For most folks I suppose the holidays – from early December to early January – are the busiest. Or at least the most jam-packed months in terms of having things to do. Me, it’s usually fall. Things don’t clear usually til November hits. Most years mid-fall is full; there have been many hours invested in an elaborate costume, plus there’s getting the house ready for winter, cleaning the coop and other various homesteading activities, and always, there’s the constant business of cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and teaching lessons. Although I no longer hold a day post (that’s a disguised way of saying day job; I still like to think playing piano at my son’s school, although it took up entire days, was not a true ‘day job’, thus I can maintain my lifelong record for never having ever had such! Is this a crazy thing to take pride in?), there never seems to be enough time to go around. Granted I still waste time almost daily on Facebook – my lifeline to the outside world – yet even when I forgo that destination for a couple of days in a row – there still seem to be more than a half a dozen things that need to get done in any one moment.
“Just hug me” Elihu said tonight as I began my ‘all-that-I-didn’t-get-done-today’ lament. “Forget about it. Just hold me.” So I did, and I kissed his brow, desperately grateful to have him in my life. Sometimes I’m not sure but what I don’t use my son – and my role as single mother – as an excuse for not accomplishing more than I do. But tonight I let myself off the hook. While it hasn’t necessarily been hectic around here, between nursing sick hens back to health in the kitchen (and losing one too), learning our furnace needs repair work, cleaning out the gutters and giving the house an overall pre-winter cleaning, there’s been steady, constant activity. And so for a moment, in my son’s darkened bedroom, with the plastic stars on the ceiling glowing above us, I stopped. I wrapped my arms around this inspiring, crazy kid of mine, and for a few minutes my heart lightened.
After I closed his door, I allowed myself an hour on the couch to peruse old copies of Dwell magazine. Being a huge fan of architecture, and especially the modern stuff, at first I found the photos jaw-dropping. The voyeuristic peek into the lives of the uber hip gave me a charge. And then, all of a sudden, it didn’t. That nagging feeling started in again. I was missing something. The world was going on out there, and I was stuck in here. All those gorgeous places. Places I would probably never visit, fine finishes I’d never see in my own home, complete, tidy and happy-looking families of which I’d never be a part. I tried to console myself; I’d traveled a lot, after all. I myself had owned a couple of mid-century beauties. And even now, I’d made a nice home here in spite of a nearly non-existent budget. And after all, wasn’t my real treasure – all that really mattered in the world – there with me in the next room?
Over the past weekend a young college student was hit and killed as he was walking home on Halloween night. Drunk driver. And in a flash, there went a mother’s whole life. That mother had been plunged into a relentless, living hell. Her life had been forever changed. I’d been ruminating on that for the past two days, ever since I saw the makeshift memorial at the side of the road and had returned home to google it. Each and every time I begin to doubt that my existence has any real value in this fathomlessly large world, I remember Elihu – and then that boy who died. It shakes me back.
Recently I shared some of my boating stories with a friend. He was a bit surprised to learn that I’d crewed, and that I’d been to so many faraway places. That I’d had this other life long before I’d had this one. But hell, that was only one of many lives that had come before. And I suppose that’s what’s at the crux of my ongoing internal struggle. All the exciting stuff seems to be behind me. Yeah, a part of me knows that’s not entirely true. The Studio lies before me, potential unrealized, a dream yet to manifest. It’s just that I’m still doing it all myself. The board of directors is as it has been for the past half century; family and friends. And going forward, that ain’t gonna cut it. That contributes to the tiny voice that nags at me… Enlist help, find people to share the load, the dream… Get this done, get this going, get things moving forward… Turn things up already…
My life is full, Lord knows it. Most of the people on this toilsome planet don’t have it so good. Hard to remember some times, but I need to remind myself of this over and over again. Don’t we all have moments of existential doubt? Mech, I know a handful of folks who very likely don’t – but I’m pretty sure most of us have our internal battles. The trick, I suppose, is to turn down the volume on the doubts and crank the other voices up to eleven.
Post Script: When I visited the funeral home’s page to leave my condolences for the young boy who had recently died, I was stunned to see that his middle name was Elihu. Imagine my shock at seeing such a thing; I have never met another Elihu before, and to see that this boy shared a name with my son took me aback. In fact, perhaps now because of that, I think many, many times during each day of that boy’s bereaved family. I treasure my son beyond expression, and I know that mother treasured her boy too. I learned how incredibly special, talented and loving he was, which makes this loss seem all the harder to understand. So please everyone, always give your children the ultimate in tenderness – and let them know how very much you value them. Savor every moment with them, because none of us is immune to sudden loss or tragedy.