Alternate narratives

It’s hard to let go of alternate lives, the could-have-been lives.

There is a storyline that runs in my head, a pretend version of life, in which my Mom is still here, participating, being with us.

A life in which she knows all four of my kids and they know her, they know her love and her joy and her attention and her kindness the way I did. There is a life in my mind in which she shows up at birthday parties and on vacations, a life in which I can call her with all the insignificant important questions of life, a life in which she and my sister and I can plan a weekend trip together, a life that holds us all safely connected, and sometimes I sit and pretend that is the life I have, sometimes I let myself, for a few minutes, because sometimes the hole is too big. Sometimes the ache is overwhelming. Sometimes I miss her so much I can’t let myself acknowledge which life is the real one. So I pretend. For a little bit.

Just for a little bit. A minute or two. More is dangerous.

Life is here and now. There are changes, there is growth, there is adjustment.

Some adjustments are easy. Some adjustments send us reeling.

Losing Mom was one of the big ones. Subsequently losing my remaining grandparents and the family structures and places of my childhood left me reeling even more.

Suddenly, in what seemed like a minute, there was no home to go back to. There was no place to go back to, to remember myself as a child, to show my children, to relax into safety, to rest in complete familiarity.

It’s tempting, so tempting, in times of stress and pain and confusion and loneliness, to stay in that parallel universe. To read myself that alternate narrative full of comfort and safety and predictability and the joyful, welcoming voice of my Mom.

But living there means missing here.

And here is the gift I am given. Here is the situation, here are the people, here is the community, here are the connections. To keep what is here, I must let go of what is gone.

It is the only way to give myself the gift of a new home, a new space of safety, a cocoon of love and warmth and welcome. You have to build these things with your own presence. You have to put yourself into them. You have to be present.

You have to live the narrative you’re in to make it part of you.