This week I was tasked to write about blessings. Normally I feel like I’d have very little trouble writing about this topic. I’d sit and think about the weight of Esmé in my arms at night as she drifts off to sleep over my shoulder. And somehow, I’d leap from there, finding myself wrapping the glowing words around how blessed I feel.
But every time I’ve sat to write for this week’s topic, I’ve only found myself thinking about the darkness that seems to have seeped into my writer brain lately. It’s probably a lot of things.
The largest and most omnipresent is the fact that Esmé had her first spontaneous seizure cluster in a very, very long time on Monday. She’s had seizures here and there, but always with a cause—a breathhold, a vaccine, etc. These came out of nowhere, and, despite putting on my very brave, “Oh, we’ve got this” face, I felt the ground giving out from underneath me.
The grief is oddly encompassing. As is the fear as we inch toward next week, waiting to see if her old clustering pattern is going to start back up.
The fact that I have been writing about dark things this week—the treatment of my former classmate in the wake of her coming forward with rape allegations, my daughter’s cardiac arrest at three-months-old, and so on—most certainly has not helped the flatness I have wrapped around me.
But, as I thought about why I was struggling with such a lovely prompt, I realized that the darkness can be a kind of blessing.
As finding the blessings in the darkness can be.
The night after Esmé’s seizures I trained hard, my gloves slamming into my teachers mitts with a flat thwap, thwap, thwap. My anger and grief transferring out of me as I swung—not wild, but controlled—and landed, the shock of the impact shaking something loose.
Every inch of my body felt like a spring: light, tight, poised to release.
My daughter’s eyes watch me differently, lately. It is as if she sees something new in me—as if I am changed. She looks up as me, her deep blue eyes and the yellow ring around her pupils, shining.
“Hi,” I say to her.
Her lips move, but produce no sounds. Her eyes say, I see you, Maman. I see you better now.
I wonder these days, as I sit in front of the computer writing more than ever, if I am becoming more of me for her to see.
One of my grandfathers built his life with words and schedules and time. One of my grandfathers built his life with paint and impressions and turpentine.
Both of my grandfathers built their lives on a kind of absence on the scaffolding of loyal women.
One woman hard on the outside and soft inside. The other woman soft the outside and hard on the inside. It makes for different lives: One silver glinting jewelry, the other gold filling flecked smiles.
But there is an inescapable truth that they were fragile and broken each of them, and sharpened all the right places.
My daughter tells me things in a language I feel against my skin. A language of rhythm and breath and love.
I know I’ve communicated in this way—without the words. Or with the words only the thinnest shield of what else was being said.
But later I wonder, did it mean what I thought? Was it as I remembered?
So I write it down until it doesn’t matter anymore, until it is the thing that I have made it…a structure caught forever, not like a photograph, but malleable, infinitely editable, built around that secret only I know.
I told my mother a secret. I put the sharp fragile thing I’ve carried inside me since I was 13 into words and told her. It seemed too little to say, and yet too big.
I wondered at my calm voice—eyes forward on the road.
“I need to write this, mom, so…I figured I should tell you before you read it.”
It’s been guarded inside me for so long, wordless, undefined. Now I’ll name it and drag it into the light, because I do not feel things without names.
Give me some time, and I will find the name. I will write at it until I know its name.
And then I will understand.