She Fell Down

Today, we were playing, and she fell down.

It was a carpeted surface, but the carpet is pretty firm, and she fell with full force, and hit her head. Hard. She couldn’t even check with me to see if she should cry, the way that babies do — you’re their bellwether — she just cried. Wailed. I held her to my chest and she cried and sucked her thumb and I didn’t pretend it hadn’t happened, I didn’t pretend it didn’t hurt, because it did hurt. She hurt. I just held her, and then after a minute or so the crying and choking slowed and I tentatively showed her her stuffed elephant, just gently, not trying to force a better mood, and she gradually turned to it, opened to it, and soon she was squealing once again with delight.

My heart felt like someone pulled a fire alarm.

This is but a snapshot of the emotional roller coaster I ride each day. I am learning to coast more gently — journaling consistently helps, gives me a release valve, as does making sure there are plenty of other creative outlets in my life, from improv to blogging (here and, more often recently, here) to mounting a new show. I contain more emotion than I can hold these days; I need plenty of places to fling open the floodgates and let it roar.

(I’m seeing a played called Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler tomorrow — it’s meant to portray the lives of girls, not women, but all women are still girls inside, aren’t we? We’re women, too, but we’re also the girls we once were. I recently commented to my friend Kate that I feel like in some ways I stopped growing at age 18 — like I’m frozen in time there, in a deep place inside me… like my emotions and everything about me springs from where I was at that age. Maybe we all have a pivotal age that always stays with us like that…)

In one of the Batman movies, Alfred says to Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.” (Jordan quotes this all the time, using his best Michael Caine accent.) Right after Alison was born, it struck me that the best gift I could ever give her is resilience. Life is glorious and life is shitty — it’s both things — and happiness comes from being resilient… not just getting through the shitty stuff, but emerging from it with the ability, still, to savor all that is glorious. To have hope in your heart. To avoid being jaded. To have faith that you can pick yourself up and there’s more in it for you than another fall.

I wish this faith for my daughter, and I wish for her resilience and strength and so much laughter, the joyous soundtrack that says to the world, “Yes, I witness your glory – I feel it in my soul.”

And so, after she fell this morning, she picked herself up, and her laughter filled the room, and they could hear it all the way over the Brooklyn Bridge, I bet.

Photo available under a Creative Commons license from the Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon

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3 thoughts on “She Fell Down

  1. This post resonated with me for a couple of reasons. Last night I had the rare chance to hold a baby, my friend's little boy who's about your daughter's age. I had a few drinks in me so I kept having little fears that he was going to fall out of my lap and land on the floor with a sickening thud, just like a small puppy had done to me once. He was fine and so was I, but I wondered all evening how parents live with that dread all the time, worrying about their infant. Your essay hit home. And then your remark about being mentally stuck at age 18 hit home, too. I still feel like I'm about age 22 at all times and feel like somehow I'm in a dream where I'm an adult. I'm going to be 34 in a few days, and I feel kind of lost in that weird world of thirtysomethings who are married, single, divorced, and with children; like I somehow got plopped in this age grouping. I swear I'm not a Judd Apatow character.

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  2. My good friend, Auntie, told me when she was 70 and I was 30: "I tell you, you always feel inside as if you are 10. And you look in the mirror and see an old hag, and you wonder, 'Where did she come from? That couldn't be me.' And you still feel inside exactly the way you did when you were 10."For me, she was right!

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  3. Alice! I wrote you a whole long response and it didn't post. Stupid blog 😉 Anyway – short story is, I'm very glad this resonated for you so much; thanks for telling me… and yes, parenthood is anxiety-filled, and then the double whammy is that the last thing you want to project for your child is anxiety, so… there are lots of Zen lessons to be learned 😉 Tree: I remember that story. 🙂

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