I’m sitting at my desk, distracted by the photo slideshow screensaver scrolling across my computer.
My daughter is wearing a pink dress as she makes homemade slushies, a perfect little smile across her sweet face. Then a younger version of my boys comes up — one still a toddler — their big, brown eys peering lovingly at an unseen me behind the camera.
As I look at their young, holy faces from years ago, feelings of sadness and guilt wash through me. I want to stop and go to them, to hug them and remember inherently that life is a collection of these exquisite moments. I want to soak in that look in their eyes, their expressions.
The guilt I feel now is not just caused by my lack of mindfulness, though that was often the case as I scrolled through my phone or did some task that felt necessary at the time. The truth is I hardly remember much of the individual moments now fleeting across my computer screen.
My sadness also comes from knowing how often they heard my husband and me arguing. How often my mental state and sadness kept me in bed. How the smiling face in photos of me often masked a different internal reality.
Even as I type these words I am resisting the tears welling in my eyes, the pain pulling up in my chest and stomach.
A collection of moments now floods my memory — I see not the best version of myself, recalling my own trauma and that of previous generations, fear and confusion hardly acknowledged, passed down like a burning torch we just didn’t understand.
“How high does it go?” My son asked recently when seeing a family tree tracing back to his great-great grandparents.
It goes all the way, I tell him. Very high. So high I can’t even comprehend it.
On one hand I want to ease my own guilt by recognizing that I really was and am doing the best I can with what I was given, what those before me were given…
But on the other hand, just relieving the guilt may not be enough to truly fix anything.
I see as my children get older, although good and kind at the core, they have experienced what life is like when love isn’t the only emotion in the room. They have seen adults cling to ego, to say and do things out of fear.
They experienced, and sometimes still experience, that vacuum where love and light are lacking. Where G-d isn’t the focus.
I’ve written about so many things in my lifetime, but this is the one place I haven’t gone yet. Because it’s the place where the pain and shame still hides.
But even just a little bit of light can dispel a whole lot of darkness.
I’m sorry. Truly sorry that I didn’t fix myself sooner and better. I’m sorry that I have tried to outrun the pain, from house to house, city to city, state to state.
Though I am working on myself now and have been for most of my adult life, there’s no nirvana. No ultimate fix and removal of all my flaws. But there are steps to take in order to grow, bit by bit.
I am perhaps becoming a better version of myself, but I still forget, or feel powerless at times. My own inner child cowers in fear.
I want with all my heart and soul to serve only good, to surrender to my Higher Power. But something, something keeps creeping back in despite my seemingly good intentions and desires.
And that force, the adversary, seems most powerful, and most unnoticeable, when I am in my home with my husband. For this we are seeking help, and I know we aren’t alone.
Still, I want to stay here for now in the quiet of my office, watching on-screen memories of my children in their princess dresses and diapers…before they experienced the ups and downs of life.
There’s a pain within me so great there’s nothing I can do but sit here with it. Allow it, and the tears, to come through me and do what it needs to.
G-d chose me to parent these souls, and I’m not giving up on Him or them.
As He forgives me, I can forgive myself.
I pray that as I try to put down this burden that I’ve carried for so long, that my children will also continue to seek the light, to do good, to truly love themselves and others.
Although we may want to keep things like parenting and marriage struggles to ourselves, it can help to share our pain and with others.
If you are struggling, I hope you’ll reach out to someone you trust. And please know you’re never truly alone, even if it sometimes feels that way.
With love and gratitude,
May G-d bless you and keep you.
May G-d make his face shine upon you
And be gracious to you.
May G-d lift up His countenance up you
And give you peace.