I am sad today. One of my daughter’s friends is very sick. She ended up in the emergency room early this morning, and is now in the hospital. I’ve been thinking about her all day — thinking and crying and praying and hoping that she will be strong. That she can continue to be brave. That she will be all right. This is a girl who has played with my daughter. She has laughed and giggled and told me funny stories. She has run up to me at afternoon pick-up, brimming with smiles and excitement as she tells me all about her day. She is goofy and brilliant and creative and sweet. Every year, she grows out her hair so that she can cut it short and donate it to children who have cancer. She has a heart that is so big and so tender and so special. She is only a year younger than my daughter. If I close my eyes right now, I can picture her in my mind, her eyes full of happiness and a big smile on her face. I love this little girl. I feel scared for her and for her family.
But the truth is, I also feel scared for myself. And for my own precious child. It’s horrible and selfish of me. But … I suppose it’s also a very human emotion. If this could happen to my daughter’s friend — to this dear, sweet, beautiful, precious girl — it could happen to my daughter, too. It could happen to my daughter. It’s a truth so terrible and frightening that it rings through my head with a big, final sort of sound. Like a gong going off in the distance, or a foghorn. But not a funny foghorn. A sad one: the kind that’s on a lighthouse, alone and shrouded in misty fog. It’s a truth that feels almost too much to bear. How can I live in a world where terrible things can happen, suddenly and without warning, to someone I love? How can I walk around in this world and pretend that everything is fine when I know that, at any moment, my heart can be ripped right out of me? How can I go on with my life when I know — I KNOW — I am a whisper away from devastation so profound and complete that it will utterly destroy me?
Because I fool myself, each and every day. I face the unknown with a bravado that, quite honestly, I shouldn’t possess. I get in a car and drive down the street, my butt parked right on top of a tank of gas that will explode if it’s hit in just the right spot. I think nothing of traveling in an airplane to visit my family in Texas. Six hours in a metal tube that, somehow, moves through the air at speeds I can’t even fathom. Metal tubes are not supposed to be up in the air. I walk around in blissful ignorance, thinking to myself, “Self, we’re doing pretty damn great today. We can handle this. We can handle life and whatever comes our way. We can DO stuff. Oh yeah. We are awesome-sauce.”
But sometimes, something happens that makes it impossible to believe all of those lies we tell ourselves each and every day. Sometimes, life walks up and smacks you on the back of the head and reminds you that you don’t have control over everything. You don’t have control over anything, really. There are so many days when I marvel at the sheer dumb luck that has allowed me to continue plugging along on this planet. And you know what? This is not a good feeling. It’s scary.
Today, I feel sad. I feel small. And the universe is big.