Gaining strength from children

Me in the lab, last year of grad school. Yes, that’s a nose piercing.

I’ve mentioned before that I lived alone for ten years. I loved it. Such freedom and the ability to eat or sleep however I desired. My apartment was described as “womb-like” and covered in books, candles, plants, gargoyles, tapestries, velvet lampshades, black and white photos, dried flowers, unusual lights, artsy items and kitschy items. Music was always playing. When given the opportunity, we surround ourselves with outward manifestations of the inner self.

books tapestries plants lights pottery

During most of the time I was in graduate school and had an advisor with the same nocturally-inclined biorhythms that I do. This enabled me to fully embrace a 3 am – 11 am sleep schedule and whimsical, 20-something graduate student eating habits. It was just me and my cat Jupiter, doing our thing.

Santa hat cat
Jupiter pays his rent by wearing the Santa hat

What I didn’t tell you is that in those years living alone I never overcame the dark side of being alone: the night-time insecurity. Some nights were worse than others. Sometimes I had no alternative but to accept that – yes – someone would indeed break into my apartment while I slept. I would accept my inevitable death and go to sleep anyway, hoping for a good dream in the interim. It was my way of dealing with the things that one can’t change, I suppose.

Now I have kids who depend on me. I have a husband who sometimes needs to travel for work, although thankfully not often. My well-honed acceptance of my death in exchange for sleep is no longer appropriate. Still, the old patterns feel familiar. Comfortable. It takes courage to realize that not feeling afraid feels good.

Yet, breaking out of negative rumination is a mind over mind endeavor. I have to be brave. I have to be the inertia that moves three lives optimistically forward. I have to plan and be exceedingly organized and wake up early. Thankfully, the kids keep me busy when Orchid is away, which gives me less time to sink into the old fear-laden thoughts.

Children give us less opportunity to think about ourselves. It can be a gift.

 Being strong is what people do when they don’t have the luxury of being afraid. Kids can make adults feel strong and brave. My children depend on me, more than I once depended on myself it seems. They make me confront the dark side of a beautiful silence. The silence used to mean that there’s no one there for all the meditative, peaceful reasons, and also that there’s no one there for companionship and safety. This has given way to a new kind of silence that means everyone is asleep except the one who must be everything.

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