Every morning felt like a struggle to wake up and get ready for school… or really, to get ready for anything that required my exit out of a bed.
My mother would tirelessly engage in her morning routine of waking me in stages – following a process that had her entering and exiting my room to check my level of consciousness and to prevent a slip back into REM.
On one of my birthdays, the day happened to fall upon a Saturday. Since I already had the opportunity to sleep in on weekends, I argued a case in which I substantiated that there was fair reason to consider allowing me to sleep in on a Friday for my birthday as opposed to that Saturday, since my birthday required special differentiation on sleep/wake behavior.
The Friday before my birthday, I remember my mother coming in to wake me. It was my 10th birthday, and immediately upon opening my eyes I noticed subtle differences. The room was brighter than it should have been, and instead of yelling at me, my mother was sitting at my bedside, nudging me to consciousness.
“Why is it so bright?” I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
She replied, “Because you woke up, it’s a new day, and you see light because you’re alive. Fire and sunshine rise in the same way.”
Not fully aware of her sentiment, I was solely focused on the fact that it was later in the day and my argument had won. Success, at ten years old, was really only measured in increments of whether I got my way or not.
That evening, I got a few presents before my birthday, a small mini-cake and a card. In it, she wrote:
“Today, you are 10. When I turned ten, my father told me that time would become different and time will begin to move faster. This one year is 1/10th of the whole time you’ve been alive. Fire and sunshine rise up to the sky, rain falls down to the ground. Every day you will get to one of two ways to rise-up, or have one option to fall down. Always choose light.”
That weekend, I had a birthday party and went off on a trip with two friends. One of the mothers had offered to take us on a park day outing.
We came home after my friend had dropped me off at my house, and as I walked into the house, my heart skipped a beat as panic took over my body. There was an overwhelming smell of alcohol and my mother was laying on the floor after attempting to commit suicide.
I vividly remember the card, it’s written message and that morning, because it had cash in it that I had carried around all day. It was the same cash and card I had on me when I was taking to the hospital and then later to the police station to wait for a social worker. It was the only thing I’d stare at and read, over and over, wondering if there was a secret code that I couldn’t see or hadn’t transcribed, that would have eluded to what was pending on that day.
It wasn’t until my 20s, that I started to realize the meaning of those words and difference between fire and sunshine. I was sitting by her bedside and had just removed her from life support. Ironically, it was raining outside – torrentially. Florida spring weather was notorious for cloud bursts of rain so intense, they would halt traffic. As I sat, watching her body succumb to lifelessness, I thought back to myself at 10, remembering walking into a house seeing her body nearly as lifeless as it was at that moment. For all those years, and even the passing of the message, I don’t know if she understood her fathers words.
With fire, there is fight and drive. With sunlight, there is presence and being. Rain serves as a reminder of what happens when you simply stand still.
We often believe that ideal love comes simply and in abundance. We’re groomed to embody it’s sense of calm, tirelessly, and to share it with equal or greater return. Sometimes, though, we’re too broken to realize that the love we seek to receive or give, is being confused for obsessiveness. We’re indifferent and unaware to this distinction as we immerse our self in loss. Instead, we’re now wrought with anger and merciless pursuit of finding something which may no longer exist. The danger, is that our indifference to acknowledge this difference will either allow a passion fueled fire within to burn us alive, or the falling rain to drown us altogether.