This night is an anomaly; it’s not what it seems. It represents neither luxury nor pampering but grasping. There is something to be said for feeling and articulating a need, but knowing how to meet it seems to be something else entirely.
I never knew I was the type of person who needed to be alone until I found myself never, ever alone. It’s the night before school starts back after Spring Break, and I feel no gladness over that. I nurse a vague sadness, knowing the big girls will be back to school tomorrow and Daniel will be back to traveling for work, and I will try to find the rhythm of the days and nights again with an infant who is not going gently into that good night, despite my dogged attempts at sleep training. I will not miss the fighting or the mess, but I will miss my big kids. And though I will rarely—sometimes in the bathroom or the shower and for a couple of hours at a time in my bed—find myself alone, I will feel the gnaw of loneliness.
I tell myself daily, in the face of words from well-meaning older women about long days and short years: I am not missing this; I am right here. I am soaking up the way my oldest daughter looks at me over the top of her tea cup when she tells me about her day; the way her canine teeth stick out and don’t yet meet the others as they grow in; the way my suddenly lanky son whispers, “I love you, my sweet Mama,” into my collarbone when I snuggle him at bedtime; the way I am the only one who can soothe the tension out of my middle daughter when she is overwhelmed; the way I am still sometimes the only one who will do, for all of the people in my house. I relish that honor even as I struggle under its weight, the burden of it made somehow heavier still by the realization that it will not always be this way.
Because even as I know I am where I’m meant to be—where I want to be—I struggle against the desire for something else. Something more? Something that’s mine? Certainly our baby didn’t take that from me—I never had it to begin with—and even if she did, she’s given us joy in spades. But as I find myself at 36, up all night and sitting on the floor with a baby during the day, again, lamenting the list of modest things I had hoped to accomplish that still didn’t get done, again, I can’t help but feel the tug.
“Do you know who needs writing desks, though?” I wrung my hands.
“Writers?” Daniel replied.
“Exactly. And I’m not anymore. I’m pretty sure I don’t remember how.” I said it like a joke, but the tears in my eyes betrayed me.
Daniel smiled and suggested that maybe this season could be blamed, that of course I was still a writer.
I’m serious when I say I’m not so sure. But we bought that desk that wouldn’t fit in the backseat of Daniel’s Acura. And we stopped at a brewery on the way home where we talked about a dream of ours we may just be on the verge of. When we got home and my plans for the evening fell through, Daniel insisted that I go out anyway, but tere was nowhere to go.
So, I shut myself in my room with the red and the candles and the chocolate and the book. I soaked in my little clawfoot tub and read a couple chapters. I sipped the wine while I wrote in my robe, letting tears come as they might but not allowing myself to buy the lies of either extreme: that it will always be this way or that my feeling the difficulty of this season somehow negates my recognition of the beauty of it.
You are not missing your life. It would not even be possible.
Your children are not a distraction from bigger things, but neither were they meant to satisfy all of your ambitions or needs. Feeling that pang doesn’t make you a failure.
It’s right and good to ask for what you need, but it’s also okay not to know what that is. Just don’t give up the search.
That it's hard doesn't necessarily mean you're doing it wrong; sometimes it's just hard.
Lately I find myself using the term “worthy struggle.” The fight for a space of your own, for friendship, for work you can believe in, even in the midst of life and love and motherhood is a worthy struggle. Among the worthiest, perhaps.
So, I will continue to show up in a thousand mundane, invisible ways for these people in my house that I love so much that my heart could burst. I will thank God for the love of a man committed to seeing me through all the noise and distractions of so many seasons, for the health of these gorgeous children in my care. I will outlast that chubby-cheeked babe and reclaim sleep for the both of us, eventually. I will fight to stay present and notice the good and reject the voices that tell me I’m missing it even as I’m knee deep in it. I will fight the overachiever who expects to get more than a couple of things accomplished on only a couple of hours of sleep. I will occasionally write terrible drafts in the hope that flexing that muscle will make it remember, but I will not allow myself to despair when I am overcome by the difficulties of this season. And I will strive to accept this strange new space where I am a veteran and a rookie all at once.
I will keep showing up, imperfectly: for my husband, for my children, yes, but also for myself. None of us will ever mistake these efforts for perfect, but we will also never be able to deny that I was here.