Last night we set up camping chairs on the front lawn and listened to fireworks go off all over the area. A few times, we saw some colorful crackles above the dark trees ahead. With all the trees around us, the sky never looks just black; it’s charcoal with strong, bright stars. If these stars could strut, they would do so nobly like the stroll of a pedigree in a horse show.  Seeing real fireworks had nothing on the soft breeze and the noble stars last night.

The four of us took snacks outside and sat in blue chairs on the lawn. The kids lit up sparklers with more and more confidence until they were each swirling in circles and making rings with the fire sparks. I joined them with some and whirled around; we looked like a team of amateur driveway dervishes. Afterward, Kal lit up some fireworks at our house, and both the kids and I held our breath until the last starburst. When they were done, I asked the trees, “you guys doing okay?” I wonder if they brace themselves or roll their eyes when the time comes for fireworks. It was weird to be on the side of the “crazy people that light their own fireworks;” I’ve thought that before, but here I was, reluctant yet willing to watch, kind of just wanting not to say no to Kal. He should be able to experience this season in this new space his own way, too.

When our shows were over, the kids and I blew out the giant citronella candle that we used in lieu of a campfire, and we made our way back to the house.

Maybe it was running in the heat that morning or cooking a big lunch, or maybe it was our lazy trip to Brusters or the adventurous grocery shopping we did, but by the time this joyous moment happened, I passively slid into it. I didn’t waste my energy on the reel of scary I can often do, for example, on any given Sunday night before school when I picture all the bad things that could happen. Instead, I just enjoyed and didn’t think about it until right now.

But this isn’t always the case. You know how you feel something is so right and hope so much that you don’t mess it up? That the wave you’re riding on may turn into a tide against you? My good friend reminded me of Brene Brown’s words when I shared with her I was afraid of the other shoe dropping: joy is terrifying. To let go of the refuge in safe decisions that I might make for our family is to risk that I may upset a rhythm we’ve created that brings us peace. Yes, I’ll push against complacency, but it doesn’t mean I’m not scared doing it.

I struggle with this especially as I feel more confident and more adventurous than ever.  But honestly the time when I’m the most fearful is the time when things are doing just fine. In fact, if you’ve read previous posts, you know how much moving into this new home has meant to me. I’ve seen close friends experience this high and then get kicked unexpectedly. I’m an optimistic person who has seen this happen so often to my friends and just notice it as a pattern.

My reconciliation has been that I just have to ride the wave and hope that I can handle what comes up next, knowing that hardship presents its own gifts. Brene Brown says, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” We try to dress rehearse tragedy, she says. And boy do I know this feeling well. The antidote is to practice gratitude, she proposes.  I feel I do this well enough in my way with friends, my projects at school, my love for people, my efforts with my family.

All of these actions try to bring joy, which in turn usually make me feel so grateful. But the small difference is that I have not been thinking of gratitude as a defense for the terrifying, especially in regards to my family bubble. Teachers and writers are always in tune, so it’s not for lack of not seeing, but on a personal level, I want to take it a step further and make even more of an active effort to lean on gratitude rather than to lean on fear.
Today, I am grateful for that breeze on my hair as I turned around to see Layla try to record her dad run away from the fireworks, Zade passing up the stars for a stolen game on his dad’s phone, the communal popping sounds from east to west of us, and plates of staled crackers sitting on the grass by our feet.

4th of July

I wish us all two things today: the type of joy that is born with sheer gratitude, and that passive, lazy calm that captures inconsequential beauty.


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