I Assume This Is All There Is
This, right here, this moment, I assume that this is all there is. This is as good as it gets. I am in my footie jammies, the ones with the gnomes riding on flamingos. They smell odd, I’m not sure what of. Though I do know that I just poured and entire – and very hot – cup of coffee in the bed with me. Narrowly missing my computer which is good, but meaning that I have to wash all the bedding today, which is approximately my least favorite thing to do. So maybe I won’t. The curtains are still drawn and it is grey out, for which I am grateful. It has been entirely too sunny in Seattle lately, and this is a fact, not something that is up for discussion.
This is as good as it gets. This is all there is.
It’s a theme I’ve been pondering a lot lately, thanks to my daughter and her rather alarming trajectory towards things that seemed worthless to even dream about. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable to think where she might be headed. I know it sounds pessimistic, but I’ve always been a “now” girl.
My youth was not an especially happy one. I learned young to cling to the moments that were perfect, like this one. (And, admittedly, to sometimes hide in them.) I learned to let go quickly of pain and fear. To not pay attention until there was a perfect moment, however small. That moment when you realize that your favorite spot under the tree providing shade all day was available, to read a book instead of go to class. Perfect.
The future is something I was never especially convinced of. It seemed to so often veer off course. Promises so rarely kept, opportunities snatched for the slightest peccadillo. You didn’t put your shoes away, no summer camp for you. So instead, I learned that this moment is as good as it gets. It’s not morose, I promise. It’s rather glorious, this finely honed skill of finding magic in a perfect parking place. But not caring if you have to walk 4 blocks instead. What great things will you see on your walk?
Since the moment my daughter was born, I’ve joked that “they’re going to come take her away.” It was always a joke, I knew she was mine. But I had no idea what I was doing. And I knew that, in a very real sense, I was only borrowing her. She was always her own. Not mine. I was just providing the things she needed to arrive at her own self. I have always known that I have no say in what that is, or how she does. I just keep her safe, give her what she needs and watch as she constructs an identity that I never would have dreamed up on my own.
Since the moment she was born I’ve known that my job is to love her so fiercely that the thought of her leaving me is like willingly consenting to having my heart and soul torn out and tossed adrift.
And it’s happening. I can feel the first cuts. I watch her in her glorious power and each amazing step she takes is a step away from me.
I hope she feels this some day. This divine agony. Not because I want her to suffer like I do (indeed, though it hurts, I am not suffering,) but because it is the most real and inspiring thing. My blood flows faster, my senses heighten. Together, we’ve worked towards this forever. This moment when she leaves me and becomes fully her own woman.
But I really didn’t think it would happen so soon.
Yes, this gets back to lifting. To watching her pick up a barbell and seeing that thing in her that looked, from my safe shores here, like a perfect jibe. It just worked and she flowed and looked natural. I knew that was the thing that was going to take her from me, and deliver her to herself. But it’s so new still, she just started.
When she was offered a college scholarship to lift, I thought, “well, wow, that’s amazing. If this is as good as it gets, this is fucking awesome.” Then she qualified to lift at Youth Nationals, which, as a youth, is as good as it gets, really. And I thought “outstanding, just to be able to lift at this level is incredible. It doesn’t matter what happens, if this is as good as it gets, this is fucking awesome. She’ll always be able to say she qualified.” Then she got silver, and qualified to lift at Junior Nationals. Which is awesome. And I thought “wow, even qualifying at that level is amazing. This, surely, is as good as it gets, and wow, who would have dared dream for something so awesome.”
And then the letter came. From the Olympic Training Center. They want her for a week. It’s just a week. It’s not a job, fame or fortune. It’s just a week. A week with the elite lifters. Like, the ones who are on Team USA, who will go to the Olympics. Who will….. Who are celebrities to her, because she follows them on social media and has been showing me their videos for months. She is one of them now.
This, I think, must be like being nominated for an Academy Award or something. And I get it, now, when people have said “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” Because it fucking well is. All day yesterday, we were both in a daze. Is this really happening? Are they really looking at her, willing to train her? She will, forever more, be able to pull back into that well of feeling and experience and know that she trained at the very highest level. The level that money can’t buy – indeed, we don’t pay for this – but the level that only the best are asked to do.
I assume that she’s not going to the Olympics. I don’t assume that because I’m a pessimist (which I’m not), or even a realist (which I am.) I assume that because to assume otherwise steals from the glory that is this moment. It is a “but” in a perfect moment. And there are no “buts” here. This is amazing and perfect. Just as it is. This moment, when my child, took another huge step away from me and into herself.
But fuck, this one cut deep. Because this one really is away. Far away, and I don’t get to come. It’s not like me, sitting in the audience watching her be awesome, it’s me, letting her go and trusting that she is on her path, in her way, for herself. This is what it looks like when “they” come take her away from me. I now realize that “they” has always been “her.” And she is going to go away.
So yes, I made her bed for her the other day. She’s old enough to do it, she probably should have. We bought her a new bed, and bedding to go with it, while she was out of town. For the sake of timing, I washed it all. I “should” have made her put it all on the bed, but these moments I have of loving her physically and through acts such as this are fleeting. Soon she’ll be away and she’ll have to make her own bed. I won’t get to. So yes, I drive her places when I should have forced her to get her license and drive herself. But those moments when I can serve her, be alone with her, are numbered now.
They’re taking her away from me. All the moments she has worked for, the opportunities she as created for herself, they’re taking her far from me.
I can hear her in the kitchen, as I lie here in my coffee-soaked bed. I am willing to bet she’s not putting her dishes in the dishwasher, hoping that just rinsing and stacking them in the sink is enough to not raise our ire. It is. But it shouldn’t be. But sometimes, I think those little piles are the breadcrumbs that remind me she’s still here. For now. For this perfect moment when we are still connected.
That letter from the Olympic Training Center cut so deep. It flowed with the full force of her potential. She’s going away, and not in a small way.
I am realizing, today, in a rare stage of leaving the moment (this one, in which I am hiding from the world,) that this next year is going to be my least productive. Because it is the last year that I have to live with this young woman that I love with the full force of my being. I want all the moments. I want to hoard them and savor them and etch them on my soul. I will use them to fill up the places that she leaves when she goes, like mortar to defend against structural failure when they very foundation on which I’ve described myself and defined my time is gone.
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what she’ll do. What will happen. But I know that she’s ready. And I will be soon.
But right now, this is all there is. And the sound of her clanging dishes in the kitchen is beautiful enough that I just want to lie here and listen to it. I don’t need to join it, I don’t need to be there with her. It’s all happening without me, and it’s just perfect.
This is as good as it gets. This is all there is. And it’s an honor just to be here.
(Though, I have to admit, I can already feel how awesome it’s going to be when she comes home to visit.)