the language of tears

November 25, 2004

As they do, the tears came unexpectedly this afternoon. And as they also do, they came with a message–thankfully, today I was still enough to listen for, and hear, that message:

Remember–this is what it is all about. This is what matters. Don’t let busyness make you forget to pay attention to family, to people, and to the love that God has put you here to experience . . .

I sat there today soaking up the presence of family–of a great uncle still frail from his battle with cancer, of cousins I have not seen in 10 years now, of new cousins I had not yet had the chance to meet, and of young men I remember as little boys. And I was suddenly overcome, fighting back tears, as I held the 9 month old as he chewed my obviously tasty sweater and tested out his new climbing muscles. This cousin I had actually met, in fact, accidentally, as a preemie in the NICU.

Before grad school started this fall, I had spent a year training for and then working in the NICU as a “cuddler” in my spare time. One night I was making my first rounds, and peered into the bassinet of one of the newcomers, smiling at his sleeping face. Then I noticed his name tag and realized that he was related to me. Sure enough, he was the newborn of my cousin, who had proudly told me (upon another chance meeting) that he had just found out that he was going to be a daddy. My suspicion was confirmed when, slightly later in the shift, my cousin himself entered the pod for visiting hours. After 3 weeks of the NICU, he went home, and after 3 more weeks hooked up to an Apnea moniter, he began a normal infancy.

Now, at 9 months, he is beginning to crawl and will soon be walking. This afternoon my other little cousin–a 3-year-old livewire whom I had not met before today, was anxious to play, and he repeatedly ordered various adults to put him down and “make him crawl!”

Talking to my cousins about child development matters, I just could not shake my emotions. And, after a little bit of thought, I knew exactly why. I was feeling the ache that comes from experiencing something that this time of life just has not allowed the occasion for lately. My life is a good one, and a blessed one, that I am thankful for. But it is, for practical purposes, a relatively solitary and studious one. When I am around children again, I cannot help but feel the small pangs that come from so many years of my life spent as a teacher, tutor, camp counselor, babysitter, and then nanny. There have been chunks of my life in which my time has been relatively evenly divided between the babies I was nannying and my few close friends, or my boyfriend at the time.

As a result, it is odd to realize that I am now often around either a lot of people at the same time, at work or church, or alone, except for my cat, at home. I just do not take care of children any more, for the most part. It is probably healthy for me to have a few years like that, as I was in some sort of “mothering” role at a rather early age. Maybe that is part of the reason for my uncertainties when originally planning for marriage immediately after graduation from college. At the time, I had spent so much time focused on the relationship that I had never really taken the time to figure out what sort of career I was really interested in, or who I really was. That said, though, I do not really buy into the notion that a woman has to necessarily find herself and live for herself–at least not if that excludes the possibility of caring for others. I actually tend to believe that any “finding oneself” that is necessary can be accomplished just as well in the context of a relationship or while caring for a family as it can when alone. In my case, however, I had emotional insecurities and relational issues that I had not yet dealt with at the time. So, in God’s providence, my heart had to break in order for some real internal work to be done, and for the wounds to heal properly.

But, what I was going to say (“when truth broke in with all her matter of fact about the ice storm . . .”) is that this afternoon’s lesson for me was that I have let the busyness of a checklist of errands to be run, projects to be competed, and papers to be written, make me forget my purpose. When it comes down to it, all is ultimately for the sake of family. Because I do not have an immediate family to care for at the moment, it is a fine time to fill my schedule with work and classes. But, the end goal of this is not just to climb some sort of corporate ladder. All I am trying to do, as well as I can see with the dim vision of mortal sight, is to live in a way that is as prudent and future-oriented as possible. In practical terms, I just know that I don’t do so well with a job that demands all my time. I am very focused on the task at hand, but know that it is best for me to move a bit more slowly that a normal modern schedule allows for, to take the time to pursue passions like music and art, and to not neglect my friendships and family because I have too much work to do. So, I am getting a masters in order to have, ultimately, a bit more freedom and schedule flexibility. And, my specific goal (I think) is to be a children’s librarian. Of course, in the most practical terms, a graduate degree will allow me to be well-prepared for (Lord willing) raising a family.

So, thanks be to God, the giver of tears–tears that speak more loudly than any words possibly could.


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