When life sits still, my head fills with racing thoughts. I try to make this a rare occurrence. It usually happens when I have completely exhausted myself. I can’t tolerate stopping or sitting still for any great length of time though. I am trying to create balance, but sometimes it seems more comfortable, if not easier, to run through, past, and slightly ahead of my life, all the while thinking that I am preventing it from catching up. Many of us have moments that need reflection; although there is a fine line between reflection and ruminating.
Ruminating 1. Think deeply about something. Example: we sat ruminating on the nature of existence.
2. (Of a ruminant) Chew the cud.
Chewing the cud is an endless motion. We are all like cows, finding ourselves looking for the potentially greener grass across the field. Still, chewing on nothing, not at all satisfied, yet comfortable in a predictable existence. As I write this, I sense the Déjà vu that I have been here so many times.
When I do start ruminating on my life, certain primal fears emerge. I am single mother, but I feel my situation has different variables than most. It really is just my son and me. Our daily routine is a constant reminder: the homework, the school projects, sickness, everyday fears, birthday parties, childcare, transportation, holidays, and each of our emotional needs. It is a constant struggle to keep up his basic comfort, his shelter, his possessions, and even to take care of his beloved cats. What would become of these things if I were not around? Like most parents, I worry what will happen to my child. I worry about other things too: his genetic traits and even the uncertainty of our very existences. I pray that nothing happens to me until he is over a certain age. I am constantly aware of the life we had, especially when we were homeless. I also remember the life that I came from before he was alive, and I know how quickly it all can change. I am constantly in self-protection mode, which can make me act and react on fears, but at the same time I also savor each moment that I have. I think that there are not enough of those moments.
Elijah and I are close; but the word close fails to get at how we are to each other. We are sharp and quick to know each other’s thoughts. We share a sense of humor and wit. In his ten years, we have done and seen unbelievable things. In his early years of school, Elijah suffered intense anxiety mostly caused by the circumstances of our life back then. In those days and even today I push him to do things I know he will enjoy. He learns, he grows, and some of the weight on my shoulders lessens. He continues to thrive, and has overcome so much. I try to keep my resentment of other normal families in check. I think of our quiet Christmases or when it is just the two of us at a school function. I embrace our shared one bedroom apartment, and resist the feeling of guilt about not giving my child more. I have rejected things that have been offered or given to my son or me with strings attached. Then I wonder if I am I doing the right thing. I struggle, but I am able to provide. I give Elijah tools to progress with his gifts. He takes music and drawing lessons. He sits and waits patiently at the restaurant until the late hours of the night. When I see him experience the same anxieties and same issues of self-worth that I have, I panic. I stop. I yell. I plead with him to tell his mind not to go there, and not to allow that fear or panic to overrun him. I explain to him that ultimately he has control over his thoughts. He can change those thoughts; he can train himself to live differently, to see differently and to be affected differently.
I will not attempt to tell Elijah’s story here. It gives me peace of mind to know that he will tell it on his own in the future. It will be articulate, compelling and passionate. He is a boy with an unbreakable sense of self. He already has a moral conduct that well surpasses my own, and most people I know. He is ethical and empathetic to other people and other creatures. He is devout in his ten-year old beliefs. He instills such forgiveness to those around him. I vigilantly work to keep my child far away from the slippery slope I found myself on many years ago. I can be harsh with my demands. I want him to see now what he can get from life, and what he can control and what he cannot.
As I chew the cud down, I have slowly moved towards the greener grass. I am still on the same hill though, and have made the trek up so many times before. This time I am with a child in tow, grasping at me like a baby animal clinging to its mother. Oddly, the extra weight serves to make me stronger. Do I do the best I can as a parent, as a person? Am I living under my own self imposed motto of everyone has something to give? Or do I demand of myself more to give? I am not sure of these things.
I know where I came from and what I lived through before my life with Elijah. I know of the hardships that I have shared with Elijah. This leads me to another place of reflection, my story of living in my car with my almost four year-old son. It is a story of the hardest kind of parenting, a story of strength and continual perseverance. It is a story for another day...