One of the things I have found so difficult to deal with in our lives as they exist these days is uncertainty. Much as my current state of disorganization and scatter-brainedness might suggest otherwise, I am, at my core, ridiculously compulsive…and I have always believed in the “if you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality.
Essentially this means reducing uncertainty…things might not get done when and how they were planned, but if I am the one doing it, I’m in on those choices. This has meant in the past that I never wanted anyone else to do things “for” me. We designed and made our own wedding invitations and hung all the ceilings in our first home. I knew how to change the oil and the brake pads on my first car. I love to be on time (or, ideally, early) for everything…and I cannot stand it when other people are late (especially chronically late) and in one of the great jokes of my life the majority of the people I love are regularly late or difficult to pin down on arrivals. I like schedules and advance planning…in school I regularly turned in papers weeks early to meet false deadlines I set for myself in order to keep things moving–avoiding a stressful log-jam at the end of the semester.
Nice and predictable…
That need for predictability and certainty has been helpful in some ways in helping deal with Esmé’s health…but it also has made aspects of life with Ez incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with. Life with Esmé is the exact opposite of predictable…in spectacular ways she has challenged my flexibility, pushing me to keep an open mind, always. Not only do we constantly reschedule, change plans, and arrive late…but the part of my mind that obsessively planned for the future has had to slow way down…to accept that I have no reasonable measure by which to predict Esmé’s future. Not just Will she live with us forever?, but also “Will she speak?” “Will she eat?” “Can she go to school safely?” “Will she walk?“
I’ve grown to understand that uncertainty, unpredictability has its allure. I have written a lot about how the uncertainty of Esmé’s health and future has helped me to live in the moment with her (Claire, The Eternal Optimist? and The Art in My Everyday). But beyond forcing me to live in the moment with Esmé, uncertainty has permitted me a kind of flexibility that I’d not allowed myself in the past. I never would have started a project like this blog without having to embrace the changeability of our life–because I’d have seen this blog as a finished product rather than a living, changing thing. I’d have stopped writing at all after the first time I couldn’t bring myself to write for a few weeks. I’d have been terribly embarrassed by the copious grammatical errors I (still) find in my posts. I’d have felt guilty for investing time in something so time-consuming that perhaps only my mother would read (Hi, Mom!).
Now, I know I will write when I need to…and that I can always come back, no matter how long the silence. I see my errors as evidence of my effort–writing despite my fatigue and distraction–as evidence of my decision that it was more important to say what I wanted to say than to wait until it was perfect. I see this investment of time as an expression of love for me, for my life, for Esmé. And I’m ok with the fact that writing here somewhat unselfconsciously (and perhaps, at times, lazily) makes me feel, well, just a little more sane. And as I see readers reading from all around the world, on all continents now, it seems like, although I mostly write this blog while sitting in my living room drinking coffee and watching Esmé play, I am just a bit more a citizen of the world…that through writing about what I know in my own little life I’ve connected to people from places I will likely never see.
It seems to all come down to acceptance of that fundamental unpredictability of life opening my mind and, more importantly, my heart. Esmé didn’t actually change the reality that life is difficult or uncertain–she just drew my attention to it and made it impossible for me to ignore, as I had in the past, through some impulse to control my surroundings, to fool myself into thinking I could plan the future…thinking I could make something, anything, permanent. In some ways the decision to have a child is an attempt at permanence…they are supposed grow up, outlive you, and carry you on somehow into the future (emotionally, genetically, in name, as you wish). Having child who might not outlive me, who might not have children of her own, somehow pulled back the curtain on this grasp for permanence.
And what was left was love…love for someone that has already and will continue to break my heart over and over and over. Realizing that Esmé will continue to break my heart has somehow managed to open it further. I am less afraid than ever to let go and feel love for the people, children especially, who come into our life…even if their presence may be only momentary…even if I know it will hurt.
And I suppose that is eternal in its way…perhaps that is my new certainty: choosing love.