She suddenly says “Let me listen to your heart Mama, right there in your neck!” while she snuggles against me, all delicate little limbs and eyes soft with fatigue. Little phrases like this melt my heart, little voice growing stronger and surer every day. In the morning I wake up surrounded by these little beings, their mussed up hair comical, their big, brown eyes cloudy with sleep, endearing. Within seconds the “mamas” start rolling out of their mouths, and I close my eyes, dreaming for a split second, of moments when sleep came easily, and then I climb over their limbs and step into the bathroom.
The mirror doesn’t ever lie these days. Where once nights without sleep gave me a hollowed-eye, slightly rock chic look, now they provide a puffier, ringed with black circles stare, tiny lines sprouting from all corners. I am often swimming in seas of the past, stopping off on islands and rocks to ruminate over strings left untied, that I sometimes forget to look at myself in the now. More and more frequently I catch myself in the middle of an action, in the center of a thought process, and suddenly wonder when the last time I thought of me was. Of me here now.
My past needs to be written, and so many words left unsaid, so many phrases still hanging there, suspended in time. But my present needs to be remembered too, as a whole, more than a day to day endeavor. I live in my present so deeply, but so deeply as a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a partner, that I start to use all those layers as a protective coat, forgetting that the core needs to breathe too. Is this motherhood? Do we always forget to breathe? At what point do we realize that we need to go first sometimes? Just sometimes.
This tiredness goes beyond simple children waking at night fatigue, beyond certain levels of sleep deprivation; it comes from a feeling of slight hopelessness, feet stuck in quick-drying concrete, fingers holding onto crumbling rock above an abyss. There is the everyday, the life at home which often uplifts, sometimes wearies, and is somewhat comforting in its mélange of routine and impulsive dance parties. And then there is the rest of the world, the one I need to send my children out into, where they will have to answer questions about race and religion and beliefs, where often what they will be taught will counter what we talk about at home. And then even further than down the street are the bombs and the threats, humans fighting other humans, humans massacring the planet without regard. How can we consolidate the beauty of nature and also of man-made art and creations with the heap of steaming muck that we are also to blame for? Here lies my fatigue, my sadness, my unwillingness to remove the protective layers of filler, because without them I don’t know how much strength I will have to fight the battles. My children give me so much more willpower to fight for change. I made the choice to have children and this erases my right to wallow in selfish self-doubt and aimless direction. But at the same time I must remember that strength and power are to be nurtured and given time to grow, and growth comes from the core, from within, as well as from those we let in.
I tell my little ones, especially my eldest who deals with severe anxiety, to calm down and breathe every day, something that I should probably be doing more frequently too. Head against the cold front of the refrigerator door, eyes closed for a few seconds, listen to the sound of the ocean, swish swash, in your ears and breathe. Once again, breathe. Put your hand over your heart and feel the beat slow down to a gentle cadence, a walk instead of a gallop. We don’t have anywhere to be, not right now, there is no rush. In a way we have all the time in the world. Actually I want us just to have all the time in the world. A simpler life, one rid of the constant hustle, where we can stop to listen the wind as it blows through the valley, and not hesitate to run down to the water to dip our toes into it. I don’t mind certain hardships when the background and the foundations make them easier to bear. Having little money is easier on the mind when one can cook food grown from the garden, collect eggs from the chickens clucking in the yard. Freezing winters are calming when snow covers the land and you can sit in front of the fire, hot chocolate and warm lights. Boiling summers are different when the ocean is just steps away, with cliff sides offering shelter and secret caves. And so on, there are ways to make even the simplest of lives fulfilling, an aspiration that will never leave me.
How does one consolidate the need to retire from the world we live in while still standing up for the world we believe we should all live in? How can one live an idyllic life away from most humans while still surround oneself with the world? How do we find that middle ground where we live the exact life that we dream of while still being there for those who are not there yet? How can we be both selfish and compassionate, balancing self-care while being devoted to caring for others? How do we get there, where everything falls into place, not asking for much, just for a little push in the right direction? Or are some of us just destined to dream, to hope, and to hustle along, just making do, always yearning for more. More peace, more love, more change.
I think today I will take my little three year old’s advice and just listen to my heart as it beats through my chest, a rhythm of both love and life, close my eyes and dream of what I want for us all. I believe I can have it, that we can make it happen together, but the self-doubt still reigns strong. One day it will, in the meantime we soldier on together, a community, fighting towards a better place for us all, fighting against those who want to destroy us. And I hope to remember to make time for me amidst all of the things, because a foundation needs to remain strong through the storm.