This morning I lay on the couch and I cuddled my precious little girl. Marveling at each of her delicate tiny features and listening to her carefully sounding out the words on her ipad to me and I realised. “She can read! She can really read. And she can write. She can express herself through the written word and she can read the communications of others. And that is a true miracle for any human being and it made me a little breathless. Just as it had when my mom pointed out that I could read when I sounded out “Hot Food” in the food court at Sandton City.
And then I watched as the glass window above the front door filled with a halo of white blonde hair and my youngest son, who is suddenly a man with a deep voice, hurried to pull it open and greet his oldest brother and I listened to them talk, they way men who are friends do. And I thrilled with joy when each of them came over to wish their little sister Happy Thanksgiving and listen to her with amused affection and leaned over to let me ruffle their hair which felt exactly the same as it had when they were 3,6, 10 years old. And I just soaked in their camaraderie as they laughed and exchanged stories and jokes about Thanksgiving morning football games they had participated in years gone by and I thought to myself. This is my family. And honestly looking at all these handsome grown men, I still feel like I’m playing a part of mom to teen-aged boys and a girl who has her boyfriend come over to help with the pies. I can’t quite fathom that it’s real. It feels like I dropped into a Folgers coffee Thanksgiving morning commercial to be honest.
I don’t know if everyone feels like this or if it’s because my life is so very white middle class TV-ad American and I’m still very South African. And I only saw scenes like these on TV rather than in real life? Or perhaps it’s just because I’m still in denial that my son is older than I was when I got married and so none of this can possibly be because I’m still 19? I’m still 28 with 4 little children in matching outfits. Aren’t I? And then my husband hands me a cup of coffee and he says, “you made all these people. Can you believe it?” And I’m like…”hey so did you and…nope.”
But instead of feeling weirded out or panicked or wistful or wishful, today I allow myself to soak it in completely. To observe it and feel absolute wonderment and gratitude and joy that this happy, peaceful scene of perfect abundance is mine. Is mine! Is of my making and of my good fortune and of my love and the love of those around me. And of the love and the goodness and the hard work and the faith and the commitment and the forgiveness and kindness of everyone in my family, and everyone who had a supportive role in my family over the years through all of our good times and our many struggles and our day to day conundrums of having too many places to take too many children. Someone always stepped in. The Universe has shown us a tremendous amount of grace and has never failed to channel love our way and I don’t know why but I do know that this love is responsible for everything so precious and perfect in my tiny sunny living room. My tiny very humble living room with it’s random assortment of donated and found furniture and the rug which is actually a big piece of fabric from a bolt I found for $5 at Goodwill and put on a rug mat I found at Big Lots and rejoiced because the widths matched EXACTLY, this morning and I feel purely and entirely thankful.
At the beginning of this month I was committed to posting something every day. I was derailed by PTSD. I kept writing but it was for me. And I had many other posts lined up in my drafts for today. But none of them wanted to be published. And long ago I decided that if my heart didn’t beat a little bit more quickly when I considered publishing something I wrote, it was to stay in my personal folders until it did. But here’s something I want you to read it’s by Glennon Doyle and it was written last Thanksgiving Eve:
Here’s what we do tomorrow
We stop trying to be the director of the family show
and we just become an amused audience member
we jump on stage when it’s our line
we let everybody in the family play their role
we stop fixing, cajoling, judging, and lobbying
we stop hoping so hard and start accepting
we let it all be.
And here’s something I want you to know. I have a beautiful, blessed life. And I am thankful for it. And a good deal of the time I also struggle with feelings of great sadness and I struggle with them so that I can enjoy the abundance that is real. And I’m getting so much better at winning those struggles but less than 48 hours ago I lay sobbing like a very little girl in my bed, under my covers. Feeling very sad and very, very, very alone and scared and lonely. And I wished nothing more than that all the holidays would just disappear because they trigger my PTSD rather badly sometimes. But I also know that I have a family and I don’t want their holiday legacy to be tainted by PTSD and so I figured out what would make this day the very easiest for me. And that meant deciding to cater in most of the Thanksgiving meal and handle only the parts that a very scared, overwhelmed little girl felt was doable. And once I made that decision I felt more and more like a functional adult. So if you are feeling very sad or very alone as you see pictures on social media of big happy families enjoying time together know that we all have our struggles. Everything is not as it seems. Be very, very kind to yourself. Do whatever you need to do to stay alive and to be present and to enjoy the abundance that is in front of you. Because it is present for all of us in some form or another. Even if it is just a comfortable place to sit, a hot cup of coffee, running water and a bed where we can rest undisturbed. Shelter from storms and from vermin. Somewhere we can go to get food. Whatever it is, recognize it and rest in that abundance and ask nothing else from yourself. And if you simply can’t see any abundance because the sadness is just that overwhelming and the fear and panic feelings are just too real, withhold any judgment. Talk to yourself as if you would a small frightened precious child. Because that is who you are. And assure yourself that this too shall pass. And yes the feelings may come back over and over again but there will be breaks in the clouds and there will be sunshine and you only have to handle what is right in front of you on this day. And then find a distraction if you can. A friendly face, something to laugh at, something to do. Move your body. Get outside even if it is just to take the trash out. See if you can help a neighbour in any small way. All these things help. They helped me a lot in the last 48 hours. We can do this. I hope you can feel my love and my warmth and my reassurance because it’s meant just for you dear reader.