Monday, June 3, 2013

Safe Passage

I woke up this morning in a sweaty heap, my children each clinging to my sides like barnacles to this ageing ship I navigate through life's storms and sunsets.

I sent them to bed last night with tears and inadequate patches on hurt feelings and wild, untamed emotion. The world of grown-ups and frustration and darkening shades of gray overwhelmed me yesterday and turned me inside out and upside down. I work so hard to protect them sometimes from the nagging relentlessness of these things that I come unbound and unleash the ugliness of things through the filter of myself.

I frighten them or confuse them and then retrace my steps and try to explain in words I think they understand and forget that they understand a lot of these things without the words, that what they need from me is not protection, but an even keel, and I go to bed with tears of my own.

But in the dead of night, half-sleeping, lost in dreams of their own, they seek me while I sleep. They look for the explanation without all the words. The warm spots next to my heart, against my egoless, sleeping soul that breathe the words "I love you and I'm always here for you" with my arms flung out around them, unconscious and holding them close with limbs and breath and hair entangled.

I want to tell them I am trying. I want to tell them that I'm so flawed and so frightened half the time that all I can hear is the surging of the ocean in my ears and my screams are the cries of a drowning woman. I want to tell them about the still, quiet places where I see them clearly and wish the world for them and know they already own it. I want to explain to them all the ways I try and fail every day. I want to stretch myself out over them so they can see the play of light through the dark spots in my soul and not be afraid. I want to beg their forgiveness for all the things I am, for all the things I am not. I want to collect all of their tears and show them how they can float on them, steering with the winds of change. I want so much and I take it all on as ballast and so often I start to sink.

But they find me here, in the dead of night and we float wordlessly together, warm and safe, holding each other up and hanging on. It robs me of actual sleep, but it rests my soul. I breathe in their salty, sweating aroma. They smell like sunshine, like the trees and the earth and like life itself. Their hair tickles my nose and mouth like incense and I breathe silent prayers for their safe passage. Through this night, this day, this time, this life. And they sleep the sleep of children who know that all is well, who hear the gentle lapping of my heartbeat and breath against their tiny, resilient hulls and know they can moor there with me, safely for the night. And I know in these gray, pre-dawn hours that they know all these things I want; they understand them in the rhythm of our days, that they will weather the troughs and peaks of this sometimes tumultuous existence and that they will sail taller, longer, stronger, farther than I can imagine.

It is these moments that preserve my life. These quiet, sleepy blessings are tossed to me when I think I can't tread water a moment longer and it's up to me to be aware, to have the strength to grab hold and hang on, to let go and lie back, to take a break from my working and churning and wearing myself out, and to simply float. It is these moments, if we seize them, that will give us safe passage.


  1. Yes, thank God we can float.

  2. Oh, the lapping of a mother's heartbeat. How beautiful.
    And yes, they need to understand without words, and they do, naturally.
    Perhaps for different reasons, but I identify with every line of this. And certainly with little evidence but faith, I can assure you as a fellow mother that the unspoken, egoless anchor of your love is worth all the waiting.
    You are far too strong and beautiful to drown, n matter what you're facing. Just rest and float a while. Those sweet monkeys are so blessed to have you.
    hair like incense... wow.

    1. No, I don't think I'll ever drown. Maybe just take in great mouthfuls of saltwater from time to time until I think I might. Never completely, though.
      We can learn a lot from watching their innate faith in action.

  3. Be sure to pass out the life preservers.

  4. So beautiful. Brings tears to my eyes.

  5. What I have promised my children from the moment we met, looked eye to eye and communed in that awesome moment of new babyhood, is that I will love them: passionately, protectively, fiercely, forever, and when I am wrong, I will apologize. One has been easy, one has been wicked hard, but I think I'm a better mom for it.

    1. It is wicked hard, isn't it? I don't even know if it's the apologizing that's hard for me, it's that I created a reason I need to apologize in the first place.

  6. Oh boy. Snotty and teary, albeit late, you really hit some tender spots with this one. Wow, TL. Just wow.

  7. Simply beautiful. That paragraph mid-way through about the trying, about the things you want to tell them--it could've been lifted directly from my own heart and mind.


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