Note: I don’t normally repost essays I’ve previously written, but I’ve been thinking about this one a bit lately–or, actually, this topic. See, April holds the anniversary of the days on which both David’s and my father died. And right now, there’s a lot of bad talk in the news–people being hated, the people who are hateful being hated themselves, all that usual stuff that swirls around our world on a daily, weekly basis. And I just find myself withdrawing from it all: I will say that these past couple of weeks I’ve actually liked those cat memes that keep popping up on Facebook more than my friends’ actual status updates. It hurts me to admit that.
I’m not someone who wears my faith on my sleeve, partially because I don’t feel like being lumped into any sort of stereotype (I know. How very Peter of me), and mainly because faith is something I stumble through every day, picking my way through the fields (sometimes meadows, sometimes gravel) of belief like a stranger trying to find her way in a land that changes from one day to the next. I grew up Catholic with a Catholic mom and Protestant dad (I know. How very Irish of me), and after many years of reluctance and avoidance and “I’m too modern for this” I started to really circle back around to it, before finally embracing it more way more fully than I ever did as a kid huffing and sighing through Good Friday services with my mom and brother. Honestly, the faith never left me. Thankfully, though, some of the self-absorption did.
And I can tell you this. If I’ve come to learn anything over these last few years, of this wonderful decade of starting to really understand who I am–and being okay with what I find there–it’s these two notions:
1. God is love. It’s turned into my mantra of sorts, even if it’s still really hard to live out on a regular basis (I am married with kids, after all. Humble platitudes only extend so far when you’re faced with a kid who’s really upset she can’t wear her t-shirt to play in the snow, or a husband who just told you he has to leave the next morning for a work trip three states away). If we base our respective faiths–any God-based faith–on that foundation (God is love. BOOM)–then all other moral decisions seem to come pretty easily, in my opinion. Even if your kid has just progressed from whining to crying and just got snot all over that thin little t-shirt of hers.
2. Coming from someone who tends to operate on this side of anxious, I’ve also learned this: it’s kind of funny how things tend to work out when I get out of my own way and just trust. When I back down, back away, calm down….there’s peace. It happens, eventually. I remember talking to a friend years ago–I was living in Baltimore, having just left my career in publishing, and trying desperately to figure out what to do with my life. And I was on a phone with my friend, and he finally, quietly, said, “Leah. Just stop thinking about it so much. The answer will come to you.” He was right.
Easter will be the sixth anniversary of the day David and his brother lost their dad. And as I think about what it means to be parents and spouses, to love unconditionally and absolutely, to carry ourselves in a world that needs our love to be as consistent as the sun that rises each day, I think back to the following post. Because love itself is easy–it’s just a (strong, all-consuming) feeling. But acting on that love–continually trusting, and allowing others to trust in us, well. That’s when you’re putting that love into action. There’s a reason why those who risk themselves for others are called heroes. Or in some cases, saviors.
JUST ONE OF MANY
originally posted March 29, 2013
Quinn broke her elbow yesterday.
It’s just a slight fracture. She was in and out of the urgent care center in an hour, with “pictures” of her arm and a recommendation for an orthopedic pediatrician. She got pizza (“pepp-ee-roni”) and frozen yogurt (chocolate) for dinner. She skipped her bath. She has to wear a splint that goes from her wrist to her upper arm, with a sling to match. She, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to mind the sling so badly.
For me and David, though, well, that’s a different story.
It happened while we were downstairs, in the family room, talking. The girls were in the living room a few steps above us, playing with some toy airplanes. I’d just made a comment to David about how lucky we are that they play so well together–listen to the stories they make up!– and how just downright awesome it is that we have such happy children. There was no thump, nor scream, or anything like that. Just Quinn, appearing at the top of the stairs, clutching her left arm and sobbing. Big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Her little lower lip sticking out in a pout that may have definitely shattered my heart into about a million tiny pieces. And her arm. Her arm. It was just hanging there. Her hand looked odd, like it was attached funny. This is a child who can run into a wall and bounce off and keep running. She takes a tumble down the stairs and just keeps going. But this time it was a toy on the floor that did it. She was walking around, “flying” her airplane, and from all reports from the 5-and-under crowd, tripped over a toy and fell onto the hardwood of our living room. And even then, she tried to go back to playing. But then she clutched her arm, the arm that wouldn’t move, and said “Ow.” And the lip went back out. “It hurts, Mommy.”
When I fell in love with David, I was upset. I didn’t want to fall in love. I was enjoying learning a new city on my own. I was concentrating on grad school and training to become a teacher. I was determined to keep my perfect GPA (penance for the first couple of my undergrad years, no doubt), focused on learning everything I could, on landing a job. And I knew–knew–that loving David would be it. This was the guy. I was walking into a life of worrying about someone else, of caring so much it could be scary, of permanently attaching myself to someone who’d become as important to me as I was to myself.
I had no idea.
After the girls were in bed last night, after I’d positioned Quinn’s little arm so that she didn’t have to sleep with it sticking straight up, David wrapped me up in one of his big bear hugs. “I love those girls more than life itself,” he said. Yes. It was just a fracture, but it was our child who’d been broken. Our child crying, our child with a limb that wouldn’t move, didn’t work. Never in my life had I wanted to jump into someone else’s body so badly, to take the pain away. And this is just the beginning. There may be more broken bones. There will be broken hearts, mean friends, bullies, disappointments in school and sports and love. I cannot protect my children from these things, but I know without a doubt that every hurt that they feel I will feel ten times more. I know this, and I know that this is some sort of maternal covenant I signed three times over. I signed up for this. Willingly. I got pregnant and basically agreed to waive any rights to my heart so that it can be held by persons too small to understand the weight of what they carry.
I cannot even grasp the fierceness of this feeling, and I’m certainly having a tough time describing it. It makes me wonder if people even know what they’re getting into when they have children. Because I have a child, I will never not worry. I will never walk away from a difficult situation. I will be their fiercest advocate, their biggest champion, and I will always, always, know that if I could ever take their places in times of hurt, I will in a second. I’m not sure they need to know this. I don’t know. But I know it. David knows it. And we have to sit on the sidelines and watch them live their lives with this understanding. It is terrifying to love something this much. It is unnerving to know that I will do anything–anything– to protect my children when I can, to know that I would give up myself in a heartbeat so they would not have to feel pain again.
Happy Good Friday, everyone.