A Beautiful Daughter: I Went to Sleep Crying Last Night
May 13. 2021
The birds’ collective singing this morning is particularly trilling and lilting and beautiful. Its 547AM and I haven’t been able to truly be here on the blog to write in a few days. I posted things related to my climate work, but I haven’t been able to process and reflect. The writing has become much needed as I try to figure out this wonderful thing called life.
I went to bed crying last night. I was cleaning up my photos and I delete all the litter-picking photos and nature scenes, because I’ve taken then and chosen which ones to post and use on the blog versus Instagram versus facebook. It takes some sort of carbon to keep them, and those images I let go. But I must have accidently pressed a screen function that I didn’t know exist, because suddenly a lifetime of selfies on my daughter and myself popped up. I scrolled through those photo of a younger me and my little girl , and I did what any mother would do. I looked at her face, the tilt of her head and the roundness of her cheeks and the gap-tooth smiles – and I cried. A decade of regrets came pouring down my face. Where had the years gone? Where had I been? Where had that little chubby cheeked grade-schooler gone to?
I cried. And I was tired last night of being Dr. Plastic Picker. I know I feel like when the day closes and night creeps up on me. That is when my doubts come. Who am I to declare I’m going to start this climate-related project or not? Was that panel discussion at the think tank as successful as I thought? Am I taking my whole community down an activist rabbit hole? It’s the antidote to my optimist in the morning, when I declare “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I was reminding my same daughter who is now a teenager, that sometimes when you go up too high- emotionally one crashes. And that was what was likely happeneing last night. I had had a relatively productive day, and I had met a lovely person who had a beautiful soul that I could see. I chatted with a medical student who was picking up trash grabbers to take to their inaugural service event. She mentioned something her mother mentioned to her, and I think that kind of triggered everything. She reminded me a lot of my own daughter. Empathetic. Tall. Beautiful. Feeling. Staring into the world with optimism and an open heart, and as a mother you worry. The jaded mother, her mother and myself, worry about our daughters. Will the world be kind to them?
And I think that the worry made me draw parallels between a new person I met yesterday and connected with, to my own child. I tried to turn in off yesterday. I don’t often take her to volleyball. She’s so into it these days. Her grandfather and father enjoy taking her, as they exercise around the park where her team practices. But yesterday, I had the afternoon off and I took her. It had been a marathon afternoon of lectures as well. I’m remembering that now. So I had very little time to process things. But I took her to volleyball, and I wondered around the park picking up two bags of mostly plastic bottle caps and glancing back on her playing with her team. I listened to her talk about her teenage volleyball issues on the drive home, the frustrations and her day. She had a hard day. There was nothing much I could do about it, other than listen and be present. She said she waved to me from across the field, and did I see her wave to me? I did see her wave to me at points. And I waved to her too, and did she see me wave to her?
And last night I thought she had gone to bed, and I was sleeping on the floor on an extra mattress pad I sometimes use when my middle-age back issues act up. Our 12-pound poodle mutt was laying on my side of the bed, obsessively licking Mr. Plastic Picker’s head. It’s this weird thing she does. But I wanted to be alone anyway, so I set up my sleep area in the same room but on the floor. It’s very comfortable and better for my back. And then the picture thing happened, and I started crying and I did a quick post on facebook. And then she wandered in, and I asked her if I could hug her and I did and we fell asleep. I used to do that when they were little too, when I had long workdays and did not see my children. After I missed the entire day of mommy moments that other mommies get to do. After I had missed Halloween costume parades and all the first moments that other folks take for granted. After I reflected on my career and questioned everyday why I was in the position I was in, when all I wanted to do was be with her and her brother – I would cosleep with them. Because at night I could hold them and not think about it , but it felt right and I reestablished that connection with my children.
And that’s it. I cried last night because I missed the chubby cheeked toddler I saw in the pictures and I sometimes am shocked when I see this tall beautiful teenager doing her nighttime face routine. It’s true what they say. The days are long, but the years are short. We all have regrets and these are mine.