Today, my son would have turned 20.
I am something of an expert on yearning. It could be said I have mastered the topic. My yearning isn’t limited to wanting my son alive.
My yearnings run the gamut from craving new babies, new dogs, new careers, new homes, new clothes, new jewelry, new bags, and even new parents. It is a miracle and a testament to my marriage and therapist that the only thing I have never craved is a new husband or a new therapist. To be fair, sometimes I do crave a break from both of them.
My expertise stems from Max’s death. If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. Then post-traumatic stress could be defined as remembering the same dreadful tragedy repeatedly and yearning for a different outcome over and over. It is this yearning, the yearning that my son didn’t actually die when his baby nurse accidentally smothered him 20 years ago, that has made me such an expert.
We are all experts at yearning. Yearning to be thinner, or richer, older or younger, braver or smarter, more successful, more popular – just like snowflakes, no two yearnings are exactly alike.
The thing about yearning is it is universal and insidious. We can justify pretty much anything when we are motivated to quench the devouring thirst. Rationalizations follow feelings. One more cookie, one more drink, one more expensive pocket-book I can’t afford, one more affair, one more exercise class, one more lie, the list of rationalizations is as endless as the emotion behind.
My yearning may have a certain moral authority. Who would argue with the desperate yearning of a woman who has buried her own child? But yearning is yearning. We are all survivors of trauma. That’s the definition of being human. Nobody’s trauma can claim moral superiority.
Authority? perhaps. Superiority? Nope.
Authority is what I have. I have earned it. For 20 years, my yearnings have woken me up every single night sometime around 2am which is about the time my son actually passed away. Usually, I take something to knock me out of my emotions. But sometimes, I want to experience the waves of pain and craving. It’s my way of being back in touch with my son. The only connection I have now to him is the pain I still feel, the craving and the desire to hold the baby he once was. It wakes me up.
Anniversaries of trauma are particularly hard. But the rest of the year, the yearning just sort of lurks in the background of my behavior. When the pain gets too big, I start to create some problem in my head. Catastrophizing distracts me from the unrequited yearning. But catastrophizing is not only exhausting, it can be dangerous. I could actually end up creating real problems for myself and the people I love.
In honor of Max’s birthday, I have decided to finally accept that I will never ever stop yearning. No amount of new anything will compensate for his loss. No new problem can ever sufficiently distract me.
Takeaway – The yearning is here to stay. It’s the price we pay for being invited into life.
Recipe – Birthday Cake
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa I like Hershey’s Dark (but most people recommend dutch process like Droste’s)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons Vanilla extract
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 cup tiny dark chocolate chips ( I use Enjoy Life because they are dairy and nut free)
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350. Spray and line muffin trays with cupcake liners or spray and line two 8 inch cake pans with wax paper pr parchment paper rounds. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Sift these ingredients together and do it twice to make sure the baking soda is evenly distributed. Combine oil, vanilla, water, and vinegar in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined but don’t overmix. Add chocolate chips. A few lumps in the batter is okay. Overmixing is a mistake because it will make the cake tough.
Bake the cake layers for 25 minutes and remove when a cake tester poked into the middle comes out clean. Don’t overbake. Cupcakes bake for less time.