I was having one of those moments the other evening. One of those moments when disappointments of life suddenly swell up like edema, filling up the empty crevices of my mind, welling up to a point that they block all that my eyes would otherwise see.
I don't even remember what set it off. Maybe a careless word from Jeff, or perhaps a tantrum from my vocal four-year old. A trifling that should have done noticed, brushed off. Instead, it takes over, like a drop of betadine contaminating a pool of clear water.
I remember taking myself to my bedroom, under the covers, even though it wasn't yet dark out, and blocking my eyes against the feelings of hopelessness. These feelings always hover in the wings these days, with the curtain widely parted, ready to take center stage.
In these moments, I see only failures, disappointments, neglect. I remember the people in my life who have moved on without me, let me fall by the wayside. Those who are now too busy, or can't be bothered. No one seems reliable. No friend true. No effort meaningful. I feel alone in this world, and no one notices.
I have fewer of these moments these days, but they still return. They don't let me forget that my life now feels different, that my relationship with the world has changed. I'm no longer the person I used to be. I'm now needier, more suspicious, more prone to hurt. So many words and silences feel like small rejections, and I find myself bracing for them. I can tell that my social persona is different, that I misread cues and don't play my social role as I used to.
The other day, when we were camping, I was walking behind my son, who was walking alongside our friend's dog. He was strolling at the same pace as the scampering pup, who spent most of his time sniffing this and that. After a few paces, my son turned to me and said, "Mom, he likes me!" Even though I saw no signs of affinity from the dog, I nodded and smiled back.
I couldn't help but wonder if our relationships amount to that. A strolling at the same pace, a confusion between simultaneity and attraction.
Noticing my absence, Jeff comes to find me. Wrapping me in a bear hug, he asks what is wrong. Suddenly, my tears come and I find myself stammering to articulate where I am. "What is the point," I find myself repeating. What is the point of all this? What is the point of friendships that dissipate? What is the point of making efforts that go unappreciated? What is the point of working toward goals that fail? And what is the point of family if they abandon you?
He hugs me harder, as he always does in these moments. No stranger to betrayal himself, he listens and nods along. After a pause, he tells me what works for him. Our children. Our little beings who place all their trust in us, and believe us when we say we will keep them safe. Our children who cry when they miss us and are consoled by our touch. They take away the cynicism, he tells me. They help me have faith in people.
It is a thought that jolts me. Since I became a parent almost seven years ago, I have thought a lot about how I could help my children, what I could do for them. But I've thought very little about what they do for me, how they help me.
When I have one of these moments, they come to me with solemn looks on their faces and plant little wet kisses on my cheek. They sit on my lap and wrap their arms around me. They tell me they love me. And I know that there, right there, is one true thing in my life.