Snow Day. An event of my childhood that didn’t happen often, so it seemed to hold the power of magic. And in a way, it was magic. As snow would blanket a city that was in no way prepared for it, everything would soften. Life would slow. The world felt more quiet, peaceful. Also, no school. What kid wouldn’t delight in that?
The effects of snow and ice on a southern town still exist. But now I don’t hope for that magical phrase, snow day. Now, I hope and pray that it doesn’t come. Not because I don’t enjoy snuggling on the sofa with the world quieted outside. But because, apparently I became an adult at some point, unbeknownst to me. I worry about missing work. I think about the clients that need their projects completed. The emails that need replying. The various tasks that I can’t execute if I cannot trek to the office. A sad truth of responsibility and loving what I do.
Against my hopes, we had a snow day last week. Two, in fact. And they were wonderful. I got to introduce the cold, wet precipitation to my son. He delighted in running back and forth in it, making Moose tracks as he went. Once he determined that the entire back yard was cloaked in the cold powder, he grabbed me by the hand and pulled me to the front yard to explore. I basked in his consistent desire to share his adventures with me. We played until I could no longer feel my fingers or toes, upon which I ensnared my monster and dragged him inside, against his will. We watched the first season of Lost in Oz- an animated series I highly recommend. Moose enjoyed having it on in the background as he scattered toys around the living room and used me as his personal acrobatic equipment. I enjoyed it so much, I had to fight the urge to continue watching it when he went down for a nap on day two. We played. We snuggled. We laughed. We binged on popcorn. One of the things I had in my home (I guess most people actually heed the warnings of snow and go to the grocery store before the storm moves in. I am not one of those people. We will blame it on hopeful ignorance.) Two magnificent days, insulated from the stresses of the outside world, snacking and living in our pajamas all day.
I needed those two days. I needed the extra time with my son. He brings me so much joy, even in the mundane aspects of life. Those two days came before a weekend where Moose would be with his father. They felt like restitution for time I was losing. And they were oh so sweet. But they were also isolating.
I don’t often feel alone, because I have my little man at my side. Though he is small, he fills a room. But I also don’t often feel alone because I have an amazing tribe of people that love us both. Friends and family that share adventures with us. They engage in new experiences and explorations of the world alongside us. There is such a comfort to having someone that I care about to exchange a look or smile with when Moose does something unexpected or funny. But as the snowflakes accumulated and covered the landscape, they also created a very tangible barrier to those individuals. Though Moose and I had a blast, I became acutely aware by day two that there wasn’t anyone there to exchange those glances with. There wasn’t anyone that wanted to snap a photo or video of me interacting with my son. It was the second time in a month that I was faced with the realities of not having a partner during the highs and lows.
For the past twelve years I have heard the words “I love you” countless times. I was embraced after particularly bad days. My hand was held during excitement, heartbreak, and everything in between. I thought I had a partner. I thought I had an ally in the trenches. I thought I had the man I loved by my side forever. Over the course of the last seven months I have realized that I didn’t have that. I had a husband, but not a partner. And some days, like a beautiful snow day, I miss the cardboard cutout. I miss the illusion of someone that is in this mess with me. The blissful ignorance that I could hide behind. The idea that I shared my home with someone who’s love would grow as he watched my daily interactions with my son. Because that was how I thought it would be. I thought becoming a mother to someones child would swell their heart, but instead it seemed to deepen a chasm I didn’t know was there. And some days the silence that reality brings can be crushing.
Over the last two months I have uttered the phrases “I’m fine” and “I’m just tired” innumerable times. But they aren’t new to my lexicon.
They are phrases that I wrap around myself like an old quilt, the weight and texture memorized.
Phrases that allow me to minimize the extent of how overwhelmed I am. How alone or lost I feel. They aren’t deceptions. I am fine. And I am tired. I manage the stress. I stuff down the loneliness. I push through the weariness that permeates the core of my bones. The solitude that has become my bedfellow. I construct to-do lists in an attempt to overcome the anxiety that threatens my sanity. I continue to move forward.
For years I thought I couldn’t manage life alone, because I felt like our lives had become so intertwined I wasn’t sure how I would make it through without him by my side. But I was wrong. I don’t need a spouse. I don’t need someone to share the burden with. I am good at being alone. I am happy with my life and my decisions. But I want someone to see through my facade. To recognize that “I’m just tired” is a cry for help. To see that I’m crumbling. My feet are faltering. To alleviate my load without requiring my pleas for help. Instead, I stumble in private. I keep my burdens to myself. Preserving the strength everyone has come to expect. The load I haven’t been able to lay at my feet-even in my marriage.
But I am partially to blame. People ask if they can help. My mind goes blank. The things I need help with don’t feel acceptable. Will you clean my house, wash my dishes, knead the knots out of my shoulders and neck? Can you somehow make me feel visible? Important? The thoughts- the questions- never make it from my heart to my lips. The need to contain my “mess” overpowering my need to feel like I matter, even in the smallest of ways. So instead, I say that I’m fine. I have it. I’ll figure it out. And I will. I will conquer the kitchen. I will cook dinner and clean the house. I will nurture my son and grow my business. But I won’t make it to me. I’m not even sure what that means anymore. If I had endless amounts of time and energy, how would I take care of myself?
So on the days that Moose and I snuggle in the cocoon of our home- days that we don’t change out of our pajamas and we play and giggle all day- I fantasize about having someone who films our lives. Someone that would be obligated to capture these moments. Moments that I will cherish forever- but they are fleeting. I thought I was going to have someone at my side for this. I anticipated sharing these moments of quiet contentment with someone that wanted to be here as much as I do.