In some ways, this has been a year of profuse connection. In other ways, I’ve never felt more alone. My writing connected me to people both close to home and far away as well as to hundreds of thousands out in the world. The whirlwind of publishing, commenting, connecting, the pinging back and forth of heartfelt sentiments and “me too!” was incredibly rewarding. Connecting in that way was like being inside a big, warm hug – but it was mostly online.
The alone part comes after the rush of attention. I realize that I’ve lost track of the real life connections with my friends, kids, husband, parents, sister. It’s disorienting, being around people you love but feeling disconnected. Maybe I’m overwhelmed by the volume of virtual connection and don’t know how to expand so that I can hold onto my real life connections, too.
Right now, I’m most at a loss with my girls. They are like three fish in the ocean and, in the wake of the tidal wave of online connection, I’m standing on shore, three poles stuck in the wet sand, lines cast. I am waiting for a tug, a bend of the line to tell me when it’s time to reel them in, grab the net.
Lilah, the three-year-old, is the easiest to catch mostly because she swims my way the most. She offers me her outstretched hand, her little “o” of a mouth, her valiant hugs. Sometimes I wish she’d pull her line out a little farther, give me time enough to sit, turn my face up to the sun. But she prefers to stay close, circling around my knees, darting in and out. With her I am never alone. It’s exhausting and numbing, humbling and joyous. I know these days will not last forever.
At almost 10, Ruby comes and goes at a furious pace. She runs her line out into the middle of the deep blue sea, then snaps back, full of tall, watery tales. She hurls her shiny, wet body at me then flips off my chest, splashing back into the water, taking my breath away. I marvel at her determination and depth, her need to be caught then released again and again. She is so full of love, complex in her thinking, analytical and vulnerable. And yet, something of a mystery to me.
Ella, the tween queen, stays the furthest out these days, her line unspooled for miles, barely moving. She’s exploring the ocean’s silky bottom, swimming deep, seeing how long she can hold her breath. I want to know what it’s like out there for her, but I know she needs to learn how to swim alone. In the short moments we tread water side by side, will I ask the right questions, the ones that let me know her before she swims away for good?
I spend so much time with my kids, yet I often feel like I haven’t spent time with any one of them. At the end of the day, after homework and dinner, showers and baths, tooth brushing and face washing, texting and Instagram checks, after the lights go out and we’ve said our goodnights, I feel a twinge of regret: I didn’t ask Ella how school was today; I didn’t really listen to Ruby tell me about her field trip; I let the little one watch too much Curious George. I go to bed feeling a little uneasy, wondering how to connect more fully with my girls. Can I be present with all three at the same time? Should I even try?
I wonder what they’ll remember about me when they grow up. Will it be that I was always scurrying around, doing something else when they needed my attention? Will they remember me always writing? Will they think of me in purely practical terms as the woman who made their lunches, drove the carpool and kept them clothed? Will they remember the bedtime stories and songs on request, the kitchen dance parties, the advice I gave her about her crush, the way I held her while she cried and cried?
Maybe the real question to ask is what do I want them – need them – to remember about me? This is, I think, the real reason I write: to connect with the ones I love first and then with the rest of the fish in big, wide sea. I want them to know my story.
This post is part of the Reverb 14 December daily writing challenge, a series of reflective writing prompts designed to help let go of 2014 and move into 2015 with intention.Today’s prompt is: How have you created and/or sustained connections in your life this year?