Several months ago, I was scrolling the Instagram very late at night—as one does—and came across a post by a dear friend that stopped me in my tracks, stopped me in my scrolling, stopped my breathing, maybe even made my heart stop for a beat or two.
Do you ever have those moments when you are totally susceptible to the world? Those moments when you're leveled by something that, any other time of day/month/life, would never have found purchase in you at all? Maybe I'd had a couple glasses of wine, or a Negroni or three, and I was in that sweet spot adoring my (sleeping) children from a distance while thoroughly enjoying my aloneness, and I came across something that spoke to something dormant in me in that moment. I don't remember exactly what it was that put me in that openness, but I remember the moment so vividly when I read these words in Valarie Kaur's post:
I get to be alive
I get to be alive today.
I get to be alive today with you.
Snuggled into my gray flannel sheets, I paused. I teared up. I set my phone down, turned it off.
Because doesn't that say it all? What we want to say to everyone we love, everyone we've loved? What we want to say to ourselves? What we want to revel in? What we want to remember when we wake up, what we want to remember when we fall asleep?
I started saying it to my kids the very next day. They looked at me, puzzled, and went about breakfast as usual. And then I said it the next day, and the next. I printed it out and taped it to our dining room wall. Some mornings I would announce it broadly at breakfast while the kids chomped cereal or chocolate toast. Some evenings I'd whisper it into their ears individually at bedtime, after a song and massage. Sometimes when I said it, everyone would start singing la la la so no one could hear me at all.
But a few days in, Leif started to say it, too—either with me or repeated back to me, like a call-and-response chant. August sometimes rolled his eyes, sometimes hugged me closer as we snuggled in his bed before I said goodnight. Zoë, wild woman that she is, sometimes covered her ears so that she couldn't hear, sometimes said it with me, sometimes ignored me.
And then one night, I said it to her: I get to be alive, I get to be alive today, I get to be alive today with you. I kissed her forehead, laid beside her.
"But mama, you forgot to say I get to be alive today to love you."
"No, honey, that's not....." I stopped. Wait—I'd never said that. Three simple lines, each subsequent line adds a word. That's it. But what she heard?
I get to be alive to love you.
I'd never said that, but of course that's what I meant each time. And that's what she heard each time.
I snap a lot. I am impatient and tend towards anger. Living with small children is hard—it doesn't come naturally to me. But saying this has worked its way into me, and helped me to step back from my ego to remember the wild miraculous joy that is us being here, inhabiting this space together. It has helped me to see the spark of divinity, whatever that means, in my children. Every day, moment-to-moment.
Around the same time that I started saying this, I made a declaration that I wanted to learn to be more patient toward my children (honestly, I actually resolved just to be less of an asshole to them); and the two things—the words I said out loud every day, the silent intention I carried close to my heart—began to work their surreptitious magic in me.
I feel this in me more often: the joy of this life together, the sweetness of their beatific beings, the wonder of their great angers and the worlds they carry inside themselves.
Sadly, I no longer remember to say this everyday. The tape failed, the words fell off the wall, and my memory slipped, too. I say it about half the time, and no one says it back anymore. But sometimes, after he groans and looks away, I catch August's eye and his lips curl into the slightest smile and I wrinkle up my face at him and he grins at me and gets that deep look in his eye like we're in cahoots about something and I know that he feels it, too.
Do you have any family sayings? Anything funny, poignant, something that makes your children roll their eyes? Something you whisper in their ear when you drop them off at school? I'd love to hear. I'd actually started this post with the intention of sharing this and something else we say, but the words had their way with me and I'll get to the other thing/s eventually.
Note: when I began this blog, my intention was to feature my own photographs, and I took great pride in that. I've come to realize in this reboot that striving for great pictures that I've taken and edited on my own will be the downfall of the blog (this post was written a week ago and I've been waiting that long to take/edit great pics), so I'm acquiescing to just getting by with photos, be they stock (almost exclusively from Unsplash) or my own. Thanks for your understanding.
Another thing that's gone out the window is my vanity, as evidenced by the top picture, and addressed in this post.
UVa girl in Åkersberga
I felt this (well, all of it actually):
"Maybe I'd had a couple glasses of wine, or a Negroni or three, and I was in that sweet spot adoring my (sleeping) children from a distance while thoroughly enjoying my aloneness, and I came across something that spoke to something dormant in me in that moment."
Beautiful post, thanks for the (very timely) reminder. <3
I'm so glad that this spoke to you. It's just so easy to get lost in the logistics and the human management of it all, and helpful to have some kind of anchor to bring you back to a place where you can remember the deep current of love.
Miss you, lady!
When I was little, my dad (I think) started this thing, and I think it might have started when he was going away to a seminar out of town (quite possibly both my parents were going). At least this is my vague recollection of how it started. I think that because he knew he'd be gone for a certain number of days, before leaving he said, "Goodbye, I love you, have a nice day" and "Goodnight, sweet dreams, I love you" for each day that he'd be gone. It became something that my parents said to us daily, and now we say only the goodnight one to our kids each night. I've often thought of your other saying, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is" when I'm in a certain kind of moment, so I really do appreciate these affirmations of sorts. Thank you for sharing.
So if he was going away for 5 days, he'd say each of those 5 times? I love it! It seems so simple, but these basic repetitions are so important—they echo in us and in our kids. And to clarify, it was Kurt Vonnegut Jr who said "If this isn't nice..." though I wish I could take credit. Recently I've been trying to remember to say that, too, which is somehow easier as the weather warms up and we spend evenings in the yard.
Wow this is so beautiful. I too often see my kids roll their eyes at my often overly sentimental comments, but catch them suppress a smile. It’s so important to take time to look around and realize jut how lucky we are to be alive with the people we love. Your post is very well written and so so heartfelt.
We are lucky that our kids are young enough not to be totally embarrassed by us, but I wonder how it will change as they get older. As your kids have gotten older, do think there's anything that has been more or less resonant that you've said to them?
I think Zoë’s line says it all! I can’t remember specific things our family said to one another as the kids were growing up, but I do remember being stopped in my tracks every now and then, completely overwhelmed by how lucky I was to be alive in that moment to love them. Thank you for sharing, they are simple statements but very powerful and important!