The Shape of our Longing, the Light we Hold

We danced to Joe Zawinul on the weekend, bright sheets of lightning and thick heavy blankets of rain just outside the giant picture window, and for a short time, felt it all again—young, unencumbered, fluid, light.

I miss the freedom to crank the music here. I miss bright sunlight coming through my bedroom window in the mornings at our old house, the sun on my face outside the back door with my morning coffee, walking barefoot through dewy grass. I miss having a front and a back door, endless possibility. I miss gratitude that floated automatically, submerging darker emotions. I miss moving optimistically and nearly fearlessly through my life.

But I definitely don’t miss being naïve, not knowing the shape of my longing, feeling hamstrung and unable to pursue all that for which I was hungry.

I still have enough sun to warm my toes here at the new place, and am happy for shade to keep the rest of me cool. I love the busyness of the sidewalks in our new neighbourhood, the streets lined with giant majestic old trees, the river valley trails minutes away. I love having no weeds to pull, no snow to shovel.

Yesterday my son reminded me of summer weeks at the lake, eating endless peaches and cherries, living in bathing suits. I miss these. I miss the energy and exuberance of the children, their boundless hope and joy and love, being everything to them. I miss being comfortable in my skin, trusting my mothering instincts.

But I also love having this quiet space in which I can learn to live all over again, in which I can think and read and write, where we can read books and watch movies in the evenings instead of running around finishing endless tasks. I love walking for groceries, walking to the movie theatre, walking to meet my daughter a friend for coffee or a glass of wine.

I miss being wakened by the urgency of what needs doing rather than by mental chatter and an ache in my shoulder, by this sorrow, that uncertainty. I mourn the missed opportunities, the inexorable march of time.

And though time brings resilience and deep love and friendships borne of mutual vulnerability—and perhaps, hopefully, even some bits of wisdom here and there—the thread of longing for that which is irretrievably gone remains, wide and frayed and inescapable, the colour of a bruise.

Anthony Doerr, in All the Light We Cannot See, writes that time is “a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.” I actually think I have mostly done that, and still do. Being conscious of what has slipped away does not preclude holding this moment of time carefully—loss is, always and inevitably, part of who we become, what we bring to tomorrow, what we hold in our hands now.

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Pride and Joy

you arrived, beautiful, exuberant, hungry
smiling, laughing, sure of a future
you were my breath, my pulse, my pride and joy

by day you delivered hugs and kisses and laughter,
and wanted to marry me, at least live next door
I smiled, knowing

at night, we picked up the debris:
Cheerios, blocks, balls and shirts and socks,
miniature cars and doll shoes and tea cups
crayons, puzzle pieces, race cars
dress-up clothes and tiaras
bikes and doll strollers and hockey sticks
and later, broken hearts

you slept in forts you built
and when the world was too big, my bed,
and when it fell apart, we railed against the chaos
together

the winds changed, your dreams revived, adapted
and carried you away

then you left
much as you arrived:
beautiful and determined and hungry
but also altered, holes in your skin
looking for healing salves
and nourishment potent enough
to feed the hope in your hearts

and we all dreamed new dreams
and learned to live with the ache in our bones
and though they say nothing is permanent
it’s all imprinted in our DNA,
enduring and eternal after all

you’re still my breath, my pulse, my pride and joy