”There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” ~Andre Gide
My daughter found me at camp the other day. I was there to drop off Tobey midweek for Teepee Village, but Bella had been there since Sunday. I wished she hadn’t seen me; it was like breaking the fourth wall. But there we were. Me trying to be calm and not hug her to death. Her looking at me with sad, tear pooled eyes saying, “I’m having fun.” But…
She clearly wasn’t – not entirely. There had probably been moments – even hours – of fun, but there had also been plenty of discomfort. She was up until 2 AM the first night, unable to sleep in the intense heat. The thunderstorm woke her with a start just hours later. She’d been hungry and unable to address it – forced to eat on someone else’s clock. And there had been the discomforts of female friendship – of feeling the odd girl out when everyone else has a clear partner.
…in my gut, in my skin, in my heart that restless, gnawing discomfort of growing.
I can feel her itching. Feel the heat that she can’t assuage with A.C. or a cold, cold glass of water from our fridge. Feel the smallness and longing to withdraw when everyone has a hand to hold. Feel in my gut, in my skin, in my heart that restless, gnawing discomfort of growing up. (Why not out? Why always up?)
I read yesterday: “Discomfort, pain, or dis-ease are only experienced when you decide to live somewhere else.” [Meaning other than the present moment.] Longing to be home instead of at camp, for the hand or arms of a familiar person rather than the meager comfort of a counselor who has known you all of 12 hours, for anything but to be in a bunk at 2:00 AM alone and awake. All shitty places to be. And yet we can’t grow if we don’t bump up against these places.
I think of all of the ways I get uncomfortable – less now than when I was younger, but still plenty. Not having the right food – not just food, but the right food – can still undo me. (I am less ashamed to admit this after reading a funny, painfully familiar chapter from Blood, Bones and Butterin which the author drives willy-nilly all over Brooklyn with her two kids strapped in their car seats looking for an unlikely late afternoon meal, again and again passing by restaurants that though open don’t meet her standards.) A few nights of poor sleep make me twitchy. A problem with the house makes me fret myself into a stomach ache. (Currently, on the plus side – the mold in the basement is being addressed in a dramatic way, while the freezer has decided to start producing snowlike conditions.)
“It’s going to be okay,” I call down into the gap, into this ancient space.
“Another fucking growth opportunity!” declares my friend Mary about such things. Indeed, though I still experience plenty of discomfort and am nowhere close to abiding in the NOW all of the time, I do appreciate these scrapes and scratches – even the occasional full blow laceration – as openings in the armor, possibilities to peer inside to the soft, birdlike part of me – to send some love and patience and comfort. To try, yet again, to heal the system. “It’s going to be okay,” I call down into the gap, into this ancient space. “We’re going to get out of this alright, just like we did last time and the time before that.”
At 45, I know this now: that it almost nearly always gets better. That tomorrow will be both terribly long and terribly short all at the same time. That you can actually look back at the hard times with something approaching fondness. But my 10-year old daughter doesn’t – yet. I won’t be surprised, though, if she turns out to be a quick study.