I was thinking about ouroboros—that image of a snake from ancient Egypt and Greece with its tail in its mouth, continually consuming itself and being reborn from itself, representing wholeness or infinity. For some reason, there’s something claustrophobic about this, reminds me of how I can never get away from myself—the raw material of outer life always filtering through my inner world that I can never escape, bouncing around in there like an echo chamber. But, I suppose I can try and feel more fluid about it, not so trapped, like maybe it’s okay that we’re in a process of continually swallowing up ourselves—who we used to be from childhood, yesterday, one minute ago—digesting that person, re-creating into who we are today, right now. Maybe this is freedom, the infinity of change, sustaining forever through this strange nurturing and growth process.
I’ve decided to take voice lessons, because I was recently inspired by a friend. I feel like there’s always been a disconnect between how I sound inside to myself and how it comes out to the rest of the world. It’s like the vibrations gets stuck somewhere in my throat, a tightening happens, like wringing out a towel, the end result lacking something important it began with. Maybe that’s why I like writing so much, because the disconnect dissolves—what’s in here is now magically out there—and I like being heard in this way that feels so unafraid. Of course, the verbal disconnect is most intense in certain situations. For example, at Back to School Night for J’s new school, we had to share one “fun fact” about ourselves with a group of other parents. I was surrounded by kind, friendly, eager faces but, for some reason, my body reacted like I was suddenly being held at gun point. Please, God, no—I felt a churning sensation inside, an internal begging, pleading, followed by total shutdown, frozen, mute. I stared at the parent who went first, her words seeming to just flow out in a way I could not comprehend. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t think of anything, although the thought did cross my mind that, Oh my God I have nothing, which I knew wasn’t true, and I was able to scrounge up something (um….I like to paint—is that fun?). It’s just the thought of the next step—releasing it into the air—felt like a belt tightening around my neck. And I’m pretty sure it ended up coming out that way—like a strangled little bird. So, going back to the ouroboros—maybe voice lessons will help me swallow up that little bird and release it again in new ways. We shall see.
This week, C continued to insist on reading Goodnight Moon every night, repeating the phrases after his dad read them aloud, “goodnight bears, goodnight chairs, goodnight kittens, and goodnight mittens…” Afterwards, he lovingly propped it up by his pillow so he could gaze at the last page while he fell asleep—peaking at the little bunny snuggled in bed, quiet darkness against the brightness of the stars and those tiny, warm lights of the dollhouse. One day this week, his dad brought home a book called “Farts” and C laughed hysterically as he pushed the different buttons in the book to make the noises you can imagine. At his preschool, “F” happened to be the Letter Of The Week so he brought the Fart book in to share. Classy. Recently, he also got a hold of a birthday card that plays the song “That’s what I like about you” every time you open it. He carried it around with him for about a week and also shared it at school, referring to the card as “my book.” He recently stopped crying in the mornings during preschool drop off, as if something clicked deep inside, integrating this pattern that loved ones leave…come back…leave…come back…we’re together…I’m alone…together….alone…with you…without…with you…without…and on and on and on…his little being swallowing and re-birthing into all of this, life’s constant cycle of loss and, hopefully, reunion.
For homework this week, J painted a cardboard box with brown, yellow, and red and used Scotch tape to add pictures he cut out of old Lego instructions. He chose family photos to go inside that included one of him grinning toothless over his birthday cake and another of him kissing our beloved family cat. He carefully chose special artifacts to go inside as well, such as a piece of lava rock his dad had as a kid. After working quietly for some time, he seemed very pleased with himself and said to me, “Maybe when I’m a grownup and I can’t remember what I liked in first grade, I’ll look in this box and remember.” This week he also rode his bike without training wheels for the first time, fighting back tears of frustration, that painful stage when succeeding at something new feels almost impossible. The process was so painful to watch, I nearly cried with relief when I saw him picking up speed and wobbling along down the street for the first time, all on his own. One morning this week he forgot his backpack and I fought the urge to go back and retrieve it for him, knowing it was important for him to make mistakes, to struggle—even if it was so painful for me to see his sad little face as he closed the car door, I had to cry a little on the way home. This may sound overly dramatic, but it was symbolic to me—knowing I had to literally let him suffer (if possible only manageable amounts) from natural consequences, so he would know he was not entitled to someone else fixing his mistakes, and he could build the resilience to cope in a world full of inevitable failures and pain. Maybe that sounds dark but there is also lightness, two sides of every coin, in that I knew he would be okay, that the sadness would pass, which I also think helped him know it too.
D went on a work trip this week and I missed him. It was too quiet when the kids went to sleep. I thought about our marriage like that ouroboros—an intricate balance of two lives, eternally returning to each other. When he arrived home, we fell back into our comforting rhythm, cracking up about the boys, teasing each other about how we fold our socks. We even got out for a date night and got to feel a different energy—escape that domestic web that contains our day-to-day life, which is beautiful but hard, putting aside what we are building—shared hopes and dreams—which again, I am thankful for, but also requires something else ingrained inside and brought out to the light, now and again, for air—that moment-to-moment experiencing of what drew us together in the first place, which is more free and effortless, not logical or orderly or even agreeable, but bright sparks of individuality like the shattering of an enormous kaleidoscope—enticing, unpredictable, magnetic.