Not Trying to Freak You out on a Lazy Sunday, but...

Over dinner recently, my friend Je and I were discussing the subject of infinity, and I shared how absolutely terrifying I find it.  I can remember being 6 or 7 and lying in bed, trying to grasp the idea of forever.


Seriously, just humor me and spend 2 minutes with your eyes closed, trying to really appreciate the notion.

As a child, I was pondering infinity because I’d learned that—according to my faith (and if I played my cards right), I could spend eternity in heaven.  This was supposed to be a good thing.  I could spend the rest of forever in paradise.  It could be partially due to my inability to even imagine the kind of paradise that heaven (if it exists) could offer, but the longer I thought about spending eternity ANYwhere, the more I began to feel crushed under the weight of the concept.  I was probably close to hyperventilating, picturing in my mind as far as I could see or imagine on the horizons of both time and space, and then trying to imagine time and space beyond that, and beyond, and beyond, and beyond.  Forevvvvvvvvvver.

Forever in silence, forever in dark are also ideas I’m not keen on.  Because there is at least a 50% chance that when it’s over, it’s really just over.  Now consider THAT idea for a few…

I think I may have written about this before, but I’m at least somewhat alarmed every time it comes to mind.  Dig this for a second:

I think that if you’re my age and you aren’t afraid of death—at least a little bit—you’re just not thinking about it hard enough.  You’re not really and truly letting yourself imagine what the beyond may (or may not!) hold.

I’m open to hearing other opinions on this, but despite what anyone may tell me about what he or she has come to believe about the afterlife, it seems to me that all reasonable people have to agree on this: nobody is absolutely sure.

Related to that, Je and I discussed the possibility of non-human entities being able to house the essence of a person.  

Plenty of people have imagined, even predicted there will be a day when machines can not only think and react like humans do, but can feel and empathize and surmise and love and anticipate and change their opinions on subjects like humans do.  And if a person’s essence could truly be bottled up in this way, we would have in effect discovered the fountain of youth, no?

It’s possible this movie already exists, but the idea definitely got me thinking about the decisions people would be faced with if these technological possibilities were ever realized: would you rather spend the rest of however long this planet/universe is around perfecting and experiencing life in this known/comfortable realm (and housed in some semi-human form), or would you like to take the gamble on death in the hopes (or with the faithful knowledge) that something better lies beyond?  If this movie hasn’t already been made, I’d like to see it happen (hopefully not starring Arnold Schwarzenegger).

It’s impossible for me to say what I would choose, and I’m not sure I like the idea of messing with the life spans we’ve come to know and work within (beyond advancing medicine to alleviate a lot of suffering and extending people’s lives long enough for them to experience the joy of grandchildren).  How long is long enough?  What will we do with an extra 40, 60, 200 years that we wouldn’t do if only expecting the standard 70 or so?

Unless of course there is NOTHING after, in which case we should live it up and stretch it out as long as we can!

Oof.  What a dilemma.

Until I reach that place that many elderly people arrive at—satisfied with the lives they’ve lived and left at peace with the fast-approaching end—I will remain thankful for the not knowing.  Not knowing is what drives us to create.  To procreate.  It’s what’s kept me from settling for less-than-ideal and what makes me want to meet and know people.  It causes me to just go for it when presented with amazing, terrible-for-me food, but it's also what drives me to the gym the next day to make up for it.

Not knowing is the best possible incentive a person can have.

If that’s true by chance, how lucky we are for it.  If there is a God and this is God’s design, well that is just the trickster scheme of the century.  Of infinity!

I kind of hope nobody ever figures it out…


New Beds Don't *Usually* Make Me Cry

I very rarely write about motherhood.  Here’s why:  I think about parenting and related issues—on some level—all day long.  They’re in the back or the front of my mind (or just right there climbing up my leg) at nearly every moment of every day.  The time I take to think and write about other subjects can be a welcome respite.

And even if that weren’t the case, there are thousands of entire blogs dedicated to the subject of motherhood.  There are straight forward, this-is-the-daily-life-of-a-Mom blogs.  There are I’m-the-mf’n-BEST-Mom-check-out-the-cherry-pie-I-just-whipped-up-in-20-minutes-while-my-4-year-old-was-reciting-verses-from-The Illiad blogs.  And there are blogs that turn the whole thing on its head, owning up to the challenges of parenthood and very deliberately making the whole business sound like the hot mess it can sometimes be.

What can I possibly add to this millions-of-years-old conversation?

And yet.  And yet.  Here I go…

This week saw a big milestone in my young son’s life.  My parents bought him a toddler bed, and while he was away last Friday, my Dad and I took apart his crib and built the bed, which uses the same mattress as the crib but takes up far less space in the room while also screaming I’M NOT A BABY ANYMORE.

That’s where my son’s milestone became my interlude of cloudy-eyed disbelief—as I stripped the sheets, took down the crib bumper, and tried to remember a time when he was so small and powerless over his faculties, I actually worried he’d conk himself into a stupor.

It wasn’t just that.  It wasn't just his former small, lying-and-doing-nothingness, replaced by the skinny, tall-for-his-age, chatterbox whom I’ve come to now know.  It was the idea that this crib and the tiny baby who first came to rest his head in it belonged to what feels like a different lifetime.

It was one in which I was married and headed down a more traditional path.  It was a lifetime I can scarcely recognize anymore, and that crib was the largest physical reminder of that lifetime existing outside of the storage facility where the rest of that lifetime now sits, motionless, waiting for me to decide whether I’ll chose to reclaim it.  In that moment—folding up, disassembling, adding to storage that physical evidence—I accepted one more layer of the life I’ve come to know.  And along with it, I tried to chew thoroughly and swallow down the idea that my baby is growing up.

I can’t say it was a *super* pretty scene.  Unless of course, you’re drawn to emotional breakdowns and the red-faced, swollen, teary eyes that can accompany them.

In which case it was beautiful.

When the new bed was assembled and the new, outer space sheets tucked onto it, I took to plastering the two nearby walls and the ceiling above with glow-in-the-dark stars and planets.

Then I busied myself for the two days until my son would come back, trying to imagine his surprise and contemplating whether he’d be down to stay put in this bed, now that he’d have options.

As I’d hoped, he was very excited about the bed and eager to sleep in it from the first night.  And so far, bedtime has yet to include any episodes of bed dwellers gone AWOL.  All of that went about as well as I could have hoped.

And then there was this little bonus bit, a realization I made as my son lie down to sleep the very first night.  For as long as he’s been able to roll over on his own, Kalil has slept on his left side, which always left him facing me.  When we put his toddler bed in, the head of it was oriented the opposite direction that the crib had been.  To my surprise, that first night and every night since, he has gone to sleep on his right side.  It was with more tears in my eyes that I realized he wasn’t partial to sleeping on his left; he was partial to sleeping facing me.  Oh my god I could cry just thinking about it now.

Before I became a parent, I would not have been able to empathize if someone had described the kind of closeness one can feel to her child.  I almost feel like, since he spent all of that time growing and developing inside my own body, part of him will always exist within me.  I’m sure fathers feel a similar closeness that could be described in a different way, but not being qualified to do so I won’t venture to describe that.

The weight of responsibility for a child's emotional and physical well-being is heavy.  That's an understatement, of course.  It can be all-encompassing.  It can be alarming!  It can stop even a fast-talker like me mid-sentence, as I suddenly wonder whether my son should hear what's already come halfway out of my mouth.  It can lead to epic tests of will, as my son tries to wriggle out of my arms and I keep insisting he look at me before I deliver whatever message seems incredibly important at the time.  If I let it, it can cause endless self-doubt, worry, and fear of judgment by other parents (Yes, I just watched  my son gobble down a cake pop in two enormous bites--and despite the fact that he didn't finish his dinner.  Crucify me!!)

As my son grows and learns to articulate his thoughts, he says a lot of interesting (to me) things.  He also repeats a lot of things he hears.  So I can’t say for sure whether or not he knows what it means when he says “I love you, Mama.”  I thought about that this morning as I was leaving for work, leaning over him in his new bed to plant a kiss on his flushed, warm little cheek.  

If he says the words "I love you" to me, it means he's hearing them.  It means his environment is a nurturing one, where expressions of affection fly freely.  And I thought that it truly doesn't matter at this point whether or not he means it or knows what it means to love me, just so long as he can feel that I love him.

And I’m pretty sure can.

Yes, he's growing faster than I can register sometimes.  Yes, his crib is already gathering dust.  Yes (of course), he will always be my baby (cue Mariah Carey) no matter what.  Thank you for sharing this moment with me, as I paused to meditate on the idea that he and I are on this journey together...