Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

'Tis a Gift to be Simple

Vincent Van Gogh, House at Auvers, 1890

Most families have that child: the one whose deep-seated need for parental stability manifests in sarcastic commentary on anything that seems indicative of some unfathomable internal life. Parents, and mothers in particular, must be a Rock of Gibraltar, comfortably, safely unmoved and unmoving. Do you feel the need to look less haggard? You will be greeted downstairs with a scornful demand to know why you're wearing makeup. How could you have been so presumptuous as to think you could wear a new shirt from Goodwill and not have it remarked upon? Should you watch a movie, you can be sure that sharp eyes will be monitoring you for the first signs of weakness: "Mom, are you crying?"

Which is why this morning I stood barefoot out by the compost bin under the overgrown mulberry tree at the bottom of the yard, seeking a place I could breathe a few great shuddering breaths, unremarked. Almost all summer I have moved from busyness to busyness, some tedious and some very pleasant indeed. Today, for the first time, I finally had nothing to distract me from the looming reality that my two oldest girls both leave for college on Friday. The body keeps score, of course. All week I've noted, and filed away to deal with later, the increasing anxious tingle in my fingers and the dull ache in the pit of my stomach. But you cannot let yourself start if you have no exit strategy. One shuddering breath, if indulged, turns into another and another until you are gulping great sobs down by the playhouse and hoping no child is monitoring you from the kitchen window. 

It is perhaps selfish to wish that I had a completely private place to scream every so often. But there are worse evils than to be caught out in a moment of weakness. I am almost sick with gratitude that the trials of my life are so simple. I face no evil, no betrayal, no terror. I endure nothing gives pain to anyone but me. I have nothing worse to face than to die to self, and I have to do that anyway. It is a gift to suffer love. 


Brandon said...

It's certainly true that when busy-ness intersects with major transitions, we sometimes find that a temporary pause leaves us overwhelmed when something that would otherwise have been promised bit by bit suddenly has to be processed all at once. As you say, the body keeps score even if the mind isn't doing so.

Occasional solitude is one of the things that makes it possible for us to fulfill our obligations to other people; but I also think it's fairly common not to be able to get it when it would be most useful. At least, I have a fairly significant amount of time in which to be alone if I need it, but I still sometimes find that it's inconveniently distributed.

MrsDarwin said...

Solitude does often seem to come at the wrong time, or in the wrong circumstances. C. S. Lewis talks somewhere about the body as Brother Ass, balky and unpredictable, flaring up at unconventional times and just as inconveniently refusing to respond when needed. Emotions are like that too, which is why a policy of stiff upper lip is so useful. But it’s a lot easier to keep a stiff upper lip when people don’t constantly poke.

Emily J. said...

I had to sit down today and catch my breath after I watched my husband drive away with our fifth child off to college. I felt walloped in the gut. Usually I am the one that takes the kids to move in. This is the first send off I'm not attending - and the busyness of those weekends, checking off the lists of stuff, the physical labor of moving bags and boxes and catching flights and renting cars, usually is so exhausting that the saying good bye is not so emotional - although I've shed a few tears in those rental cars. But today, it hit me hard. So I called the boy up for one more goodbye, one more blessing, even though he and his dad weren't even to the highway yet. And good thing - they had driven off without the key to the storage locker where the older brother's hand-me-down futon, fridge, cheap carpet, and other sundries are locked up and waiting. So I got to speed off with the key to hand over and to grab that last hug at the interstate exit where they were waiting.

I'm sure there's a meme about how saying good-bye doesn't get any easier with practice . . .

soundstar76 said...

Praying for you and your sweet children, my dear. If it is any consolation, the pain of losing my oldest to college, plus all the stress of daily life gave me trigeminal neuralgia for almost 4 months of constant pain. God in His great Mercy finally took away the daily pain, and is teaching me to let go of my children into His almighty Hands, and His plans for them. And to try to give up small amounts of perfectionism at a time, which feels like whittling away at my soul each day...AND my aging body. The body knows! And I love the C.S. Lewis quote. Hang in there! Heaven has no good-byes, which is what I tell myself daily now.