I try to be a grownup, a big girl, a person present in every moment and accepting that life is not all puppies and rainbows. Because, truth be told, it’s not. It is, in fact, this complicated freaking rollercoaster which is best handled with calm, no expectations, and appreciation for everything that is good and beautiful instead of suspended breath pending the granting of some cosmic prize.
Sometimes, in the course of a day, in the course of an hour, in a matter of minutes it is possible to be both elated and crushed. It is possible even if one is not a sixteen-year-old in love with an Unattainable Other who sits across the classroom ignoring the silent, agonized pleas to think about me, look at me, love me. The drama swirls, the nail breaks, the unexpected flowers are delivered, the car dies, the increase shows up in a paycheck. The trick, and I know this because I am old and wise, is to accept all of it, take it in, ride it out and stay the course. It’s not really objectively good or bad, it’s simply what happened next. It just is.
So I’ll tell you, today I had a phone call from the mother of one of my son’s friends, Brendan. She knew that there had been issues at school, and that we were worried about Sam’s future, his character, and whether we had failed him as parents. “I just wanted to tell you,” she said, “that I was talking with Brendan and he said that Sam was the kindest person he knew. I just thought you should know that.” Down the hill I flew, my hair flying behind me, happy, certain and validated. He is kind. Honestly, seriously, if I had a choice between a genuinely kind child who hated school and an unkind child in the NHS? I’d take the kind kid every time.
Within minutes, literally minutes, I checked again on the reasonably famous site where I believed that my piece was soon going to appear. (The piece that was requested recently, and for which I sweated over my Inadequate Bio. I also, for the record, had a fit about the requisite head shot because I hate being photographed, and I made my husband take approximately 500 pictures of me before I found one that, with some photo shopping, did not make me want to commit suicide with a pizza cutter). There it was: the piece I was asked to write, but it wasn’t my piece, it was by somebody else. Dear reader, I cried. Just a little. I wondered if my piece was so terrible that it could not even have been edited into righteousness. I wondered if my headshot was too awful. I wondered, of course, if it was the Inadequate Bio.
In that hot, sad, mental slime of disappointment and defeat my happiness about my good, kind son was lost. I was heading back up the track, gears grinding, oblivious to the forsythia blooming in the sun just outside the window, the dog snoring peacefully at my feet, or the fact that my hair color had turned out just right. Life, only minutes ago a veritable jubilee, was a shit sandwich.
So I texted a friend, a dear, good, loving person who consoled me and opined that I “had every right to feel stabby as hell.” Which led me to consider the fact that not everyone has such a friend. Which led me back to my actual, present situation, which was really not all that terrible. My hair looks pretty good, I enjoyed my lunch, I have more than one really great friend, my dog is adorable (but flatulent), the sun is lovely, and my son is lovely. I’m really okay, just disappointed about the loss of something intangible that I never really had.
I am still a little stabby, a little fragile, but beneath that slimy stuff on the edge of my consciousness is the smooth, bright part, the good stuff that is (also) always and eternally there. Everything is good and beautiful, and everything is not. I am angry about Trayvon Martin, worried about the Supreme Court, and delighted to see crocuses and lilacs. With a little ping of wretchedness about my lost opportunity, I will go look again into the bathroom mirror and fluff my shiny, de-greyed hair. I will think about being a person whose writing is rejected but whose child is accepted. I will think that life is a beautiful, tragic, exhausting, exhilarating ride in which I am not ever going to be the driver. And that’s just how it is.