Thoughts on Life

#061523: Longing

Thoughts on being a woman
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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I had about an hour between an appointment and dinner last night and I was walking up and down the streets between Noho and Nolita, thinking that this was exactly what I had been craving: a tight moment of time, a patch of nothingness, to be neither here nor there. Fluid and empty and especially open, eager for something to come to the surface, and it didn’t matter what would come — just that it would come from the interior well.

So I let my legs take me where they would and it hit me like a wave in one of those steps when from the bottom of the gut of my belly, I could feel this familiar and fierce and starkly intense longing.

It’s a weird kind of longing: elastic and stringy, like a jellyfish that expands while somehow it’s also contracting and it kind of hurts but it hurts so good. Previously, when I have felt this sensation, I’ve tried to extract it and put it down, hoping that it would stop trailing me if it was pinned to the ground but last night, I just wanted to hold it and look at it until I could know it better.

I’d felt it so many times before for reasons that often did not feel this sweet or tender the way that it felt last night, and I think that’s because the story I told was different from the ones that I’ve told before. The story that came last night — that occurred to me when I was walking, was about how much I love my kids. About how huge the feeling is.

So huge that I could touch it when I’m this close to it and when I do, I sense that I can erupt in something: laughter or tears or deep, knowing howls. It’s like a freefall into an abyss of what cannot be controlled.

I closed my eyes for a minute last night and I could see this small finger pressing down on a heart leaning up against a domino line of hearts that cascaded, backtracking generations of women that I knew even though I could not recognize them and I had this thought about the intensity of feeling that exists between who we are bound to.

And I pictured myself brushing my daughters’ hair in front of their mirror before school in the morning, and I could see my mom brushing mine too and could hear us on the days that we’d laugh, or sing together, and I could hear the days we’d scream or rage too and these memories weren’t distant anymore, they were right there in front of me, I was living them and in that short spate of time, I started to cry for: my daughters, myself, my mother, and her mom, every woman who has loved one who came before her, who has loved one who came after her too.

And I thought to myself: how could such big love not get lost in itself? Then I realized that it does. That those who venture to love so hard and to try so hard sometimes fall on the face of their swords. That those who venture to love so hard and to try so hard sometimes pick themselves up, ask themselves for forgiveness, and make offerings of grace and humility.

There is nothing, I surmounted, as I walked to dinner, like the love that erupts between women.