Simple medicine, the most powerful kind.
A few weeks ago, on a normal afternoon, I was doing a very normal thing, except that as I was walking, something profound happened. I was walking, pushing the stroller with my four month old baby in it, and as I rounded a corner of the manmade track around the playground, I looked down at her and a giant fucking learning moment transpired, and though I knew it was deep, deep wisdom in the moment, it’s taken me weeks to figure it out. To articulate it…properly.
Because how do you explain to people the depth of awe you felt, when what “happened” was so…small? So…simple?
Here is what happened: She fell asleep.
To recap, I was walking, pushing the stroller. She was in it, in the baby seat – as is the only option, being a four month ball of can’t-sit-up-on-her own fat. The weather was lovely. And she fell asleep.
Maybe it was the weather being so lovely that shifted me into really seeing.
Maybe it was the hawks flying overhead, who reminded me that there is medicine everywhere, constantly available for the taking.
Maybe it was the rare quiet, since I’d forgotten my earbuds at home.
Yes, maybe that was it. Maybe it’s that normally, I’m so hell bent on “maximizing” my free time, so scared of the thought of “wasted” time, that I don’t actually reflect anymore. I create, I put out and I strive…but I don’t often just take in. Clearly, I have forgotten that quiet time is actually one of the most productive times there is. So maybe on that evening it was a combination of a magical early fall temperature, the hawks flying overhead, and the sheer fact that I had a half hour of genuine quiet, all colliding into that single second, in which my baby daughter fell asleep, and I gasped outloud in awe.
Because what does it really say, when the world is what it is, when you have to protect yourself from exposure to the daily news, when you can’t bare the realities, when everything feels just one tock away from full anarchy and evil, that your baby looks around from her back in her stroller, takes a deep breath, and with total ease, slips off into a nap.
It says a lot, actually.
It says she trusts me, for starters. That alone takes my breath away. The weight of it. The responsibility. It’s almost too much to consider. And yet, what a privilege, to take care of someone else to the degree that they can rest, without guilt, without fear. Isn’t that the biggest gift one could give? I have a colleague right now who has lived the last few weeks in the hospital, watching over her sick daughter, and I thought of this moment as we spoke about her situation today at work. Who is taking care of her? Who is watching out, standing guard, and letting her rest? Who is giving her that peace?
We need that. Not need. NEED. It’s about our vitality. It’s about our ability to function. We need someone to sometimes be the guard, the barrier, the helm. That is the truth behind “it takes a village.” Sometimes, we just need to rest, and as humans, have someone or someones else, taking care of it all.
This moment also showed me something else. A flicker of eyelashes, and she was out. The truth is, Marleigh wasn’t just being taken care of, she was also caring for herself. She knows how to fall asleep. She knows how to slumber. How have we, how have I, gotten so far away from that skill? Do you know how awe-inspiring it is to truly watch a baby put herself to sleep, when you, as an adult, struggle daily with such a simple, necessary act? It was pure medicine to witness. There is the world, and then there are my needs. And one came resoundingly first for this baby girl. There’s some deep intelligence in that moment that humbled me a little.
It also said that she was comfortable. She looked so comfortable, curled up, under a blanket, dozing off while I did the work of making her so! A few nights later, sick with a bad cold, drained at the thought of my (largely self-created) to-do list, I paused, remembered her in that moment, and asked myself: “What do I need?” I heard a voice. It said, This moment calls for “What do I need,” NOT “What do I need to DO.” What a distinction! What I needed, it turns out, was a blanket. I found it, curled into it, and suddenly, everything was better. It was that simple. It’s often that simple.
Maybe that’s what she showed me, above all, in that moment. Sleep easily and when you need to. Trust others, and be the reason others can trust. Look around, take a deep breath, and ask “What do I need?” not “What do I need to do.” And let it be simple.