When I read about the bombings in Paris, I was holding a sleeping baby. She was snuggled up against my chest, safe and secure, under a pink blanket that my grandmother crocheted for her before she was even born. And it didn’t seem real or possible that so much destruction could be going on in Paris or in other places all over the world, while I was so lucky to hold my sleeping baby. It caused me to take pause.
I read about it and I listened to her breath, as her chest rose and fell, rose and fell. I sit every night and hold her and watch her sleep. It’s become a ritual for me—the unwinding of a day. I sit in her dark room, cuddled with her in her cream chair, and the sound machine hums the sound of gently crashing ocean waves. I pray and give thanks every night, as I watch this child of mine peacefully sleeping, her long eyelashes on her angel kissed eyelids, covering her blue eyes that sparkle when the sun shines on them. I sit, in absolute peace, in the confirmation and quiet gratitude of all that is right in the world–of all that is right in my world. But when I read about the bombings, I was reminded, yet again, of how all is not right in the world; it is just part of an illusion I’m lucky to have, as I hold my baby girl each night. I was reminded that peace isn’t found in the bedrooms of every sleeping child.
The next day, I spent much of my day with friends. I had friends over for a brunch and we laughed and talked about our lives—our children, our partners, our jobs. At first, I felt like it wasn’t the right thing: to carry on with a celebration with all that was going on, but the brunch had been scheduled. So I hugged my friends, one with tears in her eyes, and I poured mimosas and we laughed. After the brunch, my friend and I went to the coffee shop and drank lattes. And, throughout my day with my friends, I couldn’t help but wonder about so many other groups of women, together under different circumstances—tears in their eyes but with no laughter filling the air.
Later, my husband started a fire in our fireplace. The air had taken its familiar November chill and the flickering fire provided not only warmth but also a solace in its glow. We watched our small children dance together and then we all danced on the foyer rug that my son calls a stage. We had snacks, read books, and gave each other “family hugs,” the ones my daughter has learned to love. And my mind drifted to the people who are cold, hungry, and alone, some who yearn to hold their own children.
And on Sunday morning, I woke to the sun, streaming into my room. My baby was singing and it was her song that woke me; in that instant, I was flooded with peace. I felt total peace as I woke up—safe and confident in my surroundings. Yet, as soon as I fully awakened, the familiar nagging in my chest returned, where a realization had settled: How many wake to horrific sounds in a dust colored sky? How many wake to babies who are screaming because they are scared?
Taking pause helped me to see my life for what it is: blessed. I’m safe. My children are safe. My people are safe. I’m loved. My children are loved. My people are loved. There are no greater gifts for me than that. And so, this week, I’ve enjoyed my blessed life, but I have taken pause. As another day ended this evening and I held my baby girl, once again, as she slept, I was left with my prayers. And I prayed for peace in all of the ways it manifests. And I prayed for people to take pause.
We must forge on, but we must take pause. We must keep living but we must remember that it’s our call and our duty to help the people who can’t help themselves. They are our people. We must surround them with the peace, safety, and love we feel, lest the darkness win in the end.
This essay also appeared on The Huffington Post.