Monkey turned one recently, and I have been reflecting on this first year and what I have learnt about love and happiness. This is a letter to my Monkey.
Dearest Monkey Bum,
It is hard to imagine that it has already been a year since you came into this world, a beautiful, slimy creature. Peeing on arrival (its true). But at the same time it seems like you have been here forever; that I have known you always. When you were born, your father and I were overwhelmed with joy. Like a wave washing over us. You seemed other-worldly, unaffected by this life. People said you didn’t really look like either of us, which is true. You are your own person. You are not ours. We love you but do not own you. As the poet Khalil Gibran says, “Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” You have taught me so much about love, joy and happiness in your short life. This is a letter to say thank you, and share what I have learnt so far:
1. Everything is soooo cool! You are truly excited by life. Even when you were only a few weeks old you loved laying next to the window, watching the light, the shapes of the trees, the moving leaves. As you grew you discovered your own hands and would spend hours staring at them, ‘awesome’ you thought to yourself. Then you discovered your beautiful miniature feet and that you could put them in your mouth. Even more awesome! And finally you discovered your willy, but that’s another story. Now that you are walking, everything you pass must be examined (with your tongue), considered and climbed on. You delight in the simplicity of a box, my handbag, a broom, the keys. You teach me every day that life is a wonder, that everything is precious and most things are sort-of edible.
2. Live life without fear (of failure). At the moment you have absolutely no fear, which itself tends to strike fear into the heart of your mother. You climb to the top of the slide, stand up and step off the edge. Luckily someone is there to catch you. For now. In time you will learn that a fear of falling on your head is probably quite healthy, but I hope you remain unafraid of failure. There is no such thing as failure in your long-eye-lashed brown eyes: it is all forward, stumbling motion towards a new skill, a magnificent breakthrough. Can I pick up the cat? Not today, but I’ll try again tomorrow. You have taught me to embrace fear and failure – our greatest friends in the discovery of life.
3. There is no future point of happiness, everything is now. You seek joy in the moment. You know inherently that now is all there is and being around you brings me into this space naturally. You do not worry about the future or lament the past. You do not think that you will be happy when you have one more set of blocks, or have resentment in your heart from that time you fell off the bed (bad parents!). You did not ‘wish’ you could walk when you could only crawl. You embraced your straight legged, downward-dog-style crawl, ignored the laughter, and persistently taught yourself to stand upright. You fall down on your nappy-padded bottom and get back up, again and again and again. You do not question your worthiness, you know you are loved, and deserving of love by simply existing. My greatest wish for you is that you keep your ability to live with presence, to be imbued by life itself, which only exists in the now.
4. Words are overrated. You are just learning to talk and can say a few words. ‘Duck’, ‘more’, ‘up’ and of course ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. But part of the reason you are so happy and so naturally present is because your mind is not yet cluttered with repetitive thoughts and words. In your first few months you were at the pre-thinking stage. While as adults we do not want to go back to pre-thinking, we could gain a lot by rising above thought and you show me in part what this looks like. Seeing you observe life without language has been enlightening. You see a flower and smile at it, without the need to describe it or label it in words. You just see it, as it is, and that is (to use an inadequate word) beautiful. You will learn languages, but remember that words can never capture the true essence of things.
5. Laugh often, freely and with pure abandon. You have an absolutely infectious laugh and there is not a single moment, no matter what my day brings, that your squeals of delight do not make me forget everything else and squeal with you. People do not often tell you how much fun being a parent is. While it is true that I have had less sleep than ever before, I have also never laughed more. Apparently babies laugh 300 times a day and as we get older we somehow lose our joy and most adults only laugh 20 times a day. Do everything you can to keep it at 300.
6. We are deeply connected to the universe and other people. Giving birth to you was the most profound and powerful experience I have ever had. As your dad will tell you, for me it was a very internal experience. I closed my eyes, went inside and stayed there for 11 hours. I didn’t talk to anyone except you. You became ‘Monkey’ then because that is what I was calling you in my mind during labour. I talked to you and listened to my body. You may think this is strange, but during that experience I felt deeply connected to all the other women around the world who were giving birth at the same time as I was. We shared each others strength and energy. For me it was a deep realisation that we are not separate, that we are all connected, that we are all the same. This we know from quantum physics, for example Bell’s Theorem says that once connected, objects affect one another forever no matter where they are. Quantum physicist, David Bohm (1980) articulates that at a level we cannot see, there is an unbroken wholeness, or what he calls an ‘implicate order’ out of which seemingly discrete events arise. From my experience during your birth I learned this not just intellectually, I felt it. It has changed my life forever, and I hope that as you grow up, you will live life knowing that you are not separate and you are never alone.
And perhaps the greatest lesson so far is knowing that as precious and special as you are, equally so is every other person on the planet. And as much as I love you so should we love others (even when they take away your dummy). From here peace will come.
There is nothing I can teach you that you do not already know, deep in the silence of your soul. All I can do is try to help you remember these things as you grow as I strive to be more like you.