Dear other mother,
I cannot fathom the depth of your grief and confusion. Nor can I understand the nuances of your story, what made it a better option to take the substantial risk to leave your home and come to foreign land with your child instead of living in the home you’ve known. I cannot know what you experienced.
I do know that hearing your story breaks my heart open. Part of my brain wants to protect myself by not imagining our positions reversed. By halfway mentally acknowledging your pain without experiencing any myself. But you don’t have that option. This grief is your life. When I try to picture having my two-year-old or four-and-a-half-year-old taken away from me in a place where we are not native language speakers, without being told how to find them again, I know that the sadness I feel in merely imagining fails to meaningfully compare to your reality. All it provides is a crack to let empathy pour through. Empathy without complete understanding seems better than no empathy at all.
I hope you find your child. I hope that the agencies holding you both find a way to work together to make it happen. Since there are many people on the ground working from their hearts to help, I hope some politician has the will to give them the tools to expedite the process. I write to my elected officials every day; so far the answers are platitudes with no action, but I promise to keep telling them that I, their constituent, demand that they be better and hold people accountable to the facts of the situation. Because facts still exist. And the fact is that you do not know where your child is. And that is unacceptable.
I don’t know your story. I don’t know the details of why you came. I can’t understand the depth of your pain. I believe you and your child belong together. I pray for you both. I’ll keep writing to those with whom the buck stops.
I can barely stand to imagine your pain, which is, after all, the literal least I can do.
“There is more to life than the perfunctory, mechanical, aspirational day-to-day vibe. Behind it all is a passion that gets you up in the morning or keeps you up at night. You let the gifts inside of you pour out.”
Today I had the privilege of conversing with Rabbi Micah Greenstein at Temple Israel. I have always admired his ability to look beyond religion to express spirituality, philosophy and ethics. His opinions and beliefs about our city are inspiring. It’s been a rough few days, and he expressed, more elegantly than my circular thoughts, ideas that have been going through my brain about where we go from here.
All this to say, today I had a conversation that gave me pause and hope. It was a gift.
That girl looks so much like my girl.
I recognize her curls and her reaching hand.
I know her pink shoes.
What I thankfully don’t recognize on my own girl’s face is the fear.
Since I’ve first seen the picture, we’ve all learned more about the girl and her mother. We know parts of their story and that they were not separated. But they could have been. And so many were; that’s where I find it tragic. And kids are under foil blankets and playing behind fences and living in tent cities without their moms and dads. And they are kids.
They are kids.
How can that be controversial?
They are kids.
It’s been a year since I posted here. Despite starting a writing group (that has morphed into the lowest obligation book club imaginable), I haven’t done much writing at all. What I have been doing is reading, which has been even more reckless than usual–jumping from sociological studies of how race and class influence southern identity to YA novels that take 18 hours to finish to fiction by my personal literary heroes (Lauren Groff, I’m looking at you).
There are so many things that are about to happen. Which, as those of you with chronic anxiety know, is one of the worst states of being. That which is about to occur is so much scarier than that which is occurring. All these projects and deadlines and life events converge in September and October. I can do so little about them now, except prepare by making lists and DIYing a pickle barrel (for work–seriously). What I can do is read and sink into vast oceans of words that take the other thoughts away.
I go through period where I feel an intense need to write. A thought burrow into my head when I’m taking a shower or chopping vegetables that I cannot let go without releasing it onto a page. It’s been a long time since I felt that need to connect my thoughts to paper. I’m still not there, but maybe it’s closer than I think.
The parameters of my life are flexible and kind. Marriage, children, family, work, projects, books. Life feels less like a balancing act and more like a revolving platform. Some days feature more kids and work, other mornings, like today, feature books and projects.
One thing I struggle with is guilt. When doing one thing, I worry that I should be doing another. When sitting alone on my day off on a porch with a cup of coffee and a book, I think lingering thoughts that I should be at home with my children playing silly games and monitoring toy sharing. I try to remember to be glad to be here. With my book and my coffee and knowing that silly games will be there this afternoon. Like I said, the parameters are kind.
I come across these days from time to time. Days when I cannot sit still or see one more niggling task to its end. I find them suddenly, often on cloudless days when the trees are leafing, and find that all I can do is enjoy the moments when I can lose my focus. When I can let incessant driving towards a goal cease. When I can watch leaves and birds and clear skies and mercifully accept that what needs to get done will. And that which does not will pass away. When I come across these days, I also come across perspective. Rather than trying to fight through, knuckle under, brace against the distractions, I let them wash over me and pull me along their current. Towards a place I did not realize I needed to go.
Three-year-olds are awesome and terrible. Mine seems to live in a constant state of contradiction. He loves/hates Catty, mommy, outside, daddy, glass straws, peanuts, our dog. The quickness of emotional turmoil in my house is astounding. He makes me want to lock him in his bedroom by yelling that he “wants daddy not you” on repeat and then follows it up by wanting “to be hold” by me and giving my knee kisses and telling me he loves his mommy an eye blink later. I love having a three-year-old; I dislike three-year-old tendencies. Apparently, the contradictions are contagious.
I have a bug and a chickadee for valentines this year. My bug has a sweet heart and usually a sunny disposition. My chickadee is happy and playful. Both are curious. Both give fantastic kisses. Both fill my heart.
“Nasty woman” never sat well with me. It’s not the origination or appropriation of the phrase; it’s the fact that I don’t identify as nasty. I’m a lot of things, but nasty, even in an ironic sense, does not work for me.
What does work for me is persisting. I have persisted my entire life. In fact, I’ve defined myself by persistence. As a teenager, I was an endurance athlete. I ran the 3 mile cross-country race and the 3200 and 4×800 relay in track. I played mental games with myself to keep going to the next tree, the next curve, the next baton hand off. I played the long game to work my way into a career that I find worthwhile and fulfilling. I read difficult books, start long-term projects, and accept that the intangible goals I have for myself will take time and work to accomplish. I am stubborn. I am persistent.
I am a feminist because I believe that men and women are equal and deserve equal treatment under the law and by society. There are movements within feminism; it is a complex philosophy with champions and critics within and outside. Feminist philosophy has political, social and creative outlets. There are people who love to talk in depth about what it is and isn’t. I prefer to spend my mental energies elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I am a feminist who persists. I always have been.