The late-night drive-through attendant passed me two cheeseburgers without judgment. Her emotionless (empathetic?) gaze was better than therapy. Finding myself camped out in the middle of the king-sized bed, computer on my lap, remote in one hand, 3 Musketeers in the other–it took two hours of dazed terror before I realized I’d been there before.
This time, I was in a hotel without my husband or daughter. That time, over ten years ago, I was alone heading toward the worst of my drunk and stoned life. This time, life was mostly full of joy, balance, and serenity. That time, chaos and loneliness led me in endless dark mazes.
I had no idea being away from my daughter overnight for the first time would be so brutal. It kicked my ass for those two hours. When I recognized where I had arrived (desperation, lack of clarity, obscured reality) it was an easy shift into pleasure. Ah ha! Look what’s happened! And, immediately: a bubble bath; guilty-pleasure television with the volume up; doing what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. And, most of all, sleeping harder and deeper than I had in years.
It’s as if life is a continuous set of spirals, lines flowing up and around, higher and higher until the coil is too tight. With each forward movement–it’s always moving forward–the next unspringing is more gentle. Ten years ago every lesson devastated me, as I believed in perfection and an impossible ideal. These days, I usually recognize the signs of an impending challenge or lesson and I just hold on and breathe.
Four and a half years ago our daughter came into our lives through a gash in my abdomen. She wanted to come out feet first. There was no convincing her to turn. On that first night, she lay among my IV tubes of antibiotics for the post-op infection and Pitocin to stop the hemorrhaging. She nursed enthusiastically. She slept with us then and has ever since.
Sleeping in our grand king-sized bed is full of reconnecting, snuggling, giggling, and love. Sure, she’ll sleep in her own room someday but, for now, we all love our arrangement.
So, for all of her sweet little life, any time she’s needed me at night, I’ve been there. I am breathing with her, laying with her, and always within reach.
As we work on less dependence on me and more acceptance of comfort from her Daddy, we realized the best thing for us was me spending a night away. I was desperate for a good night’s sleep (being needed throughout the night had finally caught up to me), and we were both desperate for Josh’s chance to be “the one” she needed. My physical presence, because of the patterns and habits we’ve set over the years, was problematic. Maya didn’t believe she would be okay without me. What a terrible lesson to teach a child: you’ll fall apart if I’m not there. So, it was with some anxiety but mostly excitement and confidence that I packed my bag for this overnight.
A massive burlap sack filled with wet sand smashing me across the room was how I felt when I first left our house. I actually thought I might vomit because I was “leaving Maya.” My perception of my importance, and ultimately Josh’s ability as a father, was skewed. Twisted. Distorted. Reality was again obscured.
Thankfully, it just took that bit of time for me to recognize just how fucked up it all was. As if Maya would fall apart without me. Intellectually, I was sure I didn’t believe that. But those two desperate hours were close cousins to the last few months of my darkest drugging and boozing. This time, I had solutions at my disposal. Easy tools to use to fix this mess. I simply said, “Oh, hey, god? Shit, I’m totally fucked up again. I think I’m way too important and I think I’m a piece of shit. Would you fix all this?” And POP up I sprang from the bed to run the bubble bath.
It’s all so simple if I don’t make it complicated. And, holy crap, did I sleep well that night.