On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are – Sting
The other day as I drove in my car, a feeling of contentment washed over me. Nothing extraordinary had happened, but it was this sweet simplicity I tasted on my lips that brought me such great pleasure. I had just gone to Target and purchased some birthday gifts, all my other errands were done, my papers were written, and my kids were safely at home with my mother-in-law, their “Nanny.” I had recently read somewhere that when people reported being happy that it was not the kind of fleeting ecstatic moments in our lives that created lasting happiness but the kind of happiness found in our very real and tender awareness of the present.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I felt the terrifying, heart palpitating fear of losing my daughter. We were in a toy store we had been in many times before. Never had she strayed too far from my side. Usually she played with something like a doll house, a play kitchen, or a toy cash register, but this day she was not near any of those toys when I frantically searched for her. I froze in fear. I took my eyes off of her, and it was my fault that she was gone. Someone took her, I thought. She was not in the stock room or the bathroom. The clerks helped me look for her to no avail. Then I ran out of the store and in panic mode yelled for everyone to look for my little girl. Finally someone yelled that she was by my car. She had walked out of the store to my car. It was a matter of moments before I saw her again, but it felt like an eternity. We both cried as I collapsed on the floor. In my gut I felt such raw emotion pouring out of me as I thought about every mother who had been in similar situations that didn’t turn out so well.
I am in awe at the fragility of our lives…that we can carry on feeling joy and gratitude for all that we have at our fingertips and simultaneously feel complete terror that it can all be gone in a second. With this vulnerability and fear tugging at my heart, I remembered a book I read years ago called Devotion by Dani Shapiro. She writes:
“I didn’t know that there was a third way of being. Life was unpredictable, yes. A speeding car, a slip on the ice, a ringing phone, and suddenly everything changes forever. To deny that is to deny life – but to be consumed by it is also to deny life. The third way – inaccessible to me as I slunk down the halls – had to do with holding this paradox lightly in one’s own hands. To think: It is true, the speeding car, the slip on the ice, the ringing phone. It is true, and yet here I am listening to my boy sing as we walk down the corridor. Here I am giving him a hug. Here we are – together in this, our only moment.”