The hardest part of the day is the last part. Those six or seven minutes between wakefulness and sleep, as I drift off in the in-between space of moments past and moments yet to come.
Instead of those sleepy, mumbled conversations between two married people, parents downloading their day, giggling over a funny thing a kid said, or offering assurances that the work meeting the next day will go fine.... there is silence.
Sometimes I unconsciously slide my foot over to his side of the bed, expecting the warm reassurance of his presence. My toes are always icy, and I used to snuggle them up against his shin. He'd wince and say "ah, c'mon!", but he wouldn't move away.
Now the sheets are cold. My toes are icy. He is not there.
I knew separation would be hard, in the broad sense. I worried about juggling all the moving parts alone. I didn't know how I would handle the morning routine all by myself. And what would I do about dinner? Do I cook for just the three of us? The kids only really like to eat about four things, so I mostly cooked for him. For us. Would the kids and I sit around the table, where we ate thousands upon thousands of family dinners, with his empty chair blaring silently at us? I wrung my hands about the schedule - how much time to spend there instead of here? How would they adjust? How would I adjust?
What I didn't know, what I couldn't know until I was in it, is the hardest part isn't the big picture. In many ways, because of his long work hours, I handled many of the logistics on my own anyway. Mornings he was out the door before we were all up. Many nights he worked late, and what to eat or where to eat it never bothered me before. And managing all the moving parts of the kids' schedule? Well, that was always my role. I'm a pro at all those things.
The part I didn't expect? The ghosts. Every inch of my life is our life. Was our life. Is our life.
See? It's confusing.
Over there is the bureau we bought decades ago, as a newly engaged couple, feeling very grown up on an afternoon of antiquing. On the mantle are the metal statues of two cranes intertwined, purchased at a funky little store down the street from our first apartment. When Greta was born we found a little baby crane. "Look, they are a family now, like us," we said. They whisper to me of what was, what is, and what isn't anymore.
I am surrounded by my most familiar and comfortable space - my home and everything in it - and nothing is familiar anymore. Or comfortable.
"We marry people because we like who they are. People change. Plan on it. Don't marry someone because of who they are, or who you want them to become. Marry them because of who they are determined to become. And then spend a lifetime joining them in their becoming, as they join you in yours." ~ Huffington Post
The funny thing about becoming? It's not a straight line. It's not all forward momentum.
Before I thought of becoming like brick laying - cumulative - each brick snuggling firmly on top of the other as we build. Upward. Stronger.
Then life happens, and that brick wall is smashed to smithereens. Every brick is still there, except they lie in an unrecognizable jumble at my feet. Over there is the brick where we saw our first ultrasound picture. We made a girl, I whispered to him in awe. That moment is still there, as solid as it ever was, except now it has a crack down the middle. All that happy, that certainty of how it would all play out, is altered.
Because sometimes, to become, we have to break apart what is to make room for what will be.
People do change. We know that for a fact, right? So why is it so hard to keep up? To pay attention to the thousands of tiny moments, infinitesimal feelings, decisions, thoughts that accumulate every day? And then it seems so sudden, when things fall apart, or fall away. But it isn't. Because we're always becoming. Changing. Evolving.
But our expectations stay stuck. It's human nature, I think. I am still that young woman clutching her first ultrasound picture, a Technicolor vision of how my life - how our life - would be dancing in my head.
That vision didn't have alcoholism. Or death. Or cancer. Or depression. Or separation. All these things are just as much a part of my becoming as all the joy, success, happiness and peace.
"Marry them because of who they are determined to become. And then spend a lifetime joining them in their becoming, as they join you in yours."
Ah, yes. Sounds straightforward, right? All Hallmark card-y. Hopeful. Because becoming sounds so positive. All new-agey and personal growth oriented.
But growth, like becoming, isn't all forward momentum. Most of the growth I have experienced feels a lot like the opposite, in fact. It feels like zooming backward, blind to where I'm headed, white knuckles bracing for impact.
It's how we survive the out-of-control moments, the backward zooming moments, that define who we become.
Back to marriage. To becoming, and growth. How do I ask someone to stay with me as I zoom backwards? As I cast my eyes at the broken pile of bricks at my feet, only to stare in amazement that I'm the one holding the sledgehammer?
I guess the answer is that I don't. This moment in my journey is an inside job.
I can kick and scream and lament what was lost, or I can set about, well, becoming.