Simplifying the translation of our emotions assists us in cutting through the cluttered confusion of our hearts, and forming a coherent picture to place ourselves in. Nuances are inevitably lost in any translation, however, and on some occasions it seems worth turning away temporarily from the lure of simplicity and letting the uncertain dusk of fragmentation reign.
Watching my eldest son perform in an Early Years Mother’s Day assembly at school recently brought unexpected tears to my eyes. There is something utterly charming about the sweet, high-pitched voices of a group of young children singing their hearts out, proud and slightly shy, vulnerably independent. It was a moment in which I felt my stomach twist with the joyful pain of parenting, and it was only as I began to write about it that I began wondering where this deep reaction came from, and what it contained within it. It was so much more than the simple sweetness I first interpreted it as.
It was the way he would get caught up in his own private bubble, concentrating fiercely whilst trying to remember the song words and actions, then steal a glance at his peers to check that he was doing the right thing – the switch between being entirely wrapped up in himself and the desire to be part of the whole, to fit in, to feel included. The shy waves and smiles at me, checking I was still there, still watching, smiling, enjoying, approving. The power of my emotions and reactions over his own, whether I am conscious of it or not. The awareness that the independence I gently encourage will always lie alongside the dependency we have on each other’s unquestioned love, and indeed that this solid base it what builds the independence into something deep and lasting. The sense of how fast he is growing up, and that if I blink he will be leaving home, leading to the desire to hang on to every moment and stretch it long and slow. An awareness of my own mortality, that his growing older is my ageing too. My desperate and hopeless desire to protect him from life’s heartbreaks, whilst also wanting to equip him to deal with them when they (inevitably) arrive. A flash of my own childhood, my own insecurity and need for approval, my own fears of abandonment and vulnerability. Questioning my childhood memories, trying to understand more of the context I didn’t fully grasp at the time, wondering who my parents were then, when I was only four – wishing I could ask my mother and wondering if and how I could ask my father. The space between us, that empty floor separating performers from audience, suddenly seeming like every space that has ever been or will ever be between us.
Layer upon layer, past, present and future, emotions bouncing of each other all in a matter of minutes. So many moments in our lives hold all these depths and contradictions within them, but we have neither need, desire or emotional energy to analyse each and every one. Now and then, however, I find that probing a little deeper can be immensely enriching.