I have to remind myself to be gentle. And I’m doing a better job. I’m giving myself space to not be perfect, which is a monumental step for me. I’m taking deep breaths before saying something too sharp to my children.
Be gentle. Be kind. Be tender. Be vulnerable.
I breathe these in. And it’s working.
Though it’s hard some days to remember to, as Mary Oliver writes, “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Then I let down my shoulders and follow her advice.
I love my children. I love my husband. I love my fingers on this keyboard. I love looking at the mountains turned larch-yellow in the distance.
I do not love talk of diets among the mothers in the waiting room of Lucille’s ballet class. I do not love unpaid bills or a fridge sitting empty. I do not love hectic mornings and rushed afternoons.
I love a book of essays that keeps me awake reading. I love loosening the ties on the animal skin stretched too tight over the drumbeat of our lives. I love a softer rhythm.
I do not love the bitterness I see, the resentment that lurks around dark corners or the numbness I watch destroy people I love.
Marriages are falling apart around us. Two more yesterday. Seth and I are both so analytical, so logical that we’ve been turning over the stones of our own relationship looking for, it seems, an answer to why our friends are leaving each other. We can guess why and it scares us. These late-night and early-morning conversations have come in like a chill wind to wake us, make us look up and at each other. The pools that had begun to collect at our feet, the pools that had threatened to become a sea separating each of us from the other have begun to dry and we are left with nothing but the other. In this I see for the first time in a long time the blush in his cheeks, the white-blue of his eyes and the gray at his temples where it didn’t used to be. With nothing between but a renewed softness, these things are easier to see.
And it’s this last part that I find particularly hard. This world does not expect us to be vulnerable, it does not encourage it and it definitely does not reward it. But, still, here we are, nonetheless, tender. We are human.
The other night I was putting Eliza to bed and she asked for an arm under her head as she often does. In these quiet, night-lit moments I tell her “you’re amazing, don’t ever forget that” and this night was no different.
“You’re amazing,” I whispered and before I could say the rest of my mantra she chimed in.
“I won’t ever forget that,” she said.
There we lay, soft-bellied, together, until she fell asleep.