I thought it had been a sweet Christmas – I had somehow managed to come free of a lifetime of performance pressure around feasts and entertaining, I’d seen the meme “they don’t want more stuff, they just want time with you” online enough times for some of that to have stuck, the apocalyptic weather forecast had not delivered doom in our laps by way of floods, power outages, or any other major carnage that I had half anticipated. So I was calling it a win.
Small, however, has more complicated feelings, including a great sense of let-down that nothing he was gifted is very “braggable.” In the social capital on the school bus stakes, most of his gifts are kind of lame, even though it brings me a great leap of heartswell to see him walking around all day in the navy robe, looking a little bit like a mysterious Jedi. Unfortunately for my child, whose love language is gifts, I am a minimalist who hates shopping and thinks things should be useful and long-lasting, and looks with surprise around my mid-life, having travelled to this country with one duffel bag, at the accumulation and I can’t shake the feeling that we literally have everything. I also have armchair-analysed the state of the world today and feel with righteous conviction that that tendency humans have to look around at what other people have and to crave it NOW, is a big part of the problem, so I’ve personally been trying to cultivate a deep sense of “enoughness”, thinking that if I feel worthy and fulfilled, I’m not going to contribute to the Earth overshoot situation, at least, not exponentially.
But, it’s not helpful to respond to someone’s existential angst with your home baked philosophy. Apparently, it’s more helpful to listen, and be present. (This is according to the Nagoski sisters who wrote the book Burnout that talks about letting emotions simply complete their cycle, and Glennon Doyle’s most shared podcast of 2022 with Dr Becky which shared that the three things we’re meant to do as parents is provide kids with boundaries, so they feel safe, and empathy and validation, so they feel real. She doesn’t mention anything about philosophical frameworks or anti consumption pep-talks, so I was trying to just listen.)
“There’s a word for what you’re feeling,” I offer helpfully. “Peer pressure.”
“I don’t need a language lesson,” replies my Small, sticking out his elbows and insisting on his right to his own sadness.
There is an inspirational quote that instagram’s algorithm delivered up to me earlier this year.
“I’m just going to hold it all lightly.”
I screenshot it, and now it lives in a folder on my desktop called “Inspo 2022” that is chock full of files named 27969750230202894885.jpg and Screen Shot 2022-03-01 at 2.08.37PM — so it would take me about an hour to find it to share with you and to honour the source, or to find that I’ve misremembered and I actually screenshot it LAST YEAR and it’s somewhere else in the cobwebby nether regions of my computer…
But, with apologies to the uncredited author, what I have kept is this invitation… to hold it all lightly… the sweetness and the sadness, the satisfaction and the disappointments, the fact of our enoughness and the fear of not measuring up to what other people think is cool.
Photo by Freysteinn G. Jonsson on Unsplash
When I imagine myself doing this, holding it all lightly, it feels like I’ve grabbed my skirt or sweater and made a little carrying pouch with it, and I have collected my neighbour’s eggs, and each one is a different story and experience and feeling and version of this moment, and all of them are life and nutritients and an orb of a sun and a thin shell, and all I need to do is hold them lightly and move with a quiet grace. No sudden moves. Nothing too erratic. Keep on moving. Make plans for dinner. Notice the arc of the sun and the happy conversation of the birds and the sudden rise of unbidden tears and the wind that makes the trees dance. And let the lightness infuse me all the way through. And when things crack, clean them up, and nod and say, that’s hard, for sure. And, I’m here, and to feel how fortunate it is, however much it aches, that we are.