My days are consumed with triviality, I would like to say, but that isn’t exactly true.
Yes, I have a running checklist of tasks. On paper and in my brain, to-dos are constantly rearranging themselves, slipping into new time blocks, adding companion tasks where convenient. Always the running tally, always the moving limbs (cleaning, cleaning, cleaning after the destruction of a very active 15-month-old).
“Work is love made visible,” wrote Khalil Gibran. This work, even when menial, says something about the way I love her, I tell myself. It also says something about me, about the way my self coheres around one utterly important thing. Holiness is wholeness, and wholeness is love-bound relationality. No one is whole without excessively loving another person (who must be unworthy of the intensity of your love- it’s the excessive nature of love which impels true growth). And no one is whole without first receiving that love from the Ultimate Source.
Forgive the theological digression, but do you see the link? There must be some way of accessing replenishing love that his not self-sprung or outward-borrowed. The more you attempt self-love, the more you spiral into anxiety, self-loathing, or narcissism, for excessive self-scrutiny can only exacerbate its emptiness.
You and I were formed in the womb of a stranger, and wander this earth as one of billions (dead and alive) who reuse and recycle the same dusty breath, the same weary words. You were never just a self, but a molecule of The Self, that sweeping body of humanity that has flailed its limbs and and bumbled its lips, but also that crawled on its knees in prayer, foreheads to the earth. The forehead to the earth is: Love. And not love of self, or love of other, but love of the Ultimate Other: the Father, the Mother of all us squabbling children. This is the way to peace: union with that Unchanging Source of love, the source that does not reward by perceived worthiness.
This is the foundation which cannot be gnawed by the termites of time and imperfection. I tell myself this, when the Unease comes back to gnaw at my brain.
Family love is our earliest foundation, you know- the gift upon which we build our lives. Some days, this foundation feels fragile, so I throw myself into the "trivial," building a foundation for my daughter instead. Playing with her, making her healthy food, taking her for walks and letting her tell me about all the rocks in her excited baby babble.
Last week, we bought her a dog. She has been obsessed with dogs from her earliest months, and she is overjoyed with her new best friend. Today as I watched her stumble up the playground stairs and heard the dog panting behind me, I felt- in a sudden jolt of warmth- complete. I remember scouring the "dogs" classifieds section as a little girl, bringing the newspaper to my parents to try to convince them that my loneliness could be ameliorated in no other way. They never bought me a dog- the least of my childhood traumas- but a symbol, I guess you could say, of what I had missed.
Looking at the dog trailing faithfully behind me, feeling this cylindrical sphere of warmth inflating my insides, I realize: this dog is no trivial thing.
I think I am building a foundation for my daughter, but perhaps I am repairing mine.