"When we get home," I told her, "You'll have to call, see what it is."
"What is it, Mom?" she asked, impatient to know right now.
"I'm not sure, it's only a voice mail. You'll have to call and ask."
"Maybe it's a birthday party and she found out we are both invited!" Patience said.
It seemed improbable to me that we'd learn of a party this way but I couldn't say so. Instead, I told her, "Remember we do not know, so don't get attached to any theories. It could be anything, a birthday party like you think, or a fun play event, or some happy news of her own like she's learned to whistle too," I mentioned Patience's latest accomplishment, of which she is very, very proud. I immediately sensed my mistake. Patience is a hyper competitive perfectionist who can't stand that anyone else have anything good, too.
"That would not be good news to me, Mom," she said very huffily. "She might whistle better than me and that would be very bad news!"
I felt very, very tired all of the sudden. Patience is a very draining child. She is lovely, bright and deep, but draining. I felt inside me the unbearable weight of the life ahead of her if she remained this way, where she pushed people away, begrudging them their happiness, competitive to the end, overly sensitive to slights against her, unaware of the way she injures those around her.
"It's possible," I reminded her of a lesson I learned through my own trials, "To be happy for others while a little sad for yourself."
She was affronted, "But if she can whistle better than me what else matters!"
A million things, I thought, feeling even more tired. Your friendship, your caring for your friend, setting yourself aside now again for love and friendship's sake. I worry she is constitutionally or genetically incapable of this. There is precedent. Sad, tragic precedent.
It is hard for me to separate the present from this history sometimes. It runs behind me like a trail of tears. The people lost on the trail hover about my mind like ghosts, haunting me almost daily.
I thought of the family, so many who don't speak over ridiculous slights and grudges, and I said to Patience, "What else matters is that she is your friend and you care about her. When she is happy, try to be happy for her too. Tell her it's wonderful. Then, if you need, come home and tell me how you feel for yourself."
I don't care if anyone thinks this is a bad message. It is one I believe. Sometimes, something other than our own feelings matters more in a particular moment.
It's the theory I applied effusively each time a friend became pregnant when year after year passed with no happy news for us. It's the same theory I applied when I was stinging from my doctor's news the other week that my body has decided to grow old and quit before its time---before my expected time. I felt unbearably old that day when my sister-in-law announced her happy pregnancy news. I effused. And then I worried when she said they were waiting for the news about whether the baby had cystic fibrosis. I wasn't ready to admit to my own physical vulnerability and to hear that a new life faced potential crisis married the frailty of all life in my mind.
I carry too much worry with me. Each person I care about I keep with me always, each care and concern of theirs I shoulder too. I began life as the eldest child and remain overly responsible to this day. I have a hard time not being bossy, not taking things on, realizing where I begin and others end. My husband---a "water off a duck's back" middle child sort---does not understand. To him, controlling life and the universe is not a concern. That's for someone else to shoulder.
Someone like me.
My mind and heart are sponges, soaking up people and sayings like water. Often the messages and people are contradictory and battle it out inside my head like two debaters. I spend too much time thinking it through and arrive at an answer too late, or not often enough.
At any given moment you can find me pondering someone I once knew, what they added and subtracted from my life, and what I learned from it all. Or, less comprehensively, I can recall little bits and pieces, moments in time, out of context.
For example, I can be staring into the mirror applying face lotion and recall Terri in eighth grade saying, "You know, if you stare at you long enough you see that your features are kind of pretty, just maybe not so much all together. But your mouth has a very pretty shape."
Or I can be driving down the street and suddenly hear my sister giggling while saying, "Twat? I cunt hear you!" a favorite joke she had in mid-high school. I'll smile despite myself, just like I did back then.
But I am most likely to lie awake replaying over and over certain encounters, breaking down and analyzing the language, words, body language, action, what I said, what I liked and what I regretted. I can build myself to anxiety if I let too loose of the reins.
My emotional baggage and memories of things big and small are stuffed and too full, would require an extra handling fee if they were things I could check in at an airport for a flight. And sometimes, I wish I could...put them on a plane, send them off. Then I feel a slight panic at the thought; without my memories, who and what am I?
My ability to recall and retain certain things---mostly people and situations, rarely if ever important historical dates or fabulous quotes by stunning writers, and sadly, never, ever birthdays or special occasions---is prodigious, an enormous blessing and curse as are all talents. My sister remembers little to nothing and jokes I got the memory and she got the sense of style. She's right; that's true.
In the car, Patience was silent while I reflected. Finally, she said, "I don't know if I can do that, Mom." I blessed her honesty while my heart sank further. Little girl of mine who carries it all with her, so strongly and urgently inside. You will repeat your mother's mistakes and end up with baggage as impressive as my own. You'll carry it all with you.
She will, I imagine, be rich of thought and emotion in her own right, as I am in my own at times. She will hopefully develop humor, as I did, and be able to both laugh and cry as she reviews, mentally, her scrapbook of life.
Heaven is so far of the Mind
by Emily Dickinson
Heaven is so far of the Mind
That were the Mind dissolved—
The Site—of it—by Architect
Could not again be proved—
'Tis vast—as our Capacity—
As fair—as our idea—
To Him of adequate desire
No further 'tis, than Here—
P.S. Lest this seem too dreary, Catherine's post prompted me to write, "...people have also said version of 'it must be so exhausting to be you' to me. Yes, sometimes, other times yes exhilarating...the rush of an idea taking shape or multiple ideas coagulating together into a new and lovely shape. Like you, I carry a literal bulging bag of anything and everything as well as a metaphorical one. I'm sometimes burdened by the weight but almost always glad to have what I need with me."
What do others carry with them?
Catherine wrote Traveling Heavy...but in a good way
Chani wrote Carry On Baggage
Kaliroz wrote What I carry with me.
Snoskred wrote The Spider Intuition - what I carry with me.
Emily wrote Plexiglass and HMOs
Andrea wrote What I Carry With Me
LawyerMama wrote What We Carry With Us
Sephy wrote My Baggage
Thanks for being patient as I got this up late, and as I am even later getting round to reading your entries.
Please please email or comment if I left you off. Big apologies for me...it's inadvertent and due to being sixes and sevens.
Please also let me know if you are a late submission.
"How we let it go."
Do you ever have something build up inside you like an volcano ready to burst? Did you carry something you were ready to let go of? Have you watched a process in our culture that involves letting go?
However this speaks to you, whatever it means to you, write it up for next week's Hump Day Hmm and let us know how you (general you or specific you) let it go.
Email a link to your post to me at jpippert at gmail dot com and title it Hump Day Hmm July 18.
Please let me know, also, if you have any topic suggestions. This week's was great! Thanks to Snoskred for the idea and to all of you for the great participation!
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert