The toddler is dipping her toes in the water.
Across the lake, yards that may as well be miles away from her, ducklings are marching a drunken parade that is the stuff tiny Fable dreams are made of, and she wants to hold one. She knows that between them are the depths and the shadows and the cold of the water and her inability to swim, but she is a single-minded spirit with rebellion in her soul, and today her soul cries “Ducky.”
The water is deep, but she doesn’t see the water. She only sees what she is missing. She only sees what she lacks.
There is a rebel of a girl who lives deep within me who only sees the lack. She rages about the missing thing, aches to give it a name and a face and a value. She is fear and fire, and she plants her toes loosely on the edges of disaster and insists that fulfillment is somewhere waiting in the burn and the glow. She believes that contentment is a thing captured and granted and anchors her will in the pull of the illusive more.
I used to hate her. I used to hide her and shame her and scream blame at her fickle fearful grasping and her tantrums and her noise. But I’m learning to see her for what she is, what she isn’t, what she doesn’t know. She believes that contentment is a thing captured, but I know that contentment is a victory won. Contentment is the war wound healed from the stubborn fight of gratitude. It is the armor chained from carefully curated observations of grace – a head on a shoulder, a glimpse of salvation, the chirp of a cricket, the clothes on the line. It is a thing that breaks and rebuilds. It is a thing that is broken and rebuilt.
Contentment is not the capture and keeping of beautiful things. Contentment is watching beauty from the shore with eyes full also of the beauty beneath our feet and in our hearts and in our hands and accepting that nothing will ever be complete here, but aren’t we all worth it, and aren’t we all tragic and precious grasping love with white knuckles, yearning to know each other, following each other home.
We are each other’s, the frightened girl inside and the toddler on the waters edge and the mother-me who is learning where to build the fences and where to tear them down.
Today, motherhood is taking the girl with the rebellion in her soul in my arms and carrying her away from the edges of rivers and fires and the siren song of want. Compassion is hearing her protests and honoring the plain and lovely sadness of her loss. Faith is a patient hand in her hair as long as the tears fall and the presence of spirit to place something beautiful into her empty, grasping hands (the rain on the pavement, the truth of a promise, the sound of you on my skin) and hope is the whisper “Hold tightly, tiny beautiful girl.”
Hold tightly, hold tightly, and never let go.