I am slowly realizing that it’s ok if things aren’t perfect. I know this sentence sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s really true. I have spent so much time - way too much - pondering and lamenting and generally feeling bad when things haven’t been “just right”. Is it possible that it is finally sinking in that life itself is a process, that to be moving forward in a generally positive direction is the goal, as opposed to some unrealistic, perfect endpoint that doesn’t exist?
And recently I’ve witnessed - from very afar and without even truly knowing the people involved - another young mother die of cancer, far before her time. She had the same birthday as Brian, and was a year younger than me. The youngest 2 of her 4 children are close to my kid’s age - though I think Oscar is actually older than her youngest. A child younger than Oscar has lost her mother. This fact is unbearable, unfair. I see photos of this beautiful, smiling woman, full of life and love, taken at a time when she did not know that the full experience of her life would be only 38 years.
I wonder if there is some sort of tiny perfection in all of this, however. Because perhaps what we can see in these lives cut short is that perfection does not exist. What does, though, is doing our best to love fully, to forgive ourselves and others, and to take notice of the moments that matter. My children are growing quickly and the moments of their littleness seem to be fleeting and ethereal, nearly like the comet’s tail that you cannot really see. I have moments when they won’t listen or are fighting when I just want to walk away, sit in the backyard with a glass of wine and let them tear the house apart while I check out. There is no getting beyond the fact that parenting is an inherently messy thing, and there will be lots and lots of imperfect moments. What IS perfect, however, is that I love my two littles with my entire, imperfect heart. I love them so much it feels like my heart could burst into a thousand pieces. It feels like a love that could damage one of my internal organs, the way I used to worry that Dora’s screaming as an infant would actually permanently injure her somehow, that the pressure of her cries would cause her spleen or liver to burst inside of her.
I am learning to see and accept and forgive myself for the things that I need: time to myself, time with the kids, time to create - to write, to imagine, to take photographs, to cook, to (sort of) clean the house. Not every day allows for that time. Not every shoot is perfect, not every image is in focus. Not every moment with my kids is without flaw. In fact, most of them are flawed. Maybe that is what love really is - perseverance in spite of imperfection. Loving our children - and ourselves - deeply and imperfectly. Accepting that life is about progress, and imperfection is inherent.
Those who die young are no more perfect than anyone else. But their terminal diagnoses do push them to the borders of love and relationship. They make clear all that really matters. And I know from walking through death with my own mother that imperfect moments occur even when knowledge of imminent death is present. You might think that if you know someone is dying, you will be nothing but kind and understanding to them, and never pick a fight. But it isn’t true. Life is messy and imperfect to the end.
Perhaps a terminal illness or a premature death allows us to see - all of us, not just those in the midst of such trials - that love in all it’s imperfect, messy, inconsistent beauty is all that matters in this life. That to love the best you can, to create beauty in your own way, and to try for progress where possible, is all that we are really called to do.