I am currently working on a memoir. That means seeing a lifelong dream realized, but there are moments when I wonder what exactly this is doing to me. When I wonder what it is to my family, this writing I've been working on for almost two months now. Memories are being unearthed and emotions once felt are more concentrated than ever. What was once a river that flowed freely in and out is now more like a small pool that I find myself standing in.
I cannot merely wait for the water to rush by me -- I need to find ways to climb out of it. Some days are easier than others; I've only dipped my toes in, or I'm ankle-deep.
On other days, I'm up to my neck in it -- teeth-chattering and fingertips shriveled to raisins after being immersed in those waters after typing for hours.
On those days, I feel a deep fear followed by a sense of freedom. Like a bad dream, I am letting go by writing it down, by telling someone -- even if it's just the blinking cursor on my screen that is my trusted confidante for now.
But much like a bad dream, I cannot always just shake it off. I am haunted by these memories, these feelings I have finally allowed to bubble to the surface.
And there is a darkness in the hearts of people who are haunted. There is a light that has dimmed behind their eyes.
But I am not writing these words in a cave, or on a remote island somewhere -- I'm not even writing them in an office of my own. I am writing them at the desk that stands in my bedroom, with my husband sleeping in our bed -- his loud breathing reminding me that there are still people here that need me, that expect me to be present.
I cannot afford to go off the map. This world that I am looking back on is one that I am still very much immersed in.
Everything that I write about -- the struggles, the triumphs -- they are still ongoing. They need to be witnessed, to be really, truly seen, and eyes that have had their light dimmed cannot see what is in front of them very clearly. A mind that is lost in things that occurred three years ago or 23 years ago cannot fully absorb what is happening in this moment.
And I am wanted in this moment.
I am needed in this moment.
Because one day this moment will have happened three or 23 years ago, and the regret I will feel about missing it will likely threaten to drown me in sorrow, in sadness that is so much deeper than any I might be feeling now. There is no second chance for missed opportunities to watch your children growing up. To hold their little hand in yours, to break up brother/sister fights. To listen to silly made-up songs. To know the difference between a fall that truly hurts, or when it is their pride that has been bruised. When they need an ice pack or when a hug is the best salve. To glow with pride at accomplishments both big and small, and to hold on tight after setbacks.
There is no "next time" when your 5-year-old daughter has an accident in her carpeted bedroom and you need to choose whether or not to shower her with compassion or anger. I had the energy for empathy this time, but there are plenty of moments that I feel shame at the lack of sensitivity I exhibit towards them -- I worry that I am too quick to show the frustration I am feeling.
I am ashamed that I am writing about my experience as child, my experience as a parent, and that there are moments when that choice makes it difficult to be a parent, and to really see my children.
But I am learning.
I am determined to do better, to be better.
To chase this dream of mine, while raising my children to believe that their dreams are achievable as well.
I am a horrible and weak swimmer -- uncomfortable in the water and always have been. As a result, I insisted that both my son and daughter take lessons from a young age. They love it. They are naturals in the water. What seems like an ocean to me presents itself as a pond to them. I have given them the tools to do what I never could.
And day after day, they keep me afloat -- they keep my head above water -- despite all that has threatened to pull me under.
At the very least, I owe it to them to bear witness as their strokes grow stronger, as they fearlessly jump in where I would have sat tentatively on the side with only my legs dangling into the water. Ankle-deep or fully-immersed, I need to make sure that I can pull myself out of that water each day.
If only so I can watch them dive in.