her sense of peace and tranquility so magically… And I love how you shared this story so eloquently. You are truly an inspiration!

  14. What everyone else said. I love that you followed your intuition although it may have been easier not to. I listened to a Jon kabat zinn podcast this weeken and he talked about paying attention. Reading this was about paying attention. Thank you.

  15. I would love to hear that. He came and spoke at our school a few years ago and was just extraordinary.

  16. I need this reminder about not trying to “fix” their feelings and to just be with them and let them feel it.
    Thank you for sharing your words with me today.

  17. So beautifully written. And whether our children are 10 – or 30 – I can tell you that wanting to “fix things” never completely goes away. I try every day to “abide” with my daughter – who lives in North Carolina with her husband – they have struggled for two years to conceive a child of their own – she is now seven weeks pregnant after their third try at IVF – is ecstatic and worried sick all at the same time – I want to tell her that all will be OK, but of course I do not know that for sure. All I know is that I will live every moment of this adventure with her and assure her that every feeling she has and will have is true and legitimate. I will listen to her, “sit” with her and witness her – with all my love. Thank you for reminding me of this.

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