We are in August. Finally. July can officially bite me.
I keep feeling like this past month, with all its Death with a capital D, should make me feel inspired and grateful and unicorn-flowery and instead I'm feeling unsettled and apathetic and why-should-I-bother-y. This would be useful if I was heavy metal lyricist or an angsty teenage poet but as a mother who needs to make sure there's food to put on the table three times a day and clean underwear to put on clean bottoms, it's been a bit debilitating.
Last weekend, I ran off to the gym for my first workout in weeks and I tried to do the normal thing, to push myself on the elliptical while flipping through the latest US magazine. I tried SO HARD to care about Snooki et al and my ellipses per minute stats but it took all my strength not to run around the gym grabbing people by their shoulders and yelling into their sweaty faces: WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! AEROBIC FITNESS AND SHAPELY PECTORALS WILL NOT EXEMPT US!
(Oh, but E is almost totally weaned so actually shapely pectorals would be most helpful to me at the moment as muscles are the ONLY things that will fill my bra now, even if they won't prevent my eventual demise.)
We're back to "normal" life now. The memorials are over, "life goes on". But having touched mortality, being ripped open by its unforgiving teeth, I find myself searching for more meaning in everything. What if this was my last day? Or this? Have I done anything that matters? Would anyone have anything to say at my memorial?
"She always separated her lights and darks."
I feel a renewed internal pressure to make something of myself, whatever that means. But the fact is that there is still laundry to be done and board books to be read and tantrums to unravel and none of these things feel like they are getting me closer to the mythical self-actualized version of myself who Makes A Difference. It's hard to feel like laundry MATTERS, with all caps. It's hard to feel like I'm getting anywhere but Frustratedville when dealing day in and day out with young children who cannot manage to get through a day without throwing themselves into a screaming tangled heap on the floor, at least once. (Memo to 14 month old: you're too young for this crap!) (Memo to 4 year old: you're too old for this crap!)
Except this one: I'm raising my girls the best way I know how. It is just one thing on my Life Master To Do list and yet it is the biggest, most important, and definitely the most time consuming thing I hope to accomplish in my life.
And it is the one that is right in front of me at the moment.
So I hold our recent losses in my heart at the same time that I hold my girls in my lap. The hardest part of handling this past month is that the mama bear part of me is just crushed by all the pain and suffering in the world. I want to stop it from ever touching my babies and I know I can't. This sadness and the reality of death are so hard to share with my children. And impossible to hide from them. Neither sharing nor hiding it from them feels right, so I do a little of both. I tell vague, glossy truths and a few white lies. I let them see me cry from time to time but I try to shield them from what I can, from what they'll learn about on their own soon enough.
And when I get good news, like I did when my mom called to say that my dad's latest PET scan shows NO signs of cancer, I rejoice in what is good, in who is still here, and I let my girls see me do a little jig. Then I tell them that Grampa is cancer-free and this is something to celebrate.