Thursday, November 3, 2011
Remember when we used to say that at birthday parties? "Heavy, heavy hang over thy poor head." And then we'd smack the birthday kid in the head with our gift and say, "What do you wish me with a bump on the head?"
Where do these strange traditions come from?
But I digress. There is heaviness hanging over my poor head and not in the form of gift wrap. I am going to stop challenging the Universe with thoughts like, "This year can't get any worse." I'm beginning to fear it's like tossing the Universe a soft ball, and the Universe can't resist proving you wrong.
This has been a monumentally difficult year and on Friday it got exponentially worse. (That's right, I'm pulling out the five-syllable guns for this one.) As one dear friend of ours is fighting the good fight against cancer, another of our dear friends was snuck up from behind by it, sniper-style, with what looks like a fatal blow to the pancreas. And the ripple effect of that blow has brought us to our knees. In a year filled with heartache, frustration, worry and angst, there's nothing quite like the looming death of a loved one to be the proverbial cherry bomb on top and change your perspective on just about everything. And I mean everything. The problems and stresses of Thursday seemed embarrassingly manageable by Friday afternoon. I can't even feel bad about my lack of employment in good conscience anymore.
I feel especially drawn to my kids right now. I want to soak them up and hope that their resilience rubs off on me, just like their scent of must and grass stains. They take terrible news in great stride. They care, they love our friend as we do, and yet they keep moving along finding joy in the same places they always have--candy, corny TV shows, friends, and pizza. They don't try to resist the news, spinning the wheels of "whys" and "what ifs" as if they will turn back time and give us a chance to undo what is already done. Is it because they are still operating in a world protected by the umbrella of our love and security? Because the structure of their world--mom, dad, house, food--is still in place? Or is it because they understand more than we do that there is very little in this life that we can control, and it's only as we get older tinkering with checkbooks, thermostats, and career paths that we mistakenly believe we are in charge?
My first reaction on Friday was to cry. My second was a fleeting determination to stop loving people because it often includes instances of pain. My third was to try to approach this situation with acceptance. My fourth was to bake.
And the baking, as it turns out, was the most productive thing to do. Our friend seems to have developed a healthy sweet tooth in spite of his physical decline. Apparently a cookie can provide temporary joy in this temporary life. Apparently when there seems to be nothing to do to help, a small act of kindness is something.
The kids probably could have told me that.