(December 27, 2017)
With our oldest, 22, home for the long break (for the first time in years), the house is once again, and even more fully, tipped toward youth, toward late nights of conversation, music-making, meal-making, movie streaming, not to mention heavy footsteps up and down the stairs outside my bedroom door (my bed vibrating like a drum) and something else–door latches (like gunshot) ever so charming when we first built the house and little hands had no need of closed doors.
Thus despite the luxury of vacation, I am walking around with deepening circles under my eyes, not only from riding youth’s current well past my bedtime, and from the gap between my sleep and theirs, but also from waking in the middle of the night–to silence–to a house full of breathing bodies–who once shared the same bed–and then waking again, long before dawn, for no reason at all, unable to do anything but rise in the dark, seeking light.
Sleep deprivation is my Achilles heel.
My glass half-empty.
Trees laden with ice are transformed from beauties to omens, particularly if my sons are on the road; while the harsh, dry cold, echoes in my aging bones, and the sunless days accentuate my fear of all the ways the world is ending.
I am newly menopausal. Does that explain the fear and the ugliness creeping in–a kind I haven’t felt since I lost the babies and looked upon pregnant women in the same way—resenting them like I find myself resenting youth–for all the ways life seems infinitely stretched ahead of them–while mine is doomed to end–and something else–my house now full, in another week, will empty, eventually completely, and don’t I resent that too–the way I gave so much–my entire body, my career, all sense of a separate self–only to be abandoned, even while the work I do in the world necessitates more and more of just that.
Which is to say that after a dozen days, I’ve adapted! Last night, I didn’t wake at all, and not only that, when I did wake, the jeweled promise of a new day was pulsing through the trees.
Let them have their youth, sleeping away perfectly bright mornings, and let them have their long lives ahead of them, so full of that which I couldn’t bear to hold again; while I have the ripening pleasure of turning toward the simplicity of getting to know—just me–again.
“I think I might be dead soon,” I said, as my sons tucked me into bed last night.
“WHY?” they asked in unison, surprisingly alarmed at the passing of one who seems so irrelevant to them except as an institution of familiarity and return. (I am jealous as a mother in ways I never recall as a girlfriend.)
“Because look around,” I said, pointing to my baby blankets in the tiny rocking chair that belonged to me as a girl, and then to the rug and the comforter and the curtains and my favorite sweater. “Everything around me has begun to match the blankets into which I was born.”
They smile, simultaneously. “You’re not dying,” the oldest said.
“You’re being born again,” said the youngest, “As a crone.”
I smile then too, recalling the framed print of a raven that he placed under the tree.
“It’s the symbol of the Crone!” he said, “I researched it.”
His older brother presented me with a pair of regal earrings in silver and amethyst and moonstone. He leaves in a week for Istanbul. Toward a new love.
And now I recall another surprising ugliness I felt, toward him, when he first returned home from college a handful of years ago. I hadn’t known I felt it until my therapist pointed it out. I hadn’t believed it at first, couldn’t imagine it possible, especially since I had given my life to provide that which was lost to me, and especially how astoundingly grateful I was that he could spread his wings with the promise of a home upon which he could return.
But there it was. I resented my own child for having that which I gave him because I hadn’t had it myself.
“It is my firm conviction that human nature is essentially compassionate and gentle,” writes the Dalai Lama. “Anger, violence, and aggression may arise, but on a secondary or more superficial level; in a sense, they arise when we are frustrated in our efforts to achieve love and affection.”
I withhold love in fear of losing it and I create barriers against love to protect myself from the inevitable loss of everything I hold dear, including the precious gift of my own life.
So there you have it. This is what a full night sleep brings. Take it or leave it.