There is something about birthdays. And New Year days. And growing older.
And when they converge. Maybe not exactly on the same day, but in an era, or epoch in one’s life. Add in my mother’s death in February 2015 and I think I can safely say the last 10 months have been transformative. The trifecta of losing mom, turning 50, and the calendar turning to 2016 seems to have had a cumulative effect on me. Without my consent. Well, it’s not that I don’t welcome it, or like it; I do. It’s that I didn’t ask for it. None of these things were within my control. They just… happened. In proximity to one another. And the weight of them has fallen upon me like the sheerest silk cardigan; a garment that lays upon me loosely, lightly. It doesn’t appear, on it’s face, to have any practical purpose, but it’s there. On me. And it matters. It kind of… pulls the whole outfit together, if you will; what I was wearing was fine, but until I put on that sheer silk cardigan, it just kinda… laid there. Being clothes. Ordinary clothes. Then poof! The entire ensemble became more than the sum of its parts.
Of course, I chose to put it on. And I can choose to take it off. It could snag. The whole thing is really rather fragile. But there it is.
I seem to have made a decision to be happy. And it seems to be every bit a choice as choosing a garment. That’s why I think of it this way. And that’s why I describe this choice to be happy as silk, as a silk finishing piece. Because if I’m to wear this “happy uniform” every day I will have to choose it. Affirmatively choose it, and I seem to have been mugged by this desire to do it! That’s why I call it a “grace embrace.” Calling it a “grace mugging” just sounds wrong, doesn’t it? But it’s kind of like that. I didn’t “ask” for this, but I feel helpless to not take it up and choose it.
People have told me over the years that the reason Kaela, my autistic child, has come so far and done so well is that I wasn’t in denial about her. I remember the first time someone said that to me, I was shocked. “What do you mean ‘I’m not in denial’? You mean other parents are?” And, remarkably, the answer was yes!
Maybe it came from radio. Aircheck sessions are raw examinations of one’s talent and they’re roughly analogous to going to the dentist. Or the gynecologist. It’s all there. Naked. Or un-flossed. And there’s no hiding. You sit there in your radio bosses’ office once a week with a tape of your show and they tell you how much you suck. It’s awful. And when you suck on the radio everyone knows it and there’s no taking it back. It’s live and thousands of people hear you screw up. So if you don’t know how to stand up to criticism, and learn from it, you will never, ever make it in the radio biz.
Same thing with pain. C.S. Lewis wrote extensively about pain, and what it has to teach us. Kaela* and aircheck sessions and pain are all of a piece in my mind: they have something to teach us by their truths. They are what they are and you’d better pay attention.
So this “decision” to be happy, the silk cardigan I have found in my closet I will choose to put on everyday feels risky to me. How do you “choose” to ignore pain? Oftentimes the truth is there. Won’t that make you one of those “in denial” parents I was so shocked to hear about? I don’t want to be “that guy.” I don’t want to be in denial, but dammit! I’m 50. My mother (and best friend – other than my husband) is dead, and if I’m going to spend my sunset years in peace, maybe I should stop letting life hurt me, you know? I mean… I’m not in radio anymore. And I’m 99.99% sure I never will be again, so it’s not like I have any aircheck sessions in my future. If I want to batten down the hatches, I can.
I guess I’m just sick of having my buttons pushed. Having scabs picked at. Letting the rain in, rotting the wood. Beating myself up! Enough already.
*For the record, my darling Kaela is a joy!