Circling back around, to the days when I would sit down to write about life as a mama. Back then, this space was where I practiced. Now, I see that my practice is with me all the time. Right now, my practice is to sit down on the couch. I hear the drying turning circles in the basement. Outside, another six or so inches of snow, and the whole world is heavy and white. There were actually a few flashes of lightning not long ago, a distant rumble we thought could been thunder or a snowplow on Route 7.
Aviva has lice again. Just had to say that. God help us.
I have these moments now, of feeling like a single parent. Probably because I am a single parent. Greg is, too. We are suddenly not in this together, not in that day-in, day-out kind of way. I have to remind myself that it’s not as if things were never stressful before. There’s just a different quality now, without that buffer of the balance of us, the hand-off or the united front.
The girls and I went to Family Math Night at V’s school. We ate pizza and too many sweets and went from table to table, doing various math-related activities. At the end of the night, both girls were disappointed not to win anything in the raffle. I had a moment of protectiveness, wishing the planners of these things would just have a prize for all the kids. You know, everyone’s a winner. And then I took a breath and held my tongue and let the girls have their moments of disappointment, looked around the cafeteria and saw other kids who were disappointed, and reminded myself of Parenting on Track and Blessing of a Skinned Knee and all the wisdom, all the wisdom I need more than ever to guide me as a parent now. These girls can handle a little disappointment, not winning a game in a school raffle. But oh, watching their little faces, watching the principal choose name after name from a green bag, just wishing he’d say one of theirs. Maybe it was my own disappointment I had to weather.
Earlier in the evening, a woman I’ll call Meryl caught my eye from across the room. Meryl’s younger daughter and Aviva were in preschool together many years ago; they live not far from our house, the one where I’m no longer living. I’ve always like her a lot, though we’ve never managed to develop more than a chat-on-the-sidewalk kind of friendship. I did see her not long ago at the Y, and I alluded to there being big changes in our lives but we didn’t have time to talk.
Tonight, she came over to me and we hugged hello. She mentioned how crazy it is not to see more of each other when we are, in fact, neighbors. “Actually,” I began, telling her that I’m now living across town. This led to a truncated version of what has happened since June. Her eyes filled with tears as I spoke. I felt very connected to her. She was not feeling sorry for me. She was just feeling. I asked how her daughter was doing, knowing they’d faced some learning challenges over the years. She shared that they were now doing more testing, possibly looking at something on the autism spectrum, a rigidity, an unpredictability that was exhausting and concerning. She looked tired. I touched her hand.
Don’t compare, don’t compare, don’t compare your life to anybody else’s life. What is that Plato quote? Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. People say to me, “You’re so brave.” And that may be true, maybe I am. Is it brave to choose the struggles of single parenting when I have a husband who loves me and them? Is that brave? Sometimes it just seems crazy and unwarranted and stressful. Sometimes, when people call me brave, it feels like a projection or a judgment.
But tonight, when Meryl said it, she explained what she meant. “Many, many people would have just lied to themselves.” I told her I probably had done just that in different ways over many years, a lifetime, but not in the sense of actually lying. We develop complicated ways of justifying and explaining our experience–sometimes instead of actually having it. What happened to me, for me, in me, in June had to be bigger than me, had to be undeniable, had to take my life down as I knew it, or I would have found a way to intellectualize it. So I guess brave means meeting experience as it is, meeting ourselves as we are. It’s not a one-time thing, that’s for damn sure.
Woah–serious lightning here. And thunder.
Throughout the day with the girls, so many bumps and hurdles, fits and starts, struggles and saves. And then, we came home from our evening. Pearl peed in her snowpants. Aviva shoveled the driveway. Pearl took a bath. They fought, they reconciled, we all piled into my bed with a pile of William Steig books, and Stillwater the Panda from Zen Shorts and Zen Ties, whose very presence in the book transformed the space we shared. And the magic of ending the day together settled over us. When Aviva rested her head on my shoulder, and Pearl scooched in closer next to me with her naked little body, I felt the reassurance of the whole world. “You’re going to be fine,” Meryl said tonight. “We get the life we need,” I replied, referring to Greg’s take on things.
So a moment of thanks at the end of the day, of sending peace to all those who are grieving, and receiving peace, even just a moment of calm in the midst of the strangest weather yet–even for Vermont, where we’re supposed to expect this kind of thing.