When Do We Change?

I think we change when the pain of remaining overwhelms the fear of going. When we absolutely cannot wait to see what is just over the hill or around the bend, we will move and change. We may discover strengths, find allies (or just new friends), or see a flower we would not have seen if we had not topped that last ridge to peer over into the next valley.

I think we become better, not just different, when, suddenly, after a life-time of looking outward, we discover our emotional DNA, the genetic imprint that determines our height, bone structure, hair or lack of it. We find this EDNA (Emotional DNA) and, then, we find out we can cooperate with the forces within us emotionally to drastically alter our own life and the lives of all we touch. We cannot, by thinking, add an inch to our height or a hair to our heads. We can, however, soothe the pain of living if we learn to cooperate with the wholesome urges that make us real.

We have seven grandchildren now; four girls, three boys. My arms ache for them. I can feel actual skin hunger in my too-thin arms when I have not held one of them for a time. It is worse when they are present, because I want to pat them on the shoulder or hug them tight. The babies cannot get away, so I carry them around until my limbs ache and my breath is short. This is in my EDNA. I need them much more than they need me. So, I will get up early or stay up late, or drive out of my way, or let other things go, if only I can see and perhaps hold one of them for a moment.

Last Friday night, one of the babies stayed with us, so her parents could go out for an evening. She is a fiery little girl, active, about as easy to corral as a tumbleweed in a tornado. A half hour before her bed time she was fed, bathed, put in her jammies. She was not ready to sleep yet. I took her in my lap and soothed her as she fought sleep. She laid her head on my shoulder for something less than a second, then began to twist, change positions, change angles, cry, talk, murmur; all combined with constant motion. There were times I thought her spirit tried to burst out of her little body, perhaps through her combed head of red-golden hair, or violently from her mouth, or stampeding out her toes.

After fifteen minutes, I started to sing to her the songs I used to sing to my children when they were little. She stopped writhing as long as I sang. If I paused, she shifted, and looked at me with owl-eyes in the half-light of the den. She peered at me, without censure or accusation. Once, I stopped long enough to see what she would do. After a moment, the little girl put her hands up to my face and tried to move my lips.

I started the songs again, crying now, old-memories took the shape of tears and ran down my cheeks into time. The baby in my lap, got off my shoulder, snuggled up in my lap and put her golden head into the crook of my arm.  She sighed very deeply, gave another slight twitch and fell asleep. I had been wrong. Her spirit was not trying to get out of her body at all. Her spirit was trying to tell her body to sleep, safe, happy, unblemished sleep with her grandfather, in his arms, in his old green chair.

And, so she slept, then, deep breaths, quiet muscles, alive to the dream world and dead to the rest. She slept in just that position for about forty-five minutes, until her parents came in from their romance to retrieve her.

“How long has she been asleep?’ they wanted to know. I told them.

“Did you try to just lay her down?

Just lay her down? The thought had not occurred to me.

This day, if you can, my anxious, unemployed, underemployed, wage earning, semi-retired, frustrated friend, try to see this from my story. Your spirit, anxious within you, may not be trying to burst through your skin and escape you. Your spirit may be telling you you need sleep, or rest, or exertion, or work, or friends, or family. Instead of repression, acquiesce to the spirit within you. Pick up your phone and call the person for whom your arms ache, or run three miles if you are able, or, for goodness sake, read a book or eat a sloppy. old style meal, the kind we used to put in front of our kids before we discovered it was all killing us.

We are dying, anyway, and nothing much can stop us. We fight a delaying action against death, at best. What would be worse; to die, or to die without once cooperating with the exploding energy within us?

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