Throughout her life, GaBrilla Ballard has often vacillated between the extremes of grasping and pushing away. In a seemingly mundane moment, she finds the beauty of the center.
As I ascended the stairs to my children’s bedroom, carrying tea on a chopping board I use as a tray, I overheard my 10-year-old son reading a story to his four-year-old sister. With the mezzo-soprano of pre-pubescence, his voice held the enthusiasm and expression of a seasoned reader of comic books and poetry. There in that moment, my son’s voice and his sister’s soft giggles touched something inside me that I had been running from all day, all week, and maybe even my whole life. In that moment, I didn’t run. I paused. I sat and I listened.
Earlier that day, I had read an update on Thich Nhat Hanh’s continued recovery after his brain hemorrhage. The update recalled one of his calligraphy pieces that reads, “This is it.” In that moment on the stairs, I was immediately reminded, humbled, and even slightly disappointed by the truth of that statement.
Can I see that this is enough, and that I am enough?
I don’t always enjoy my life. I spend a great portion of it grasping for the next thing I feel I must have in order to assure my happiness. I push away that which I think I abhor — the latest injustice blasting from the TV screen, the Facebook post I don’t like, and the person who wrote it. There’s always a wanting and needing more. I constantly ask myself, “Am I good enough yet?” After years of vacillating between extremes, I find myself aching for the center.
Being a single parent constantly offers me the opportunity to be present. Like some sort of cosmic joke, my children have a special superpower-like ability to regularly bring me to the edge of myself. Time and time again, they slam me face-to-face with my own past — my awkward, wide-eyed, wondrous and sometimes rejected self. The moment I fear that the “more” I seek will never come, they find a way to bring me back to the present moment.
But what if this is the “more?” What if, as Thich Nhat Hanh simply yet profoundly states, “This is it?” What if this life were to never change, offering only a subtle variation at best? I wonder if I can I love just “this,” or at least learn to show up for the inevitable pains that life delivers. Can I learn to honor the sensitive self I’ve waged war upon? Can the song I hear arising from my children’s love for each other be enough for me to feel like I’m a good mother? Can I see that this is enough, and that I am enough? My deepest desire is to say “yes.”
When I remember the blunt and miraculous truth that “this is it,” I am floored by the fragility of the moment. Every wound I carry about my lovability and worth is unearthed when I feel my daughter’s hand cradled in my own, knowing that her hand will never be that small or willing again. When I hear the certainty with which my children utter “I love you, Mommy,” I awaken to my life with a sense of urgency and awe at the preciousness of it all.
And in the next moment, in the center between extremes, my inner begging for more ceases, and the animal within me is calmed. I breathe and smile. I can pause and savor the sweetness of my son’s voice, and the tenderness of the moment I often override with grasping and pushing away. In that moment, chopping board as tray, I am okay with this being it.