Seeking Strands of Light
Commentary: The first six months after having a baby is a battle. It's a battle in the transition between who you were and who you are turning into. With a baby born, a new mother is created.
In the trenches of the newborn weeks, during the deepest midnights, I held on to my daughter and waited for the first rays of morning light. When the sun finally broke against the strength of the streetlights, my body would physically relax. The rising sun would seep into me bit by bit, level to next level, recharging my mental batteries.
I was a lucky one; either my mom or my husband would tap in for the next hours. I didn't necessarily go straight to sleep; the sun charging me filled me with the hope of growth. Time moved forward, and I'd see small changes — a lifted head, a triumphant smile when my daughter pulled herself up, or when fat fists would push green chile into her mouth on her own.
The last few months have also felt like the depth of those dark hours. I've been straining to see the light on the horizon, signs of progress, but it's hard to focus when you and the rest of the country are in a time of transition. I've been holding on, feeling much like that new mom that does not know how to soothe someone she loves.
On a trip to a neighboring city for my husband's end-of-the-year dinner with colleagues, I watched the sun set from the highway. I leaned into thoughts of gratitude — the health of my children and family — when we drove into the patch of highway that is the most aromatic thanks to the fields of cows.
Make no bones about it, I'm a meat eater, but I can't help but think about the lives of the cows who linger in the pen with the thousand other cows. There always seems to be one cow prancing and kicking its heels, likely annoying the other cows whose hooves are caked in mud and excrement. What's Bob's problem? Why is he not just placidly chewing cud like the rest of us?
I wanted to channel Bob, so it was back to the animalistic basics when I reflected on my gratitude list. There is food in my fridge, warmth at the touch of a button and air in my lungs. When I breathe in, even filling with the stench of cows, I expand my lungs and thoughts with more abstract measures of gratitude. The easiness of quiet when you're around those you love who accept you. The enthusiastic welcome into the imaginative world of your child.
Or even the mall Santa who saved my butt by saying that his sleigh does not transport live animals. Thank you, Santa.
The pandemic has been a hard transition for the country. What is being born during the midnight of our nation? We may still love our country, but something has changed, and there is no way to meet its needs beyond showing up, continuing to watch for signs of progress, and counting on others to help throw open the curtains.
However, the most infuriating things from the past year have been people. And yet, conflictingly in listing gratitude, most things lead back to people and moments of grace in humanity. The light to recharge us is still in the people around us. Maybe you'll join me in searching for that light and remembering that our collective transition can be a way to grow a new life.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma.