I’m Like a Bird
October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
I am sick (again) with no voice. But I am working on the whining thing, so today I’m not going to complain about being sick. Instead, I am going to tell you about something that happened a few weeks ago. I had just picked up my daughter from her preschool and we were walking home. And she was running ahead of me, flapping her arms and pretending to be a bird, a crow to be exact.
“Mommy, be a crow with me! Caw caw!”
I eek out a few meager caws, still just walking, still lagging behind her, still mostly in my own world, not yet thoroughly transitioned from my morning of solitude to my afternoon of being with my kid.
“No, flap your arms and do it!”
I look at my 4 year-old and can see that, to her, this is a totally reasonable request. To her, picking a dandelion for someone is a thoughtful gesture. To her, getting a sticker is exciting, even if it’s at the grocery store and it’s the same sticker they always give her, some ugly and sad-looking Christmas bear. To her, we are rich because we have a big jar of money (pennies and nickels) on the shelf. There is no reconciling our perspectives. No way to explain.
“Not right now, honey. I’m not feeling well.”
Always this. “I’m not feeling well.” I’ve come to rely on it as my old standby, my excuse for why I can’t participate, the reason I need to lie down for a while. “I’m not feeling well.” Go ahead. Try to refute it. You can’t. No one can. Ah, the beauty of not feeling well.
Now I am often, in fact, not feeling well. It’s not that it’s untrue. I do have some ailments that I struggle with. I do need to rest and recuperate sometimes. But– it bothers me that this should be part of my daughter’s “normal”. That Mommy isn’t feeling well. Gotta catch Mommy in one of her rare moments of feeling well, that’s when she’s really fun! The rest of the time… Mommy kind of sucks.
I was tired that day, sure. I was a little down. But were my legs working? Could I breathe okay? Would I most likely make it out of the experience alive, and not at all worse for the wear?
My daughter didn’t push. Already accustomed to me not bending on the not-feeling-well thing, I guess she gave up. She kept on caw-ing and flapping all by herself up ahead of me on the sidewalk. I surveyed the scene. I was seriously considering this thing now. Could I caw a little louder? Could I flap my arms? Could I run alongside my daughter down this not-entirely-deserted city block? Okay, there was a massive construction project happening across the street. Cars passing. Some dog-walkers way up in the distance. What would people think if they saw me? They might think I was a crazy hippie free-spirit type who didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about her. That could either inspire or annoy. The other alternative was that they could think that I was TRYING to be perceived as such, but was actually NOT so carefree; maybe they would detect self-consciousness in my tentative gait or in the height of my arm-flaps. They might pity me for that, for being so desperate for attention and yet so transparently insecure. I reasoned that those were the two main possibilities. I guess a third could be just, “Oh, PORTLAND…”
But none of the possibilities were really that bad. None were really incriminating. A person might decide that I’m not their taste. That already happens all the time anyway.
I don’t know. I had a FUCK IT moment.
“Caw! Caw!” and it was me this time, and I was flapping my arms and doing some kind of leaping/galloping thing that I’m sure looked ridiculous but FELT LIKE FLYING. I mean, maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve really jumped up into the air, but I was really leaving the ground for what seemed like a pretty long time before touching it again, and when I did touch it again it was just to spring up again into the air! I felt so light. I know my arms are just arms, but I really felt like flapping them was helping me get higher. It was such an unbelievable feeling. Me and my girl, side by side, just being crows.
We passed people. I tried to stay focused on my leaping. I had a really nice rhythm going. I wondered if people were marveling at how much air I was catching. Because I sure was. And I am someone who is typically very hesitant to leave the ground. I don’t even like to lean back in chairs. I have more than once completely killed the mood on a guy who was just trying to be cute and lift me off the ground. PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY I AM BEING TOTALLY SERIOUS RIGHT NOW thank you sorry I have a thing about that sorry. But here I was. Same me, different station. Different everything.
For all my tedious analysis, the whole thing lasted like two blocks. We ended up at home, which was, after all, our destination, and it was just like any other day. It didn’t seem to make that much of a difference to my daughter that I had done what I did. She was happy, but she didn’t throw her arms around me and say that I was the best mom ever or anything. And as fun as it was, I’m not going to do it every time. It’s not going to become, like, my thing. But there is something that I can’t stop thinking about– the way it felt to leap like that, and for a moment experience the tiniest bit of flying. It sounds so silly, but it was just so different for me, so fresh and new, and at my age I guess I do not expect to feel fresh and new things anymore. Another thing that I noticed is that it’s getting easier and easier to let go of caring what other people think, especially when the danger is just that they could find me “different”.
Today I am sick so I am actually, legitimately “not feeling well”. But I’m going to try not to be a total waste of human flesh about it. I am not going to vacate the premises. I am not going to opt out of the day. There is always something I can do. Even if it’s just sitting with my daughter and dosing off while she watches a movie. I’m going to be here.