Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It seems selfish to talk about such a mundane breaking apart in a world where real wreckage lies scattered everywhere. Instead, I try to carry the sadness around quietly, so as not to take up too much air with it, to leave space for the far more significant sadnesses of others. How do we appropriately mourn the passage of time when it’s passing beautifully, safely, but not for everyone? And how do we honor milestones that happen while we aren’t looking? The first toddling steps, taken at home with the sitter while we’re at work, or the first baby tooth, lost at preschool. The last time we saw someone, not knowing it was the last. All I know to do is acknowledge the fortune of having milestones to celebrate at all. I can celebrate people whose accomplishments mark time in my own life. I can accept that firsts and lasts are both glorious and breathtakingly sad, especially when they sneak up on us. I can watch and listen for losses I can do something about, and then I can stand by someone’s side, make a phone call, give my time, cast a vote—anything I can do, as often as possible—to try to make sure fewer parents suffer the unthinkable, that more people will bear only the most ordinary losses. And I can try to contain my emotions when they hit me like a wave in public, the way they did that late-summer afternoon while shopping for peaches. If you happen to catch me moping while gazing upon my firstborn’s favorite food, know that I’m pulling myself together. Really, I am. I’ve just slipped for a second into my own tiny, self-indulgent grief. And if you, too, are thinking, I thought I had more time, for any reason—a loss large or small or so eclipsed by refracted rays of joy that you’re ashamed to call it a loss at all—come stand quietly by the fruit with me. We don’t even have to talk, unless… well, would you mind telling me to turn my oven off? It’s so easy to miss the moment when things begin to burn.

— Mary Laura PhilpottBomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)


Notes:

We create worlds

We create worlds. As soon as you decide to project your misery onto someone else, you start building a grudge world. Every time you visit it, you lay another brick. I think some people build grudges up in such detail that their grudge worlds become too big and too real. They stop living in the actual world and begin living full-time in a universe built by resentment and anger. The grudge turns into something dark and obsessive. And when a person confuses a grudge with a real problem, they may start making real-world decisions using grudge-world logic. They think they really hate people they don’t even know. I don’t want to do that. I play around sometimes in these made-up worlds, in which I cast myself as a hero and a snippy person at a party as a villain. The conflict I imagine between us stands in for how mad I am about so many things I can’t do anything about. But I think I would prefer to live here, in reality.

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