When things are going well, you almost forget about it. In the brightest blue glaze of a surreal sky, frosted with opalescent pink clouds seeming to encapsulate you in their absolute wonder, the sun blinds the shadow and hides away the fear. Then, with a trigger so indiscernible as never to make itself known, there is a clash of pained spirits, a conflict among hurt children.
After at least a decade of pining (mostly to myself), I stopped combing my hair. Natural dreads, from what I understand, can take at least a year to upwards of three to look respectable (I suppose that means if you are of the camp that even thinks it is possible for dreads to be respectable). I am determined.
There is a time of confrontation: guilty, perhaps, of a tiny crime such as wearing her sister’s best tank top without permission or eating the M&M’s that were supposed to be for the Emily Cookies. Not even a big deal.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. Do you forgive me?”
That’s all it would take in the moment, but those words are elusive. The words that do come, though, are fast and fiery. They find a place deep inside where my soul opens up, and the insecurities from my own early days pour out, breaking down my strength through a cascade of grief. I can’t let her see, for her own burdens would flatten a mountain. I can’t expect her to be sorry, grateful, or even kind. Ever.
Maybe five or six sections of my hair now seem to have formed into baby dreads. There is one section in the back of my head that I don’t even like looking at. I’m glad it’s at the back of my head. There are some mornings when I wake unsure that I can face the day’s offerings. If I go about my business without making eye contact unless I really have to, burying myself in pancake batter, signing field trip permissions, and generally doing “things” to soften the tension and to move the minutes along until the angst (with the unknown…but not really…source) dissipates or the bus arrives, whichever comes first.
“I hate you. I hate you all. I don’t want to be here. I never did, and I never will.”
Never. At the times when she needs comfort the most, she becomes unreachable. What is she really looking for; what is she needing to know? Why does she have to open every new package of food, put her mark on each notebook, and stir the batter exactly the same number of times as the preschooler?
She needs to know. She needs to know that she matters just as much, again and again. Still, it’s not enough.
Sometimes I think my hair is never really going to dread.
I am not giving up. And I am not giving up on her. I will continue to go to bat for her time and again, to try to explain her behaviors, to make excuses for why she took the teenager’s Ipod or threatened to bury another child under the school.
I don’t have to know what to say. There is nothing to say. I just have to keep going.
She is caught in a lie, and her deepest wounds open. She misses her family. She misses her life as it was before, however chaotic or unsafe. And she tries to match the chaos inside her own soul by inciting conflict in every arena. This I have learned firsthand.
I wonder why I can’t ever be enough; why none of us can be enough; why nothing can ever be enough, except what cannot ever be.
We have been at it for a while now. Just as with the knots in my hair, I like to think that there really are the tiniest changes happening with every passing minute, changes that let her know that we are are, indeed, going to stand by her, take care of her, and love her in our best way.