The other night, the kids are supposed to be asleep when I hear this from their room: “You have babies in your tummy,” says my three-year-old, C, to seven-year-old J. “No I don’t!” “Yes you do!” “No I don’t,” on and on, back and forth. I tell my husband, D, about their conversation, and we burst into laughter, despite myself. He goes to their bedroom to squelch the argument, chuckling to himself. (This may have come about because C has been looking at his baby pictures lately with himself as a “baby in mom’s tummy”). Anyway, I have been feeling grumpy, because C has been sick with hand-foot-and-mouth disease the last few days, which means D and I have, basically, been taking turns being on house arrest.
For example, my most recent exciting outing is taking C to the doctor. Have gratitude, I keep reminding myself, when the nurse tells us it will be another twenty minutes until the doctor is ready to see us. I panic inside for a moment—twenty minutes is no joke waiting in a medical office with your toddler. I am not talking about the waiting room where they have some pretty sweet, old school toys, like those colorful, wood beads you get to clack around those twisty, wire tracks. No, at this point, they have ushered us into the actual doctor’s office, with that weird, crispy paper on the examining table, that my kids always rip when they sit on, and all that medical equipment that is just dangling by their reach, but is not to be touched.
Again, have gratitude—thankfully I have two granola bars in my purse that we happily eat. C finds a kid’s book lying around. When he first pulls it out from a magazine holder on the wall, I silently cringe, imagining all the kid-seeking-doctor-germs having a pool party on that thing. But I am able to keep this to myself and muster up some enthusiasm. He wants to read it together, on my lap, which ends up being so cozy—that it melts me—and when I hear the knock of the doctor entering, it is like I am waking up from somewhere else.
Somewhere else—when the chatter of my mind finally quiets down enough to experience what is actually happening. Or to be able to have contact with my heart that is always there but can be hard to access, because emotions, like anxiety, can sometimes make everything too busy inside and haywire and cloudy. For example, C has a recent tantrum, which happens to be on Mother’s Day and involves him screaming bloody murder, while laying himself on the ground, in the Ferry Building of San Francisco. D hands me his waffle cone and C’s, so he can scoop up the poor little guy, and I almost drop all of our ice cream all over the floor, like a panicked clown juggling too many desserts. But we make it outside the building, and of course, C eventually calms down. We eat our ice cream and have a lovely ferry ride home. However, witnessing such intensity of emotion undeniably whips up my own inner turmoil. In those moments, hearing his cries, I can feel so much happening inside—the anxiety secretly whirling about, intensifying the chaos that takes me away.
All this requires work to settle, and for me, this includes trying to zoom out in ways that I can. Like meditating, which sometimes feels like a waste of time—sitting there on my mat, when I could be doing so many other things, like going to bed. But I keep at it, because I do think it helps me to recover from intense moments like the above. It brings me back, away from what my mind creates, and into what is really there. And I need this. Because sometimes, when denied or left unchecked, the internal buzzing can make it unbearably hard to be present, especially with my kids. And their little beings are growing up at such lightning speed, I do not want to miss a single second of it.
Like recently, on J’s last day of first grade—D and I pick him up after school for banana splits, and I keep my sunglasses on so I can secretly cry a little bit, feeling the passage of time so intensely. D jokes around and J grins over his pile of ice cream with his new big, front teeth and asks questions like, “What happens if you shoot electricity at the sun?” Or the other night, after bath time, when C roots around his drawer, looking for a pair of basketball shorts that match his dad’s, exclaiming excitedly, “See, the same!” Or when I kiss C goodnight and he gently taps my head, saying, “I love you haircut, mommy.”
So I keep meditating and reading about Yogis, because for whatever reason, this helps my inner world better manage the situation. I have two recent dreams that change me, in a good way, in this experience of really trying to be here. The first one, I am standing on a balcony watching as a fire is coming and there is no escaping. My mom is there, and I turn to her and tell her I am thankful for her as my mom. In that moment, it is like thankfulness is my superpower, transforming fear into peacefulness and love. And when I wake up, I feel incredibly brave, like I could face anything.
About a month later, the second dream shakes me awake. This one is harder to describe but I will try—it was like I was watching the final construction of something very large, and when the last piece was added, all went dark. I felt afraid, but then suddenly, joyful, as what was being built all peeled away to reveal something behind it—another layer. I could understand that this layer actually wrapped around and held everything, and was the divine, whatever that was. And in this moment of the dream, part of me was surprised, while another part, hidden deep down, somehow knew about this place all along.