Good morning, Hexlings.
We have been thirteen hours apart for a week and two days, now. A lot has happened, in a very short span of time, since I last wrote you, and talked to you, about the moving news. As we were going through the week leading up to moving day, I wanted to chronicle it in letters to you, but the week was too hectic to make it happen. I said goodbye to a lot of good people that I love, but I did not say goodbye to you because you never say goodbye to people that are vital to your heart in the way that you two are vital to mine; you call those people “family” and you take your family with your wherever you go. Still, our bodies are separated and our time together now is limited in a number of ways, so while we feel close as can be, we will also at times suffer from the separation.
It’s odd because I think I have been working through a kind of sadness from separation since I was a kid. Sometimes when I would be saying my prayers in bed at night, alone in my room, I would think about my family, especially my mom and dad, and I would start to cry. I missed them. I remember the feeling I had then. It was a deep and profound feeling for a kid as young as I was to be having. I don’t know how many kids my age cried because they “missed” their parents when their parents were in the next room. Missing them didn’t mean I wanted them to come and hang out with me or that I wanted to sleep in their bed; it just meant that I was feeling a really big sense that I both loved them so much and that something was sad about life. I think that sad thing that I felt but didn’t understand back then was sometimes you have to be apart from the ones you love. Sometimes for a short time, sometimes for a long time.
It’s always sad, being apart from people you love and need– that’s a big reason why babies cry for their moms and why moms cry for their babies. Speaking of which, do you know that I couldn’t stand it when you would cry, as babies? I mean, I guess I could stand it, but whenever you were sad, I was extra sad. That, my loves, is how it will always, always be. When you are sad, I will always be double-sad, because I love you so much and you are most precious to me. (The good news is that the same goes for when you are happy: I will be double-happy.)
Whenever you would cry, as little-little ones, I would weep inside, and sometimes on the outside, too. Even over small things. There were only a few times when you had to go in time out for “naughty behaviors,” but every so often you would end up in time out and you would have what adults call a “tantrum” (here’s a secret a lot of kids don’t know: adults have tantrums, too… all the time, but the “time outs” are different…). Well, when you would start to get hysterical, in protest over something, you would flail and scream, and often you would try to cling to me. As you both know from our romps downstairs, Mummy is a bit of a weakling. When you would have tantrums, you would often physically overpower me, I do admit, but mostly because while you were fighting with all your might, I was turning to Jell-O. I always physically turn to Jell-O whenever someone physically overpowers me. That’s just what my body does. I don’t have a strong, muscular, fighting body. And that is just fine with me. But when you would sometimes fight to get away from time out or fight to stay attached to me, I would go gelatinous, not so much because of a physical condition but, because my mind would send signals to my whole body. Love signals. Compassion signals. Empathy signals that said “these are your little babies and they just need love” that traveled through my weak little Mummy body. It’s okay to be weak. It’s not bad to love so much you cannot be strong, sometimes.
There were also times when we were trying to get you to sleep in your own bedrooms that you would cry to us and try to sneak into our room, and we had to bring you back and put you into bed– this would make me feel weak. The worst was when you were crying for me. I was supposed to be being “a good mom” (<– a silly phrase I think is harmful to moms everywhere) by enforcing the rules, but my motherly instinct would kick in and tell my whole mind and body that I should go get you and let you sleep with us. That is why, for a number of years, you did sleep with us– I followed that instinct. But there were times we tried to force your entry into your own room prematurely. We learned from it, and you went there when you were ready (very willingly). I ultimately decided that I think it’s a very silly thing to make children sleep away from their parents. I believe closeness and togetherness are what life is all about, and I don’t really care what the rest of the United States is doing; I want the people I love sleeping close to me. I want us all feeling safe and together. Of course, I say this being thirteen whole hours away from you, but it’s true. I don’t like that I am here in bed alone, but it’s something I have to get through. I know that you are snuggled up in bed with each other, and that brings me comfort.
So back to the thing about trying to get you to sleep in your own room. During those learning moments, my instinct, who I am at the core, kicked in and responded to your crying and your fear with empathy. You had (and have) a mirroring effect on me. Momma Si had to step in often because I was not “strong” enough to accomplish the task of getting you to sleep in your own bed. Now I know that weakness can actually be a strength, but back then I wasn’t entirely sure. And so I would weep when you wept. I would ask Momma Si to take over and I would go sit in the dark and sob silently while you cried for me. It was good that Momma Si could be strong and calm when I wasn’t able to do so, because it would have not been helpful to you to have seen me crying, but ultimately, you ended up in our room until you were ready to go into yours… and Mummy learned that being strong really means being simultaneously weak and brave.
That story sheds light for me on how all of this is happening. I am desperately attached to you, in a very beautiful and healthy way, because I am, while being extremely attached to you, able to allow for there to be separation between us when it is in your best interest. Right now, the separation between us is necessary because there is no viable way for Mummy to survive in Macomb. And though I am very weak (thank goodness), and miss you, miss you, miss you all the time, I am simultaneously strong (thank goodness), and am doing what needs to be done for the time being to survive the geographic distance.
I am able to bear my weakness and to remain strong by honoring it, loving it, and surviving it. I am able to bear it because of this thing we have talked about before: called courage.
For some reason the word “courage” reminded me of an old friend. Cautious George. When I found out I was pregnant with you, Darah, I ordered this Curious George doll that would light up yellow whenever you pressed on his tummy. Once you were old enough to interact with, or at least lay beside, George, I decided to give him his own name and personality. One of my favorite things to do when you both were little was to put on skits with your stuffed animals. These were always comedies– usually they were what we call “dark comedies” but they were always kid-friendly ones. Anyway, I came up with a persona for your glow monkey, who was by the way nearly as tall as you, Darah, and what I came up with was Cautious George, cautious cousin of the adventurous and reckless, trouble-making Curious George. Cautious George was invented to simultaneously entertain you, your Momma Si, and me. I got the idea for Cautious George from myself– because I have always been on the more frightened side. I was neurotic when you were little, worrying about every little thing. In fact, the word I used more than any other word during your early childhood might have been “careful.” I could be very annoying with my repetitive use of that word. But at least I had a sense of humor about it. I was making fun of myself when I would play the part of Cautious.
Cautious George would stand beside you, Darah, and give long monologues advising you about how to be cautious and also telling you stories. The Tales of Cautious George. You might not think these were very adventuresome tales, but they were. They were exaggerated tales– tales of a monkey with over-the-top, outrageous-to-the-point of-hilarity unhelpful warnings and ways of avoiding the terrible consequences of following the paths where curiosity MIGHT POSSIBLY (GOD HELP US! CALL THE COPS!) lead. Cautious George liked to play with other stuffed animals, whom he would constantly warn, lecture and chastise for reckless behaviors. His warnings were always catastrophic.
Like so: “I once felt like laughing over a joke somebody told me but I decided it wasn’t a good idea. In fact, I decided to wear earmuffs everywhere I go so I can make sure I will never encounter another joke again. Why, do you ask? Because jokes are dangerous. They might make you laugh and laughing might make you choke and choking might make you DIE! DIE! Did you hear me?! Oh, this is a terrible idea. This joking. Never, ever tell a joke or you might DIE. And always wear your earmuffs like your GOOD FRIEND, Cautious George!”
Your Momma Si, in particular, loved Cautious George and would laugh her butt off when he would interact with some of the other major stuffed players, including Beatrice Bunny (a sassy little bunny with a big, bossy personality), Legs the frog (who didn’t say much but would do incredible stunts with his lovely long legs), and Master Cho, an old, rude, “red neck” tortoise with a gravelly voice, who had very backward, terrible ideas about men being superior to women. Master Cho always had advice for all the other puppets and animals, and it was always the worst advice ever, but he always insisted on it, and he never listened to a word anyone else said, and he would slowly emerge out of his shell to say things like, “Nobody listens to poor old Master Cho. If that Beatrice Bunny knew what was good for her she would give up all that nonsense talking and she would make old Master Cho something goooooood to eat.” I remember how Momma Si would break up into laughter over these skits, as I would always incorporate real life elements into them, and I think this, Darah, may be where you first started developing your sinister sense of humor. It all started with a monkey in a red suit named Cautious George.
The reason I mention Cautious is because the whole point of creating a character like that was to deal with, make light of, and try to change some of my many fears. Being able to be honest with ourselves and others about who we are and about our fears is one of the most courageous things a person can ever do. It is, I think, the first step toward the daily practice of courage. Each person carries inside them a courage chamber. Sometimes we fail to unlock our courage chamber, sometimes we forget where we put the key, but we all have one. We shouldn’t go seeking danger, per se, but we should seek situations that challenge us to face our discomforts and fears when life calls us to do so.
Life called Mummy to work through her many fears and to exercise courage when Mummy made the decision to move back to Buffalo. It is not as if there was the fear and I faced it and now it’s over. I have to overcome the fears I deal with, every day. And I also have to work through the sadness of missing you every day. Doing this takes courage. It seems like everything I am doing right now in my life is taking courage. Remember that courage is the will to NOT let fear stop you from doing something you know is right. Courage is not fearlessness. Courage is fear– it is fear that one is in the act of facing and working through. Fears are not little boxes that we write checks in; fear is a feeling that we must bear sometimes in life. Bearing it honestly and forthrightly is courage.
You are both so very courageous. Last weekend was hard, so very hard, for us. We felt the saddest we have ever felt, and we cried the saddest tears we have ever cried, and we were more vulnerable and fragile than we have ever been before. We were more precious, too. We were precious because we were being the most courageous we have ever been. We wept, we sobbed, we trembled. We were scared. All of us. We held on. We never wanted to stop holding on. And then we looked into each other’s eyes and we trusted each other and our UNBREAKABLE bond of love enough to let go. We were courageous.
YOU, my most precious angels, were courageous. We were stone-strong and we loved each other enough to be courageous for one another.
So the word of the week is COURAGE. Courage. Us.
The reason I started thinking about courage in the first place is because, about two weeks ago, I was having a goodbye lunch with our dear, dear Mrs. Mosley, and she said to me, “I want to tell you something. I want to tell you what I admire about you. I admire your courage. Not many people could do what you are about to do.” Then she went on to commend me and encourage me. Hearing her words of wisdom was uplifting and it lifted me out of the darkness of fear and unlocked the courage chamber inside me so that I could experience a day of peace with my decision. Fear and anxiety, of course, returned, but her words that afternoon, especially the word she used to describe me, will stick with me.
Your Mummy has courage, and her reason for the courage is the two of you. When you are afraid, I want you to imagine me telling you what Mrs. Mosley told me:
I admire your courage. It takes courage to choose life, like it takes courage for the flower to bloom.
I love you always and can’t wait to Facetime with you tomorrow.
We are courageous because we love. We bloom because we are courageous.
You are my NINJAS OF COURAGE.
Courageous George (aka Mummy J)
P.S. While writing this, I had to summon and exercise a bit of courage from my COURAGE CHAMBER, because a large flying beetle soared across the room. I was very unhappy about this, not necessarily alarmed. In the past, I would have been alarmed, but I was mostly unhappy because I knew it meant I would have to summon the unpleasant and uncomfortable courage it would take to take down the beetle. The next time the beetle flew out from the lamp, I went at him with my Medusa Reader (it’s a book) and the attempt only sent him downward. It did not end him, it merely directed his flight downward. And I have not found him since (wish me luck, courageous monkeygirls!).