Sometimes, an "aha" moment can be glorious, ushering in a transcendental shift, where ignorance turns to bliss. Sometimes these are glorious; other times, not so much. Take, for example, the viral video of Sadie, who, when I watched, had been seen over 22.5 million times. This under-a-minute video is mostly the inconsolable wailing of a distraught little girl, which normally wouldn't engender such a massive following. After all, we witness crying children all the time -- at the grocery store, sitting next to us on airplanes, at our previously peaceful dinner tables. I don't think Sadie crying is what has drawn millions to this video; the draw, I think, is what she's crying about.
Sadie is crying because she's just had not a glorious "aha" moment, but a profoundly troubling one. Sitting next to Sadie on the floor is her Cabbage-Patch-cute baby brother and Sadie has just put the distressingly two-and-two together that this little cherub next to her is not going to stay that way indefinitely. She cries, "I don't want him to grow up!" Sadie weeps and wails over the "aha" of aging and the monumental truth that perfect-in-the-moment things don't stay that way.
Some may watch this video and comment how cute Sadie and her brother are (and they are) and how sweet she is to give him a kiss and cradle his over-sized baby head in her arms and how adorable he is when he looks up at her in the midst of her distress and smiles beatifically. Oh, isn't that cute? Oh, isn't that sweet? See how she loves her baby brother! Some probably got warm fuzzies over the whole thing. Not me: When I watched it, I got a kick in the gut. I was totally on Sadie's side.
Sadie laments, as only an uninhibited child can, that not only will her baby brother age and change but so will she. Sadie tearfully reacts to this truth by saying, "And I don't wanna die when I'm a hundred," turning the last word into an inarticulate wail. Sadie has grasped, somewhere in that place of child-understanding, that things age and change and change permanently. Sadie, in a video watched by millions, confronts mortality, her own and her brother's, and strenuously objects. I understand that. I understand the bewilderment at realizing, upon the arrival of something wondrous and new and endearing -- like a baby brother -- that the gift is transitory. The words "subject to change without notice" appear in contracts but they also appear in life, often in a jarring, world-upside-down kind of way. I've had times where the "aha" moments in life have left me feeling pretty much like Sadie. I may not have wailed at the outer reaches of auditory decibels but I've wanted to, and it was strangely gratifying to watch Sadie do what I did not.
I'm not sure that, deep down, we ever get over such a sense of loss. Maybe that's another reason why I reacted the way I did to Sadie's video because, as a therapist, I'm hard-wired to recognize and react to genuine distress. This short little video touched me professionally and personally. I was reminded how I really feel when the truth of life kicks me in the teeth. I was also reminded how fragile innocence and wonder are, in a world with strife and change and death.
I don't know who the voice is in the background of the video or whose hands can be seen propping up Sadie's baby brother. I can only hope that once the camera stopped, the teaching began by the adults in the room. Truths can be devastating but, when confronted, even at such an early age, the challenge is to put those truths into context, to help reconnect life to joy and hope and love and optimism. In the end, those may be the only timeless and unchangeable things.