we only knew what we knew.

march 22, 2004

I’m kind of at a loss for words right now. I want to make decisions based on what I want, rather than on what other people want for me or think about me. I want to decide things that make me happy rather than worrying so much about pleasing others. 

march 26, 2020

Today was Jake’s last day with us for the foreseeable future. He started the day by going grocery shopping for me—he stocked us up for the next few weeks, thankfully. When he got home, he built a fire in the backyard & we all ate corn dogs together outside. He finished shopping for me during nap time & then we took the kids on a 2-hour bike ride. We ate salad for dinner & watched a few episodes of The Office together before I watched him pack & we went to sleep. It’s strange knowing I’ll see him but be unable to touch him. Today was another sad day. I cried a lot.

march 26, 2022

I don’t particularly like to think about March 26th of 2020. Everything about that day—set against a strange stage of ordinariness—unsettled me. The image of Lily’s face nestled into Jake’s neck after he told her the coronavirus was going to keep him away for the foreseeable future is forever seared in my memory. I walked through that day in a daze, but that moment sticks. I can still swallow the sadness of it all.

There’s another reason I don’t like to think about this day though: I wonder if it seems silly. I wonder if we would have made different choices if we knew then what we know now. I wonder if anyone reading this rolls their eyes at the mention of Jake saying goodbye to our family and then not stepping foot back inside our house for 43 more days.

We only knew what we knew, a small voice whispers inside me.

In the present tense, Jake and I are trying to figure out how best to handle a situation with one of our kids. (I mean, we’re always trying to figure out how best to handle situations with all of our kids, but lately there is one particular issue that has risen to the surface.) We talk about this kid and these particular details daily. What is the cause of this problem? we ask. What kinds of support should we put in place to move toward a solution?

In some measure of years, hindsight will bring clarity. We’ll look backwards at the situation with eyes of more experience and could rewrite the story based on new information. But now?

We only know what we know.

Back in 2004, I was running something over and over and over in my mind. The particular details of that “something” are unimportant now, but I can tell you it involved a boy. I can also tell you that what felt all-consuming at the time I now see as—how do I put this delicately?—no big deal. I wrote a prayer in the middle of that entry: I know you can conquer all these fears. I know you can overpower my insecurities. I know you can crush my worries.

Mary Oliver has a poem titled “I Worried,” and the first line really speaks to me: “I worried a lot.” She goes on to write, “Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, / can I do better?”

In every version of myself—all the days of all my ages—I am trying to figure something out. I am working through something I cannot see to the other side of. For many of these situations, I have the benefit of hindsight. I can tell my former self everything she doesn’t know—everything she could do better.

But who does this backwards thinking serve? When it comes to the circumstances of my life, I can only know what I know on each given day.

Mary Oliver gave up worrying. “I saw that [it] had come to nothing,” she wrote. “[I] took my old body / and went out into the morning, / and sang.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever fully give up worrying, but I will continue to refuse to shake my head at my former self. I, too, will go out into the morning and sing: “I knew what I knew and did the best I could with it.”

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