I woke up this morning knowing it was time to share. I tried to un-know it, because I’m scared, but once you know, you know.
I’ve placed myself in receiving mode for weeks. There’s been a lot of being still. I’ve been waiting and praying for the clarity and wisdom I needed to tell you an important thing with the grace and tenderness the thing deserves, which is all of it. It’s been lonely, the waiting.
After Mary finds out she’s pregnant, it’s said that she, “pondered these things in her heart.” I love that. For a young girl, Mary strikes me as mature . . . to ponder. She didn’t make any big announcements, she didn’t go looking for assurance or approval or answers outside. She waited for all of that to arise inside. I wonder if she ever got the answers she wanted.
I haven’t. Nothing’s come to me. No clarity, no wisdom. I still don’t know how to tell you what I need to tell you. But I need to tell you anyway, because I’m blocked. I don’t know how to move forward without bringing it with me. I need to use all of me.
Here is what I have to offer.
Craig and I are separated now.
We are still a family.
We have family dinners twice a week and we sit in the bleachers together at Chase’s basketball games. We proudly watch the girls flip over the uneven bars at gymnastics, and we celebrated our little girl’s seventh birthday together this past weekend. I spend a lot of time telling my babies how lucky they are, still, to have a daddy like daddy. They are lucky. I’ve never known a more dedicated father than Craig.
We five – we are still a family.
We don’t know what will happen next, but what family does?
I am doing the best I can, inside of each minute, as a woman and friend and mother. I am surviving. I am helping my family survive. We are baring it all, as gracefully and honestly as we can. We are doing the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’s all we can do, right? Decide what the next right thing is, and do it. Then do it again. And again. Until a path is formed. So the kids and I are crying and laughing and hoping and mourning and holding each other. I know how to do those things. But in my writing, it’s harder to know what to do, what to tell, what to give, and what to keep. Because half of this separation story is Craig’s, not mine. And all of this story is my children’s. And so I have to be very careful.
When I started writing, my children were babies and Craig and I were new to marriage and all my stories were their stories and all their stories were mine. We all overlapped. But now my babies are growing up. They’re becoming their own little people with their own secrets and dreams and ideas that belong to them and them alone. They have their own decisions and mistakes and plans to make. And they need their mama to be a safe person to live in front of, knowing that she values their experiences as more than a series of anecdotes. I want to respect their stories as their stories. I want to teach my kids that each human being has a story as brutal and beautiful and sacred as the next, and so we don’t tell others’ stories unless we’re asked to.
Craig, Chase, Tish, and Amma – their stories and their experiences inside of this larger family story are off limits to my writing. I’ve gotten that far in my knowing. But as for my story? It hasn’t yet unfolded, I guess. I am a character who thought she’d made it safely to her happily ever after, and then discovered she hadn’t even made it through the scary parts yet. It’s a really exhausting thing to learn – that there are so many dragons yet to slay.
I think that dreams are funny things. We can certainly, I believe, be folks for whom all of our dreams come true. But life is the wind, we are captains, and dreams are sails. Sometimes we must respond to the wind by lowering one sail and raising another one. It does us no good to sit stubbornly with the wrong sail raised and wish the wind were different. We’ll be dead in the water. So for now, I’ve responded to life’s wind and raised a new dream sail.
My dream these days is that one day I will look back on this excruciating time and feel proud of how I handled it. That’s my dream today. I want to be proud of myself, proud of us. Proud of how we battened down the hatches and protected each other from the howling wind.
I love you so.
Carry On, Warriors.
Excerpt from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem..
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.