Somewhere in Spain, November '82 (c) PSL

Somewhere in Spain, November '82 (c) PSL

I often forget how thin the line is between joy and sadness—in the end, if you are feeling, you are open to feeling both sides of an emotion. I suppose that’s why people often cry at weddings—and laugh at entirely the wrong time.

Yes, I am more prone to the second reaction. Too often I see more than one side of a situation. In the late 80s I worked in a company located in a suburban office park. Our desks (pre-cubicles!) sat in the open next to a bank of windows. One day the building manager rushed in and announced, “Don’t be alarmed, but there’s a maniac (running) loose with an Uzi.”

I couldn’t stifle my laughter.

He turned to me, frowning, and said, “Young lady, this is a serious situation.”

You can imagine that I had an even harder time not reacting to that one. I either needed to laugh—or hide under my desk. If some highly armed lunatic wanted to shoot at us through the windows, we’d be sitting ducks. What’s not to be alarmed about that situation? Not only was I worried about those of us at work, but also about the at-home families I knew in the surrounding neighborhood.

Sadly, somewhere in a quiet development on a blue-skied, sunny day, the man did harm someone before his life ended in violence. Life is full of juxtapositions between what is good and not so good.

Sunday as we drove through Kansas, somewhere around the “herd” of wind turbines whose blades turned in the air, Christiana was laughing. She was driving and joking with her father while I sat in the seat behind them. I was drinking in the pure joy of her laughter when, without warning, I remembered all those days when she did not laugh.

That’s when the tears started slipping down my cheeks. I realize it had been an intense weekend due to seeing my mother so changed, but I didn’t expect to feel sad about something that made me feel so happy for my daughter. I guess I was crying for the normal days we didn’t get to have—and for so much more that I wish neither she nor anyone else in our family had had to experience. I wanted to feel joy for what had been regained, but first I had to acknowledge what had been lost.

So I did the only thing I know how to do well when I am overwhelmed with my emotions—I asked for pencil and paper. And when I am really stumped, I find it best to fence my words into the short and simple (on the surface, only) format of the haiku.

Tears fall on pillow,
squeezed from expectations lost.
Redefine normal.

Trina jumping, 2007, Georgia Pass in Colorado

Trina jumping, 2007, Georgia Pass in Colorado

The good news is that she gets very frustrated with me now when I worry and don’t acknowledge how much she has moved on. She is seventeen and once again believes in possibility. At seventeen, every day is an exercise in redefining normal, no matter who you are and what you are experiencing.

After a long period of mourning the normal I thought we’d have, it’s finally time for me to redefine, again, what normal is. Although thirty years beyond the wonder of seventeen, I can’t argue: there really is no good reason for not embracing a new normal that—thank God—includes laughter, including my own, even if, no doubt, I will occasionally still laugh at all the wrong times.