I gaze upon photos of my kids as babies and toddlers and bawl my eyes out. I simply cannot study said pictures for too long. And browsing through images of myself, twenty years before, in the grips of an insatiable desire to travel and explore also provokes a torrent of tears. “Who is this young, idealist possessed by wanderlust? It’s me; it’s still me, I swear!” I want to shout to the world. But who’d believe me?
Yes, conditions all around me have changed, and although my mind and body bear the weatherings of a life well-lived, inside the same wide-eyed adventure-seeking gal still resides. From the outside looking in, one would see a devoted wife and mother, perhaps a boring one at that, leading a conventional life in suburbia, indistinguishable from the next mom in line at the supermarket. But, I swear, twenty years blew by and I don’t remember when or how it happened. It is as though I’ve been swimming underwater---watching my own life play out with the main characters, my near and dear ones, dancing and floating all around me. Like a silent movie.
My deepest sentiments tightly repressed, my restless heart forever embattled with time: “Slow down and linger here a little longer,” contradicts the opposite side of the brain that shouts: “Hurry up so we can get on to the next [bigger and better] thing.” And as a result, oftentimes I look back over the years and sob uncontrollably: “Why did I rush it?” and: “Did I ever truly remain still enough to appreciate the moment?”
Luckily seems this last year---during prolonged periods of sedation due to unfavorable medical circumstances forced upon me---I’ve come to grips with my own mortality, and that of my loved ones, finally accepting the fragility of life and how damn quickly it all flies by.
I look at my kids and see small children, even though my eldest is just inches shorter than me in stature. And when I really look at her, my eyes well with tears because she is a brilliant self-respecting and kind-hearted young lady, and how she evolved into such a beautiful creature is beyond my grasp of understanding. Did I have anything to do with it?
It sounds strange, but I come from another dimension. My mind is consistently somewhere else, in a bubble floating above the fray, working to decipher the hidden messages and meaning in what’s going on even before it is over to the likes of a journalist who observes a scene unfold from the back of the bus. My mind reminisces and replays a tender moment, or fantasizes about the future.
Parenting children toys with our sanity. We live an existence saturated with contradictions. We love our kids, cherish the moments with them and snap photos. Yet, the duality is that secretly, we’re exhausted, waiting for their dress-up play to end so we can clean up the disorder left behind. Oftentimes we feel isolated from the world, and fare better fazing in and out of reality, interspersing playtime with the kids between daydreaming and philosophizing about the stages of life---talking ourselves through the mayhem and messiness that accompanies it all.
Perhaps once we become grandparents and now well-rested, the great (mind/heart) divide closes and the existential crisis comes to its natural conclusion as we finally slow down and revel in it all.