Today I am sad, but not unhappy. Or perhaps unhappy, but not sad. Whatever it is, it refuses to be labeled or categorized or explained. I don’t know where it came from or what it’s doing or where it’s going.
I’m in a funk.
No reason, really. None that I can think of anyway. I’m tired—but this feels like more than sleep-depravation. I’m a little hungry—but this isn’t low blood sugar. This is a funk of the cloudiest kind. I want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my face, not to sleep, but to hide. I’d like to escape for a little while and pretend that All The Stuff outside my bedroom door will magically disappear. That’s when I know I’m not doing well.
I know it’s more than exhaustion and hunger when the music playing through the intercom at my doctor’s office causes my throat to constrict and my eyes to water. My chest tightens, and I take a slow, deep breath. The low, melancholy, instrumental music should relax me, but instead my shoulders slump under its weight.
Driving home, the music on the radio produced the same effect.
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too
I grieve the loss of youth—foolish, naive, unaware; opportunities missed and others wasted; words misspoken and misunderstood. I hate the realization that my kids will never again be babies, toddlers, preschoolers—and that, in the haze of exhaustion and exasperation, I missed it. And I hate knowing my baby girl—the one with the spring-loaded curls and chipped front tooth, the one walking on her tippy-toes and spinning and dancing to the radio—will be a high school freshman in the fall. I hate knowing the next four years will pass much more quickly than the last fourteen.
I loathe the roll of skin that rests over my waistband, and the way my back undulates and curves under my t-shirt. I curse the name of the fashionista who decided low-rise jeans are The Thing—while, in the same breath, telling my daughter that looks don’t matter. I miss my metabolism. I miss eating ice cream and pizza and syrupy soda without fear, without thought.
I’ve had enough of the snowy white skunk stripe along the part in my dark, thinning hair. I don’t like the lines around my eyes and mouth, how my complexion has morphed from soft and youthful to muddled and wrinkled—at least in a magnified mirror. I resent the ways my body aches and creaks and burns—sometimes from activity, sometimes in rest, for no apparent reason except to remind me I am no longer as young as I was, yet not as old as I will be.
So today I am sad. I just am. It will pass.
Like every perfectionist, naive, gotta-do-it-right new parents, we read all the books, took the classes, thought we were ready. Our first baby would arrive in February, and we were determined to get a firm handle on this parenting thing. And, of course, Meghan burst her way onto the world’s stage without having read the books. Rookie mistake.
Nevertheless, we tried. When the sleep portion of eat-wake-sleep rolled around, we followed the advice of All The Books and swaddled her tightly like a burrito, only her sweet bald head sticking out of the soft flannel. Inevitably, she’d cry (and cry and cry and cry) and wriggle her arms out, finally falling asleep with her arms resting above her head. We called her SuperBaby.
Somehow we never got a picture of her SuperBaby sleeping pose. Maybe because we were too busy doing our THANK GOD SHE’S FINALLY SLEEPING dance. This is the closest I could find to a swaddling picture.
As she grew, her swaddling blanket transformed into a princess cape, a picnic blanket for tea parties, and “my bride,” as she called it—a wedding veil secured with a fleece snow cap.
Even though she was too big to swaddle, she still held her blanket as she slept, resting her soft cheek and Shirley Temple curls on its thinning cotton. After all these years, she still has it, and I suspect she may occasionally sleep with it. She hides it under her bed, just in case.
Through the last fourteen years, we’ve wrestled through tantrums, unwise choices, stubbornness. We’ve nurtured her through insecurity, fear, doubt. We’ve celebrated her gifts, her uniqueness, her individuality. And we’ve learned despite her many birthdays, she’s still that baby girl who needs the security of swaddling and the freedom of outstretched arms. She needs to know she belongs, that she is loved, that some things will not change, that she is safe. And she needs the ability to move, to explore, to adapt. It’s all part of growing up, all part of being human. Our skin swaddles our souls, and both need to be wrapped tightly enough for security, held loosely enough for freedom.
I suppose that’s what my heart craves: confidence in the face of change, a soft blanket, warmth. I wish for enough abandon to wave my arms wildly, opening my tender palms to receive the next season, the next gift, the next surprise. I need to know I am safe, that whatever is written on the next page will not alter my names: Beloved Child, Worthy, Enough. And I need to know the best parts of my story are found in the following chapters, that I will have new names. I need the assurance of both security and freedom.
And for crying out loud, I need some frickin ice cream.