This is a year of First Things for me and my boys. First everythings. Maximus went to school. Minimus went into care. I went to school. First bus ride, first exam in 17 years, first Christmas of Peace. For the first time in their lives, my boys were not together, with me for the majority of the time each day, each week. I went to college. Yes, another first thing. Advisors, financial aid, professors, and other students. Lots of loneliness, lots of peace, and quite a bit of Joy- worry too. All these things, in an entirely new context.
What astonished me- and continues to astonish me, is how happy we are. Just the three of us- happy, and peaceful. Therapy for his sensory processing helped Maximus so very much, but what helped us all the most was the absence of conflict. Easter had been rough because the pain was still too raw. We were all reeling, trying to adjust. It was evident that something had been taken away. The boys adjusting to visits with their dad- me, trying to navigate court appointments, soon to be ex In-laws, my own family’s big feelings. So much happened that there was never time to process it all, but I did try. I draw everything inside, pondering pain, and denying good. Good doesn’t last in my world. Didn’t last- couldn’t. I thought. I kept going, fighting inertia with momentum; but they are both passive forces…
Summer came, and I began to feel free. It still seemed I was holding my breath, because everything I was trying to do took so long to pull together. August came and my birthday, and God released me from any expectation of going back to the Hell that was my marriage. Time, it seems, does heal.
Soon enough Max started school. The pieces fell into place, one by one, with painful slowness. At each turn it seemed my plans would fall apart, unable to bear up under the reality of my life. I felt free. But I also felt sad and lonely. I started school, met a few new friends, learned a lot, and to my shock and wonderment- earned high grades. I enjoyed my professors, and the subjects I was taking. Max was thriving in school- exceeding everyone’s expectations, except perhaps, his own. He comes by that particular personality trait honestly; my expectations for myself are often… unrealistic. I tried very hard not to need anyone. But the new friends I had made reminded me how much I desire someone to share the details of my day with- ‘look! That chick is wearing see-through pants!'; ‘I just took my first math exam in 17 years!!’ One new friend was particularly thrilling for me, but I was painfully aware that nothing at all could develop between us at that point. Meeting him rocked my world, not altogether pleasantly. Thrillingly, but not pleasantly.
By Thanksgiving, we were at peace. In a horridly wonderful way, no one was missing. X had never been part of our lives. He had never chosen to live life with us, present. The kids don’t ask about him. They see him every week, so that might be why, but never did I hear, ‘I wish Daddy was here for Christmas.’ That hurt me. It felt very bad to know just how little they needed him around. We were comfortable with just the three of us, because He had never really tried to be part of his own family. Something is broken there. There should be a hole, there should be a lack.
School was hard. Home was good. Working hard felt good, satisfying. I’ve lost 45 lbs, and I have energy. My house is cleaner today than it’s ever been- I’ve had to keep busy since the end of the semester. Through many late nights, and early mornings, sweating through assignments that I knew I had not given my best effort in writing, taking tests while literally shaking with fever, I tried to keep moving. I knew if I stopped for a moment, I’d never get moving again. I started running again, and bought good winter gear so I didn’t have any excuses. Oddly, taking care of business felt right. I felt as if I was finally doing what I had always been meant to do. Then I felt guilty. If this was what I had always been meant to do- then why was I a mother?
I don’t have an answer to that. Max seemed to be bonded to his teachers, seemed not to need me anymore. Minim loved his Day Mom, and her kids. He loved being there, and although he was happy to see me when I came to pick him up, he became angry and told me to go away as soon as we got into the car. They both were sleeping well, and so was I. My bed did not feel empty most of the time, with just me in it. I just don’t know how to do any of this. How do I mother when I hardly spend time with my children anymore? How do I pursue my education and a career, and still mother? I have always only been able to do one thing well. I give 110%, all of myself to whatever I am doing, and I don’t know how to do both things. AND there I was again, pondering pain and impossibilities, and refusing Joy.
This morning is Christmas morning. I watched my boys carefully select a present each, and open them. Then they opened the box, and played with the item. Then they chose the next gift. Methodical, I thought- where is the joy in this? Why aren’t they excited? I looked closer. I saw joy! I saw excitement! It was a quiet excitement, to be sure, peaceful, almost beatific. With each gift, they grew more quiet, more introspective, and their small faces beamed. Small smiles, careful movements, but they were happy. They were storing up all the good things, and pondering them in their hearts. They were Pondering Peace, and Joy.
Now they don’t ponder when they are angry. Oh heck no. hah. When they hurt- the world knows. And I thought, that it is more fitting to release pain and anger and fear. Release them, and absorb peace. Ponder Joy, and internalize it. What a difference for them, to take in and embrace their happiness, while dispelling pain and anger? I had been taught precisely the opposite. Absorb pain, hide fear, do not express anger. Joy is acceptable for display. If you are happy, everyone should know, it is your responsibility to spread your joy out for everyone. I say no. What did a lifetime of hiding pain and absorbing fear leave me? Wounded. Half-formed. Only partially capable of experiencing good things. I still believe I don’t GET good things. Not me. I don’t get them. They don’t last if I do. SO I cannot accept joy, because I am too busy pondering my pain.
I want my boys to be able to release pain and anger. Let them go. They will serve their purpose and then be gone. I will let them absorb as much good as they can, because what we take in and hold fast becomes a part of us. Right now, they believe that good things come to them. They believe that good things are a normal part of life, so when they get something good, they can accept it, embrace it. That is the root of their quiet joy this morning, and the root of their exuberant grief when they hurt. Perhaps if they can keep this as they grow, they will not accept less than what is their right- they will not accept less than a whole person as a wife. They will expect wholeness and good from themselves as well.
This was meant to be joyful. Um. This morning was so amazing that it sparked off a whole string of connections. What is wrong is closely tied to what is right, and what should not have been is as closely tied to what should be. Skyping with my friend this morning she said to me; ‘You are so happy, you are shining!’
She is right. <3