When my mom turned 40, she had an epic meltdown in the upstairs bathroom of our geodesic dome house on Hazel Dell Road, crying and rocking herself in the bathtub while relaying how disappointed she was in her life, and the myriad things she thought she’d have accomplished by that age that she didn’t. We were having a party later that day that people would be driving from all over Northern California to attend so I remember feeling like it was important to bandaid this situation so she could get out of the bathtub, don some clothes, maybe some makeup and come down to her own party. There just seemed little sense in adding THAT disappointment to the mix, and it really felt like her meltdown/“existential crises” was just a little too much to handle from the cold water of an upstairs bathroom on party day.
I don’t do epic meltdowns. I don’t do “I’m aging oh my god what the fuck?!” birthday bathtub celebrations.
But sometimes I do have crappy moments.
Yesterday was a day when I felt discouraged at its end. I’m a sunny person but sometimes events are such that you come home after yet another long-ass day and your house is a mess and you’re too done to spend quality time with your ecstatic-to-see-you dog and your goal of starting your Etsy store by your birthday is moot and the fridge is only filled with food long-since salmonella-free and literally you just want to do your laundry for your birthday, and—fuck it all to hell—you start to believe that you’re a failure. That it won’t ever get any better. That you’ll always be the shitty-looking-house-always-working-never-spending-time-with-your-kids-no-time-for-shopping-or-laundry middle-aged lady prone to donating her precious time to unknowing pet sitting clients because of the vortex of personality where such acts must never be spoken of or touted even in the slightest.
I was moody, and my disappointment that Livy hadn’t tidied up was palpable. And she felt bad, and was apologizing, which made me feel both better and worse, for while I want her to contribute to our team, Livy is a quintessential, artistic slob who is forgetful and not bothered by mess. She’s also an epileptic with anxiety and depression who is the sweetest, wisest, and most compliant child you could ever know. She would have cleaned up had I asked but I didn’t ask; she also would have done it half-assed because she doesn’t think in details and you can’t teach your child how to do stuff when you’re never home.
About ten minutes after arriving home, I had sullenly adjourned to my room, when Livy bravely poked her head in and asked me if I felt good enough to read something.
It’s about God, she said, and I really think you’ll like it. Then she sent me the attached story (link below); and it hit me to where I was in tears while reading it, for its own beauty but also for the efforts of the child who had offered it to me, so delicately knowing how to soothe the tender spots inside me.
Afterwards, she and I sat and talked about so many things, things she’s felt guilty about (a particular instance where she may have inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings), my own derailed relationship with my mom, how complicated loving someone can be, how complicated loving yourself can be, and I told her about a little girl I’d seen in a princess dress about an hour earlier, at the burger place I’d gotten us dinner at; the girl was like Livy–fair skin, dark curly hair, attentively looking to her dad for how to evaluate what to think and how to feel–and upon seeing her, I somehow flashed on something atypical for accolade-averse me, which was “I did a good job with my kids.” I loved them so hard, and wasn’t always their friend, and taught them how to think bigger than their own selves, and suffered with them the complex and incredibly-painful journey of learning how to love the world while also loving themselves. Teaching them, even as I was learning it, that the world is so paradoxical that sometimes the greatest act of love you can offer someone is withholding your loving non-judgment when they’re being an asshole, and that it’s actually okay to let someone be in pain so long as you believe they’ll come out the other side of it more loving towards their fellow humans.
And we snuggled and hugged, and I told her what a miracle it is that we even exist (that, at the Universe’s inception, matter hadn’t followed known laws of physics to become annihilated by anti-matter), and I thought of how strange it is that the small stuff can so easily impede our ability to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and who we are.
For certainly Livy and Julia are something to celebrate. Certainly I am something to celebrate. Certainly we all are. And working too hard and existing in mess is small when our entire world is like a miracle, when matter itself exists beyond all probability, and when we’ve been gifted with the opportunity to learn how to live in harmony as a collective soul, growing and merging in obvious youth within a Universe itself expanding amid a potentially-infinite number of parallel universes.
We are nothing and everything; we are moment, and infinity, we are the struggle and the victory, the paradox, The End, and we are the miracle, birthing ourselves anew with each hardship–fingertip in water glass–immersed in darkness with a soul that still carries on in its search for Light.