It was around this time 12 years ago that I found myself powerless against the hard gust of change.
The first couple of weeks of my baby boy’s life, my first go at parenting, had been a soft landing from a difficult delivery. Grandmas and Grandpas, aunties, and friends arrived in a constant stream every day to hold my chunky baby boy, rock him to sleep, and coddle him while I ate. I was rested, well fed, engaged, and euphoric. This newborn thing wasn’t so bad.
Then the wind changed.
The parade of extra arms died down. I had this fragile person in my presumedly capable arms. There was so much beyond the self-help books and the solicited and unsolicited advice that I didn’t know would happen: showers in the blink of an eye, eating my meals with one hand or just scarfing them down, and crying—so much crying from him and me. I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to move forward with this new life—both mine and the one nature had entrusted to me. I remember thinking then that the rest of my life seemed so vast. Would I ever exit this phase of chaos? If I could just make it to six months maybe he’d stop crying? If I could just make it to eight months maybe I could eat with two hands again? If I could just…an endless tunnel of desperation to fit this new life into what once was.
The winds had changed. I had the choice to fight the wind face first or let it carry me at my back.
In the case of my baby, I instigated the change. I might not have known just how strong the pressure would be, but I provoked it. In other cases, the weather vane gauging the direction of our lives turns beyond our control. It’s in these circumstances that we resist the pull. We didn’t ask for it and to follow might be a surrender. Should we let go, we admit that we lost.
I admire the wind followers. Ruth Fertel, the famed name behind Ruth’s Chris Steak House, found herself stranded with two young boys and mortgaged her home to buy then Chris’s Steak House. She didn’t just follow the wind, she showed it just how boss she was. Kris Carr turned her cancer diagnosis into her life’s purpose, launching a career in nutrition and lifestyle breakthroughs. Elie Wiesel’s trauma from the Holocaust became the underscore of some of the most compelling writing of the 20th century. And, Joan Rivers turned her pain into comedy. All of them victorious through change.
But what about you and me? When a new direction is forced upon us, how do we make it our normal? Normalizing is equivalent to accepting. Battling the wind is our last stand. Because if we accept the change sprung upon us, we make it justifiable. If we justify it, then maybe the fight really is over and we have to move on.
Monday, as a trumpet played Taps in the Biloxi National Cemetery, Bill Argus, Jr., AIA, the magnificent architect, sailor, son, brother, friend, clown, husband, Pop and Pop Pops, was laid to rest. As the United States flag was presented to my mother, a gust of wind blew in from the west. The handkerchief covering Pop’s ashes flapped in the breeze and I felt a sense of finality. It had all come to a close: the fight, the push, the begging for mercy. The challenge of keeping him here came to an abrupt end. My days that were once centered around his survival were through. Christians believe you win if you win and you win if you lose because either way there is the promise of eternal life. Only, I’m still here and I didn’t want to lose Pop. I didn’t want the wind to change.
How do I approach the mammoth task of living without Pop? How can any of us adjust to a change sprung upon us when its sting is so painfully sharp?
When the winds were favorable, Pop took to the sea. Yet, he was a skilled heavy weather sailor and wonder seeker. When the winds changed, he adjusted the sails. He caught the trade winds and ventured on. That was the thrill—to become one with the wind, tacking the bow and sailing until sunset.
I know enough to know that the wind speaks to us. It tells us when and where to move. It’s not always a move from. It’s often just a move forward, onward to the next exploration. The wind stays with us. I like to think Pop is part of the wind, whispering to follow, to trust that safe waters are on the other side. I long for the day I can spread my arms, give in, and feel the thrust of the breeze against my back. Until then, until I’m ready to adjust the boom to that new life, all I can do is coast and wait for the wonder imparted to me from Pop to become too great. Then, I’ll ready the sail.
I made it through the first phase of motherhood a little weathered and weary, but I pulled through. The irony is that newborn is now my favorite stage of babyhood. I discovered this when I stopped fighting the wind and saw what was passing me by.
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.