January 29, 2016

Headspace


Smith asks a lot of questions that strike me as dark for a preschooler; what happens to our bodies when we die? why do we have to get old? mama, are you going to be ugly when you're old? why don't people like ugly things? when will my body stop getting bigger and stronger and start getting smaller and weaker? am I going to get old and die one day? 

The responses that bring him comfort are the ones that are the least spiritual and the most literal. The idea that a body breaks down and nourishes the earth so that it can provide new life is a winner. Explanations of spirit versus body, or God, or as one aunt tried to explain, 'up in the clouds with the angels'... all that seems to confuse, frustrate, and even frighten him. 

His brain is so scientific, so focused on the physical, and so very different from my own. I often struggle to find the 'right' way to have these discussions, but somehow we muddle through, and I think (hope) he is getting what he needs. 

Our minds stir over things differently, but what we share is a hefty helping of headspace. When I was in Kindergarten, and only a few months older than Smith, I remember peeling off the thin membrane from a segment of grapefruit, and studying all of the juice-filled crystals inside. Each one was slightly different in shape and size, and they all nested together like a flawlessly organic jig-saw puzzle. I hadn't been raised with a lot of religion, but I knew in that moment that there was something, that the degree of design in this seemingly insignificant piece of life was greater than the force of nature. Over the years I have questioned that conclusion again and again, but I do know that I was certain at the age of five.

By contrast, James doesn't remember five. He remembers almost nothing from his entire childhood, safe for a new bike or a ski trip; a thing or an event here and there in the span of a decade and a half, but zero 'thoughts' have been archived. He rolls his eyes over most of my self inflicted mental crises, and it's not because he is a simple or unintelligent man. He is driven and loves problem solving and will do no end of brain gymnastics to reach a goal. But questionably productive soul searching, truth seeking, anxiety dwelling, deep reflecting... he simply doesn't have those settings. 'You think too much', is a phrase he throws at me often. And I probably do. My son probably also thinks too much, or maybe his father thinks too little ;)

If given the choice, I'm not certain that I would pass down to my children 'heavy thinking' as a trait. So many sleepless nights and worries and fears could be lifted if my head didn't hug them so tightly. But this is who we are, it's why I am writing these words and why my son often runs the other way when someone unfamiliar offers a simple, 'hello'. We are lost in our heads. It's inherently lonely, but there is comfort in being here together.

12 comments:

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  2. I'm also guilty of this - overthinking, fear, and worry lead to my waking in the middle of the night, too. I try to read a book or watch an episode of Downton Abbey to take my mind off of things.

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    1. Hurray for Downtin Abby! Although I think it sometimes continues to my insomnia ;)

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    2. Funnily enough, the dialogue, British accents, and not so-seriousness of it, helps to lull me to sleep. Counter with an episode of The Sopranos and that would add to my insomnia!

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    3. I started late and did a giant marathon of DTA a few months ago... I wish the accents made me groggy, instead I got seduced by the soap opera! But I'm easily seduced ;) And yes, sopranos would have me pushing through until daylight!

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  3. I love this post so much, Lilly! Such thoughtful stuff. I have also experienced all of the strange death questions from my oldest, and I think he was about the same age when it started -- completely normal (albeit disturbing at times), age appropriate questions. I think he is also comforted by the scientific explanations, as am I. And also the same dynamic with Andrew -- he remembers nothing from his childhood whereas I feel like it was yesterday!

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    1. Thanks Lauren, and I'm always comforted to hear that other children are fascinated with death (because I certainly never was!), but I do recognize it as more on an interest in nature and a process than sinister. And how can people black out their entire childhoods?! I am finally starting to forget a few details (all that sleep deprivation and motherhood stuff), but I still remember way too much :)

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  4. The heavy thinking... I am very sympathetic to it. I think reflection is so central to my idea of a good life. There are things that happen, our contact with the world, but the ability to think, understand, even worry, to recognize something as awesome or great or awful or even see ourselves as an observer is just what makes me happy to be human.

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  5. P.S. How lucky for your son that he has a mom who respects his head space!

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    1. Thanks so much! And what a great way to frame it... that this deep thinking is an aspect of being human to be celebrated. It feels much lighter, and less burdensome, when you put it that way. XOX

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  6. What a thoughtful post. I am like you, and remember way too many things, lots of them insignificant. It has become something of a joke in my family - like, of course G would remember that. Part of it i'm sure is that writing hones my memory and observation skills, and once I have written something down it sort of preserves the memory its referring to as well as things/feelings/happenings surrounding the moment when I wrote it.

    And as a matter of fact my goal for 2016 is to get out of my head a bit more, and stop over analysing so many things and just accept there are many things I can't change.. here's to letting it be! x

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  7. This touched me deeply-- I think I have a heavy thinker on my hands with Sofia. Goodness, if she is anything like her old mom, that girl is probably so lost in her thoughts. At four and a half it's been difficult to truly pin down whats giving her anxiety, but every once and a while we are able to have these brilliant discussions about BIG life things and it just clicks and feels so right. Her face lights up. It's so amazing to see them grow, not only physically, but emotionally and intellectually. Loving this so.

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