Our Moment in the Breeze

I remember it so well, like it was yesterday, like it was this morning. Our front windows overlooked the athletic fields and tall trees of St. Scholastica, a venerable but now no more Catholic girls high school. It was rare to look out on greenery living in the city, so I always felt lucky that this view, this green, was ours.

I was a new mom, a working mom, a part-time working mom, and this moment was on a day that the world was working, but I was at home with my baby, my Donna. You were under a year, but soon to be an infant no more. Like me, you loved to look out the windows where the sun shone and the trees bloomed. They faced east and it was not yet noon, so the light was bright and warm. It made everything better.

I loved those mornings. We had walks and errands. We were newish to home ownership, just a few years in, so things like dish washers and washing machines were still new, still novel, still made me feel fancy and adult, accomplished.

That morning was for puttering. I cleaned and tidied, you played and explored. We ate our breakfast together. I probably made the beds and folded the laundry. That was before those things felt like burdens. Those things were still gifts to be cherished. They made me feel responsible and competent, satisfied and full. Life was lovely, full of love that I gave and received. Lovely.

You still had very little hair, but what you had was blonde and warm and held the promise of curls. Your eyes were bright blue almonds, your lips pink pillows. Your skin was so soft, still new, perfect. You were perfect, my Donna, and brought me such joy. You were the balm I never knew I needed.

I walked into the living room and the windows were open, the air flowing. You were standing on the bench, giving you height to see, that freedom to look at the world outside. Your tiny hands clasped the window sill and your chin was upturned and you were bliss personified. You welcomed that breeze, made it your friend, invited it into your home.

I admired how the sun shone on you, your shoulders bare, your tiny, fine, baby hair catching the light. I watched you bask in that sun and that breeze and that warmth and that light. I watched you and then I joined you, raising the window open higher — more breeze, more trees, more light.

I hovered over you, following your lead, closing my eyes, and taking it all in. I remember, Donna, just how lucky I felt in that moment. My chin resting on your head, the breeze, gentle and warm, blowing all around us. You smelled of baby shampoo and all good things.

The world stopped in that moment, for just an instant, enough for me to imprint it, to really be present, to feel its joy and overwhelming bounty. I was overcome with a sense of luck and gratitude — for you, for the breeze, for the sun, for being able to experience all of that with you.

How lucky we were, my girl. How lucky I am on this cold winter day, to remember. To have shared it with you. To have known that moment. To know it still.

No “One” Can Save America

I haven’t written about politics here in a long while, so God save me as I dip my toes back in the treacherous political waters we all find ourselves in these days. And mind you, my absence in expounding on political matters is no reflection of waning interest or a suggestion of apathy. To the contrary, I care more than ever and have been following the political climate closely these past few years. Heck, I even learned how to use Twitter to follow the stuff.

It’s just so very noisy out there. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is happy to shout that opinion from the rooftops, and I have yet to find that reading an opposing opinion changes my own. We’ve all sort of doubled down, I think. I don’t know if that is good or bad, it simply is. As a nation, we are deeply, troublingly divided. I’ve read the phrase “cold civil war” and it rings true.

This morning I was scrolling through Twitter, which is generally the first thing I do upon waking. No doubt that isn’t the healthiest, most productive way to start one’s day, but Twitter has replaced the kitchen radio for me, in terms of how I access news and stay informed.

This was one of the first things I saw on my feed:

Mark Ruffalo, a man whose politics I admire and who I find is lovely to look at, refers to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as “the one.” “The original progressive,” Ruffalo says of Sanders.

A few hours later, lo and behold, President Trump tweeted his own missive, which looked and felt eerily similar to me:

I am the only one,” Trump writes.

I find both of these tweets equally troubling, indicative of the cult of personality that we as voters and Americans have enabled our politicians with that is ultimately harmful to us as citizens and as a nation. When we expect a glorified, romanticized “one” to save us, whomever that “one” may be, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of being an active, engaged citizenry.

Donald Trump cannot save us. Nor can Bernie Sanders. We need to stop expecting them to, as that responsibility is ours, collectively. I will leave it to the political scientists in the room to define our government as a democracy or a democratic republic, but if 2016 taught us anything, it is that there are very real consequences to elections.

When we stop voting, when we disengage, telling ourselves that politics is ugly and corrupt, when we rely on the premise that the ship will right itself, we are adding to the problem. When we get angry and withhold our votes if our candidate lost, we are adding to the problem. When we put blinders on to the plight of others because our 401Ks are doing just fine, we are adding to the problem. When we tell ourselves that politicians are all the same, so our input, interest, and participation are irrelevant and unnecessary, we are adding to the problem.

There is no “one” to save us, so don’t believe the hype. If a candidate suggests himself or is comfortable when others suggest that he is the “one” or the “only one” to save America, I hope you know that that is a political tactic, as old as the hills, employed by politicians who heed their egos over the needs of many. Bad men work to convince you they are the “one.”

Remember that as we head into primary season in a few months. There is no “one” that will save us from ourselves. Only we can do that, by voting, engaging, reading, thinking, and understanding that we have an obligation and a duty to stop expecting old men with big egos to save us.

Floating Through My 40s

Six days before my daughter died I turned 40 years old. That milestone was not so much celebrated as it simply happened, a little island of obligatory and forced cheer in the midst of an ocean of sorrow, knowing our girl was dying. Donna was having what would be her last best day. She worked with her auntie to bake me a cake. It was chocolate and she chose the heart shaped cake tins.

Cue the tears. Dammit.

I can’t think about that birthday without tears springing from my often extremely well lubricated eyes. That cake was heartbreaking and life affirming and overwhelming and delicious. My sweet girl baked me a cake and then she died. That cake will be in my memories for all my days. All of them.

On Sunday I turn 50. With this milestone, I have more space and less impending doom. With some of that space, I’ve reflected on this past decade, as middle aged ladies are wont to do. So many women I know love their 40s. They feel powerful, released from insecurities, finally claiming their place in the world. I can’t really say the same for myself.

A few months ago I met a girlfriend for a museum exhibit. We paid good money to walk through the museum, but legitimately looked at not a single thing. Instead, we found ourselves talking and connecting and recognizing that the losses we had experienced in recent years had contributed to a mutual sense of suspension, kind of being frozen in time, devoid of direction and motivation, a sort of muffled recovery. She called it “floating” and the moment I heard her say the word, it clobbered me with the weight of its truth.

I have, essentially, floated through my 40s. In the past decade, I have lost my daughter, my Dad, my career, and had three miscarriages (on top of one I had at 38). I could go on, but you get the point.

That’s a lot.

In some moments, I extend myself grace and wisdom, knowing that the losses I have known are extensive and traumatic. Of course I have spent time reeling. In other moments, I acknowledge the privilege of being able to float through a decade of adulthood. I mean, that is some pampered lady ish, having a life where all the things my family needs are provided without me needing to fret or contribute financially.

Maybe it’s exactly that layer of comfort that insulates me and has enabled me to float and float and float. 40 gave way to 41, which turns to 44, then 47 happens, and you blink and realize 50 is just 72 hours away. Just. Like. That.

I don’t even know what the point is of me putting all of this into words. Maybe someone out there needs to read it, to feel that same sense of connection and validation I felt in the conversation with my friend in that museum exhibit. Maybe its an attempt to make my peace with it, to reassert myself, me, here I am, see, typing on the keyboard.

I don’t really know.

I don’t want to float through my 50s. I want to be more accountable, more present, more intentional. Life is short, yada, yada, yada, YOLO, insert favorite cliche here. All of it is true. We do this once. I’m going to be expecting more of myself this decade, because the next time I blink I will be 60 and, well, that’s just damn crazy.