It seemed as if his words were a string that kept going around me, looping, tightening, after every line. Though the string was taut in general and even tighter at certain lines, I was still breathing, but gasping, but breathing.
Once I Claimed Sorrow
Once, I claimed sorrow greater than anyone else’s. The world
was as it is now. Corpses of children loaded into trucks
each day. Change only ever coming in narratives. Gas leaks.
Landslides. Of course a tornado matters more than the antiseptic
room of patients in the nursing ward. Of course it matters
what you’re dying of. Lupus, for example, is a word
no one wants on his gravestone. Better “bravery.”
Or a quote by some bearded European thinker, saying
all we are is people. See, the first thing I’ll do when someone I love
walks that beaten path is quarantine their closet.
Then smell a piece of clothing each day. While watching a sitcom.
Or while walking Belle, my dog, who uses scents to determine
who she loves. Let death never blind us. Disappearance
is always beautiful and flowers are always blooming.
If you cannot find it in you to tell that laughing child
swinging in the monkey bars to stop, perhaps you can save
an equal kindness for grown-ups. True, we are not children.
We are far more worn. Look how we lie: Once, my old man said
that the great earthquake in this country
probably swayed a daffodil continents away
in the perfect direction, creating a beauty that can fill
whatever fracture it made in our souls. Probably,
they are wrong. The deepest sorrows are not fractures.
They are holes within the body. But even still
earthquakes do happen in the context of flowers;
and flowers sometimes bloom in minefields.
Too much happiness can be treated by thinking
of the man in the coldest place on Earth.
And what can I say about sadness
apart from how I cannot have it all to myself.
The world has not changed, but now chances are
my sorrow is average. I am most important
only when starlight passes through my irises
after thousands of years of travel; and where I dispense it
may be the greatest ripple I can manage
in whatever sea we’ve been thrown in.
This is not a call to be humble. I do not mean
to empower anyone. This is just a prayer in its rawest form.
This is an instruction to befriend your executioner. Or no.
This is nothing but a howl. A cry. A gasp.
I saw this year’s first advertisement for Mother’s Day gifts. It was like being impaled with a blunt spear. The sensation was real. The pain was momentary, but severe. Like my insides cringed for me. All my organs did a simultaneous dry heave. Literally gut wrenching.
But, I can proudly say I held my own. My face remained blank and I had no verbal outburst. Every time I can effectively restrain myself I’m legitimately amazed. It’s not that it hurts any less, it’s just that I’m getting better at not outwardly breaking down.
No woman ever thinks that her first Mother’s Day as a mom will be celebrated without her baby in her arms. At least, I never did…which I suppose is funny when one considers that I’m generally thought of as a harsh realist at best and an eternal pessimist at worst. Funnier still when one recalls my most recent profession. I spent ten years in emergency medicine, the last six of those years serving as a NYC Paramedic, during which time I became intimately involved with death. Death itself was so commonplace. Watching someone die, despite my best efforts to delay the inevitable, became as normal as waving to your neighbor when you see them pulling out of the driveway. So now, I can see death everywhere. And I’m pretty at peace with it. I mean, the logic of earthly finality is sound. I can picture the realistic ends of all my loved ones lives. I’ve even imagined my own many more times than is reasonable, healthy, or sane to admit to. But still, I never thought of my baby dying, and then having to live on to see my first Mother’s Day without him. Maybe that makes it harder for me to take this. I could envision everyone’s end but his…probably because I couldn’t handle it.
But here we are. Rather, here I am, without Jacob. And I guess that’s my point. Though I’ll be with my own beloved mother and some family on this upcoming festival of motherhood, I’ll probably be feeling completely alone and totally out of place. And I won’t even have my Grams to comfort me because this will be the first Mother’s Day of my life without her. The weirdness of having no living child on this holiday will be compounded by my sudden lack of grandparents. I’ll miss seeing her wear that corsage my mama orders from the florist for her every year.
I close my eyes and imagine the three of us; me, Jacob, and Gram. With perfect clarity and HD quality I can see us standing there in my mind. I consider the options carefully, thinking of how each one carries its own hefty set of ramifications. My decision is easy to come to, but hard to live with. If I had to choose which of the three of us would have to spend Mother’s Day alone, or at least feeling like they’re alone, I would pick myself.
I would never want my sweet baby boy to live a Mother’s Day without his mommy. I can’t stand the idea of him being in elementary school, making a card for the mother he never got to know. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine his face as he watches the other kids run into their mothers’ arms. No child should live through that kind of sadness, least of all my baby.
And my dear grandmother, who’s only ever concerned herself with the needs and comforts of others, would never deserve to feel the sting of loneliness on any day, but least of all Mother’s Day.
Not that I have power over such things, but if the choice was mine, and one of us three was fated to hurt terribly, it would and should be me. God made the right call. Grams raised me to believe in self-sacrifice for causes greater than the self. My own mother has shown me time and again that she would take my pain away if she was able. She would carry the load herself so that her baby’s back, my back, would be unbroken and unburdened. But she can’t, because the load I carry is for my own child. I will hurt so Jacob, who was the only truly and purely innocent soul I ever touched, won’t have to. I’ll be sad so Gram, who gave me everything just by smiling every time I walked into the room, won’t have to be. My mom is a great mom because of how she wants to hurt for her kid, instead of her kid. The only way I can be a good mommy to Jacob now is to carry this pain for him, and carry on.
If I had to determine who would bear the brunt of this situation, I’d pick me. This load is mine to haul until The Lord calls me home. That’s not too far off when you think about it. It’s only a lifetime.
You do not have to know all your deep dark secrets. You do not have to delve into the lurkings of your past. Yet the world holds on to the preciousness of the past. Its motive is good, to unveil the past so that you can then move on past it. But, of course, the world likes to analyze.
There are those who say you have to pass through every emotion before you can get to love, but do you? Do you have to go through anger in order to get to love? Why be a student of anger? Why study reproach? Why unwind guilt as if guilt were a maiden’s lovely tresses? All those feelings that are not enjoyable, give them a nod and move on. They are by-standers. You do not have to stop to talk to every by-stander. You can give a slight nod and keep walking.
Why not study that which fills your heart with joy? You are not pretending that you are perfect in the relative sense. Yes, there are buried parts of you. It’s like you can check your car’s fuel tank as often as you want, but the thing is to fill the tank.
Beloveds, offer love to yourself. You do not have to analyze all the nitty-gritty of you. Okay, so it’s there. You have resentments. It doesn’t matter what their basis is or how understandable. If you want to be done with them, be done with them. You do not have to soothe every detail of them. You can get past them. When you forgive someone else, you don’t go over every single item of their offense. So forgive yourself, and get on with it.
I am not saying to kid yourself. I am saying you can transmute whatever your past has been, and you can transmute whatever emotions tagged along. When you are going somewhere, you pack your suitcase with clothes you want to wear. You don’t take along clothes that don’t fit you any longer. You don’t take them for the sake of remembering and being honest about what you used to wear. If there are clothes you no longer want to wear, leave them behind. No need to examine each seam and pocket. Why would you? There is no diamond there.
You learned the alphabet so you could read. You don’t have to keep going back to the alphabet. You no longer have to sound out words. You do not have to acknowledge that once you read at a first grade level. You don’t have to keep going back to first grade books. No one has to give you permission to read advanced level books. You give yourself permission.
When it comes to love, it’s a little different because you came to Earth knowing love. It may be love that you have forgotten, and so you are relearning to love. You do not have to keep counting the steps to love. It is enough to love, and to love is what you want. Take out the garbage, beloveds, without examination. Why review every peel and seed?
Simply come back to love. Every time come back to love. You have it. It is yours. No reason to recall every mis-step. No reason to retrace every detour you have taken. You were driving to one state, and you passed through other states on your way, and sometimes you were even lost in one state, but now you are here. You are here with Me. You have passed through anger and guilt, and now you are in the state of love. Go where you want to go, beloveds, and be there. Never mind about when you were in a lesser state. You do not need to dredge up where you once were. Perhaps there are scars. So, there are scars, but the scars are not your occupation, beloveds.
What can you offer to do over if given another chance? I know our answers vary as East is from the West. For some it would be to get tipsy. Others would prefer to get randy while others would like to make more money. Whether you are yearning to get right with God, wed the girl of your life, get a job promotion or whatever you peg your desires on, I know you can pull it off. But then is it worth the effort?
I will not cast the first stone. I will drum up support for you to get that ‘pricy’ gem, although on a condition that you are ascending. It must be bringing out the best in you. What is the need of not living up to our full capabilities? I will help someone get in touch with reality in order to discern new actualities.
From long ago, people, things and times have metamorphosed and obviously keep fine-tuning forever. From when a seed germinates to when it bears fruit, in between is a series of stages of development (growth). Likewise, regimes, lifestyles and statuses all undergo various minute-minute never-ending transitions. Arrival to departure, acceptance to rejection, democracy to republicanism, happiness to distress, birth to death- are all under the same continuum but at opposite ends and reachable at different times under diverse conditions.
A suckling infant is contented until it demands solid food as a plus. A coward only learns to be brave when it dawns that cowardice is not helping. The bones of the lazy are strengthened when hunger bites. Perhaps life has a peculiar way to peak a person’s potential at the proper time. Interestingly, setting out to make a difference is poignantly and absolutely accomplishable until you get cold feet in the very thing you dreamt of. Then you will say, “I thought I was rising to rake in lots of money”.
A lot happen with the passage of time just like I don’t see my beard growing or when the sun crosses the sky. It is more like mood swings of which I have no control; sometimes I feel so high and other times so low that no one possibly can go under it. What a contrast? This is the recipe making life a fairy tale worth retelling. Maybe you should blame whatever or whoever is feeding filth or fab to your gallery. Anyway, indulge your head to care for you. Guess what? Nobody else cares if you sink or swim. Everyone is occupied by whatever their causes are.
But a story beginning from bleak and barren backgrounds and climaxing and curtaining in rich paradisiacal landscape deserves a keen ear. Even an age-old story like that never loses taste. I am a true enthusiast of such as Winston Churchill would put, “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best”.
It could be choosing not to back down at the face of trials. It could be choosing to stay sane when all around are losing their minds. Or it might be opting to relive merry moments while you burn in the current hell. I choose to believe in myself and all I am made of because I am me and can never be the next person. A simple one-time failure may truly be masking a fortune.
Upward movement pleases me. Forward movement fascinates me. I would go in these directions for a chance to heighten and inflame my spirits and to bulge my pockets. I pledge loyalty to the needs of my expedient soul. Seesawing is merely stagnating.
Tolerance, a key requirement in any task should stand the test of time. The thought of having to cast a regretful look doesn’t sit well with me. Instead, I would love to gladly smile and feel the thrill sublime my body because I made the right choice that I have lived with.
Therefore, evaluation of the present in comparison with the past assists to put priorities in the right order. Shifting times need flexibility to make appropriate adjustments. Change is inevitable as death for the living. Anticipate modification. Embrace transmutation. Transform before correction changes you and if it does, let it remodel you for the better. I wish you say in later times, of course after making a firm decision now, that “nothing is as it was because things are better now than before”