Things are looking up. I was asked to write a song for a definitive TV spot as opposed to competing with fifty other songwriters for the spot. Believe me. These days that's pretty special. I started hosting a radio show on Monday and got in touch with my inner Anne Litt. I wrote a book that's coming out in March—my first—a few years ago it was a fantasy. I’m still pinching myself.
I'm able to be this busy because my daughter went away to college recently. I can pick up right where I left off before I became a parent. I was especially looking forward to getting back to the freedom that allows a songwriter to jump on a creative impulse as soon as it arrives. How divine. With all these new developments you’d think I’d be on top of the world 24/7.
A few years after I had Layla I came across a Hallmark greeting card with a message that read, (and I paraphrase), “having a child means wearing your heart on the outside of your sleeve for the rest of your life.” The rest of your life? This was very scary news. What had I signed up for? I always thought that at some point the worrying subsides. Ha.
The things that used to make me worry most were not ear infections or skinned knees or fevers but whether or not my child would wake up with a smile and go forth into the world with hope, positivity and self-esteem. If she had that DNA, I would be at ease. If she temporarily misplaced it, as we all do from time to time, the faith that it would return shortly, was comforting. I never saw that sentiment in a greeting card.
Most greeting cards are pretty generic. They’re mass produced and concocted by copywriters who sit at computers and come up with clever words that push our emotional buttons. But how can they possibly presume the nuance of our feelings? I usually buy the card with the least amount of copy and write my own message. Or better yet, purchase a blank card, and write all of it. But this particular card…about the heart on the sleeve…spoke the truth.
I never gave it enough credit, though. I assumed naively, that when my daughter went off to college she would not need me as much. And my heart wouldn’t be so tethered to hers. This is not what happened. And when I think about it, I don’t want to be untethered. I just want her to be happy. What a cliche. Just like a generic greeting card.
I purposefully waited for this juncture in life to take the next step in my career and spiritual growth. When she was still in high school, I wanted to be available, dine in, work at home if possible. And when her bedroom door was closed I tried to be on the other side, somewhere in the house, puttering about, working on a lyric, close at hand.
But there’s always a hiccup in the timing of best laid plans. Surprisingly, just as it was before she left, she is still with me...right there on the outside of my sleeve. That particular copywriter must have been a mom.
My baby will always be my baby. No matter how old either of us are or get. If she’s full of joy I am too. If her heart is breaking so is mine. Through every smile (on my face), through every selfie, every tweet, every facebook post that speaks to how excited I am about the present and the near future…well, it’s all true, I am. But it’s not so simple. I also die a little bit inside when she does. That heart on my sleeve is a tattoo.
We are tethered by an invisible umbilical cord that will never be fully severed. And wherever she is, if she tugs on it, I will feel it. Those creative impulses will always have to wait. Just like Hallmark said—for the rest of my life.