Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My job is not safe. The organization I work with is being hard hit by the economy. I go over what I could have done differently, who to blame, how to plan. I have to start to think again what it is that I want to do when I grow up. The idea of failure, and my ego.

A friend's father was diagnosed with cancer, and as I console her, all the memories come flooding back. How it felt to have cancer always there, always threatening, a constant that you lived with, a secret that no one understood. There was a kind of relief, when my mother died, that the cancer was gone too. Now here it is again. I offer my friend what I have, understanding of how it feels to be staring down death, how strange it is to contemplate existing beyond the people that brought you into existence, the question of how to use the time left.

Ellis and I started swimming lessons at the Y last week. A lot of the other kids in the class were scared of the water, shivering, whining to get out. Ellis loved it. He babbled happily as I pulled him through the water. When the instructor told us to put the children on their backs, most of them resisted the vulnerable position. Ellis spread his arms wide open, looked up at the ceiling, his head on my shoulder. "Well, someone sure is comfortable and secure on his back," the instructor said as she passed us. I remember how in the first months of Ellis' life, when he wouldn't stop crying, how responsible I felt for his wailing and fussiness and reflux. I worried that the grief that had coursed through my body during my pregnancy had seeped into him. I took his crying and discontent as a sign that he didn't feel secure enough, that I was doing something wrong, that I wasn't doing enough to help him make the adjustment from womb to life outside of it. The weight of the things I take on myself.

Ellis in the water on his back, his arms open wide, content and happy. This week of hard truths and death revisited, I go back to this image. I remind myself of the things that are good in this moment. Things are unfolding exactly as they should, my prenatal yoga teacher would say at the end of our practice, and I would feel my pregnant body go limp with relaxation. Did she know how much I needed to hear that? Very few things actually matter, my mother used to say, a mantra that at first glance seems pessimistic, at second glance is freeing. Don't waste your precious time or energy. Stop your mind's spinning. Let go. Unclinch your fists. Lay back, arms open wide. Let the weight fall away.

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