The slipstream of time rushes by, ever faster, and I’m powerless to do anything but float in it.  Even last week in Legoland, where I am as present and engaged and happy as at any other time in my life, I was aware of watching the minutes tumble through my fingers, of hearing the hours whistle past my ears.

Time in the summer is simultaneously accelerated and lumbering.  The pace of life feels slowed, yes, without homework and practices and with many of our friends away.  But the events we’ve so looked forward to all year fly past, and Whit more than once has been in floods of tears at bedtime that something is over.  “But Mummy!” he will hiccup, face wet, “It’s over.  Maybe we shouldn’t go to Storyland (see also: Vermont, Legoland, Basin Harbor, camp) because it’s so sad when it’s over.”

I never know how to respond in those moments.  They trigger in me such a complicated mess of emotions.  There’s familiarity, because I feel the exact same way.  There’s guilt, because his predilection towards that kind of sorrow and sensitivity comes straight from me.  There’s frustration that I don’t know how to soothe his angst.  All these feelings twine together around my heart and I feel an ache that’s sometimes so overwhelming I can’t fully articulate it.

I could find pathos anywhere.  I see it even in summer’s highest moment, when there are popsicles and laughter and fireworks and light that goes on forever.  By mid July I’m aware of the days getting shorter, of the gradual but undeniable creep of dark, of a faint sensation of fall already, even under all that summer.  I wish I wasn’t so attuned to this, but I don’t know how not to see and feel it.  This is part of the reality to which I am waking.  It is, isn’t it, how Virginia Woolf described the beauty of the world: as having “two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.”

As we left Legoland I told a tearful Whit and Grace my perspective on this pain, of endings and of things being over: this is just part of the deal. We are sad in direct proportion to our joy.  The words are entirely insufficient but they are also all I have.  And once they were distracted on the plane with an ipad that my mother had lent us and their books, I leaned back against the headrest and let the sorrow of something ending sweep over me.  My eyes filled with tears, as they had over and over again throughout our three magic days at Legoland.  I tell myself what I told Grace and Whit, that this is just how it goes, that if I wasn’t so happy then I wouldn’t be so sad now (I think always of the line from Shadowlands that the pain now is part of the happiness then).  In that moment, it felt like small solace as loss – of another week, another year! – throbbed through me.  But it’s also true.

25 thoughts on “Pathos”

  1. I feel your sentiment completely. Endings make my youngest very sad: he cried after he walked out of his Kindergarten/preschool for the last time, he cried after 1st and 2nd grades were complete, and he was very emotional after his team’s last lacrosse game this season. I cannot imagine how he will feel when he must leave camp this summer. I would like to think that the deep sadness at endings is because of thorough and absolute enjoyment when we are in the moment, experiencing whatever it is that brings us so much joy. My summer has been a roller coaster of ups and downs: joy at having a quiet house with 2 kids away & lots of time with my husband and time to do whatever I want, to total empty sadness that my kids are old enough to both be at camp, that time has zipped by so quickly. I find myself wandering the house in the late afternoon, not sure what to do with myself. I am looking forward to hearing your perspective after tomorrow! xo

  2. First, this makes me cry. So, clearly I have a lot of emotion running right near the surface. I’m very sad about tomorrow. But I’m also so glad that Sam and Whit will meet, because it sounds like they are wired quite similarly! xox

  3. This is my comfort, what keeps me going through all the transitions and partings and endings that are inevitable when one’s children have grown and flown so far away:

    heaven will have no partings, no tears. The joy, the light will be everlasting. No more encroaching darkness.

    It will be so and I rest in knowing that.

    Bless you, Lindsey, for the tenderness with which you and your children live each precious day.


  4. Oh, this is so familiar to me. I feel the same way. At the height of summer, even as I savor the long days and explosion of greenery for which I yearned all winter, I’m always aware that it’s already on its way out.

    I struggle sometimes to stay in this moment, instead of distracting myself by finding something new to look forward to. I don’t know yet whether our son will have inherited these predilections from me. But I love what you say to your kids — that we feel the sorrow of the endings in direct proportionality to the joys we allow ourselves to experience.

  5. My middle son is such and sweet, sensitive soul, and I’ve always struggled to find the right words to speak to him when he is experiencing the pain of an ending. I cry along with him and hold him, but I’ve always felt to inadequate with no words to speak. Thank you so very much for sharing this and that Virginia Woolf quote; it is perfect.
    I also really relate and appreciate this: “. . . I was aware of watching the minutes tumble through my fingers, of hearing the hours whistle past my ears” That quote will stick with me for quite a while.
    Enjoy every last minute of your beautiful summer.

  6. I say that because I don’t know what else to say. I think it’s true. But I wish, as you say, that I could just be here rather than worry about what’s ending, what’s coming next, etc.

  7. Thank you so much. Isn’t it amazing how they just are who they are, and their wiring is just innate? I’m often speechless listening to and watching my children, who are so young and yet already such PEOPLE. xox

  8. Lindsey, you have several amazing gifts:
    1. Two beautiful children
    2. A passion to write
    3. An extraordinary writing talent
    4. The acute ability to sense all of life – all of it
    5. An awesome ability to connect with your audience
    Be well and remain amazed.
    PS. This list, of course, is not all inclusive of your life. This list is simple garnered from your post. 🙂

  9. i was once told to simply “Be Glad you Had the Moment”
    it’s about gratitude –by changing your perspective it may help them see these endings a bit differently —i know sometimes we have to just fake it till it seems and feels true. i agree with you on many levels that these endings hurt but i always come back to a feeling of gratitude for Even being able to experience them & it helps. Looking forward to the next one does not help me –revel in & be thankful for what you have been given

  10. When my son was young, he cried every time we had to leave at the end of a visit to his grandparents (my parents). Once, as we were packing up and getting in the car, he ran and hid because he just couldn’t bear to get in. He, too, is a sensitive soul. And I wish I’d done more to help him honor, protect, and keep that part of himself. Now that he is a teen-ager, I rarely see that side of him–and really, it only comes out as anger now. And I rarely see the utter joy that once filled him. Hard as it is sometimes to be the overflowing-with-emotion being that is me, I think it is much, much harder to be a male with this kind of wiring. Strong emotion isn’t cool for young men, unless the emotion is anger.

  11. This is exactly right where I am at this moment; knowing I should enjoy the remaining moments of what is here, now, yet I feel it slipping away so quickly that I can hardly breathe. Thank you.

  12. I love your line about our sorrow being in proportion to the joy. My daughter burst into tears on Christmas night, so sad that it was over. Even when playtime with a friend ends she is sad. Those are great words of comfort.

  13. Your writing often brings me tears. I always find myself fretting about the passage of time and the realization that each passing day is one day closer that my children will be on there own. Your words bring me comfort that I am not the only one who feels this way. That’s for sharing yiur thought.

  14. As always, a beautiful post and one I relate to so much. As soon as I had my first (and so far, only) child, I found myself regretting that “now he’s 2 months! Now he’s 2 years” (He’s almost 2 years). But then, I have moments where I throw out all his baby bottles and breathe a sigh of relief because I feel “ready” for him to move on to the next step… xox

  15. This really spoke to me. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the “dynamic tension of opposites” as it pertains to my emotions. As a kid, I thought there was something wrong with me – that even when something good was happening, there was still a part of me that was a little bit sad. This continued when I met my husband, a very upbeat, positive, glass 1/2 full kind of person. Why couldn’t I be that way? Doing yoga/teaching yoga has taught me to have a lot more compassion toward myself in this regard….to not judge the emotions as much, to kind of ride the wave and notice how it always ebbs and flows. To surrender to the complexity and depth and sameness of joy and sorrow. Hope this makes sense:) It felt really comforting to read your piece. Thanks for sharing

  16. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this comment! I certainly agree with #1 and 2, but the others are so wonderful to hear. Thank you, thank you. xox

  17. Yes, absolutely. I still ache for it not to be over, though, even as I’m acutely aware of gratitude for having the experience.

  18. This is one of my most potent fears for my son. He is very sensitive and full of emotion and I’m worried about how that will work as he gets older. I totally agree with you it’s much harder for men who are wired this way, as you say. xox

  19. You are definitely, definitely not the only one who feels this way! I’m sorry about the tears, though. I hate contributing to that!

  20. The complexity and depth and sameness of joy and sorrow. YES. That. So beautifully put. Thank you. xo

  21. Your words spoke right to my soul. I am the sensitive one, and somehow my boys aren’t, which is a relief, on the one hand. Because they keep a lot to themselves, it can be a bit frustrating on the other. But I sure know what you mean about the seasons coming and going, the inevitable push and pull, and how I don’t want summer to end sometimes. Sounds to me that you are doing what is just right for your little ones ~ pls keep sharing because it’s so beautiful.

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