I love this time of year. I love it, because the sun rises in sync with my own energy. I’m an early bird, and when I see the peek-a-boo of light from behind the curtains, it feels……friendly. And warm.
Typically, I greet the morning with a crack of fresh air. A sip of tea. And a cozy blanket.
It is peaceful.
On a normal day.
But this morning? Not so much.
I’m tapping away on my laptop, when my cell phone lights up. It’s ringing. It’s the father of my children. It’s 6:48 am.
Huh. That's weird.
He’s a night owl.
It used to annoy the fuck out of me that it would take an entire marching band to wake the guy up in the morning. And even then.
I pick it up. He sounds wide awake. Which isn’t like him at all.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“We’re all ok. But….we just had a break and enter.”
The kids were in the house.
Of course they were. It couldn’t have been the night they were with me?!
My son was the one who heard the shatter of glass. He said, he knew what it was, because, well, he’s played a video game or two with that sound effect.
I feel a wave of panic. Then anger. Then sadness. Then guilt.
It all wells up. Builds. Darkens. Then falls like rain.
I race over to the house. As if there’s something I can do to make what just happened, go away.
And yet, the 30 minutes it takes me to get there is enough to spin a web of thoughts.
When your nightmare becomes reality
This. This exact plot line is the kind of thing you envision when you’re thinking about getting a divorce.
It’s the “worst case scenario” that you dream up.
It’s the “what if” game you play.
It’s the kind of shit that makes you think…..maybe I should just put up with this. My kids need me.
I can remember crying and crying, thinking about the idea of one of them calling out for me in the middle of the night after a bad dream….and not being there.
I had always been the one to catch their vomit. What if their dad couldn’t make it in time?
The weight of that choice? To NOT be there?
It is a horrible one to have to make. It can be paralyzing. And sweat inducing. And it will wake you up at 2 am. Then take the rest of your night’s sleep hostage.
And somehow. I chose it.
With aaallllll the agony and guilt that goes with it.
What could have been
But the thing is. You never get to see the choice you never chose.
You never get to read the alternate ending.
Sometimes I think about what it would have felt like if I stayed. Hollowed out. Empty. Shattered on the inside.
My kids. Wondering why mommy always has a headache. Always going to bed early. Trying to escape it all. Trying to live in the wake of falling OUT of love.
But maybe that’s just “worse case scenario” thinking, on the other side of the coin. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.
Or maybe it would have.
And this is the trap that, I think, I lot of us fall into. The second guessing. The questioning. Did I make a huge mistake?
ESPECIALLY when guilt rises up. Like a fiery breath. In moments like this. When the “bad guys” storm the castle.
I should have been there. I should have been the one to act as the armour. The shield.
I think back to when I was a kid. And how I was deathly afraid of the idea of burglars. “Gate night.” The night before Halloween, I would barely sleep. Shaking in bed.
I think about my son. Now traumatized by the asshole who decided to play “cops and robbers” for real. I think about how I would have felt if I had to deal with my own anxieties, without my mom there to wipe away my tears.
Sure, there comes a point in every child’s life when the rainbow of goodness….the euphoric blindness…..is broken.
But fuck! You want so desperately to protect your children from pain. From reality. From the dark side of the moon.
The worst part?
This nightmare of this morning? It comes on the heels of a month-long stint of “I miss you mommy” phone calls that I get at bedtime.
The tears that roll down his little cheeks.
I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t know how to explain that….this path? Believe it or not? It is sunnier than the one I didn’t choose. I think.
I resort to poop emoji’s. And fart jokes. And I try to get him to talk about the things that went well that day.
Stillness is never more painful in the seconds after I get off those phone calls.
There is no smooth sailing
And so when I pull up to the house, I am carrying all kinds of baggage. I walk in the front door, and I hug my kids with the kind of tightness that only ever seems to emerge in times of unease. And yet, as it’s happening, you think…..why don’t I hug them like this every day?
My eyes travel to their father’s. I walk over, and wrap my arms around him.
The echoes of arguments…….the sound of the front door slamming, again….it is all muted.
It is “I’m sorry.” It is “you did it.” It is “I love you.” It is “I’m scared.” United as part of the “good guy" squad.
This experience? It is equally a reminder of how horrible this path is, and beautiful this path is.
The choice that was chosen? I’m on it.
And whether it it was this path, or the other one. It’s a bumpy one.