Yesterday Dashiell texted me and asked if I could pick him up from work on Tuesday. YES! Despite my regular and repeated offers to his father that I am always available to drive D to work, his dad insists on always driving him. Not sure how I can feel two conflicting emotions so strongly. Immediately happy and elated to see my lovies in the long eight day stretch before they come home again. Yet a little voice in my head reminds me how sad it is being so excited for the tiny scrap thrown my way.
Painful feelings, the hurt that comes from inhabiting the fringes of my children’s lives, those emotions have been my constant companions for the last four years. Slowly, what I hoped to be a temporary situation became permanent, and no matter how long I have been sober – almost 3 1/2 years at this writing – I continue to be kept on the sidelines of my children’s lives. What is best for them never seems to enter the conversation.
It’s taken a long time for me to figure out how to navigate the pain, the hurt, the profound disappointment. Terrifying to stuff it, doing that, pushing it down into my psyche, will only lead me back to the bottom – depression, drinking, heartbreak. A delicate balance was required. Learning how to feel the feelings, but not let the loss bleed into the rest of my life. Not allow the pain to obscure my joy, my hope, my vibrancy. It’s a tightrope, and I fall off sometimes, getting mired down in my sadness or blithely shrugging it off. Yet, these days I am often getting it right, learning how to navigate my reality – both the good and bad parts – in healthy ways.
These skills, this balancing act, are the coping mechanisms I desperately want my children to develop. There’s so much about their lives that is really hard – the emotional, mental and verbal abuse, the chaotic home life, the instability, the shaming as a parenting tool, the lies and manipulation, the lack of healthy love and acceptance. I never want them to pretend those messy and painful parts of their lives away. It’s impossible, no matter how hard they might try, to outrun the trauma and dysfunction. Being an authentic person means owning your story – and as they grown they will need to own theirs. But their experiences growing up with their father does not need to need to define them. Hopefully, my actions will show them a path forward. Choosing joy and hope. Happiness is not a default setting in every life, it’s certainly not in mine or my children’s, we have to work hard for it.
Choosing happiness, I joyfully get ready to see my children. I run to the library to pick up some books on hold for Ridgely, make a pumpkin chocolate chip loaf, one of their favorite fall treats, and then I drive to pick up D. So excited for 10 minutes with my lovies. I haven’t seen my kids since last Thursday morning when I dropped them at their dad’s. Seeing their sweet faces each night on FaceTime is a poor substitute for wrapping my arms around them, breathing them in and listening to them tell me about their day. And then it’s over and time for them to head back inside. Driving home I can feel that familiar bittersweet ache, joy from seeing them mixed with sadness that it’s never enough time.